Iceland is a small and very remote place, smaller then Washington State with about 320,000 Icelanders. By comparison, Washington has just fewer than 7 million. The country’s remoteness has created some interesting results. It has been said that the Icelandic language has remained so unpolluted that, with the exception of new words, early Icelanders could understand you today.
With such a small population in Iceland, most share common ancestors, and almost everyone is distantly related to each other. A genealogy database called “The Book of Icelanders” has been created. Worldwide, it is unique in its completeness. In light of the closeness of the population “Incest Prevention” is apparently a concern. Software developers have created a Beta version of an anti-incest app that can keep residents from becoming kissing’ cousins. The apps motto is ” Bump in the app before you bump in the bed.”
Since Marvel Comics have brought Norse mythology to the big screen most of us are somewhat familiar with the impossibly hunky Thor and the evil conniving Loki, but interest in the old Norse Gods doesn’t end with the movies. Icelanders will soon be able to publicly worship Odin’s entire clan at the first major temple to the Norse Gods since the Vikings pillaged the known world more then a thousand years ago. The domed 3,800 square foot Pagan Worship site began construction last January at a cost of about a million dollars. The temple, which will align with the sun and incorporate the Golden Ratio, is being built into Öskjuhlíð Hill overlooking Reykjavik and will house about 250 worshipers at a time for various services including marriages and funerals, but no sacrifices, animal or otherwise. Iceland has approximately 2,400 pagans, but for you Yankees out there, don’t be too quick to judge. Conservative estimates suggest that America has just under 400,000 pagans, making us the reigning champs in the pantheon of pagans.
We rented online from SAD Cars. We assumed it stood for Scandinavian Auto Division or some such thing. We never imagined that it really meant “sad cars”. The car looked like a crime scene on wheels, as if an angry customer had attacked it with buckshot and a baseball bat. Grizzly, our stoner service representative, assured us that it ran great and a little vibration in the front end was nothing to be concerned about. The pre-rental damage diagram had so many circles, arrows and Xs on it you could barely see the illustration of the car. The only positive thing we can say is that we didn’t have to push it to start it. And we’re off.
The Blue Lagoon
Your flight arrives at 6am and no hotel will let you in until at least 2 or 3pm so most people spend the day floating around in the Blue Lagoon. Touristy? Sure. Spendy? You bet. But, oh so comfy.
The Golden Circle
This is a nice one day circular route through SW Iceland that gives most tourist with a limited time frame a nice sample of the Icelandic countryside.
Wreak-Ya-Vek (Hey nobody can it spell anyway)
I don’t know how else to describe Reykjavik except funky.
Sleep Deprived and Kind of Smelly.
Although we enjoyed Iceland a lot it should be noted that it’s not to everyone’s taste. The sun sets at midnight and is up again at 3am, but it never really gets dark. The bars in the capital don’t get hopping until 12 and don’t close until 4:30 am, which does make for a lot of drunken idiots roaming the streets all night. Which may account for the fact that, with the exception of tourists, we didn’t see anyone in the capital over 35 years old.
In a newly published travelogue, the German author Oliver Maria Schmitt is not impressed with Iceland’s weather, nature, geology, food or culture. He was especially annoyed with the inhabitants, which he characterized as depressing, disgusting and obnoxious. Oliver went on to describe Iceland as an island of death and gloom, filled with darkness and depression, as depressing as East Germany. High praise indeed. While disgusted with the stench of sulphur and the desolate landscapes, he was equally bothered by the weather, “An awful, endless storm which alternates between rain and snow, something which would suck the will to live out of any sane person. However, the inmates don‘t seem to care in the least”. He goes on to characterize the inhabitants as self-important idiots and whale-hunting retards. I am barely scratching the surface here as the disillusioned German traveler’s scathing comments go on for pages and I can assure you that not everyone appreciates the humor in the satirist’s remarks. Some prominent commentators on Icelandic politics and culture have referred to the Oliver as unfunny and insulting. Unfortunately, there is some truth in his comments, which makes the satire that much funnier.
Still tourism in Iceland has doubled since 2009 from 600,00 to 1.2 million visitors annually, but according to Jon Kaldal of Iceland Magazine, “We Icelanders are not likely to pick up any new bad habits from the hordes of visitors. We are already famous for our love of late-night revelry, promiscuity, and lack of discipline, to name just a few things that blight our behavior in general.” Please don’t be dissuaded, Iceland is indeed barren but amazingly beautiful, with ever changing weather, seemingly designed for the rugged outdoorsman. By the way the showers do smell like rotten eggs.