diamond geezer

 Saturday, July 02, 2011

Iceland, from which I have now flown home, is an island nation in the North Atlantic (approximately 50% larger in area than Ireland).
More people live in Croydon (340,000) than live in Iceland (320,000).
Most of Iceland's population live in or around the capital Reykjavik. The rest mainly live around the coast along Ring Road 1. Nobody lives in the interior, which is a rocky plateau of mountains and glaciers.
Iceland would be much icier were it not for the Gulf Stream. Even so, the average summer temperature is only 13°C. [current weather]
Everyone in Iceland speaks Icelandic - an ancient Norse language unique to the island. There are two non-standard letters in their alphabet, eth (ð) and thorn (þ), both of which are sort-of pronounced 'th'. Thankfully for tourists, everyone in Iceland also speaks English. Many signs are bilingual, and Brits can get away with being linguistically lazy almost anywhere they go. The word for thankyou is takk, which was the limit of my Icelandic conversation.
Iceland has the world's oldest surviving parliament - the Alþingi - dating back to 930AD. This kicked off as an outdoor assembly on the plains of Þingvellir, but has since moved to a permanent building in Reyjkavik town centre. Þingvellir is a most impressive place, beside a braided river on the edge of a rift valley. The valley marks the highest point of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, with a lake in the centre and lava cliffs on both sides. Here the Eurasian and North American continental plates meet, with the parliamentary meeting place at the foot of the North American basalt cliffs. The site's now a UNESCO World Heritage site, which at least means that the two visitor centres are tastefully hidden. [three photos]
Iceland's well known for being expensive. It used to be more so before the economic crash of 2008, but the need to import almost everything means prices are still higher than the rest of Europe. The local currency is the króna, currently exchanging at 180ISK to the pound, so four- or five-figure pricetags aren't uncommon. Take a deep breath before ordering a round of drinks (I paid 2200ISK for two beers, which is about £12).
Icelanders never expect a tip on top of the published price. That helps a bit.
The locals are very pleasant, although I found those serving in shops and bars a little brusque. Ethnically it's a very white country, lots of Nordic blonds, and completely different to living in the heart of East London.
They eat a lot of fish, as you might expect, a lot of lamb, and a lot of skyr (which is a bit like yoghurt). Several restaurants serve whalemeat, should your conscience allow, which looks like steak but tastes more like liver. If you're feeling adventurous, and loaded, I can recommend the menu at Trir Frakkar (ptarmigan, reindeer and monkfish, before you ask).
The main shopping street is called Laugavegar. It's long but narrow, with a rich mix of tourist shops, supermarkets, bars and cafes. Many of the shops double as 'tourist information centres' in the hope that you might buy a coachtour ticket even if you don't buy some volcanic jewellery, puffin fridge magnets or local knitwear. I didn't see a Starbucks or a McDonalds anywhere, but Europe's largest KFC is to be found out of town in a Reykjavik suburb.
To learn more about the country, from early Viking settlers to 20th century independence, nip into the excellent National Museum of Iceland at the foot of Tjörnin lake. Like many museums in the capital it's closed on Mondays. If you decide to have a day off in Reykjavik, don't make it a Monday.
Keeping busy as a tourist in Iceland involves taking a lot of day trips out of town. Several tour companies are competing for your custom, each keen you'll ride with them on the Golden Circle, out to the Blue Lagoon or off on the hiking trails. A network of minibuses nips round the hotels in Reykjavik picking up passengers on the way to the agreed rendezvous point - be outside early, else they'll go without you.
It seemed like a good idea in the 1940s, to introduce the Alaskan lupin to Iceland in the hope that it would colonise eroding soil. But the lupin proved far too successful, almost an invading force, and now covers roadsides and rockfields across the entire lowlands. The purple and white flowers are very pretty, don't get me wrong, but at what ecological cost to native species?
Should you visit Iceland? If you have the money, absolutely... it's a country of amazing contrasts. Should you visit Iceland twice? Probably not... unless you're captivated by the place, in which case better make plans for a third.

