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A Weekend in Iceland

June 7th, 2019 · 1 Comment · tourism, Travel

Always wanted to go to Iceland. And here we are.

When flying to Europe from Southern California, on the great circle route, people can sometimes see Iceland from 35,000 feet, looking cool and inviting, and it seems a bit odd that we never went on down and landed and looked around. We finally did.

We arrived today in mid-afternoon, after two plane rides to exit France.

Iceland seems a bit unreal. Almost off the grid, floating out there in the frigid north Atlantic, a bit of it extending inside the Arctic Circle.

To a guy from southern California, where it is warm and dry, mostly empty Iceland, up there between Norway and Greenland … well, it must be a long way from a big city.

That is not quite the case. We went from Paris to the capital city Reykjavik in less than three hours; to get from Los Angeles to Chicago takes longer. That takes care of the “long”. Now for the “big city”. Reykjavik has a population of about 130,000, but when suburbs are added, the capital (and environs) boasts 250,000 residents, which is about two-thirds of Iceland’s total population.

Iceland is not only a bit mysterious, it also is a little glamorous. Sort of the end of the populated areas of the earth, and to be there … well not everyone goes.

Iceland was settled by Vikings and Norwegians and their slaves, mostly women of Gaelic origin, around 900 A.D., and it has been inhabited ever since, though its position on the edge of a livable environment is a little scary: Most of the island seems to be sparsely covered by lichen and other cold-resistant plants. Forests account for a mere 1 percent of acreage; trees might have covered as much as one-third of the island a thousand years ago — but the early Icelanders cut down most of their trees to burn for warmth and to make ships.

The lack of vegetation makes the island look a bit like a moonscape — albeit a moonscape that the Icelanders are trying to reforest.

The Icelanders have held on nonstop for more than a millennium, though they were tested by famines and overpopulation and infectious diseases, and by the Little Ice Age 500 years ago. Meanwhile, the small Viking outposts on Greenland lasted for about 400 years before they disappeared about 1450 A.D.

Iceland in recent years has welcomed thousands of tourists who want to hear an ancient language and experience the cold and view the often spectacular scenery — glaciers, waterfalls, geysers and, during the spring, lots of green. (And lots of white, during the winter.)

Being here, in Iceland has also allowed us to experience a sunset that came just past midnight (see photo, above) … and to revel, with an occasional yawn, in a country where it is never quite dark, in the summer months.

Tonight, a “girls weekend” birthday party saw them hiking around the old town, looking for a suitable restaurant, and finally finding one, named The Bastard (not too crowded, not too expensive), in the old town. Leah had the tacos — one pulled pork, the other seared tuna.

Then came a session in a grocery store at about 11 p.m., which saw us pick up a few supplies for the morrow. The local kids apparently did not know it was near midnight; they thronged the grocery, picking up candy and soft drinks. I had read one young person say the energy and enthusiasm that young people feel at this time of year gives them a sort of physical frisson that allows them to hang out late and live with less sleep.

Even the old folks stayed up right past midnight and into the wee hours. It wasn’t dark, remember?

The weather? About as warm as it gets here is the high 50s during the day, the low 40s after the not-quite-dark sunset. If the wind is not too brisk, the conditions are bearable, even for a SoCal kid.

Tomorrow, we find our guide here in the capital and set off into the interior for a look at natural wonders like the geysers and waterfalls and heated pools that lure tourists into their grasp.

So far, it is hard to imagine anyone lives here year round. And we are impressed by how big Reykjavik seems, as it sprawls and sends up stately buildings of several stories.


1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Doug // Jun 8, 2019 at 5:24 PM

    Love your travelogues. Looking forward to reading more of your thoughts about Iceland.

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