When we got off the bus and walked into Laugardalslaug the desk staff didn’t quite know what we wanted when our backpacks slumped heavily on to the floor. They weren’t exactly prepared to accommodate tourists. They guessed we needed a day pass and allowed our luggage to be stored behind the front desk. This is just a public swimming pool – but Icelandic style, and that’s the difference we were here to smell out.
After the multigenerational locker rooms, we were met with the unlabelled, mapless facilities that expected you to have grown up here. Stepping outside we didn’t have much time to select between the kid’s pool, 5-bath-multi-temp hotpot set, and the rocky geothermal mini-lagoon, as the large tower-mounted digital clock/thermometer flickered between 0 and -1°C.
Diving into into the 32° sanctuary – the lowest choice of it’s 35° and 38° cousins – we were struck about how standard-white tile this perfectly round, function-focused bath was. It wasn’t designed to say, “stark Icelandic modernism,” merely to be silent and good for your health. All utility, and no decoration, we may as well have been microwaving a hot pocket at the 7/11.
But to some degree we were looking in the wrong place, because at the very end of the grounds, with all the other baths leading up to this royalty of quotidian baths there is the geothermal highlight. Here, civil-engineering pumps in underground waters from afar for locals close-by. We entered not too timidly, and without speaking, so the 15 or so locals carried on in Icelandic in a familial low tempo, neighborly chatter.
This is a very normal town swimming pool, whose novelties after hot water cap out at a steam room, and custom made floating chessboard. Certainly, this normcore atmosphere make a quaint window into the mundane bathing lives of Reykjavik residents. That normalness is the quality to appreciate here, not any outstanding bathsmanship.