By: Cynthia Litman
Pearl of the land: A World of Wonder
In the land of Ice & Fire there is a general pearl Icelanders live by which is, "it will all be okay in the end".
That innate trust is sacred. Trust the process. Go through what you got to go through, but know, trust and believe that it'll all be okay. Such assurances we desire to have in life.
When an experience, like traveling, fades into memory, it's interesting to see what sticks. For Iceland, it's her raw unfiltered beauty.
In many ways she is a relatively new land still in formation with massive elemental energies at work. The forces of fire and ice, earth and air all playing off and against each other at full force. The two Tectonic plates of North America and EuroAsia meet outside Reykovich where they tear the land a part a bit more each year.
It's a stark land of contrast and a fascinatingly beautiful yet volatile topography. She's brutally beautiful.
Vast mountain and volcanic ranges lining the pathway for water rushing from Glaciers and geothermal pockets making boiling bubbling puddles not something you wish to step in. Tour Guides are a must especially if you wish to venture onto glaciers and into ice caves.
One wrong step will ruin your day.
Iceland feels foreign yet familiar.
In under 6 hours from New York, you can be dropped into a land and culture steeped in living lore, myths and legend. If you were going to search for Thor, Santa, the Luckiness Monster, hidden folk and the like, Iceland i the place to start. I kept stumbling on the pronunciation saying we're going to Ragnorok (instead of Reykovich) and I'm searching for Thor. According to the Marvel movies "Thor", Ragnorok brings the destruction of Asgard. Well my friends, the Norse god Thor and Odin is the mythology underlying Icelandic and Norse belief.
The city of Reykovich was founded by Vikings.
Iceland's 300,000 population is greatly concentrated in the city. The airport happens to be in the middle of a field of lava rocks.
Reykovich which is a stop over place of the Euro jet set crowd has found its own groove.
It is a friendly, cute, European cafe culture kind of town with Scandinavian roots. It imbues many cultural influences.
Stroll its streets and dip in to any cozy corner cafe for a sandwich, snack board, pastry, pastry, dense Icelandic donuts to dip into your coffee. Plentiful foods are lamb which is on every menu. Basically substitute chicken soup for lamb soup and add gravlax, smoked everything, gin and ice cream.
The water is so pure and glacial fresh. It runs straight from the glacier and is filtered over lava rocks. They encourage you to drink straight from the faucet and our tour guide said the freshwater lakes are drinkable. So feel free to leave the life straw at home, i won't but go for it.
Their bread and butter is a treat. I can't eat bread in the States without blowing up but there I ate all the loaves of bread, mostly, sourdough and rye. They make Rye bread straight in hot geothermal pockets in the earth.
Most of the time I felt was in a film, walking into a dimly lit tavern from being out in the cold with a pint and a big bowl of lamb soup and a hunk of bread. The food warms you up from the inside out.
Otherwise dreary and depressing winter induced moods are brightened by vibrant pops of color on the walls, pavements, sidewalks and roof tops. Iceland is known for loooooong coooooold dark winters and for being on the highest dosage of anti-depressants. The winters are draped in darkness with only 4 hours of sunlight while their summers simmer in light. Yet pops of color and kindness abound.
Always chasing the light, while embracing the darkness.
It's no secret that I don't love the cold. In fact I"m counting down the winters I have left while my kids are in High School before I can snow bird. So it begs the question whyyyyyyyy. Whyyyyy are there multiple generations of people choosing to live there year round.
I sort of understand the appeal to living in or very close by the city but can't understand what life is like if you are 1 of maybe 3 houses that's perched on the side of a mountain (which hopefully is not a active volcano) in a remote part of the country. I mean, what if you don't like your neighbors. That's a very looooooong winter.
In Iceland, Mother Nature rules. To see her majesty means also facing her wrath.
The day we planned for sight seeing around the Golden Ring there was a nice big Icelandic style storm. The city locals warned us not to go. Our tour guide, a native Icelander, didn't seem fazed by the weather or concerned at all, so off we went. We faced gale gusts of winds, snow and pelting rain. The drive is long open stretches with nothing but your car and the road. There are few trees and wide open plains so when the wind whips, it whips straight across. May have hydroplaned a bit but, again, no biggy for our guy.
It was wild.
Iceland allowed peaks into her beauty. Each stop rendering us speechless. Her contrasts of beauty and beast. Volatility and peacefulness all in a day.
Its biggest mystery and bucket list items is the Northern Lights. Alas, the goddess Arora is ever elusive.
There are so many stories, legends and explanations for this phenomenon that turns the sky into liquid. The scientific nutshell is that light from solar activity that passes through the earths magnetic field gets pulled to the north and south poles and trapped there. This becomes the lights. According to Native Americans, the lights are ancestors dancing. Many believing that it is good luck to conceive a child under Arora promising some magic babies.
We set out with a group equally as eager to see her majesty shine. Alas, she remained elusive to us. This was the closest I got - a Northern Lights drink. A deliciously beautiful hangover in a glass. Dancing under the Northern Lights remains on my bucket list.
Iceland's lagoon experiences are not to be missed. Each place offers their own setting and rituals. There are natural thermal hot springs. We opted for the more commercial route and went to the Blue Lagoon and The Sky Lagoon. The Sky Lagoon looks off an infinity hot pool with a beautiful view.
The Blue Lagoon is a world onto itself. We opted for the Spa Lounge experience which is the non-public side of the Blue lagoon. The skin rituals are done inside and the lagoon is outside. I believe on the public side you do the masks in the water. The gurgling sounds of the geothermal heaters sound like mini eruptions. It was awesome, even on a rainy gloomy day. The Blue Lagoon was our last stop before heading to the airport. We topped off with a last delicious lunch at the spa. Stocked up on products for gifts and headed home super squeaky clean and happy.
The start of our Iceland Saga indeed showed how everything was more than okay. Our memories will be frozen in time.
One of the last places on the planet to have settlers
Iceland had one of the first parliaments dating to 930
The word “Geyser” is from Icelandic: Old Norse
Over 10% of the Country is Glaciers
More than 30 active xVolcanic systems
One of the lowest crime rates in the world
No formal military aside from Coast Guard & Air Defense
But important allied base during WW2 - midway point
“Most Freedom in a Country” but also, has naming committee to approve your child's name
Gas prices was at $11 per gallon
The currency is krona so everything is 50,000 or more.
The temperature is Celsius so its like 0 degrees.
New Word: Snyrting means toilets
Water is glacial that is filtered as it runs down fields of lava stones.
Can drink straight from most of the freshwater lakes and all faucets
Huge ice cream culture
Visit the penis museum
The first parliament in the world was established in Iceland in 930
911 emergency number in Iceland is 112
Great Resources for Iceland: