(ICELAND) Destination Iceland

Iceland has been in the news for all the wrong reasons in recent years.  Volcanic ash from the eruption of Eyjafjallajokull in spring 2010 caused travel chaos across the skies of Europe.  Grounded travellers had unplanned holiday extensions and a legitimate reason for not turning up to work, whilst trains, cars and ferries faced their biggest demand in years.

The collapse of the banking sector and subsequent devaluation of its currency in 2008 made Iceland, who had never really bothered anyone and didn’t even have their own army, a sudden economic enemy of the UK and Netherlands.

And Bjork wore a swan dress to the 2001 Oscars!

I’ve been lucky enough to visit many parts of the world and have always dreamed of adding Iceland to that list.  Balancing a short-lived tourist season with a challenging LA/London based work schedule threatened to leave Iceland as an unattainable dream yet again this year, but I was determined to make 2012 the year I finally boarded the plane and headed north of England.

How do you plan a holiday in Iceland?  The internet is always my first source of research these days, although there are times I feel quite overwhelmed by the number of hits I get back on a search.  Time is required to surf through the ocean of online information but I personally find it time well spent.  I enjoy planning my own travels and the internet allows me to track down blogs, reviews and forums from like-minded travellers.  It’s quite a satisfying experience to create your own itinerary  from an internet journey that starts with a Google search for “Travel in Iceland”.

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Iceland has a well-deserved reputation for being one of the most expensive countries in the world and one of the first decisions I had to make was one concerning my budget.  I also had to decide what I wanted to see in the limited time I had as it doesn’t matter how long you spend in a place, it is never enough.  I knew I wouldn’t be satisfied with a long weekend in Reykjavik (a common destination for Brits Abroad) as although there are some amazing day trips possible from the Icelandic capital I’d feel like a child being teased with a chocolate bar that I can’t quite reach.  I decided nine days would allow me to see something more than just Reykjavik and was a length of time most likely to result in my holidays being approved by my boss without having to resign to see Iceland.

Not a stranger to solo travel, I was looking forward to some time alone to enjoy my selfish “it’s my trip, I don’t want to compromise” attitude, but I didn’t want to be hermit for nine days.  I also realised I was heading to a country containing some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world and it was a great opportunity to improve my photography, a hobby I started two years ago that has become a passion.  I didn’t want to miss the ‘must-see’ sights of Iceland, but I also wanted to avoid other tourists and get off the beaten track.  Finally I wanted to recharge my batteries and throw in a ‘holiday’ moment or two.

Once I made these decisions, the rest was easy!

Reykjavik

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Iceland has a population of around 300,000 and 60% of people live in the capital.  This charming place is the world’s most northern capital and has a country town feel to it with the amenities of a modern city.  Being very compact makes Reykjavik a walkable city and after checking into my hotel I enjoyed a wander down the main street Laugavegur and a stroll along the edge of the peninsula whilst admiring the snow-capped mountains that provide a stunning backdrop to the colourful and quaint buildings.  In addition to the outdoor clothing and equipment stores that seemed to appear on every corner, there were a number of art and craft stores and shops full of the quirky Icelandic fashion that has been epitomised outside of Iceland’s borders by local star Bjork.  It wasn’t hard to fill a few hours and after stopping by the Hallgrimskirkja church that can be seen from all parts of Reykjavik, I was ready for a drink and some dinner.

 

I usually make an effort to learn a few words of the local language when I visit a new country, but with the exception of finally learning how to pronounce the name of the capital (it’s “rek-a-vick”) I soon realised I had no chance of pronouncing the local language, let alone remembering the words!  It’s a beautiful language to listen to but there really doesn’t seem to be any correlation between the letters and their sound.  The Icelandic alphabet has 32 letters and consists of the Roman alphabet (without c, q and w) with a few Runic additions and vowels that may or may not have accents above them.  Whilst the local language challenge made me feel like a traveller making no effort in a foreign place, it didn’t cause me any real difficulties as all the locals speak English.  English is taught at school, along with at least one other language (usually one from their Scandinavian neighbours) which helps Icelanders communicate with the rest of the world and enjoy modern technology such as the internet and television.  Because let’s face it, there are not many people outside of Iceland who choose Icelandic as their second language.

With so many traditional languages dying out in the world, it’s quite refreshing to come across a nation that is proud of their history and protective of their mother tongue.  One local told me that when new words are introduced to the world (such as “television”) a national competition is held to identify the Icelandic equivalent rather than integrate the internationally recognised word into the Icelandic dictionary.  Some people have a knack for learning languages and as I am certainly not one of those people, it didn’t take me long to admit defeat with the Icelandic language.  I was going to have to be ‘the foreigner who only speaks English’ on this particular adventure.

 

 

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Kellie is a traveller and photographer who is most at home when exploring the world beyond it. Through the intersection of her travel, writing and photography passions, she shares her experiences to inspire others to create there own. The desire to live life instead of existing through it has introduced Kellie to inspirational locations throughout seven continents and from this a passion for landscape and wildlife photography has evolved. She feels a particular connection to the polar regions and Africa. You can see more of her photography at www.kellienetherwoodphotography.com

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(ICELAND) “That” Volcano