The impetus for the trip came from a home exchange request from Reykjavik. A lovely couple with two kids wanted to experience the heat of Sedona in July. Harpa feared scorpions and the searing dry heat, which might transform her youngest into a toxic combusted ashpile. Hedging her bets, she bought an inflatable pool from Sedona’s nearest K Mart, while we brought blackout masks from Amazon (no darkness in July).
There is no tipping in Iceland and I found this emblematic. In general, they are reserved, proud and slightly unusual people. My understanding is that they are a genetic blend of Vikings and the Irish Celts (whom they captured as slaves on their way to discover this uninhabited island which they call “Island”). They briefly discovered America (something Columbus never quite did), but finding native American Indians to be particularly unpleasant, they went back home to be eventually “cured” of Paganism and developing their unique style, voice, and eventually, economic prowess.
On our first day in Iceland, I managed to get sunburnt and we had 4.5 minutes of relative darkness (thank you, eye masks).
Reykjavik is a pulsing small city with excellent galleries, museums, coffee shops and the newly built Harpa Concert Hall, which was a revelation. We had one of our best all time meals at Dill Restaurant in the Nordic House (by Alvar Aalto) and, mind you, never ate putrefied shark or whale meat. That’s not to say it wasn’t available, but just not overly visible. Icelanders do have a maniacal weakness for hotdogs (more on this later); this was the only affordable offering we found in this beautiful country.
What about the language, you ask? Well, a neighbor’s cat visited us the first day. Its 6 year old owner soon appeared and I asked the cat’s name. She looked at me, made a face and said “you couldn’t pronounce it…so you can call her Cutie”. How prophetic this was. Our Garmin GPS with the Aussie accent wasn’t deterred when us giving instructions, but the names were incomprehensible. The names were preceded by “turn right” or “in the roundabout, take the second exit” so I was able to make out. The problem arose when we discussed where we wanted to go, where we had just come from or what we wanted to go back to. Not having a prayer in pronouncing things, we created dummied up facsimiles. This gave us no end of amusement and was essential to our communication.
According to the internet, the longest Icelandic word is: vaðlaheiðarvegavinnuverkfærageymsluskúrslyklakippuhringasteypumótateikning.
That said, everyone spoke English.