Today we arrived in Iceland! Getting off of the flight I felt well-rested, but before long jetlag kicked in and I was feeling pretty tired. We set our drowsiness aside and decided to make the best of our first day.
We were introduced to the whipping winds of Iceland as soon as we went to look for our rental vehicle to pick up. We didn’t know that the vehicle wouldn’t chirp its horn as you press the lock button (as most American cars do) so we were left wandering around the parking lot in cold wind until we were able to find our white compact Toyota. Fortunately, the rain held off until we found the car. Driving in Iceland works mostly as you’d expect – the signage is mostly intuitive. However as we drove into town from the airport there were two notable exceptions:
Once, while making a right turn, I entered a turning lane and was faced with (what I thought) was a yield sign and also a red “right-turn” arrow. I was unsure which of these signals to prioritize, but went with the yield when I saw a truck make the turn without stopping.
A lane ended (what I thought) was very suddenly and without warning, forcing me to merge at the last minute. It’s likely that I misread (or missed entirely) the relevant signage.
We parked near the harbor and found a visitors’ center to get acclimated. After a quick stop for breakfast, we planned out a circular walking-path through downtown, making the following stops: National Museum of Iceland, National Gallery of Iceland, Hallgrimskirkja, and Sólfarið “The Sun Voyager”. We even made time to check out the Icelandic Phallological Museum of Penises, more to say we went than for the displays there.
The day was informative and periodic in the sense that we would stop at a museum, learn about Icelandic culture or history, and then move onto the next one through chilly swells of rain and harsh winds. The museums were informative in a cultural sense, the rain was educational in a very practical one. Thanks to the gulf stream, Iceland is no colder than the northern United States and enjoys relatively mild temperatures. However, strong winds and wet clothes can make even a mild winter day feel bitter cold. After about mid-day we were both tired enough that falling asleep during our lunch was a real problem.
Despite sub-optimal weather we were able to make the most of our first day and get an introduction to the history and the people who have made Iceland what it is today. While I’d have loved to be out on the trail hiking, having this appreciation will be beneficial in the days to come.
We pressed on until the late afternoon before making our way to the car to head for our lodging. We recently checked in to our accommodations here – a guest house just east of Selfoss, in what seems to me like farmland. They have the famous Icelandic longhair horses here. The place seems very quiet and cozy, though I wish we had a little more space. For tonight, I don’t think it will matter. Given the lack of sleep and all the walking we did today I’m sure I’ll sleep just fine.
Best wishes and safe travels,