Snaefellsjökull

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Went to Iceland at the end of September for a five day visit (which is not enough time to see any country for the first time, but it’s a good first taste). Reykjavik has the feel of a small, modern city in transition: cranes on the skyline; buildings rising along the waterfront; an interesting arts and music scene; and, naturally, the dreaded puffin triangle downtown for tourists seeking tokens of their stay. There are gems, downtown, too; notably the Fischer House, a small, dark, sensory exploration of olfactory delights with provocative video art displays and witty explanations of its various products. Lift a series of small bell jars to experience the smells of various places. We had great tacos at the Kex Hostel, excellent snacks and wine at the Vinstúkan Tíu Sopar wine bar, and an extraordinary dinner at the Fishmarkadurinn, with an erupting volcanic dessert.

Our group went for the obligatory tourist shakedown at the Blue Lagoon, a spa not far from Kerflavik airport, for an eerie, somewhat soothing soak in the sulfurous waters. We visited Thingvellir National Park, Vithey Island, Gunnuhver Hot Springs, lost our way inside the Snaefellsness Peninsula (oops, wrong turn across the mountains!), but eventually found Vatnshellir Cave, the Londrangar basalt cliffs and Snaefellsjökull glacier.

We made a pledge to drive up the road to the glacier—just to touch it—but the sun sank over the twin horns of the volcano, and the glacier seemed unwilling to meet us. After a bumpy four-wheel slog up a road riddled with holes, we stopped at a vista point, agreeing to let the glacier maintain its delicate solitude while we took in the cool air, the silence, and the amazing view before us.

The stark reality of a warming atmosphere in a place as beautiful as Iceland (where the weather for late September was unseasonably warm and sunny) wasn’t lost on us. What a mess we’ve made of the world (that’s a collective “we”). I’d like to go back there, but will try to earn it by letting the car gather dust on the street for a few months, resisting the use of plastic bags, and halving my meat consumption.

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