A stinky wonderful week in Iceland
Trip Start Apr 20, 2010
26Trip End Ongoing
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And for those of you who live in the UK I am actually visiting the country Iceland not the frozen food store called Iceland, although I did take a picture of the store just for fun.
Ok so a few funny facts about Iceland I have learnt - it's apparently illegal to put the Icelandic flag on underwear as it is seen to deface the flag (although they are sold in tourist shops), stripping is illegal so its not really a destination high on the list for stag weekends, alcohol is expensive and can only be bought in government regulated stores - I discovered this when landing and wondering why I was the only person standing at the baggage carousel for ages, turned out all the Icelanders were in the duty free grog shop stocking up. Iceland has twice as many sheep as people and Icelanders consume more coca cola per capita than any other nation.
My first impressions of Iceland were that we had landed on mars not anywhere on earth, and that was only on the drive from the airport. There are very few trees - the joke is if you get lost in a forest in Iceland stand up - and thus the landscape resembles a somewhat lunar/space like landscape with moss covering black lava. We then arrived into Reykjavik (and yeah that has taken me a few days to be able to spell correctly and it is one of the easier places to pronounce) to what is probably the strangest capital of a country I have ever seen. It really only has one major stand out significant land mark (the big church on the hill) although there are other smaller sights
I then arrived at the hostel and felt like I wanted a nice warm shower to ease my travel weary body - ahhhhh nice and soothing - NO!!!!!! Oh my god a warm shower is more of a olfactory onslaught as the hot water is heated from geothermal sources (water actually has to be cooled here not heated) and thus smells like rotten eggs due to the high sulphur content. Thus it is hard to feel clean when showering, but at least it doesn't linger on your skin.
I then headed off on a small sidetrip to the Vestmannaeyjar (Westman Islands) to the south which is home to a population of about 4000 people, loads of birdlife including puffins and was the site of a huge volcanic eruption in 1973 which destroyed alot of the island and reshaped the landscape. Hiking the volcano was a highlight as was wandering the coastline in search of the elusive puffin and admiring coastal views and sights of lava flow.
Here is some slight irony to my Icelandic visit. Just over a year ago I was stuck in India for an extra 5 days due to the volcanic ash cloud over Europe from the unpronounable Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull
And sadly due to the fact that we are still running on winter opening hours here in Iceland I was unable to visit the Phallological museum - a museum that holds a large number of mammal penises (from seal, whale etc..) including the recent addition of a human member (a 95 yr old man donated his after dying in Jan this year). Not exactly sure why there is a museum of phallic items but I am sure it would be a thrill to anyone who visits.
One must visit experience (despite the cost) for all tourists is to the famous blue lagoon where you bathe in the thermal waters that are a warm milky blue/white due to the high silica content. Now I was told it was over-rated and not worth it but I strongly disagree. How many places can you lather your face in skin boosting silica mud (that costs a fortune in a tube) and not feel silly since everyone is doing it, swim around in a gorgeous lava rock edged pool in water that is as warm as a bath and enjoy a beer or icecream while in the water (however again at an inflated cost). The only negative I think is that I didn't indulge in a massage out there and that it has left my hair feeling a little rough.
I have also seen the Golden circle - which includes the Geysir geothermal area where all geysir's are named after. The original Geysir isn't spurting anymore but its neighbour does regularly and easily made you jump. Then to Gulfoss waterfall and onto Pingvellir the area in the the rift valley between European and American continental plates and site of the ancient parliament. All very interesting and good to see natural beauty and history.
Overall Iceland has been not what I expected - its been way more, has cost more than expected - despite me being aware that it was expensive, and has made me want to come back and spend longer to explore the northern side.