Tuesday, February 05, 2008

At last - Iceland report part 1

Arriving at Keflavik last week could not have presented a greater contrast to my last international arrival - in Bangalore.
There, noisy crowds had milled everywhere, so that the airport seemed to be struggling to contain the throng...and the traffic when we emerged was the most alarming I'd met anywhere.Here, the terminal was almost empty, and we walked through clean, quiet corridors, everything cool and understated,to reclaim our luggage without fuss or drama.
Outside, of course, was the snow. That's why we'd come to Iceland, after all.
(We heard later that this was the first "proper" winter for 30 years- as we arrived, we assumed that this overwhelming whiteness everywhere was the norm:it was, after all, exactly as we'd expected).

As the bus took us into Reykjavik, I reflected how hugely discouraging the landscape must have seemed to the first settlers. It would be reasonable if Icelandics were set-faced survivors, grimly determined - but in fact they were relaxe and charming, as if determined to undermine the inhospitable geography of their island.
We arrived in the tiny city, and walked the short distance from the bus terminal through streets largely empty of cars and people - much like the long Sunday afternoons of childhood.
Traces lingered of Christmas past. Evergreen wreaths on the doors, candles in many windows - as if the greater ferocity of winter here demands a sustained response.
The city is a delight...Just walking through the snow transformed us both into small children, excited by everything...by the houses painted in primary colours, and clad in corrugated iron against the chill...by the flocks of water fowl that congregate in frozen cacophany by the frozen lake...by the lake itself. I've never walked to an island before - nor stood in an impossibly rural landscape which is, incredibly, a capital city...I loved it.

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