Visit Iceland, Iceland Wants To be Your Friend
Visit Reykjavik, Reykjavik webcam
Iceland News, The Reyjkavik Grapevine

<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>

click to return to the main page

...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan17  Feb17
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16  Nov16  Dec16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
life viewed from london e3

email    twitter    G+

my flickr photostream

What's on this month?
28 Jan – 23 Apr (10am-4.30pm)
Sussex Modernism
The sixth annual exhibition at Two Temple Place focuses on radical art/writing in Sussex, and is damned excellent.

twenty blogs
ian visits
blue witch
city metric
the great wen
edith's streets
spitalfields life
in the aquarium
round the island
wanstead meteo
london museums
christopher fowler
ruth's coastal walk
london reconnections
dirty modern scoundrel

quick reference features
Things to do in Outer London
The DG Tour of Britain
Comment Value Hierarchy

read the archive
Feb17  Jan17
Dec16 Nov16  Oct16  Sep16
Aug16  Jul16  Jun16  May16
Apr16  Mar16  Feb16  Jan16
Dec15  Nov15  Oct15  Sep15
Aug15  Jul15  Jun15  May15
Apr15  Mar15  Feb15  Jan15
Dec14  Nov14  Oct14  Sep14
Aug14  Jul14  Jun14  May14
Apr14  Mar14  Feb14  Jan14
Dec13  Nov13  Oct13  Sep13
Aug13  Jul13  Jun13  May13
Apr13  Mar13  Feb13  Jan13
Dec12  Nov12  Oct12  Sep12
Aug12  Jul12  Jun12  May12
Apr12  Mar12  Feb12  Jan12
Dec11  Nov11  Oct11  Sep11
Aug11  Jul11  Jun11  May11
Apr11  Mar11  Feb11  Jan11
Dec10  Nov10  Oct10  Sep10
Aug10  Jul10  Jun10  May10
Apr10  Mar10  Feb10  Jan10
Dec09  Nov09  Oct09  Sep09
Aug09  Jul09  Jun09  May09
Apr09  Mar09  Feb09  Jan09
Dec08  Nov08  Oct08  Sep08
Aug08  Jul08  Jun08  May08
Apr08  Mar08  Feb08  Jan08
Dec07  Nov07  Oct07  Sep07
Aug07  Jul07  Jun07  May07
Apr07  Mar07  Feb07  Jan07
Dec06  Nov06  Oct06  Sep06
Aug06  Jul06  Jun06  May06
Apr06  Mar06  Feb06  Jan06
Dec05  Nov05  Oct05  Sep05
Aug05  Jul05  Jun05  May05
Apr05  Mar05  Feb05  Jan05
Dec04  Nov04  Oct04  Sep04
Aug04  Jul04  Jun04  May04
Apr04  Mar04  Feb04  Jan04
Dec03  Nov03  Oct03  Sep03
Aug03  Jul03  Jun03  May03
Apr03  Mar03  Feb03  Jan03
Dec02  Nov02  Oct02  Sep02
back to main page

the diamond geezer index
2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002

my special London features
a-z of london museums
E3 - local history month
greenwich meridian (N)
greenwich meridian (S)
the real eastenders
london's lost rivers
olympic park 2007
great british roads
oranges & lemons
random boroughs
bow road station
high street 2012
river westbourne
trafalgar square
capital numbers
east london line
lea valley walk
olympics 2005
regent's canal
square routes
silver jubilee
unlost rivers
cube routes
capital ring
river fleet

ten of my favourite posts
the seven ages of blog
my new Z470xi mobile
five equations of blog
the dome of doom
chemical attraction
quality & risk
london 2102
single life
april fool

ten sets of lovely photos
my "most interesting" photos
london 2012 olympic zone
harris and the hebrides
betjeman's metro-land
marking the meridian
tracing the river fleet
london's lost rivers
inside the gherkin
seven sisters

just surfed in?
here's where to find...
diamond geezers
flash mob #1  #2  #3  #4
ben schott's miscellany
london underground
watch with mother
cigarette warnings
digital time delay
wheelie suitcases
war of the worlds
transit of venus
top of the pops
old buckenham
ladybird books
acorn antiques
digital watches
outer hebrides
olympics 2012
school dinners
pet shop boys
west wycombe
bletchley park
george orwell
big breakfast
clapton pond
san francisco
children's tv
east enders
trunk roads
little britain
credit cards
jury service
big brother
jubilee line
number 1s
titan arum
doctor who
blue peter
peter pan
feng shui
leap year
bbc three
vision on
ID cards