ICELAND, ICELAND, WHAT CAN I SAY?
18 days in their summer around Iceland was our choice for a holiday. Winter has its attractions, especially the Northern Lights but we had to be realistic. Even summer in Iceland can be bitter by our standards. Winter days are 10am to 2pm; you can’t see much in 4 hours especially when the wind and snow are blowing. Landscape was the attraction and to give you the end of the story first…….Iceland has it in spades. It might not be much bigger than Tasmania but the landscape is truly dynamic.
The glaciers are retreating but to our eyes they are enormous and living in a relatively benign landscape in Australia, I really didn’t appreciate the force of nature until I stood on a glacier and the ice caps of Iceland. Iceland’s most active volcanoes sit beneath the ice-cap and when they erupt the ice melts with incredible force carving huge valleys through the ice and basalt and flooding the coastal regions. Getting there is quite a feat, Reykjavik is a 3 hour flight from London and the flights aren’t cheap. So on top of a Perth to London flight you have another haul and though not cheap, Iceland Air is pretty basic. Once you land at Keflavik Airport, it is 49kms to Reykjavik.
Reykjavik is a pretty little town, with onlyl23,000 people but then the population of Iceland is only 333,000 people.
The roads are great, the infrastructure great and the facilities great. Iceland doesn’t have any armed forces, so money can be spent on more essential things such as education and health. Heating and electricity is basically free, coming from the thermal springs and water is plentiful.
The food is something else……..just think fermented shark (just gross), puffin, horse and minke whale. If you are an environmentalist, best stick to soup and bread.
The main meat dishes are lamb and fish. Vegetables are rare but tomatoes are plentiful being grown in glasshouses heated by thermal energy.
Food and, well just about everything, costs heaps. Buying any luxury makes you think twice and alcohol is a rich man’s game. Eating out is pricey, consider a steak and salad at US$73. However the main game in town is the landscape. Head west out of Reykjavik and you enter a landscape that inspired Jules Verne’s Journey to the Centre of the Earth. One highlight was visiting the fermented shark factory (Bjarnarhofn Shark Museum). Historically, life was very hard in Iceland as very little grew on the volcanic soil and the long winters made keeping stock difficult. Fermented shark sustained them through winter. Made from the large Greenland shark, it had to be cut and left to ferment because when fresh the shark’s flesh is poisonous. Once fermented it is edible, or so they say. The only way to eat it is in very small cubes, quickly swallowed before you smell or taste it and washed down by a quick tumbler of local schnapps. Once tried, never again, I suggest, but you can buy the T-shirt!
At Stykissholmur we boarded a boat and chugged out amongst the 100s of islands of the Hvammsfjodur. The islands are notable for twisted and contorted basalt pillars and puffins!
Amongst the islands we saw the small bay and island that Eric the Red (or Erik Thorvaldsson) lived on before being exiled and finding Greenland in 982. Out on the water we were glad we brought some warm clothing with us, clothing that never gets an airing in Roleystone.
So what more can I say in this short article? The people are wonderful and friendly to Australians, the history is fascinating and the landscape stunning