ICY RE­CEP­TION

Herald Sun - Motoring - - News -

REYK­JAVIK is right at the end of the road. Ice­land sits in the mid­dle of the North At­lantic, some­where be­tween the end of the nas­ti­ness in Scot­land and the start of the un­pleas­ant­ness in the US, and its cap­i­tal perches on the edge of one of the mostly northerly ice-free ports.

Just out­side town, the roads wan­der up and down in a way you never ex­pe­ri­ence in Aus­tralia. Some­thing to do with the way lava has spurted over the cen­turies from the is­land’s many vol­ca­noes and the ef­fect of fre­quent earth tremors.

It is in­cred­i­bly beau­ti­ful in a sur­face-of-the-moon sort of way. There is lush green­ness, but it comes from moss and lichen, not grass. There are al­most no trees.

The nat­u­ral won­ders run from gi­ant fis­sures in the earth to gey­sers of hot wa­ter and steam from the un­der­ground fur­naces that also fuel Ice­land’s low-cost power and its in­dus­trial suc­cess. This is, af­ter all, a very rich coun­try.

Ice­land is one of the world’s most re­mote, de­serted and beau­ti­ful coun­tries, which is why so many movie and tele­vi­sion crews film in the pris­tine wilder­ness. And why a na­ture lover would love the birds and fish.

Then again, food in Ice­land can in­clude a shark that is buried for six months be­fore be­ing cooked, or a soup made from a split sheep’s head. Noth­ing is wasted.

When it comes to ar­chi­tec­ture, Reyk­javik is East­ern Europe with a coat of paint. A thin ve­neer of Amer­i­cana is ap­plied by Burger King, Taco Bell, KFC and Toys ’R Us.

Ev­ery­thing looks as if it were built this morn­ing— from a gi­ant Ikea flat-pack.

The build­ings are all 90-de­gree an­gles. The ho­tel used by Volk­swa­gen for the Golf 6 preview is one of the city’s old­est. Its name is The 1990, which refers to the year in which it was built.

So think of Reyk­javik as Can­berra without the trees. Or the warmth. Or the char­ac­ter.

Still, the peo­ple of Ice­land know how to work hard and how to re­lax. Reyk­javik has a rep­u­ta­tion as Europe’s wildest party city.

It is much the same with the roads, which are nicely smooth but throw up many un­ex­pected chal­lenges.

Driv­ing in Ice­land shows the Golf 6 is good, but gives no idea how it will cope with Aus­tralian con­di­tions.

The re­lent­less driz­zle and rush­ing streams are about as far away from con­di­tions Down Un­der as the is­land of Ice­land.

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