Iceland: Not for the Self-Conscious!

Icelandic swimming pool regulations have more than once reached international headlines. From horror stories about the “shower police” telling you to get naked and wash your private parts to a ban on drying your testicles with the common hair dryer, going to a swimming pool in Iceland is a different experience.

This became painstakingly clear not so long ago when I was guiding a group of businessmen. Executives from two companies had come to Iceland to celebrate a successful new partnership. The first stop on their itinerary was a relaxing bath at Iceland’s most famous pool, the Blue Lagoon. On the way from the airport to the Blue Lagoon I told the group some interesting facts to get them into the mood. Did you know that the water of the Blue Lagoon makes your skin soft as a baby, but dries your hair out? And that you can get a complimentary conditioner in the showers to prevent this from happening? I also told them about the hygienic custom in Iceland to shower without a bathing suit before entering the pool.

Meanwhile, the group had finished drinking Iceland’s signature spirit, Brennivin (“burned wine”, a drink made from fermented potatoes also known as Black Death). When we reached the Blue Lagoon I confidently led them out of the bus, got them their entrance wristbands and seated myself in the spa’s luxurious Lava Restaurant. The restaurant has windows from floor to ceiling with a clear view over the pool. I ordered a cappuccino and made myself comfortable.

Just when my drink arrived I saw a group of excited men running out into the cold – completely naked! The bright color of their skin was even more noticeable against the milky-blue color of the water. It didn’t take me long to realize this was my group of businessmen. I sunk deeper in my chair, hiding behind the plant on the table. Through the leaves I could just see how people in the pool were laughing loudly and how the confusion of the men was growing. Not much later they were sent back inside like children to put on their bathing suits.

When they came back out again I got some angry looks in my direction. Luckily the relaxing water of the Blue Lagoon soothed everybody’s nerves and by the time we had to go to their hotel in Reykjavik everybody was in a good mood again. At least they’ve got a story to tell back home! And so do I …


Dumpster Dive Dinners

When I just moved to Iceland I tried dumpster diving a couple of times. I think too much food that is still good is thrown out and I’m against this waste of products. I think a law like in France forbidding supermarkets to waste food is a good idea (French law forbids food waste by supermarkets). I support the concept of dumpster diving fully.

I tried it a couple of times and found lots and lots of good quality food. Maybe Reykjavik is a good city for dumpster diving because of the cool temperatures, keeping food fresh outside of the fridges too.

What I don’t like about dumpster diving is that … well … you have to go into a dumpster. And that’s a bit gross. I’m really not motivated enough to go into a dumpster on a regular basis. Again I would like to stress that a change in the system would be better, so the food doesn’t end up in the trash in the first place.

But good news for me: In Reykjavik there are weekly dumpster dive dinners and the organizers of these events collect the food. Last Wednesday I went for the first time. The dinners are held in a squat-like building downtown (but I was told it’s not actually a squat) close to where I live.

When I entered the venue I saw a big wooden table filled with vegetables and fruits: mostly potatoes, lots of spinach, apples, spring onions, bananas, peppers, cauliflower, garlic et cetera. but also various other products like ready-made pizza dough, tzatziki, several sauces, a leg of lamb, wraps, and an entire showcase of crisps. All attendees were encouraged to think of dishes to make with these ingredients. The pizza dough and apples were used to make apple-cinnamon rolls, for instance.

The dinners are well-visited, between 20 and 45 people show up every week to cook and eat together. Cooking for – and with – so many people takes a lot of time (this time it took around 2,5 hours), but I really like this idea of everybody preparing and enjoying a meal together made of food that would otherwise be wasted.

Go community spirit!

Autumn in Reykjavik

The autumn colors in Reykjavik are amazing at the moment. If the weather is still good tomorrow I will take a couple more pictures with a proper camera.

These pictures below are taken with my Samsung S2 when cycling home from work.