If you’re thinking of moving to a new country, Google makes some wonderful tools. Long before getting to Iceland, I used Google Maps and Street View to tour my new neighborhood. There’s a fabulous sense of déjà vu when you finally see a place in the flesh; it’s like coming home to a place you’ve never been.
The system’s not quite perfect, though. There are places the Street View cars can’t go, like parks, and it’s not hard to get turned around and come out going the wrong way. My leisurely stroll to the local Immigration Directorate office to register as a new arrival took a great deal longer than I expected, because I turned right when I should have turned left and found myself staring at a lake where I was sure there’d be an office building.
My apartment is in Kópavogur, the second-largest city in Iceland. The neighborhood I live in is adjacent to Fossvogsdalur, a shallow valley that defines the northern boundary of Kópavogur and the southern reach of Reykjavík.
The floor of the valley has been set aside as a public park filled with bike and walking paths, duck ponds, playgrounds, a soccer field (excuse me – a football field), and a nursery for plants and trees the parks department plans to transplant elsewhere. This is the park that gets me turned around whenever I cross it.
At least the scenery is nice. And parks are often full of children who will point to where you want to go, if asked correctly: Goðan daginn! Ég heiti Christopher. Ég er heimskur útlendingur. Hvaðan er Skogarhlið?*
The “heimskur útlendingur” is optional, but it does get a giggle.
* Good morning! My name is Christopher. I am a stupid foreigner. Where is Skogarhlið?