The land of fire and Ice. its history is full of Viking lore, elves, and Nordic fishermen. Discovered by Norseman Ingólfur Arnarsson in the 9th century, its mystic hues are ruddy brown, mossy green and white with snow-capped mountains. There were tales of elves causing mischief as recently as 1972. I was told that the construction of a freeway was thwarted by elves. They broke machinery and held up progress by causing accidents and putting up obstacles. These unexpected hold-ups resulted in a consultation with a specialist with the Icelandic ministry to communicate with the elves. it seemed like a far-fetched story but, our tour guide says that these fanciful sentiments are common with Icelandic people. No matter what age there is some belief in the supernatural. Icelandic folktales are ripe with mysticism, ghosts and elves and trolls, and further shaped by the natural forces and a taxing environment. It seemed to me fitting that this mystical land full of volcanoes masquerading as snow-capped mountains and glaciers.
The origins of the name “Iceland”. When I started learning the Icelandic language, I noticed the name of the country itself pronounced Ess-land, which sounds a lot like “island”. It made me think that the people were calling themselves the Icelanders. It was a fitting description, they really were an island unto themselves. I later found out that this was a misnomer when the iceberg riddled island was discovered they dominated the landscape covering over half the surface. The icebergs became the reason for the island’s name.
The second day in Iceland we were bombarded by a bevy of beautiful Icelandic girls who were up to hijinx in the city of Reykjavik. It was their graduation from secondary school (the equivalent of community college in the US.) then they were off to university. These enchanting weirdos asked my sweetie to slap them in the face. This I had to get it all on camera. It was a good opportunity to practice my Icelandic and tell them that I was indeed a travel blogger from the US. But I was surprised to learn that there weren’t as many native Icelandic speakers in the city! The tourism boom which was initiated in 2008 and has exploded within the past 5 years, has resulted in more tourists than Iceland can handle. A byproduct of the tourism boom was an influx of immigrants on the small island. According to the latest statistics, there are 29,192 immigrants in Iceland, comprising 8.9% of the population. This is up from 8.4% the previous year, and 8% in 2012. I met people from places like Romania, Spain, France, Mexico Russia and Ukraine while trying to practice the language, but stumbled upon a trend in immigration. The running joke became “I don’t speak Icelandic”. There was even a store called I Don’t Speak Icelandic, where I bought a coffee mug that proudly proclaimed this expression in Icelandic: Ég tala ekki íslensku!
The seafood based cuisine was delicious and there was so much variety my travel companion sweetie and I had a hard time deciding most nights. It was an island after all so the fish fare was always in season. there was even a tragic tale told by a native Icelander that in olden times not many of the natives knew how to swim so many of the fishermen who would traverse the icy waters to fish would return. Drowning was such a problem that eventually the Icelandic government had to implement mandatory swimming lessons for its people in the 20th century. I couldn’t find any research to back this claim up, but I digress.
We had heard rumors that Iceland was a pricey place, in terms of cost of food and shopping. This was indeed true. A YouTube review of Iceland claimed the portions were not enough and you’d still be hungry after eating. But I not only had nice, healthy meals that weren’t of overstuffing proportions but I had things I wouldn’t normally have, like puffin, whale, and shark (Okay well I wasn’t brave enough to try shark). Next time Ill boss up and have some. I didn’t plan on doing much shopping but it was colder than I’d packed for. So, why not splurge? The fair isle like sweaters that were handmade from local wool was insanely overpriced. I set myself back when I purchased a soft wool classic black turtleneck. But imma be cute when fall rolls around. There was a plethora of stylish winter wear. Durable and functional yet not austere looking. So if you go to Iceland be sure to budget smartly.
All in all, I would highly recommend traveling to Iceland. We saved the hot springs for a couple of hours before our flight back to the US. I felt like butter. Warm smell of salty seas was a welcome feeling as I melted into the water. It was a chilly 48 degrees outside but that water was nice to plunge into. We opted for the Secret Lagoon instead of the more popular Blue Lagoon, as several people told us it would be too crowded to enjoy. Its a choice I’m glad we made. It was wonderfully small and private enough to take your time and kick back and unwind. After our dip, a walk around the lagoon greeted us with boiling hot springs and mini geysers. A reminder of the volcanic activity afoot fathoms below.
it was a short trip, only four days. With Wow Air flying direct from Detroit and many new hubs in the US, this won’t be the last weekend adventure from this traveling polyglot. I’ll be back in Iceland for an hour layover on the way to the UK. It will be like visiting an old friend, who says you’re always welcome.