I put the Ice in Iceland

imageThere’s really nothing that can compare to a good nights’ sleep, except maybe a great nights’ sleep after exploring Reykjavik, meeting lots of new people, and learning all about Iceland. I feel much more human today after sleeping like a log last night and catching up on the missed sleep from the night before. I flew from Boston to Reykjavik on Monday night, lifting off at 8:30PM and landing at 6:15AM local time. Howver the flight was only a little longer than 4 hours and I didn’t sleep much. One of my travel goals is perfect the art of sleeping anytime, anywhere.

imageAfter I bussed from the airport I was met by my couchsurfing host Gunnar, an Iceland native to the island of Heimaey which is not far from where the Eyjafjallajokull glacier erupted 4 years ago. He tried to teach me how to say the name but it was a bit beyond my skills, Icelandic is a difficult language but it sounds very musical. Luckily Gunnar speaks perfect English and we chatted for a long time, he completed a 14-month backpacking trip last July and told me all about the farm in Morocco, the outback in Australia, the mountains of New Zealand, and his stay in Fort Bragg California as a Work Away-er. Work Away is a website that connects families and small businesses with travelers who work for room and board, something I’m planning to try this year.

imageI explored into Reykjavik in the afternoon and met with another couchsurfer who is visiting from Israel, Harel. He saw the northern lights on Saturday and they sounded spectacular, but it’s been snowing and cloudy since I landed. Which brings me to the title of this post. According to Gunnar it hasn’t snowed in Iceland since December but it snowed a bunch yesterday and today, and the forecast predicts that it will continue to snow until I leave on Tuesday morning (off and on). I guess I brought the snowy New England weather with me, but hopefully I can leave it here when I go!

imageToday I got a wonderful, snow-filled walking tour of Reykjavik from Gunnar who told me about Leif Eriksson who discovered Iceland, how the current mayor of Reyk used to be a comedian and ran for mayor as a joke, Gunnar’s grandfather who was the best organist in Iceland, that Iceland is the biggest exporter of bananas in Europe, and he explained how most Icelandic people are named. The first and middle name is chosen by the parents and the last name is translated to the son or daughter of their father, for example a man’s (Einar) son and daughter would have the last names Einarsson and Einarsdottir, respectively, so family members often all have different surnames.

imageHe also told me how there was going to be a vote on a referendum on whether Iceland should join the European Union but the government took it off the table so that it wouldn’t be put to a nationwide vote. In the last few days there were some protests at the city hall because people were upset they wouldn’t be able to vote on it, and Gunnar said it was very rare for Icelanders to take to the streets and protest. We talked about the benefits and downsides of Iceland becoming part of the EU, it is part of the Schengen area already so there is free trade and free movement of citizens in and out of Iceland to the rest of the EU. Since Iceland has a lot of natural resources in clean water and a large fishing industry so there is the possibility of it needing to make collective decisions with the other European Union countries on those resources were it to join. It’s a popular topic of conversation right now, with a lot of considerations on either side.

On a lighter note, today has been the Icelandic version of Halloween called Oskudagur, where kids dress up in costumes and go to stores and sing a song in return for candy. I saw a lot of clowns, an Iron Man, a mime and more running around town today.

imageI’m currently warming my feet and fingers in a cafe with a cup of tea and watching more snow fall outside. Luckily I wore my Uniqlo shirt and jacket so I haven’t become a popsicle yet. I’m planning to venture outside of Reykjavik on Saturday with another couchsurfer to visit some of the waterfalls, mountains, and anything else that isn’t blocked by snowy roads. And now it’s time to check out an east coast swing and lindy hop place for the evening’s entertainment, the perfect end to a snowy day.

Categories: Iceland

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