From Amsterdam to Reykjavik

I wasn’t entirely sure why the train trip from Amsterdam to Copenhagen would take fifteen hours. Leaving at 7.00pm on Sunday night and arriving at 10.00am Monday seemed like an awfully slow train. I booked it because it was the easiest, cheapest way for me to get from Amsterdam to Copenhagen. Yes, I know I could probably have found a cheap airline ticket. But sometimes, you just want to avoid the hassle of baggage limits, leaving and arriving at odd hours at airports in the middle of nowhere. Catching the train also meant I had somewhere to sleep for the night, and didn’t have to worry about accommodation. So yeah, at the age of forty-seven, I can now say I’ve caught an overnight sleeper for the first time in my life.

The reason is takes so long, I discovered, was because after leaving Amsterdam, we headed south back into Germany. From there, it was a slow journey town by town, city by city, until we finally arrived in Copenhagen. I slept a fair bit of the way. I also caught up on some reading and some writing. Having booked a single sleeper also covered a morning shower and a light breakfast.

I had a couple of hours to kill before my flight to Reykjavik, and so enjoyed a coffee, made a Skype call to home, and even found a use for those left over Danish kroner I had my time in Copenhagen the other week. I counted them and discovered I had exactly 27 kroner. As I looked around the drink shelves of the convenience store at Copenhagen airport I found only one item that was exactly 27 kroner: a can of Carlsberg Beer. Winner!

But as I went to book-in with WOW Iceland (the name of the airline), I discovered I’d made my first travel stuff-up of the holiday. I hadn’t actually booked for anything other than carry-on luggage which, on WOW meant a maximum of eight kilograms. “Oh no”, I thought to myself when the bloke behind the counter told me I would need to pay extra. “That’ll be 26 EUROS” (just over thirty dollars Australian at the moment) was such a relief to hear, as I was expecting something far more expensive.

I’d also under-estimated the time of the flight. My reservation indicated I’d be flying from 1330-1500, and I’d wrongly assumed Iceland and Denmark were on the same time zone. Iceland is on GMT, and doesn’t adjust for daylight saving, and so the actual flight time was two hours and fifty minutes. The time passed quickly as I was fascinated by the view out of my window. In particular, we passed over some rocky islands. At first, I thought they might have been the Faroe Islands, but they were not far enough into the flight time, so I assume they were islands just off the coast of Norway. Occasionally I also glanced at the in-flight entertainment which was, amusingly, the Disney film, “Dinosaurs Dawn Of The Ice Age”. The food on board (I had a baguette) was good, and not overly expensive.

As we came into land, I looked down and noticed the complete absence of trees on the landscape. Instead, there were flat rocks everywhere, covered in some kind of heath-like vegetation. I took the front seat on the bus, wanting the best view of everything as we took the one-hour journey into Reykjavik. As we made our way, the flat landscape soon changed due to the presence of large, spectacular mountains with snow on top.

The first few hours in Reykjavik were spent settling into my apartment (which is lovely) and with a visit to the nearby supermarket, “Bonus”. I bought enough food for the next few days, well aware that most of the food in Iceland is imported, and therefore reasonably expensive. The idea of spending 3,500 ISK on food at the supermarket did my head in until I worked out how to convert from the local currency into Australian dollars, my frame of reference. Once I’d mastered that skill, it didn’t seem all that expensive at all.

Later in the evening I went to the nearby public pool to relax (after twenty-four hours of travel) and to get a better understanding of the importance of these pools as a part of modern Icelandic culture. There are seven such pools in Reykjavik (population about 120,000), all run by the local council. All of the pools are thermally heated, and go from tepid to over 40 degrees (a little too warm for my sensitive skin). They’re open up until ten o’clock at night, and they seem to be fairly popular. I only saw a couple of people doing laps; most people were content to sit in the communal pools and chat with family and friends.