Did I happen to mention that the tourists have arrived? I did? Oh, what I meant to say was: THE TOURISTS HAVE ARRIVED!
They’re everywhere. Windbreaker-clad, backpack-geared, map in hand. [Incidentally, for those of you who don’t know, Iceland gets more tourists per annum than the population of the country. Which considering the fact that we’re a mere 290,000 is probably not so newsworthy.]
I love having people visit. I’m thrilled that this country is so popular and that people come here and are awed by it. I delight in the fact that so many people are discovering the remarkable beauty of this land.
There is one thing.
I have to get off my chest.
WARNING: RANT COMING UP
If you come to Iceland, and want the real Icelandic experience, you will want to visit one or more of our amazing swimming pools, with their excellent Jacuzzis, hot pots, water slides, steam baths, et al. I can also assure you that won’t be able to get through a visit without being tempted to visit the incredible Blue Lagoon.
If you do decide to do this, you will surely notice that inside the dressing rooms there will be little diagrams everywhere. These are all the same and show a likeness of the human body with key areas highlighted, specifically: hair, armpits, crotch, feet. And when I say these are everywhere, I mean on the inside of your locker door, hung on the walls in the dressing room, in the shower area – in short, displayed in such a way that they are impossible to miss.
Now, in order to avoid misinterpretation, there will also be text, which will read: ALL GUESTS ARE REQUIRED TO WASH THOROUGHLY WITHOUT A SWIMSUIT, in five different languages. [Allow me to add: … BEFORE YOU GO INTO THE WATER].
OK. I know that this will make some people panic. I know that not everyone in this world is raised from infancy like we are, to observe this rule religiously every time we go to the swimming pool [which for the average Icelander is often]. Which is why this is something that is so deeply ingrained into the national conscience that seeing anyone blatantly ignoring this rule [which brings me to the tourists once again] is likely to evoke feelings, glances, even utterances of animosity and sheer hostility.
You see, we love our clean swimming pools. We love the fact that the level of chlorine is kept to an absolute minimum. We love the pristine silkiness of the water. In fact, I think many people equate the Icelanders’ longevity [which used to be highest in the world and is still up there in the top five] with the fact that swimming is our favourite recreational activity and source of health. And we want to keep it that way.
So please. Respect. And if you’re uncomfortable with taking part in this little but oh-so-important custom, well, there’s always the Golden Circle tour.
Not as nice as it was over Easter, when highs reached 17°C [62.6 F], but still mild. For a few days yet. Then we’re in for a cold spell. At the moment it’s overcast in the capital and the trees outside my window are swaying slightly, meaning there’s wind down by the shore where I shall be running shortly. Current temps are 7°C and daybreak was at 06.07, night will fall at 21.00.