Translation: I’m in Iceland!
[Note: As you may have guessed, I am not currently in Iceland, as classes have started. This was written while I was there, over the course of the week.]
I arrived in Reykjavik Tuesday morning (January 8th) with my three buddies (Carolyn, Kara, and Kim). We’re here for vacationing only, no academic reason necessary. ‘Cause really, why not? Carolyn wanted to visit spontaneously, and the rest of us jumped on board. So far, we've wandered through the city, partaking of the National Gallery, National Museum, Culture House, and a plethora of different restaurants and cafes. We took a horseback ride through the lava fields, and a bus ride through the Golden Circle, which includes three incredible waterfalls (Gullfoss being the most impressive, named “Most Beautiful” of Iceland’s 30,000 waterfalls), the original geyser, after which all other geysers are named, a wishing pool, and a crack in the world. Yep, I stood in the crack between the North American and European tectonic plates. I hadn't realized it was so...occupied. I had thought the crack would be more vacant, but I suppose if it were actually empty, the ocean would drain out, and, well, the logic all goes to hell from there.
Travel never gets old. There are new, odd, and wonderfully weird things about every region of the world. So far, in order of increasing weirdness, I've tried Viking beer, skyr (sort of like yogurt, Icelandic style), monkfish, love balls, rye ice cream, dried herring with butter, mashed fish, sheep’s head jelly, mink whale, Icelandic horse (the order of these two is debatable), and fermented shark (harkal). Why would anyone decide to bury something in the sand for two weeks, and hang it in a shed for six months, then EAT it? Though the technical term is fermented, all the Icelanders just call it rotten shark.
As an art student, I’m a little distressed to note that most of the art we saw was pretty unimpressive. I would almost say amateur. There was some intriguing contemporary art (giant pink stuffed vagina beanbag chairs to accompany a huge video of a pulsating monster fetus), but I was largely uninspired. Those chairs were intensely comfortable, though.
I don’t want to go into too much detail about our Friday night out, since there was much to be embarrassed about (mostly my friends, less so me), but I’ll tell you something I know without a doubt: Icelanders party HARD. Definitely not something I expected, not something I associated with Iceland, but it’s true. They all self-identify as party animals, and everything I saw agrees with that assessment. The four of us headed back to the hostel around 4:30 a.m., and we were in the minority. Most people were simply headed to another bar. It was a fun night, for sure.
Our last day in Iceland was about as amazing as we could hope for. Most of the day was spent at the Blue Lagoon. I’m generally skeptical of hyper-touristy locales, but the lagoon’s visit-rate is well-deserved. Squishy, soft sand in a shallow pool, the perfect temperature (not so warm that cooling off was consistently required, but warm enough to counteract the snow falling around us. What a beautiful sight: water and sky as blue as blue can be, with purple-black lava rocks dusted with snow like chocolate cookies covered in powdered sugar. Steam rising from the pools and people happily floating by, mud-masked and serene. As if that weren't enough to make the whole day worthwhile, we had the night of all nights. All week, we’d been hitting cloudy weather, told each night that our Northern Lights tour was cancelled, that we wouldn't see anything. Sunday night was our last shot, and finally, finally we were headed out on the boat! I had imagined that it would take at least a half an hour to start seeing the lights, but from the moment we passed out of the lights of Reykjavik, the green of the lights was visible. Even then, the faded, slight-squinting-required dancing of the green lights was lovely, and more than I’d expected. But maybe forty-five minutes in, the lights exploded. They streaked across the sky, bright, brilliant, and dancing more beautifully than I ever could have hoped. I’m not a religious person, by any means, but the silhouettes in the lights are what I’d imagine choirs of angels would look like. I cannot hope to describe the majesty of the fluid green and red swirls. It is enough to say that no picture, however beautiful, could ever compare.
More pictures will be forthcoming when I get around to developing my disposable cameras. Most of these are from our waterfall-geyser tour, and some from shopping, bar-hopping, and the Blue Lagoon. I didn't trust the disposables with capturing the colors of the sky. But I knew I made a good choice in bringing them when one fell out of my pocket while riding an Icelandic horse. Thank goodness it wasn't my phone!
For all the incredible experiences travelling affords, it’s good to come home, and I’m ready to work. The better the vacation, the better the feeling of returning to a normal schedule. Bring it on, spring 2013!