This post is deliberately not called night swimming.
Swimming here is ubiquitous. There are lovely public pools all over the place and Systa told us that half the population swims daily. The pools are outdoors and geothermally heated by all the crazy tectonic action below us. Often there are things called hot pots, small pools heated with sea water, and hot tubs and lap pools and, well, you’ll see.
There is also a pool culture to learn. When you go in you pay 360ISK (about 3 bucks). Then you enter a hallway and you take off your shoes (everybody does) and leave them there. Then it’s into the locker area. Icelandic pools are not treated with chemicals so a thorough scrubbing is required. How do you know what to wash? Oh, they tell you.
You best wash all those stinky hot pink places! They provide soap, you provide the strategy for dealing with the giant common shower. Everyone does it and then you toss on your suit (don’t think you’re showering with it on, because you’re not) and head to the pool.
Why this discussion of pools? Why now?
The biggest pool in Reykjavik, Laugardalslaug, decided to try keeping the pool open all night (it usually closes at 22:30) from 21 July – 26 July. So around 10 tonight we tossed our Systa-designated “pool towels” in a bag and hiked over to Laugardalur valley, the pool and recreation zone (we’re hoping to catch some of the the youth soccer international Rey cup at the big stadium). As we neared the swimming pools we saw herds of teens walking past us, perhaps scurrying to get home by 11. I was ok with the teens heading home.
The pool was bumping. It was a mix of some tourists, lots of locals, mostly the over 5 crowd but there were definitely some hearty kids hanging in there. And, alas, many teens (the like to wrestle and throw stuff variety). Swimming at night when it’s not dark is still pretty incredible. Partially it’s knowing it’s nearing midnight and it’s still light out. Partially it’s the steam rising from the warm pool (which isn’t captured here half as well as I would’ve liked).
And, mostly it’s incredible because of this:
That is a vatnsrennibraut. A water slide. But it’s more than that. It is the most incredible water slide ever. This makes sense because Icelanders tend to believe theirs is the best of everything: the best lamb, the best water. Clearly, they’d have the best water slide. It has a windy, spiral staircase that’s enclosed so you aren’t super chilly. The staircase also has (I imagine not planned) these cool drips that continually plunk you on the head so you feel like you are laying siege to a thousand year old tower, which also happens to have circus-like panels of color. You’re storming a thousand year old circus tower! It has a slide signal like the on ramp signals for highways. It’s red, till it’s green, then you go. And then there’s the slide part! It starts out slow. Post facto, Brett & I both discussed having had some immediate concern about potential disappointment. But then it goes all pitch black awesome and you drop, picking up speed. The pitch black gives way to rope lights around the slide that make you feel like you are entering warp speed. Then more black. Then this trippy section with light-up, colorful stars all around you. More black. You are counting those lucky stars thinking this ride is the longest ride ever and you are so, so happy. Then…
Oh, vatnsrennibraut. I love you.
(NB: the attempt to keep you from humming “Night Swimming” by REM, a lovely song, is because I knew where this was going and I was trying to protect you. The water slide is WAY too exciting to be humming such a mellow, mellow tune. If you need to hum, pick something fast and fun and reread it humming that.)