17 April 2007


Summer creeps up on Iceland in tiny steps that are almost un-noticeable unless you're feeling particularly sharp-eyed. This past few days have been almost-so, allowing for open coats at mid-day but keep the tights on, and the branches of the bushes starting to get barely fuzzy with green. Everything's still so tightly folded though that sometimes it seems like a trick of the eyes- a green halo that's but a trick of light.

The sun has also ratcheted high enough in the sky to fill the northeastern windows in my apartment with morning light, so I awoke this morning to a sunsplashed bedroom and drank orange juice in a glowing kitchen. The evenings are starting to get that endless glow that I associate more with summer now than hot weather, since temperatures are almost equally tempestuous year-round. Soon the shrinking darkness will be gone altogether

Little changes are happening elsewhere, like the new hot tub that just opened at Laugardalslaug, filled with heated seawater pumped from a borehole nearby. Of course it's the hot new activity so we were all stuffed in there like a bunch of simmering lobsters, but it was still worth the sit. The frothed seawater is a different look and feel from the regular tubs- foamy and fizzy, softer feeling, and definitely salty on the lips. They never make the new tubs big enough or with enough massage jets, but when it's a sunny blue-arc-of-sky day and I'm sitting in heated salt water, I'm not complaining, even if I have to negotiate with flowered-bathing-cap lady on my exit.

After the sample-sit, I did my usual swim, where once again I appreciated the individual flavors of every pool. The personalities are as distinct as with people- each locker room has a slightly different smell of soap and sulphur and the materials of the lockers and floors. The water in each pool looks and feels different too, and the people you see there are as distinct and individual by pool as they are by time of day. Mornings are usually the aquatic aerobics time at my local pool, so I can find myself with an entire lap pool all to myself while the bathing caps bob to light pop in the kiddie pool at the end. Afternoons are all about foreigners and seal-pup kids that flop across the lane markers, and the evenings are for the weight-lifting hnakki guys and the old men that like to chat in pairs and trios.

The pool fixes everything like a good friend does- when you're stressed, the visit re-balances. Sick? The steamroom makes your breathing easier. Have a problem to work out? A few laps of sensory isolation and it doesn't seem so difficult after all. It's all about taking it down incrementally. Make the sounds you hear only rushing water and the hum of pool machinery, the things you see only blue tiles and water with snippets of sky, the only motion the smooth pulling through water and everything outside the water will rebalance itself. The Reykjavík Spa City propaganda sounded kind of silly to me at first but when I walk home glowing with warm-water evening peace, I absolutely agree with all of it.

There are some things here that aren't about sneaky-slow changes though. In the matter of less than an hour, that sunny day has become a swirling thick snowsquall. Winter does not give up easily here but slowly, slowly things will grow again.


Anonymous said...

sometime a photo of the pool, the lockers, the general scene?

ECS said...

anon: In my local pool there are signs expressly forbidding photo-taking in the locker rooms. As for the feeling of the pool area and hot tubs, there are actually quite a few photos on the internet, including the photos on the "spa city" page I linked to above. Otherwise you're just gonna have to come on over and try it out yourself. It's worth the trip.

Hulles said...

Once again a lovely post. Just saying thanks again is all.

Djaddi said...

I love the pool here. I've only gone twice in the last couple of weeks, but I plan on doing it more often. It's just so relaxing. My only issue is that I physically hate feeling cold and wet (and it's an outdoor pool, vesturbæjarlaug). So now I go: locker -> pool (some laps) -> hot tub -> pool (more laps) -> locker, thus minimizing my wet time in the open :)

ECS said...

Hulles: Thanks for the encouragement. It really does help. As you can see I haven't been feeling particularly write-y lately.

djaddi: you are SO a candidate for Sundhöllin. Almost no cold & wet time! However, your dislike of the cold means you're missing out on the glorious sensory contrast that makes the pools here so great. You should try it some time- go get so hot you can barely bear it in the steam room, then stand outside until you're dry and goose-pimpled. When you go back into the steam room, it feels awesome! It's like going in a sauna, lying in the snow, and going back into the sauna. Really must be tried at least once in your life.

Djaddi said...

E, are the hot pots outside in Sundhöllin, or are they inside with the pool?

What you said sounds interesting. Maybe I should work on my self resolve to withstand the temperatures... Or maybe I should eat lots of smjör, and build a protective insulation layer under my skin.

And if you're feeling discouraged about blogging... Please keep doing it! I like your blog because it is the most sensory one out there, which is a great thing.

ECS said...

djaddi: it's indoor swimming, outdoor soaking, with only a short flight of stairs to negotiate in coldnwet mode. Perfect for you!
As for the insulation, give it a few more months of creamy Icelandic sauces and you'll feel it a lot less.
Finally, thanks for the encouragement! I hope you keep writing too, and definitely keep up with the recipes. I HAVE to make some of them.