Would it be wrong to say I need a vacation from my vacation? Probably, so after 3+ full days in Iceland, the land of Vikings, Sagas, the Penis (Phallological) Museum, and fermented shark, which is not quite ring bologna (early Saturday morning to about 11A.M. Tuesday when we began the car drop off airline routine); I will say I had a great time hiking and wandering with my wife (always a good time).
So here is my top 10 list of Iceland (that we saw) in no specific order:
1) Waterfalls. Did you know there’s a section of the Ring Road from Seljalandfoss to Skógafoss where there are so many waterfalls on the cliffside that you have to literally choose which ones to stop for? We did these 2 (the first properly) and stopped for quite a few cliff shots, but eventually, we had to move on from “too thin” or “too far” ones to drive onward due to time and daylight concerns (we still got daylighted / rained out of this beach and natural bridge / water-based rock hike).
We got to hike around the back of this 1!
This 1 was thundering from afar!
Here is that road.
Nuts, isn't it? And that's only a couple of them!
Then there’s Öxarárfoss (above - best wet hike of the trip - Game of Thrones sets (apparently)) and Gullfoss (below), which are literally off the hook awesome.
2) I don’t think we saw one person who was a thug (real or wannabe) during our trip. Generally, people are friendly or “not bothered.” That's better than so much of the U.S. road rage, angry, politically vicious (though some Euro feel is a bit much for even a moderate American), and certain other American attitudes.
3) The rocky coast that gives way to rocky tunnels.
4) There was literally no gridlock on the road. Really. For that part, the only thing to worry about on the highway were sheep and horses.
5) Geysers. They’re in Geysir. They’re because the place is volcanic. Heck, everything is volcanic, dormant or waiting to blow is too cool. So let’s add lava tubes at the Lava Tunnel here, too (the Irish "kid" who toured us around knew his stuff – really good).
Check out THIS video. Sorry it's a little shaky - PD, you know.
6) The WOW stewardess hat.
7) That thermal pool (the Blue Lagoon)… even if it gave my wife dreads from the silica mud. What isn’t to love about a 100° bathtub in 40° weather? Other than having to take a communal shower before and after (though there were private showers), I mean. That said, we are "keepin' up."
8) Rainbows of double and singular variety. It’s unreal. They stay forever, they’re vibrant, and they repeat themselves in both directions.
9) Glaciers. Even from afar, they rocked.
10) Roaming horses.
I’d add the Northern lights, but we missed them due to rain. I’d also add puffins, but they were out of season.
So that brings us to the bottom list of Iceland (in no particular order).
1) Too dang much rain. It would stop and start again in 10 minutes.
2) The language is incredibly difficult. It doesn’t use all of our letters, though it uses some and makes up its own (or maybe Americans just avoid them like the roundabouts we can't drive). I've come to see that if you take 20 American letters and 6 Icelandic ones in any order, you can form the name of a place or a hero from some saga or the other. Like in German, even the happy stuff in Icelandic has such harsh consonant sounds (think untranslated Beowulf). For example, even “I love you” sounds like a call to engage in mixed martial arts when it’s said in German (“ich liebe dich”). Iceland has a much kinder mindset, so it’s only like they want to engage in Viking training with you (where they'll chest bump, howl, and drink beer afterward). To a goofy American like myself, the sounds are an interesting time spent translating. Like in the US, some people are bilingual and beyond in better ways that others (I'm not, though I do remember some German from the mid 80s and a tiny amount of Spanish - I should have engaged in this before Parkinson's). As I can’t speak their language, sometimes, it’s charades, pointing, and smiles (since it's my fault, not theirs, that I don't understand it). We monolinguals do what we must to adjust to our situation (like when I was in Mexico). It's not always easy. For example, I thought my WOW stewardess was saying “deer guts” when she said “dear guests” on the overhead speakers. Whether that was the accent, the poor sound system, or my bizarre mindset, it’s what I heard (I swear!). That said, they probably heard my “ain’t,” “you’s guys,” and various Americanisms and thought, “who is this nightmare to the living and dead English language?” IN ALL SINCERITY, being in a foreign country gives us a sense of appreciation for those who don’t speak the language in our country. True, classes and time are needed to learn (there's no substitute for time)or it’s all staring at billboards with no context (what I did while mispronouncing names and words to my wife, who takes me with a grain of salt). A picture of a doctor, a kid, and a stethoscope is context for medical things. One person with those 20+ letter words could be “buy this suit” or “watch out for the AIDS virus.” There's no ability to "get it" (as can be said for our bizarre language as well). This is not an Iceland problem (rather a Dan problem). I felt that way when I tried to translate Spanish conversations on video for a class I took in college. Without context, I have / had no time and experience to learn what it really is (not my learning style). To me, I think time in context could help a lot with learning a language, but that’s just me, and in the end, who am I?
3) In Iceland, the speed limit is 90 kmh or 55 mph tops (and all the cars are white hatchbacks - not even blue like my Yaris). Sammy Hagar is not impressed, especially since they have speed cameras with NO leeway. In America, there’s wiggle room because we might accidentally be a few miles over through difference in our speedometer and their camera or random foot pressure (besides, cops are mostly decent and don't want to argue with anti-police people who are pulled over unless it's for doing 30 miles over the limit or something egregious and reckless (generally). Oh, and based on responses in chat rooms, local Icelanders get "uppity" about people who go a few kilometers too fast, like they’re criminals with gats shooting up the world or something ("This is basically a case of 'if you can't do the time, don't do the crime'. No one cares under what circumstances you where driving, when you deliberately drive too fast it's your responsibility. Hey none of us are angels, I rarely stay on or under the limit, but I'm not gonna bitch about it if I get caught.") (SPELLING ERRORS BELONG TO THE AUTHOR, who seems to have either an all or nothing mentality or a hate for tourists). At some points, the speed drops in a hurry before they quickly break out the angry digital warning signs. It’s a learning experience. Next time, we’ll be very cruise control conscious. Yeah... this one is definitely a learning curve for tourists.
4) Those prices! It's $33 for a dozen Dunkin Donuts! $31 for 2 people to eat at Subway with 2 foot longs, a small cup, and chips (see photo). That’s it. Gas is $100 for 11 gallons. Souvenir t-shirts are $45 each. Be prepared!
5) Small, tight planes on WOW airlines with large baggage charges. Be prepared! That said, their prices are cheap if you don't pack heavy. Next time, we sit in the aisle seats.
6) That’s all I got. In all honesty, Iceland is an incredibly beautiful country, and the people were decent and meant well (the same can’t be said for a lot of Americans). I can’t wait to go back!
BE AWARE: the senses come alive on the hikes and journeys. With that being said, thanks for having us! It was an honor to journey through your country!!