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.