All right. So I find myself on Icelandic soil.
After getting my passport stamped, I wander around the terminal for a good ninety minutes, in which I am addressed in English for the first and last time while in Iceland (meaning: I did a good job blending in! Whoo!). That is a long time, I agree, but:
1) When visiting other countries, airports are wonderfully in-between places, kind of like the Wood Between the Worlds in The Magician's Nephew. Think of it as dipping your feet in the water before you get all the way in.
2) The stores were full of Icelandic stuff. And even though I was about to step out into Iceland, where ALL the stores would be full of Icelandic stuff, it was too much cool for my exhausted brain to process any faster.
I change my dollars for Icelandic krónur and buy a little container of Skyr, this yogurt-like product that I had heard described as a) delicious, and b) very Icelandic.
And each one comes with a folding spoon (see the white thing under the plastic lid?).
Keflavík, Iceland's international airport, is about forty-five minutes away from the capital, Reykjavík, and I've read that the way to go is to take a shuttle bus (only about $12). I buy a two-way ticket from a machine, and then hear two American women talking to the girl at the shuttle counter.
Apparently, because the shuttles are coordinated with arriving flights and we took too long to get out here, it's going to be six hours until the next shuttle comes.
Ugh. Yes, we were slightly distressed.
But one of the women notices another shuttle outside, which is apparently delivering crew members to their hotel, and has the idea of asking them if we can ride with them. "Sure," the driver says.
[n.b. Iceland is basically populated by angels. The Icelanders I encountered in my hours of need were the kindest, most helpful people I've ever met.]
Overjoyed, we throw our bags in the back and pile in. I savor my first Skyr and wonder, not for the last time, how it manages to be so healthy and still taste so rich. I learn that these two women (who look to be in their late twenties) are from New York. We talk a little about our plans, and I chat with a captain about San Francisco when he finds out that's where I'm from. "Why did you come here? If I had a week, I'd spend it in San Francisco!" he says with a grin.
The driver drops the crew off at their hotel, and then takes us to our respective lodgings. He's surprised when he finds out I'm not with the other two, and I tell him, Yes, I'm traveling alone, and I'm hoping to meet people, although I'll be all right if I don't. He (young and with a perfect British accent from living in England) says not to worry; he's spent a lot of time traveling alone in Europe and has never been lonely. Plus, he says with a smile, you're nineteen and you're quite good-looking - you'll have boys following you around. He even gives me his cell phone number and says to feel free to call him if I don't meet anyone or am just bored. (Incidentally, the reason he's free to show me around is that he's lost his job and today's his last day of work - economic crisis in action!)
So I drop my stuff at the hostel, grinning at how wonderfully everything is going already. It's too early to get my room, so I hop on a bus and ride until I catch a glimpse between buildings of a beautiful lake. I get off, realize there are a bunch of people my age also getting off, and decide to see where they're headed. At first I think it's to the National Museum of Iceland, but then I realize the University of Iceland campus is right there. First item on my list of sights seen in Iceland. Pretty small and plain.
I find my way back to the body of water that I saw. It's Tjörnin, or the City Pond, right in the middle of town, and it is lovely in the pre-dawn (~nine o'clock) light:
Incidentally, the pond was completely frozen over by Monday. Brr.
I spend all of that day walking around, sight-seeing after this fashion: See something interesting-looking in the distance. Walk in that general direction until you get there. And that works well; I see a lot of interesting things while finding my way to The Sights that I wouldn't have found otherwise. Walking is such the best.
In the city centre there was a wall of children's faces.
And this gorgeous mural of the harbor at night with the northern lights. I don't know what the Icelandic text says, though I've got an Icelandic blogger in mind who ought to be able to tell me.
I figure out that the tower on the hill belongs to a famous church, and is just disguised by scaffolding at present. On my way up there, I go through what I think must be the Icelandic version of a run-down neighborhood.
A lot of the houses are made of this corrugated stuff.
Church and seaside photos tomorrow because this post is getting inordinately long. I promise, most of the days won't take this long to narrate!