Thursday, January 5, 2017

Why Iceland? Because...Iceland!

Our original plan for winter break had not involved international travel, but you know what they say about those best laid plans.  Reykjavik is an awesome little town - friendly, postcard-like, and a little 'crusty'.  Almost immediately, I had determined that, instead of retiring to Turkey, I will spend my non-working days in Reykjavik, sipping coffee and practicing my Icelandic. And thus, after our first few hours in Iceland, we were convinced that this trip, which was put together in about two days -- stressful!!! -- was destined for success.  


And then Monday happened.  The skies were gray and we nearly froze while dressing for our snorkeling adventure.  What the heck were we thinking?  (Snorkeling along tectonic plates was really cool once my face went numb.  Who knew that a numb faces and hands were actually a good thing?)  

Dingvellir National Park
snorkeling in 35 degree weather - because Iceland

With Tuesday came wind like I have never experienced before - gale-force, will our car tip over? winds.  Truly, what were we thinking?  In all honesty, we were thinking we had put together a pricey trip that we would have to replicate if ever we wanted to truly experience Iceland. Bummer! 

the windiest day in the history of the world, I swear

so much green
But, with Wednesday came sunshine, and with sunshine came the chance to chase a few of Iceland's famous waterfalls -- they're everywhere!  Big ones, small ones, double ones, you name it.  We saw countryside that was incomparably beautiful.  We sang along  with our favorite Icelandic bands as we cruised along the southern coast of what was becoming one of my favorite places in the world.  



the black sand beach and basalt columns 
I thought this was as cool as can be
We had one more poor-weather day, where it rained quite a bit,  But both the joy and the curse of a self-guided driving tour of a country is that you have to keep moving.  And move on we did.  When all was said and done, we saw nearly all of what we had hoped to see, which included waterfalls, black sand beaches, basalt columns, volcanic rock, port town, and two rounds of Northern Lights shows - yes, TWO!  

Jokulsarlon - the iceberg lagoon
just wow

The Infinity ice cave
glacial ice

Snaefellsjokull National Park
had to summit something to make it an official trip

The second night, New Year's Eve, was the most amazing experience of my life (for real, like no joke! Best. Thing. Ever.). Reykjavik's New Year's Eve fireworks show is famous and for good reason.  It puts to shame any preconceived notions of an over-the-top fireworks show -- take that, Time Square, NYC.  So, after watching the Northern Lights dance around the sky, moving from paintbrush streaks to corkscrew swirls and back again, we headed into town to watch another round of lights.  Gosh I wish I could be there right now - I'd be wearing my locally-made wool sweater, sipping pricey coffee, and surely reading some lefty-leaning novel.  Sigh....

By 11:30, the sky was aglow, and it did not dull for more than 60 minutes.  The fireworks formed a perimeter around the city, and each time I found myself drifting into a quiet dreamlike state, a firework would explode directly overhead -- or off to my right, about 10 feet away.  It was gorgeous, and frivolous, and slightly terrifying, and the perfect way to spend our last night in Iceland. 

and then I saw this Northern Lights show and knew it was the coolest.thing.ever

New Year's Eve in Reykjavik - inexplicably awesome
 They say you go to Iceland in the winter to see the Northern Lights. You have to risk a little to gain a lot.  The weather is fickle, and it can be frigid, but I would happily bundle up in every layer I own, risk losing feeling in my face once more, and dance about the streets of Reykjavik or stroll through the rambling countryside.

 Iceland, you had me worried for a minute, but you're simply great!

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