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Thread: Iceland

  1. #1 Iceland 
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    After missing the Northern Lights in Alaska, I traveled to Iceland, December 4-9, 2007, hoping to see them. Iceland is a Scandinavian country lying between Norway and Greenland. It is an island nation the size of Kentucky with a peninsula extending from its northwestern corner that looks like a crab with pinchers.

    Iceland was a Danish colony until 1944. It became independent when the Nazis occupied Denmark. Iceland's flag has the Scandinavian cross, a red cross outlined in white against a blue field. Greenland was granted self-rule by Denmark in 1979.

    People like to say that "Iceland is green, and Greenland is covered with ice." Iceland is warmed by the Gulf Stream. It was not nearly as cold in Reykjavik as it was in Boston.

    I flew U.S. Airways to Boston and took Icelandair. I landed at Keflavik International Airport. Keflavik was built by Americans during the Cold War. It is 45 minutes from Reykjavik. I heard One Of Us by ABBA on the Flybus. ABBA follows me everywhere.

    The population of Iceland is 300,000, 200,000 of which live in the capital of Reykjavik. Icelanders are reserved and businesslike, fortified against an extreme climate. They are descended from the Vikings who came from Norway in the 9th century. There are lots of square-faced blondes.

    Icelanders teach us something. They prosper on an island in the North Atlantic under harsh conditions. Why? Because they make the most of everything. They heat their city with geothermal energy, utilizing the many hot springs. They take care of themselves and each other.

    Reykjavik is the northernmost capital. The daylight at noon on December 8 was like soft twilight. SUVs crowded the streets.

    That tall building in the city center is Hallgrims Church. It is Lutheran. I climbed the tower. It was misting rain and quite gloomy. The Leifur Eiriksson Hotel, where I stayed, faces the church. I could see it through my window. The statue of Leif Ericson is in front. Leif was the first European to set foot in North America. He was born in Iceland. The planet Venus was in the morning sky and shown beside the church.

    The people speak Icelandic but also English. Their language has changed so little since the 9th century that they can still read the medieval sagas.

    Iceland's unit of currency is the krona, abbreviated ISK. $1000 got me 54,000 krona. It takes getting used to. A bottle of water cost 200 krona.

    Reykjavik is where Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky held the World Chess Championship in 1972. In 2010, Reykjavik will officially be designated the Chess Capital of the World. Fischer, with a long history of personal problems, resides in Iceland.

    I went out with Reykjavik Excursions three times. My first tour was the popular Golden Circle. It lasted eight hours and cost 7000 ISK. I saw my first geyser since Yellowstone. The landscape was stark and barren. There were no trees. It was cold, and snow was on the ground. I was thankful for my long johns. Iceland is fire and ice, volcanoes and glaciers. Its arctic-like setting displays its deadly beauty as the yellow sun skirts along the horizon in a turquoise sky.

    It was cloudy the first two nights. Clouds seem to materialize from nothing only to quickly disappear. I took the Northern Lights tour on both my third and fourth nights. I kept trying. Did I see the lights? Technically, yes. Were they spectacular? No. Conditions were better the second time out. It was clear and cold. The coach parked for an hour, and everyone got off. There was a broad band of white light in the north below the Big Dipper. It may have been my imagination, but I thought it had a greenish tint. Our guide called it the "beginning of the Northern Lights." He said the raw material was there but that it lacked the final touch needed to burst into activity. It was better than nothing. I got my bearings. The north star was high in the sky like it was in Alaska. The summer triangle was visible, a surprise. Vegas, Deneb and Altair are down this time of year in Kentucky and Tennessee. I marveled at Cygnus the Swan in December. Orion was low as it was in Alaska. Mars burned bright in the constellation Gemini. There were Capella, Aldebaran and the Pleiades, the classic sky which I saw from my parents' back porch in 1961-62. I felt fortunate to be able to see the celestial sphere from different angles. I came away realizing that one does not go to Alaska or Iceland for a few days and see the Northern Lights in their glory. Those stories are told by people who spend their lives there.


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  3. #2  
    Forum Isotope Bunbury's Avatar
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    People like to say that "Iceland is green, and Greenland is covered with ice."
    Is Iceland green? Not since about the tenth century, when settlers deforested it and introduced sheep which denuded the land and led to catastrophic erosion.

    Ah, you mean green in the metaphorical sense of being environmentally responsible (except for the whales).

    I managed to see the northern lights in Alaska, but it was a rather dim disappointment. I was on the North Slope for several weeks, and in Anchorage for eight months and never saw a good display.


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  4. #3  
    Universal Mind John Galt's Avatar
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    I am quite envious of your visit Jim. I have wished to visit Iceland for many decades, not least for its geology.
    On the other hand I have often seen displays - some quite spectacular - of the Northern Lights from Aberdeen.
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  5. #4  
    Forum Ph.D.
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    I've been wanting to go to Iceland also ever since i read northern lights a few years ago. and it has always had a draw to me.

    perhaps years later i will get there, and post my experiences here.

    something else i would love to experience is the cold. not such for the effects on the body, but see i like icy cool weather here in Ireland.

    Canada, Alaska, Iceland and Russia have always appealed to me as places to visit.

    Australia also.
    Stumble on through life.
    Feel free to correct any false information, which unknown to me, may be included in my posts. (also - let this be a disclaimer)
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  6. #5  
    Forum Cosmic Wizard spuriousmonkey's Avatar
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    I just read that iceland and ireland are in the top 10 of most expensive places to live.

    Not that Finland (my current residence) is outside that list.

    Beauty comes with a price it seems.
    "Kill them all and let God sort them out."

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  7. #6  
    The Doctor Quantime's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by spuriousmonkey
    “A scientific man ought to have no wishes, no affections, - a mere heart of stone.”
    How lonely.

    I agree about Iceland, expensive. Still cash for quality.
    "If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe". - Carl Sagan
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  8. #7  
    WYSIWYG Moderator marnixR's Avatar
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    been to iceland some 20 years ago

    fine if you don't mind the rain too much in the southwest corner
    worth having a taste of the various hot water pools + saunas on offer
    wasn't much to write home about for alcoholic drinks : no proper lager, the alcohol-free lager was crap + their brennevin (some home-made brandy) could burn a hole in your stomach if you drink too much of it

    but yeah, landscape and geology-wise well worth it - still got a piece of obsidian + a lava bomb as a memento
    "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away." (Philip K. Dick)
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  9. #8  
    Forum Ph.D.
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    I suppose that anywhere with natural beauty or a uncanny attraction for tourists will be a bit more expensive. I know for a fact, (having worked in some way in the tourist business) that people up the price when they see visitors. a great way to kill a trade.

    i can only speak for ireland and say it is quite expensive, but wage laws and the like try to make up for the fact. economic boom seems to be the cause, we have in past years had more money to spend.

    that said, city's are noticeable more expensive. the country towns and villages seem to be cheaper.

    And im sure for most people visiting a place like iceland will find the cost of a trip worth it and a bit of planning can never go astray!
    Stumble on through life.
    Feel free to correct any false information, which unknown to me, may be included in my posts. (also - let this be a disclaimer)
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  10. #9  
    WYSIWYG Moderator marnixR's Avatar
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    on the trip i went on we hardly spent any time in the reykjavik / kevlavik area and as a result i hardly spent any money once i was there
    "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away." (Philip K. Dick)
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