Wednesday, 27 June 2007

Inward speaking

What's the only word you're allowed to say whilst breathing in in Icelandic?

No idea? (ok small hint on the left)

It's a fantastic word, can be used repeatedly, and in so many situations. Oh and it's addictive, but by far it's best feature is it's ability to say já when breathing in. Don't believe me? Listen out and you'll hear it all the time!

Edit: For those not in Iceland Já is pronounced "Yeow", and definitely not as "Yar"

Saturday, 23 June 2007

Lupins and Forests

If you travel around Iceland with one eye slightly open in June you will see thousands and thousands of Lupins covering the country. It's all part of the push to vegetate the country and in due course re-introduce forests back to the landscape.

Apparently Lupins are a great at fertilising the soil by fixing nitrogen from the atmosphere into the soil allowing for other plants to grow in the future. I've been led to believe that they were introduced into the country only about 10 years ago from Canada, but seem to be thriving over here.

Hopefully this will help prevent future embarrassment such as this incident when the Queen of England opened a forest in Iceland:

The Queen turned to Vigdis Finnbogadottir proclaiming "Yes, but where is the forest?". The former president had to reply, "Well, your Majesty, with care and optimism some day it will be here."

Friday, 22 June 2007

Icelandic Swimming

Swimming in Iceland is not like any other country. Yes it's often cold outside, but that doesn't stop the majority of the swimming pools being outdoor! Almost every town and village across the country has one, and as a general rule they all have the following:

- Geothermally heated pool.
- Slides (Up to 3 - see the photo from Eskifjordur)
- 'Hot Pots' often with varying temperatures (38°-40°, and 40°-42°). If you're lucky they also have the option of turning it into a jacuzzi.

It really makes the experience much more interesting and enjoyable than an indoor swimming pool that's full of chlorine (oh did I mention that they're filled with natural mineral water with no chemicals insight!).

To get a better idea of the swimming pool culture, put it this way. Every town has a swimming pool, but not necessarily a bar...

A word of warning... Don't forget to leave your towel in the rack by the communal showers as drying off in the changing area may result in a fellow swimmer getting a bit irate!

Thursday, 7 June 2007

The Greatest Vending Machine in the World!

Possibly the greatest (and most remote) vending machine in Iceland, and maybe even the world. It's on route 94 north of Eiðar and Egilsstaðir, and is sitting on it's own. Look out for a small white sign saying "Candy Gos Coke Sælgæti". Inside the hut is a vending machine and a guestbook to leave comments about this hidden tourist attraction. Don't forget to stop if you're passing through. Yes i know everything is expensive there, but that's not the point. Anyway enjoy!

Saturday, 2 June 2007

Icelandic misconceptions from abroad.

The classic line goes along the lines of this:

"Did you know? Iceland is actually green, and Greenland is actually covered in snow! Funny eh?!"

Although this does have a certain amount of merit, I can assure you that Iceland does have it's fair share of snow and ice. One things for certain. There is a great deal of misconception surrounding Iceland from people living outside the country. Don't get me wrong. People don't leave the country disappointed when they visit, but they often don't see what they are expecting to see.

1. Snow and Ice. As you probably know, the area around Reykjavik is almost always free from snow. This leads to the situation where there is tangible disappointment from tourists on the flybus from Keflavik. "Where's the snow?!", "I thought it was called 'Iceland'" etc. etc..
2. The Ice Bar/Hotel. Sorry folks, wrong country! Too warm i'm afraid. You'll need to visit Sweden for that one. Ok, before someone picks me up on this one. There is an 'Ice Bar' in town, but it's not the icy palace you're looking for - sorry.
3. Huskies and sledges. Again wrong country. Ok, minor correction, you can get a sledge ride here, but it seems to be more of a supply and demand thing from tourists. Try Icelandic Horse tours (or preferably 4x4 tours - far more sensible!)
4. Volcanoes. Sorry to disappoint you, but volcanoes don't go off as regularly as Strokkur in the Golden Circle. The last major event took place in November 2004 (Ok, I may be wrong here, but my point stands) There is plenty of evidence of really interesting volcanic activity around the country, but seeing a mountain belching out lava is a long shot (and probably pretty dangerous to watch anyway!).
5. Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis). Iceland is a great place to see the northern lights due to it's latitude, and fantastic clear skies. Unfortunately, many tourists know this, and come to the country in the summer looking forward to seeing them.... and leave disappointed. It just doesn't get dark enough in the summer months.
6. The Arctic. Contrary to popular belief, Iceland is not in the Arctic circle (apart from half an island off the north coast, the size of a postage stamp).
7. Midnight sun. Now it is close, but for those who studied geography you know that to have a true midnight sun in the middle of the summer, you need to be inside the Arctic circle. Iceland and Reykjavik sells this to tourists though, by using GMT so midnight arrives a little sooner, and hence midnight arrives in daylight. Slight cheat, but there you go.
8. Reykjavik. This is an interesting one. Generally when foreigners arrive in Reykjavik, they are shocked that it's not the futuristic party city the rumours would lead you to believe, rather a medium sized town that admittedly punches above it's weight on the party scene.
9. Others. No, Santa doesn't live here, everyone isn't like Björk, there aren't any "Iceland" stores here, no penguins, no Inuits, and no igloos i'm afraid!

I should make it clear that the rumour about Iceland having a high proportion of attractive girls is true. Although some may say I've just said that to escape an attack from the Icelandic Mafia ;)