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A pool can be more than a pool

by Vala Hafstad

If you are a multi-tasker with limited time in Iceland, you will be well rewarded by a visit to one of the outdoor pools. You will experience physical exercise, relaxation, mental cure, Icelandic culture at its best, political discussion, and I could go on an on. Trust me, it will be a good use of your time.

The Icelandic pools are Icelanders’ greatest luxury. They are no doubt what any Icelander living abroad misses most. They are the reason we survive the dark winter and the low- pressure systems that try to ruin our good mood every winter.

It doesn’t matter which pool you go to. You will witness the same things in them all. This is not the place to be shy. In the locker room, you are required to shower naked and lather certain areas of your bodies in soap. A sign on the wall will explain if you don’t know what I mean. Trust me, you don’t want to enrage the attendants whose duty it is to make sure you follow the rules.

Once outside, you have a choice between being athletic and lazy. Option number one involves swimming as many laps as you can, remembering the simple rule that there is right hand traffic in the lanes. Ignoring that rule might give you a severe headache, thereby ruining the rest of your trip.

Option number two means skipping the pool altogether and stepping instead into one of the hot tubs, which usually are at least two, going from hot to hottest, and hot they are. They are in fact the hottest spots in town. Here, the regulars, who generally know one another only by the names of their occupation, meet to discuss the latest news, criticize elected officials and suggest solutions to the countries problems, of which there is no lack.

You may not understand a word of what they’re saying, but it can be entertaining to follow their facial expressions and gesticulations.

If sauna is your thing, every pool usually has one. You also have the option of submerging yourself in ice-cold water, the feeling of which the writer of these words cannot describe, never having attempted such a thing.

What matters most is that a visit to the pool drowns all your worries. You will exit elated and proud of having gotten your feet wet. 

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