Searching for the elusive in Iceland

Reykjavik, Iceland. I recently took a little trip with my family to Reykjavik, Iceland. The country is weird. It is weird because although it’s all very nice and the people are very nice it seems like they have no real strong culture (unlike say Italians). There are only 300,000 people living in all of Iceland, 2/3rds of which live in Reykjavik and the surrounding area. The ongoing joke on the trip was that Iceland has the most [fill in the blank] per capita. We also felt like everything we saw and did reminded us of another place we had visited. That became a fun game saying that the streets reminded us of Lisbon or the climate reminded us of San Francisco.

Geo-thermal tomato farm in IcelandIcelandic food is quite varied with lamb, minke whale, puffin, shark, and tons of fish. They grow produce in greenhouses so they have fresh fruits and veggies of all kinds. We went to a geo-thermal powered greenhouse of tomatoes where they ship out 300 tons annually. That’s just under a ton of tomatoes a day!

Minke whale on the left. Puffin on the right.

Minke whale on the left. Puffin on the right.

At dinner, I tried whale – very much like a steak that is prepared on the raw side, and puffin – which is more like lamb in texture. I am glad I did it, but I feel like I should repent. The waiter who served those dishes grew up on a puffin “farm.” When asked how his family would prepare puffin, he said they would “rip off the chest” and boil it whole. Quite a vivid description…plus the fact that there were stuffed animal puffins in all the souvenir shops and the book of “50 crazy Things to Eat in Iceland” eloquently noted that puffins were, “So Cute and Tasty.” Gulp.

Gull Beer.Which reminds me of the terrible Icelandic beer called “Gull,” pronounced “Ghoulkh” meaning “rainbow” and named after the impressive three-step waterfall, “Gullfoss.”

Gullfoss Waterfall Iceland

Gullfoss Waterfall.

Icelandic horse.

Icelandic horses.

The Icelandic horse is a national treasure having come over with the Vikings and never bred with any other breed. It has an extra gait specific to its breed and is fairly small.

Strokkur Geyser Iceland

Strokkur Geyser, the active geyser next to the original Geysir.

Mid-Atlantic Ridge Iceland

Between two continents. The Mid-Atlantic Ridge in Iceland.

We also saw Geysir, the big, historic geyser and the Mid-Atlantic Ridge where the tectonic plates between North America and Europe are separated by 70 meters. From there we could also see the largest lake in Iceland. It was beautiful.

Blue Lagoon, Iceland.

Blue Lagoon, Iceland.

One of the highlights was the Blue Lagoon – a sulfur steam bath in the middle of ancient lava. It was so cool (even if it felt a bit like a water park) knowing that it was all naturally harnessed energy. Note to self: don’t ever get your hair wet with sulfur. My hair did not bounce back to its natural softness the rest of the trip (showering and conditioner did not help as the hot water has sulfur in it too). I called it Iceland hair and heard others remarking about it at the airport. Glad to hear I was not alone and now my hair is back to normal.

Reykjavik Art Museum

Reykjavik Art Museum

We spent a full day in Reykiavik (make sure to roll the “r”) exploring the culture. We went to the Reykjavik Art Museum to see contemporary Icelandic art, the National Museum of Iceland to learn about the history, and the Culture House to soak up the history of the Sagas – essentially near-truth fables of Iceland.

Icelandic Pylsur

Icelandic Pylsur

Another Icelandic delicacy is the pylsur or hot dog. Although we had heard so much about it, we couldn’t find those elusive dogs anywhere. When we finally did, I don’t know what kinds of sauces were on mine but it was disgusting. More disgusting than a Colombian Dogger with piña sauce.

Moonrise in Reykjavik at 11pm

Moonrise in Reykjavik at 11pm.

Did I mention that the days lasted 20 hours or so? We arrived at 11:30pm and there were still remnants of sunlight until midnight. Other nights, the first colors of sunset didn’t show until around 10pm.

Lost in an Icelandic Forest

They say that if you get lost in an Icelandic forest, that all you need to do is merely standup. The native birch trees grow only about a meter tall.

It was pretty fun to pronounce Icelandic words and seemed fairly simple in its rules as a mix of Germanic and Scandinavian (does that make sense?). For example, our hotel was the Center Hotel Arnovall – pronounced aargnovawlkh. All the t-shirts had the name of the volcano, Eyjafjallajökull, that erupted 2 years ago with the way to pronounce it. I got through the first four syllables before we left.

Reykjavik Sunset.

Reykjavik Sunset.

All in all, Iceland is a pretty rare and beautiful country.

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2 Comments

Filed under Travel

2 responses to “Searching for the elusive in Iceland

  1. Can’t believe you ate a Puffin.

  2. David McInnes

    You have a terrific shot of the Strokkur geyser on your site.

    I’m working with the New Iceland Heritage Museum in Gimli, Manitoba, Canada, to develop an exhibit on Iceland’s rocks and minerals. We’re looking for a shot of a geyser to include with the interpretation. Would it be possible to get your permission to use your photo? I can send you a draft of the interpretive panel to show you what we have in mind.

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