Things that surprised me: Cats and Pools
When I travel there are generally some small unexpected things that pull me outside of my assumptions and show me how different the place I am is from where I've been. In Iceland, before we left the city, two things revealed the city to me - in a slow fashion, but still a lasting one - the urban cats, and the swimming pools.
I shall start the story of the pool with a digression: The first day I met Adda she suggested we swim in the mornings. I agreed - and met her for a brisk walk from the apartment, along the pond at the heart of the city, and towards her local pool.
We'd walk to the pool in the quiet of the morning. At the pool, we'd pick up a locker key, change and bathe, then head out to the common area. What gradually surprised me was the calm of the place - the people swimming seemed to enjoy it rather than race through a workout. Conversation at lane ends and in the hot tubs ranged from society to politics to business and other aspects of life. So not only is it swimming through clean, clear water sparklingin the sun, but its a center of society and community for Icelanders.
So, the strengths of the swimming community surprised me, as did the number of pools (Iceland is powered by it's geothermal activity so there is lots of good, fresh, warm water). My second surprise were the cats: friendly, vocal, gentle - even in downtown Reykjavik. They all seemed to have homes and to trust people. They were delightful and very different from the either indifferent or feral and dirty New York cats. That Icelandic urban cats are as happy as farm dogs, reflects the closeness to nature of their society and culture.