Tak (Thank You) Iceland!
Having just travelled halfway up the world in a matter of days, going from ziplining through volcanic rainforests (hooked into 700 feet of vertigo-inducing line by a bored, disinterested local kid on his mobile) to glacier hiking in the land of the Vikings, I’m ready for a nice cup of tea and a sit-down.
First, a massive thank-you to my new Icelandic friends Anelise, Ausi and Bjork (with apologies for any misspellings) for making us feel so at home, and to Roger and Izabella for being such fun.
Iceland is the most literate country in the world, with an almost 100 per cent literacy rate. Its capital Reykjavik is elegant and clean-lined, its days (at this time of the year) low-lit and short, but with seemingly endless dawns and dusks in bue-grey and amber tone-poems of cloud. I can highly recommend hip hotel Reykjavik 101 as the place to stay and chill.
After visiting geysers and dissolved in the Blue Lagoon, we tackled two bigger challenges. The first was the glacier-hike, where I managed o drop my mobile down a crevasse and also slide down an ice sheet on my face after my crampons failed – exhilarating, thrilling stuff, although it took my clothes two days to dry out and I had to throw my boots away and buy a new phone.
Second challenge – traditional Icelandic food (vegetarians look away now), from whalemeat to puffin and the scariest – rotten shark, which smells and tastes of very strong ammonia (although I have to admit I gradually started to like it).This is washed down with a strong black liquor that tastes of salt, licorice and eau de vie. I had to throw away my toothbrush head as the smell lingered for days.
The architecture is less obviously Nordic, with some wonderfully graceful houses and some of the best public sculpture I’ve ever seen. Best of all, Reykjavik itself has an oddly homely, welcoming aura, with soft lights in most windows and natural tones of rock and wood complementing the buildings.
It was also the time of the White Nights, when all museums and cultural areas stay open through the night. As the nation has only just over 300,000 residents, everyone seems to know each other and they all want to know you. Reykjavik is also home to some of the coolest bars in the world. Take a bow, Viking-descendents, you rock!