Iceland: Our Return To The Land Of Ice
ICELAND! We've returned to one of our favorite destinations! The land of Northern Lights, puffins, reindeer, Vikings, lava tubes, ice caves, and of course, the world's most successful hot-dog stand.
There are so many interesting things about Iceland:
- It has 130 volcanoes. Some are still active and even erupt on average every 4 years.
- Iceland has the largest glacier in Europe.
- The total landmass is 3 times bigger than that of Denmark (population of 6 million). Yet Iceland only has 300,000 inhabitants.
- Two-thirds of the population live in the capital of Reykjavik.
- The Icelandic horse, which can sometimes fetch in upwards of $100,000 USD, is the only horse in the world to have 5 gaits (most horses only have 3).
- Prostitution is legal for the workers but illegal for the buyers.
- Beer was only recently made legal in 1989.
- The country, which was held under foreign rule for over 700 years, established independence after WWII only because Denmark was subjugated by Nazi control and therefore lost control.
- Babies are routinely left outside restaurants and shops in their baby carriages even when it is snowing.
- Despite being at such a high latitude, it is warmer here than in most parts of Europe, North America, and Asia because of the gulf stream's warm air.
- First names not previously used in Iceland by others must be approved by the Icelandic Naming Committee.
- The police do not carry guns.
- Horses are eaten and more desired than beef.
Our trip begins in Los Angeles where we flew nonstop from Los Angeles to Reykjavik (pronounced Rake-a-vik). It started off a bit rocky as we booked our tickets on WOW airlines. The only thing that WOW'd us was the hidden fees at every turn. Check in baggage is $140 round trip per bag and, get this, carry-on's are $100! And by carry on I mean anything in addition to a backpack or purse no matter the size. Contrary to popular belief, size matters. Every bag was then overseen by your check in agent to properly fit in the strict size guides where our carry-on barely missed the mark. As such we were forced to "upgrade" our carry on to check in at a increased rate because we purchased it in person and not on the internet. If that wasn't bad enough, the nonstop 8 hour flight did not even include complimentary food, let alone water! Everything had a price tag. It made us doubt whether we would get charged to use the bathroom! Long story short, be wary of WOW airlines unless you don't like your hard earned money and be sure to read the fine print (This was our travel mulligan).
All of my griping aside, we did experience the Northern Lights outside our passenger window of the plane. I've seen the northern lights before on land but it still had my heart pumping rapidly to see such a rare and beautiful part of our creation. The fluttering lime and dark-green lights seemed to dance across the night sky. It almost has you looking for a giant artist spray-painting his talent across the sparkling star canvas of the night sky.
As we descended over our destination we landed at 3:40am and didn't waste any time. We hit the ground running, gathering our luggage, a SIM card for our mobile, and catching a 45 min bus ride into town. From there we got ourselves situated and oriented as we explored our new surroundings, even as the winter snow fell upon us.
If you know anything about Iceland you know the weather is constantly changing from hour to hour. It could be snowing one minute, raining the next, then all of a sudden beautiful sunshine and then right back to snowing. The saying goes here: "if you don't like the weather, just wait 5 minutes." Well, a storm of storms came in on the day we planned for the ice caves forcing it to be cancelled. The weather was so extreme, the government closed all the southern roads where 3 buses and a car all flipped due to the howling and relentless 70 mph side winds. Thankfully we hunkered down, played cards and kept warm with the help of Iceland's famous Brennevin spirit, aka "Black Death".
That night, after the storm passed, we ventured out at 11pm to grab some famous Icelandic hot dogs. These dogs were made world famous by former president Bill Clinton, Icelandic singer Bjork, actor Ben Stiller and many others. The hot dog stand, and it's 3 other counter parts, sell in upwards of 1000 hot dogs per day making it the most successful hot dog stand in the world. Take that New York!
After stuffing our faces with bacon wrapped dogs, we turned in for the evening looking forward to a goodnight's sleep in the land of ice as we had been up for nearly 35 hours straight.
COMING UP: Trapped in our car, ice caves, and a beach full of diamonds!