08 December 2005

Killington, Iceland

Last week I spent two days at our northern office in Akureyri. It was my first time up to this gem of a city that lies between mountains and the longest fjord in Iceland. The town is known for the ski area located a short drive from town, and some people like to call it the Aspen of Iceland.

I left Reykjavík at 7:45 am, aboard a Flugfélag Íslands plane that had been decorated with Christmas nosegays on the overhead compartments. As we took off, I got a rare view of the lights of Reykjavík as our flight path took us out over the square-cut aquamarines of lighted pools.

One cup of excellent coffee later and we were landing between the mountains that create Eyjafjörður. The town is only five minutes from the airport, so the total trip from my kitchen here to the kitchen in the office was less than two hours- there is almost no processing time at the airport. In this miniature version of the office I normally work in, with the looming snow-glow of the mountain across the fjord, it was all very surreal.

Hours later when the sun rose, I saw what all the ski towns in Vermont wish they were. Akureyri is the ultimate ski-town-of-cuteness without the cheesy feeling that comes from fabricated atmosphere. They have the ski area minus the traffic, the cobbley pedestrian-only shopping street with antique buildings and browsable shops, just enough snow to be squeaky, clean, and scenic, the dress-code-Iceland of fleece, plus all the charms of the north wrapped in.

After my intense but productive workday, I went to the pool, and although the push-button showers were powerful enough to remove a layer of skin, the pool was sparkling clean and the air deliciously fresh. I took a detour on my way downtown to find dinner and came down a walking path that led straight to the main square. Two kids were sledding down it in the darkness, but the sled shot out from under them and went skittering across the pavement. I passed the movie theater and a few clothing shops on my way to the suggested "grill", which turned out to be strangely fusion. A bubbly Icelandic woman greeted me with exhortations to sit where the draft wouldn't get me, then brought me a pitcher of water, a menu, and some Icelandic tabloids for company. Everything on the menu was Indian, and from the looks of it, cooked by Indian people. Not quite the same as my favorite Indian place in Boston, but after a k in the pool, the work, and the traveling it was a happy substitute.

After dinner, I wandered back to the hotel, past the movie theater where the 9pm showing of Harry Potter was big excitement, past the sparkling displays of the clothing stores, the makeup stores, and the still-open bookshop. I stayed at a hotel built in the 40s, one of the only hotel rooms I've been in with wooden floors.

I didn't have much of a chance to look at much in the dark and being at work the whole time, but the after-work hours on Thursday were some of the happiest I have spent by myself in recent memory. Being there reminded me of why I love it here so much, and how fortunate I am to get to be a part of this world. I also am now part of the lovers-of-Akureyri crowd, and all the people I know here that are from there were anxious to know how I liked it there, and if I wanted to go back. The answers are, love it and absolutely.

Ship sighting: Atlas has FINALLY left the drydock, and now we have Víkingur. When J and I first spotted it, he said, "wow, that looks like a totally vintage hull design"
Gentle readers, check out the skipaskrá data. He may be amused at my peculiar interest in boats, but he can identify a vintage boat behind several buildings, while driving 30km/hr in the dark. Who's the boat fan now? :-)
In other news, the coast guard boats in the harbor have been the next to succumb to the Christmas mania. One of them is rigged out with white lights like some kind of pleasure yacht, and the little 5-person boat next to it has a little scramble of lights on it too.


Farbror Willy said...

Nice to hear you liked the town!

I actually used to sled down the path you mentioned when I was a kid.

Anonymous said...

I visit your site as often as I can. Being Icelandic now living in Baltimore it is a great connection to home. Thank you!


Carolyn Zick said...

I have been enjoying your website so much.I am an American living in Akureryi for the month of December and yes, it is amazing. I do wish my Icelandic was much more up to speed though. Takk!

Alex said...

We were up in Akureyri in October a few years back on the way up to the fjords and Husavik. As you said, the airport is gorgeous and the city is great.

After being in Reykjavik, it seemed like Akureyri was tiny, but after being in places like Husavik, we were happy to come back to the "big city" on the way back to the bigger city.

Thanks for the blog!