Iceland 2016: Reflections

13 08 2016

I started blogging about this trip with the sentence:  There just are no words.  There still aren’t, but if you’ve read my entries, you know I’ve tried.  And since a picture evidently is worth a thousand words, I’ve included what seems like a thousand, all in the hopes of expressing why this island, Ísland, is one of my favorite spots in the world.5-28-16 waterfall hike (1)

And since I’ve expressed the “why,” I know many people will want to know the “how much.”  The simple answer is, about $4,000 each.  This includes, for three people staying in the same room, and to the best of our record-keeping abilities:  airfare from Aiken, SC; travel agency costs (including car rental, lodging, excursions, and service);  groceries and meals; gas; gifts; and miscellaneous costs.

$4,000 each for a 16-day trip.  $12,000 for the three of us.  We could have spent that $12,000 on a good used car.  We could have spent it on house renovations.  We could have bought a boat or other pretty toy.  Instead, we chose to spend it on an experience.  And because that experience only lasted 16 days, I have translated that experience, to the best of my abilities, into this blog so that I can remember it and relive the experience for many years to come.

5-31-16 Goðafoss (27)

If you have enjoyed reading this blog, if it has inspired you  to visit Iceland or some other place on your bucket list, or if it has caused you to rethink how you respond to nature or other cultures, well then, that’s an added bonus for me.

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

6-6-16 Vík (14)

Reflections of the bird cliffs on the beach at Vik





Iceland Saga 2013: You know You’re In Iceland…

19 07 2013

IcelandWe needed to make an early departure from the Hótel Skógar to get to our Blue Ice Experience tour at Skaftafell, some two hours away.  Since I knew we needed to be out an hour before the breakfast buffet at the hotel was opened, I asked the receptionist the night before if it would be possible to have a little something available for us to eat before we left, thinking we might be able to grab a roll and some coffee at least.  “Sure, no problem,” the receptionist replied.  The next morning, we found the entire spread laid out: meats, cheeses, pastries, breads, yogurts, fruit, coffee, juice, the entire buffet freshly put out and ready just for us.  I figured out later, although no one ever said as much, that this meant the receptionist had to come in an hour earlier since they didn’t have an overnight receptionist as is common in U.S. hotels.  This is Icelandic hospitality, and it is not uncommon.

The friendliness of the Icelanders is just one of the many reasons I can’t wait to get back there.  This trip far exceeded my expectations.  The ease of travel around the island along with the ease of communicating, the freedom from crowds, the fantastical landforms and features, the feeling of a new discovery around every bend, the sheer beauty and majesty of this place…I could go on and on.  And I didn’t realize it until I got back, but the almost complete lack of commercialization was almost as refreshing as the air.  There were no billboards along the roads, no gift shops next to every waterfall.  My husband is not a big fan of travel.  He usually is quite happy to let me go off exploring on my own.  Yet even he fell in love with Iceland.

If you want to do some background reading on Iceland, I can recommend two books.  One I picked up at a gift shop at þingvellir: The Zenophobe’s Guide to Icelanders by Richard Sale.  This book gives a light-hearted look at the people of Iceland and what makes them tick.  Who knew that during the long winter, the fire brigade’s main task is to knock down the huge icicles hanging dangerously off buildings?  Or that golf is the fastest growing sport in Iceland, in part because it can be played 24/7 during the summer?  The other book I can recommend is A Girl’s Ride in Iceland, by Mrs. Ethel Tweedie.  I’m pretty sure this book is not still in print since it was never a best-seller and was originally published in 1894.  It is, however, a free download on an e-reader.  This short book tells the true tale of a young woman and her small party who explored Iceland on horseback in the late 1800s.  Her descriptions of their adventure gave me insight into the hardships of living in Iceland during that time. And apparently, it caused an angry controversy during the day: whether or not women should be allowed to ride astride rather than side-saddle.

I love my home in Aiken, South Carolina.  It is a great place to live and raise a family.  I love the tall pine trees that sway dangerously in the afternoon thundershowers.  I love the huge oak tree with the tire swing in our front yard.  I love Hitchcock Woods with its sandy paths, Spanish moss-draped lanes, and cool creeks, meeting up with horseback riders or families taking their dogs and kids out for a Sunday afternoon walk.  I love the caring people, always willing to lend a hand or a dollar to a needy cause.  I love the fact that although Aiken doesn’t have a beach or a mountain or any other major attraction, I still see people walking downtown taking pictures, admiring the simple beauty of our town.  But now I have a new love in my life.  A land of fire and ice.  A land that in places looks like Mars and other places like heaven.  A land with people as friendly as their land is unforgiving.  An island.  Ísland. Iceland.

I didn't write this.  But I could have.

I didn’t write this. But I could have.

And just so I don’t get the reputation of being too sappy, here are my final thoughts on Iceland:

 

You know you’re in Iceland when…

 

The smell of rotten eggs makes your heart race.

You can write your destination on the back window of your car.

You prefer the wind-blown look (simply because there are no alternatives).

You don’t flinch when a simple hot dog meal costs $15.

You can see over 50 waterfalls simply by turning around.

There are more waterfalls than trees.

There are more sheep than people.

There are more people than trees.

A three-hour drive takes all day.

50% of your pictures are of sheep, 50% are of waterfalls, and 50% are of rocks.

You run out of synonyms for amazing.

Before you even leave, you are trying to figure out how to get back.

Iceland, where else?

Iceland, where else?