One overnight flight, a five-hour time difference and seven miles of walking later, today we were sleepless in Iceland. Our flight arrived at Keflavík International Airport around 6:30am Icelandic time, leading us to start out with an All-American trip to the airport Dunkin’ Donuts. At 9am we caught a bus to our hotel in Reykjavík, watching the sun rise over the mountains as we winded through tiny towns and rolling hills.
Our professor Althea Legaspi gave us a tour to orient our way through the streets of Reykjavík lined with brick and cobblestone, colorful cafes and striking street art; tried our first Icelandic hot dogs; and located the many venues that will be hosting shows for Iceland Airwaves. A highlight of the day was visiting City Hall and meeting with Heiðdís Einarsdóttir, the International Relations and Marketing Manager for Reykjavík Loves, the tourism organization of Visit Reykjavík. She spoke with us about cultural events thrown throughout the year in the city, including December in Reykjavík, Culture Night, and the Winter Light Festival. She said that with tourism growing by thirty percent per year, there are 1.8 million tourists expected to visit Iceland by the end of 2016, making these events and festivals highly involved within the tourism industry.
The next highlight of the day was our experience with one of Iceland’s most iconic cultural landmarks: geothermally heated swimming pools. We visited the oldest indoor swimming pool in Reykjavík, Sundhöll Reykjavíkur, and swam at the end of our long day as the locals do. The whole process was completed, from the shower routine to laps in the indoor pool and a relaxing sit in the outdoor hot pots. Check out my preview story on Icelandic pool culture, which aired on WCRX-FM.
The night ended with nothing less than a trip out of the city to chase the Northern Lights. At 11:30pm after a day that has felt as long as several, our Reykjavík Excursions tour guide described the stories of some Icelandic folktales during our bus ride: trolls that live in the mountains, fairies that walk out from the steam and the infamous Icelandic elves. Although the dancing streams of white in the sky were clearly visible, their colors did not change to green, purple or red–but our hopes for a more colorful Northern Lights sighting during our trip is not lost.
Tomorrow, we conduct our interviews with local experts for our two remaining cultural stories. Stay tuned to hear pieces from our recorded interviews and our final produced stories!