Sunday, January 22, 2017

The Allure of Iceland

I'm not a paid travel consultant for Iceland....nor do I write copy for the travel section of the New York Times....nor do I have stock in any Icelandic tour agency operation.  However, I do occasionally hype up Iceland as a vacation possibility.

First, let's be clear about my version of being a place that you visit from early June until late August.  For the remaining nine months of the year, I would probably discount Iceland from my trip lists.  I'm a summer-only Iceland enthusiast.

Second, when you go to's not really for man-made stuff.  In all of Iceland....I can only think of five man-made places worth seeing, and all five deserve an hour maximum each.  I'd put the main church in Reykjavik (Hallgrimskirkja) on the top of the man-made things to see.  I'd probably also put the new opera hall in Reykjavik on the list, but don't count on operas running seven days a week there.  The Arbear Museum on the southside of Reykjavik is some time and represents the old culture of the island.  Of course, the Blue Lagoon on the far west corner is worth a visit, although I wouldn't necessary go and soak myself in the sulfur-filled waters.  Finally, the Perlan in Reykjavik might be worth a brief stop (it's a combination observatory, coffee shop, and great look-out point across the bulk of the city).

Over a five-year period, I used Icelandic Air on various occasions crossing the Atlantic.  I'd land at Keflavik, spend a brief hour exiting the plane, admiring the glaciers in the distance, sip a Coke at the lounge, and board the next plane for the remainder of the trip.  Each trip brought me one step closer to some actual vacation.  So in 2016, I spent the week in Iceland.

To be honest, if you were going to do the entire isle tour and circle the place on Route'd need fourteen to sixteen days.

You don't go to Iceland for beach resort tanning experiences, partying or drunken binges (like Ibiza), cultural exchanges (like sipping wine at the Louvre and remarking on brush-strokes),  or admiring fortress/castle design.  You also don't go to Iceland for gourmet menu choices, Icelandic-made wine, or to hear great classical music (other than that Bjork babe, the crazed Mugison, or new group Of Monsters and Men).

Mostly, you go to Iceland to recover from something, that's my humble feeling.

It's hard to find some remote corner of Earth where there is an enchantment over mostly nothing.  Oh, there are glaciers, lava fields, big open valleys with ponies running with the wind, waterfalls that take your breathe away, and narrow winding roads that seem to enchant and seduce you (as will the ditches and wild turns).    Those silly Icelanders will even put up signs to advise that these approaching roads are marginal, dangerous, and 'impassable' (meaning you shouldn't advance)....then you....on some stupid thought....see no blockage or chain across the road, and continue on.....asking for risk....maybe even begging for risk.

You might stop occasionally at some cheap diner by the road and have a chat with the locals.  There are amazed anyone would want to come to Iceland....there's not much there to see, at least that's how the local guy would state the fact.  A Mayberry-like story would be woven by the just a bit of dry humor.

After a while, you notice there's no gang activity.  There's a lack of no-go the extent that all of Iceland is a must-go area.  Crime is mostly non-existent.  There are no wild left-wing or right-wing extremists.  Revolutionaries are just about non-existent.  And if you were intending to be a homeless guy there....the first winter would wipe out that career choice.

There are three famous Icelandic comedy shows: Naeturvaktin (2007, 12 episodes), Dagvaktin (2008, 11 episodes) and Fangavaktin (2009, 7 episodes).  The three revolve around three misfit Icelandic guys who originally meet up in the first year to work at a gas station on the outskirts of nowhere.  There's the young guy with forty different psychological issues and probably should be permanently heavily-medicated.  There's the Stalinist-Marxist manager guy who is a one-star threat to civilization.  And then there's this guy without much common sense or intelligence but always appears to be sixty seconds away from remarkable success (if any of his ideas would ever work).  The three series tie the three characters loosely together and in remarkable spirals.  The last year is where two of the gentlemen have graduated to the Icelandic prison system and their friend comes often to visit them.  For some reason, the humor from the three series sticks with me.

This is this charisma about Iceland.  It's like some last frontier.  The Vikings are long gone, and the locals are left with a bad taste of bankers after the 2008 collapse.  Yet you stand around....admire the lava fields....gaze off into the distance at the glaciers....and watch the waves pound the shore.  You walk into a local Icelandic sip down Egils Gull or Kaldi beer.....admiring the fake Icelandic waitress (she's from the UK)....and come to note the locals around the bar are really just tourists like you.

You'd like to hang out with Icelanders but never seem to be able to find any.

The 23 hours of sunshine in July?  Oddly, this only comes up as a problem as you approach midnight, and awaken at 2AM to see the sun starting to rise.  You question your clock and spend two hours trying to go back to sleep.

The 23 hours of darkness in January?  It's best not to talk about that.

Iceland has some type of serenade which acts like a chocolate cake.  You can't avoid it.  The Viking-guy image....the lusty Icelandic women....the sea breeze in your face....the slight scent of sulfur always drifting around....and the glaciers always off in the distance.....all draw upon you.

So if you had a week or two, and just wanted to get away or escape, there's this wonderful alluring isle in the Atlantic that you might consider.

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