At the end of finals in November, I got a special visitor – my wife, Lisa, whose planned trip to Iceland for our anniversary had previously been delayed. Hobbes, who has a special kitty sense about these sorts of things, decided to help out as I got the apartment ready for a visitor.
His reaction to Lisa was precious: there’s a special spot on his neck that only she is allowed to scratch, and as soon as she came in the door he immediately hopped up on my kitchen table and twisted himself around so that she could scratch it. Which she did, before getting a few hours of sleep to get through her jet lag. Naturally, Hobbes snuggled up next to her and got some quality nap time, too.
After Lisa got settled in, we headed up to Perlan for the Christmas buffet dinner. Lots of different kinds of foods, some familiar, some not. I’m pretty sure I had pate de Rudolph, but it wasn’t completely clear which dish had the reindeer meat so maybe not.
It was Lisa’s third visit to Iceland, so after a couple of days in Reykjavik we headed out of town. The drive to Akureyri was dramatically different than just a couple of months before: snow was everywhere, and the daylight hours much shorter. Having spent much of my life in the deserts of the southwest U.S., it’s hard to grasp how much the changes in season can affect a place that actually takes them seriously.
Iceland takes winter seriously.
Years ago, after our first visit, Lisa said she wanted to see the Waterfall of the Gods, and so after spending the night in Akureyri, we made the pilgrimage to Goðafoss.
It was cold but there was a service station/lunch counter/gift shop less than a kilometer away, so we had hot chocolate and coffee to keep us warm while we mucked about in the snow.
Then the drive back. There’s a stretch of exposed ridge where the road drops off sharply on either side of the pavement. It’s very pretty in the daylight, but at night, it’s just a little intimidating. Add in icy roads, gale-force winds, and snow, and … well, we both looked at each other and said “nah.” So we made an unscheduled stop in Blönduós, where we stayed overnight at the Kiljan Guesthouse – a very inexpensive, very comfortable place run by a pleasant woman who emigrated to Iceland from Poland some years back.
As it happens, Poles are the largest single immigrant group in Iceland, and I have yet to find out why. Unfortunately, our host didn’t know: she came to Iceland on her own, not part of a wave of resettlement or anything of the sort. She worked for several years here to build up enough money to buy and renovate the guesthouse, set up her own business, and later bought a small hotel just up the road. And she still cooks dinner for her guests.
The next morning, we made the drive back to Reykjavik: the roads were still icy, but a lot less forbidding in the daylight and with milder winds. Lisa’s visit was too short by far, but that’s always the case when you live apart. She has a business to run, and there’s one more class before the end of the semester. More about that next time.
Cover image: the Jet Egg sculpture at the main passenger terminal at Keflavik International Airport.