First stop of Runaway Europe: Iceland.
I’ve been here in Iceland for five days now. And now it’s time to share the first impression of the country. I want to continue the tradition after my observation of America and China. For five days while I was around in Islandia, just like locals call it, I’ve learned a lot that I wouldn’t have ever known if I wasn’t here. I guess that’s why we travel. And it’s quire fascinating. The facts and funs are included hotdog, coca-cola and beyond.
Iceland is cheaper than I thought, and the hotdog is delicious
“We’ll eat $15 hotdog in Iceland!”
We used to joke.
Even before we touched Islandia, we bought a 5-pack of beer at a duty-free shop, thought it would be much cheaper here. The first thing we did after got out of the airport was to drive to a grocery store to buy food for the next few days. Then we found out, everything was actually cheaper than we thought. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not ‘cheap’, just ‘cheap-er’ than the expectation. And the section of seafood was very reasonably priced. I think we had too high expectation. Everything was local: cheese, yogurt, milk, vegetables, fruit, meat, fish, everything. You can enjoy the luxury you couldn’t have, like buying a jar of caviar for 2 USD. Smoked salmon with biscuit in the car was more than pleasant experience. Oh and the hotdog is around 3 USD not 15. You can easily guess that we’re having a hotdog everyday.
Icelandic is easier than I thought
There are similarities with English. Surprisingly. All the dots and lines in the alphabet are no doubt intimidating for foreigners. The sound is not so familiar either. I only know few words, but I couldn’t understand a single thing when locals talk. But if you come over the fear and look at it, then you’ll recognize some words that you might recognize. House is húsið, Welcome is velkomin, bakery is bakarí, school is skóli, and there are few more words I saw that were similar with English. Do you think? Icelandic is related to German, and German is linked to English. It goes around and around. I probably can’t communicate in Icelandic, but at least I can recognize street signs from now on.
They drink a lot of Coca-Cola
There are lots of coca-cola: in fact Iceland Is the most coca-cola drinking country in the world, 30 gallons per year. Did you know?
There’s a lot of fish
Seafood is the cheapest and the widest section in the supermarket. There are more than 400 different kinds of fish around the island. In fact, Iceland is the most fish eating country: 100kg per year. They balance their health with fish while drinking 30 gallons of Coca-Cola, I guess.
Naming system is quite fascinating
Did you know, Icelander doesn’t have ‘family name’ we know? We were talking with Johann, and his full name is . He noticed that we were having curious eyes, and explained us that it’s common to have three or four names in Iceland. Also, there’s not really a family name. People usually call each other first name basis, not the last name. The reason why is that they get their last name from their father. If your father is John Smith, you are a male with first name Elvis, your full name would be Elvis Johnson. If you are a girl, your name would be Elvis Johndóttir. Get it? Put -son or -dottir (daughter) at the end of your father’s first name and it’s your last name. So, your family can all have different family names. It doesn’t work like the way we normally know. Since then, I always look at people’s last name to guess if they are Icelanders or not and if the system is really true. So far, it was 100% true.
It’s not summer, it’s winter with less snow
It’s summer, the high season, but still we need a winter jacket and winter hat. Like one commercial said, “It’s not summer, it’s winter with less snow.” Sadly, it didn’t stop raining for the last few days, and it didn’t help to have warm days. The power of nature is strong in Iceland; it makes you really cold in the middle of the summer. Hiking in the rainy and windy day was quite painful at the end. There was a lot of freezing moment during the four days. When you see the glaciers up close, don’t much feel like it’s August either. But the sun is real nice in the shiny day; we had few minutes of only with a single jacket the other day. It’s not the summer we know, but Icelandic summer is certainly charming.
Everything is beyond imagination
Do you remember in Southeast Asia, every tuk-tuk drivers followed you around and whispered ‘tuk-tuk waterfall?’ so you developed a negative emotion toward waterfall? I’m sure it’s beautiful, and some of them really was, but just how they got you into the tourist trap wasn’t so much appealing. Well, you have to get over the feeling in Iceland. It’s not a waterfall you know, in fact there’s a good chance that you’ve never seen anything like this before. Just a little waterfall that doesn’t even mark on the tourist map will totally blow your mind. Wait to see the magnificent ‘Gullfoss’. Glaciers, craters, mountains and different coloured soils and grass… everything will make you feel like you are in a different world.
They make excellent dairy products
The first Icelandic dairy product I had was ‘Skyr’ (pronounced skeer) in the airplane on the way to Reykjavik. It was yogurt, but something was different. According to the information I got from the airplane, it is a diary product that is unique to Iceland. It has been a large part of the Icelandic diet since the first settlers brought it with them around the year 1000, as mentioned in the Icelandic Sagas. It is both fat-free and protein-rich. I’m not sure how they make it fat-free, but it was delicious, that I can tell.
One week is not enough time for Iceland
We are here using one-week free layover by Icelandair on our way to Helsinki. It was the cheapest way to get to Europe, and also it gave us a chance to visit the new land we’ve never been. We are here for six days exactly, and as soon as we saw few places around Reykjavik – the Golden Circle, we knew that the time we have was not enough. Now it is a day four, and my opinion still doesn’t change; I need more time. I need to see more of the glaciers, have to visit fjords, have to see puffins and whales, have to visit the islands, and have to eat more fish! I’m still here but I’ve already decided to come back to Iceland in winter, the land that is less colder than NYC (fact). We could spend hours on the road stopping at waterfalls and mountains. It’s a wonderful place; I’ll be back.