Monday, March 10, 2014

10 Reasons to go to Iceland

I leave for Iceland a month from today, and every time I tell people (mostly students) that I am going to visit the land of Ice and Fire, they cock their heads to the side like confused dogs and ask in disapproving tones, “Why would you want to go there?”  I have at least ten good reasons to go to Iceland.  

Reason 1--Volcanoes, Volcanoes, Volcanoes
Iceland has 130 volcanoes, and one major eruption of Hekla formed a volcanic ridge that spans 25 miles.  Two continental plates that meet on Iceland are drifting apart, which creates the dramatic steam pots, sulfur pits, and enables Icelanders to harness more geothermal energy than anywhere else in the world.  I need to see this.

Reason 2--The Aurora Borealis

The solar flares this year have made the night sky come alive in Iceland, and the Northern Lights should be on every person’s bucket list.  Do the lights really ripple across the sky?  How long does it last?  Will I be able to sleep?  Is this where the Norsemen got the idea for the Rainbow Bridge to Valhalla?  Basically, it’s like the heavens are unleashing an exploding rainbow, and I can’t wait to see it.  

Reason 3--Clean, delicious fresh water
Friends, I live in San Diego, where the drinking water tastes like the water that Harry forced Dumbledore to drink at the end of The Half-Blood Prince that made the dead creatures climb out of the pool in the cave.  It’s the worst tasting water in America.  Conversely, Iceland is said to have the most delicious water in the world.  Icelanders claim that their water is what makes them so healthy and happy, and it is the reason for their long lives.   Just so you know, I am traveling a long way for a cool drink of water.
Reason 4--Pools and Saunas
Iceland has several geothermal pools in virtually every city.  Icelanders take their pools seriously, and I want to relax in as many as possible.  And, every hotel I have looked at has saunas.  The pools are where news is exchanged, where people gossip, and people relax and chat. 

Reason 5--Hidden Folk
Icelanders believe in a phenomena known as the huldufolk or “the hidden people,” (a charming term for mystical creatures like elves and dwarves).  Some sources say 62% of Icelanders believe in the hidden folk.  Terry Gunner, a folklore professor at the University of Iceland said that the belief in the huldufolk makes perfect sense:  this is a place of fire and ice, where steam billows out of the ground, where the sky lights up with ripples of green and purple, and survival is miraculous.  I am going to Iceland because I want to be around people who believe in more than what is seen.

Reason 6--"Blind is the man without a book"
Icelanders might be the most prolific readers in the world.  I read a study from Bifrost University that 93% of Icelanders read more than one book a year, and 50% read more than eight books a year.  At Christmas time, they have the jolabokaflod, or the book flood, when most books are published and everyone gets a book for Christmas.  And I read on the BBC that one in ten Icelanders publishes a book each year.  What does this mean to me?  Icelanders will like a librarian.  It means this is a country of people who care about each other and the world they live in.  They are thinkers.  And, have you read anything Icelandic?  I read Burial Rites by Hannah Kent and then jumped into Independent People by Halldor Laxness.  Icelandic writers can make farming in the remote corners of the frozen landscape riveting.  This is a country with a rich history of storytelling, which is the perfect place for a librarian to vacation.

Reason 7--Puffins
I don’t need to explain this.  Everyone love puffins.

Reason 8--Icelandic
Have you seen the words?  Have you heard Icelanders speak it?  It has to be the most complicated and difficult language.  I just want to listen to it.  I think it’s prettier than French and Portuguese multiplied by a thousand.

Reason 9--Vikings
I don’t need to explain this either.  Vikings are cool. 

Reason 10--No murders
I just read on a website that Iceland is the only country in the world where no death or crime is due to murder.  The rate is nearly the lowest in the world at 1.8 per 100,000.  Iceland is safe.  The descendants of Vikings don’t hurt each other compared to the rest of the world.  

I’m taking a road trip around Iceland with my husband to celebrate 20 years of marriage, and we’ll be staying in guest houses along the way.  I'll write blogs along the way and share my pictures, too.  I suspect I won't want to come home to San Diego after visiting Iceland.