I'm not allowed to leave Iceland without visiting a geothermal pool, the front desk lady at our hostel tells me. So Monday night I walk to Laugardalslaug, the pool just down the street.

It costs a few dollars to get in. There are strict rules in the changing rooms about where you take your shoes off, where you take your clothes off, where you shower [soap and nekkid-ness mandatory], and where you dry off, which is nice because it means it's very clean, and completely dry up until the showers. The other reason for this is that geothermal pools don't have chlorine or filter systems. Water flows continually into the pools from geothermally heated natural sources, so the water is constantly being replaced, but I guess they still don't like to take chances with dirty peoples.

Also, geothermal pools are not rocky natural little pond things like hot springs, FYI. They look like normal pools, with concrete walls and the like.

The pool deck when I step out is gritty with salt to keep it from getting icy, and slushy with slightly frozen pool water.

The stars are very sharp. Once I am the pool, I am looking up at them through the steam coming off the water. The water is warm, but not hot like a sauna or a bath. The lap-swimming pool is empty; I'm in a smaller pool with a slide, near the hot tubs, which are called hot pots, which I think is fabulous. Even though it's night there are children and grownups and teenagers unwinding and socializing, more in the hot pots than the pool, but anyways, a fair number. My guidebook says the pools are busiest in the evenings and in the early mornings—before and after work, sort of like gyms. They're a big part of Icelandic culture. Sort of like saunas in Finland, maybe.

No one hangs out on the deck like I'm used to seeing at pools, but I guess that shouldn't surprise me given that it's the middle of winter as well as nighttime.

I decide to remember how I floated on my back, pulling warm sulfur-smelling water around my too-protruding chin and toes, with pool noises sounding their funny underwater way in my ears, Yoko Ono's peace tower slanting across the dark sky. I do.


Bambola 7/07/2009 11:01 PM  

Amazing!! These experiences are priceless....

chiara 7/07/2009 11:09 PM  

Thanks for visiting, and glad I have found your blog! There are such beautiful pics... I plan on spending some time reading later! Ciao!

Erin 7/08/2009 9:33 AM  

Ahh...that sounds too lovely. :)

Priya 7/08/2009 9:53 AM  

Oh wow. I'd love to go to one of those pools.

mylittlebecky 7/08/2009 2:42 PM  

very cool, sounds like a wonderful night :)

in other news i am in love with icelandic horses!

Ashley 7/09/2009 11:09 AM  

That sounds awesome. I've been to hot springs, but never a geothermal pool.

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