sunnudagur, janúar 23, 2005

the lost swimming pool of Reykjavík

25 minutes' drive out of town on the main road heading north, through and past a town called Mossfellsbær, the city of Reykjavík resumes dominion to pick up a distant settlement. Grundarhverfi (116 Reykjavík to the post-code-savvy) is as much Reykjavík as a West Bank outpost is Jerusalem. A few streets' worth of houses cling together for survival in a barren windswept plain with a craggy appendage of Esja looming above. There is a one-pump gas station, a bus shelter filled with snow, a couple of school buildings, and solitary horses dotting the snowy fields that lead down to the sea.

But this being Iceland, the place also has a swimming pool. There are, in fact, 7 swimming pools run by the Reykjavík recreation department with this one being by far the most obscure and inaccessible. When I told Icelandic friends I was planning to go there they said "Ha?" and raised their eyebrows at me. But I have a one-year pass to all of the city's pools, so in the collect-'em-all spirit I filled my tank with plenty of gas and made the trek. It was a beautiful misty day with the snow melting all around and patches of blue sky popping through the clouds. The road snakes around a mini-fjord, mountain on the right and ocean on the left. Downtown Reykjavík soon looks tiny, dwarfed by sky, mountains, and water. The sea was calm and the color of green slate: the colors of things can be so otherworldly here, and nothing ever has the same color two days in a row.

I found the lost pool easily enough. They have road signs for pools here the way we do for turnpike Sbarros in the US. The building itself wasn't marked with any sign, just a white corrugated metal shell with a glass door. Also there were only two cars parked in a lot half-filled with snow. This threw me off for a second, but the place had the rough look and feel of an Icelandic swimming pool, and so I followed my time-tested "if you're wondering if this is it, then it probably is" principle that often applies in Iceland. Turned out to be right here, too.

I'm not sure Kjalarneslaug will win many awards, though, in next year's swimming pool roundup. Well, "most remote" is in the bag for sure. Maybe also friendliest desk staff. And the view of the open sky over the hot tub was really something else. So next time you find yourself in Iceland's Golan Heights, be sure to check out the pool.


Anonymous Nafnlaus said...

My new favorite word: "mini-fjord". I just like the way it Mini-fjord. I may name my first child Mini-Fjord, claim that it's pronounced "Minnifred", and then call him/her/it "Minnie" or "Freddie", depending on gender. Because calling a child "Fjerdie" would be weird.

Anonymous Donna said...

I didn't know about this blog! I will have to track it. :) You describe things beautifully - Desai would be proud.


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