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Iceland July 2021

Six full days, July 11-17.

This report won't be all unicorns and rainbows, because that's boring. Highlights included the Blue Lagoon. Our tickets were $53 each and we spent about 4 hours there. 2.5 hours in the pool, one hour hiking around the area, and about a half hour having a snack. We were uncertain about this excursion as many reviews suggested it was overpriced and over-hyped, but we had a blast. Had a couple of drinks, walked around the pool until we got cold and then jumped back in, like we were kids, not 60-years-old. The waterfall was an intense massage on the back and shoulder muscles and right next to the steam bath. We cycled through all of these things maybe three times and were as relaxed as one could possibly be, well, except for... you know. That was later.

The volcano hike is a hit-or-miss deal. On the day before we went it was so foggy nothing could be seen, and the day after we visited there was no eruption. We were lucky and saw the lava fountain from a hilltop a mile or two away, but nothing like a month or two ago when you could get much closer. That was a little bit of a bummer. We walked on top of the glacier-like lava flow and even peered down between the cracks to see molten lava and warm our hands a bit. The tour guide invited us to take a piece of the basaltic rock, so we did. I gave it to our neighbor kid who is really into science.

Stories about the Golden Ring have been beaten to death, but a highlight was visiting a horse farm where they also sold the lollapalooza (whatever) sweaters. Mary bought two for $300 total. That and the "secret" lagoon were highlights.

The Snaelfessness peninsula was surreal between the sunlight, fog, rain, and wind coming and going seemingly every five minutes. We visited Arctic Terns but they seemed annoyed by our presence as we eavesdropped on what appeared to be an important and noisy meeting in one of the isolated coves. It was their version of a Parliamentary debate.

We visited Reyjavik's Laugardalslaug pool three times after dinner, a perfect ending to the day. A walking tour with a political science major from the University of Iceland was worth the price of admission as he encouraged us to ask as many questions as we could think of. The tour guides for the above trips were also forthcoming with information.

IMO Ireland is still the "friendliest" country we have visited. No, I don't mean vacuous, empty smiling, but more like a hard to define warmth and congeniality. Iceland is #2 with a little more of the traditional Nordic reserved nature. Scotland is up for 2023 and I've heard that country will be a top contender. Oh, Liverpool would be a tie for #1. I write this as it was easy to strike up a random, brief conversation with the Irish and Liverpudlians, who are funny and witty with a nice side of tartness, like Emma.

Among the several Icelanders we spoke with, one of the main concerns was the potential loss of the Icelandic culture and language. I would despair to see that gradually fade away. Many of the immigrants, 60,000 or more, often don't learn to speak the language nor seem inclined on melting into the culture. I don't know. This is the one issue in which everyone I spoke with referenced in one way or another. Other than seeing a culture disappear it's not my business, but I found all of this interesting.

My record for being held up by security is unbroken! My wife said I'm tagged. Upon departure they inspected the contents of my carry-on--not sure why--and when leaving Iceland it was just a random check and additional questions. I'm not complaining here and greatly respect the security folks, but it is amusing to my hot wife, Mary.

The downside was the return trip when someone sitting nearby had horrible gas. I'm talking gas that wakes you up from a nap, so no sleep on the FULL return flight to Washington-Dulles. We nearly teared up a couple of times. Whew!

More later. Love and Peace--Mike

Posted by
6366 posts

Sounds like you had a fantastic time, thanks for the report Mike!

My brother is headed there in the next couple of days, I’ll have to point him to your post.

Posted by
6694 posts

Hard to tell gas from the smell at the Blue Lagoon or elsewhere in Iceland. The smell of hydrogen sulfiide permeates everything. Even the hotel shower smelled like it a bit. Oh well. Love those soaking pools. Most of the earlier immigrants to Iceland were sent to work on the smelting plant (Alcoa I think) in the east basically doing jobs many Icelanders wouldn't do. Same story everywhere. Interesting article here (I was surprised to learn how many Poles there are in Iceland relative to other groups, I would not have guessed that): https://www.migrationpolicy.org/article/once-homogenous-tiny-iceland-opens-its-doors-immigrants

Posted by
2478 posts

Strong to very strong trip report. I enjoyed it. Particularly the gas. Had that happen to me once at a performance of the local philharmonic. Teenager in front of me. He laughed heartily each time he did it. I think he was trying to impress the girl he was with. I wonder if it worked. I think I'm starting to violate Community Guideline #1.

Posted by
2478 posts

So... Mike... would you recommend a trip to Iceland?

Posted by
4796 posts

BigMike, thanks for taking the time to report on your trip. Getting in a big trip in 2021 itself has to be considered a “win.”

Too bad about the flight flatulence. Maybe they were inspired by Iceland’s sulfurous setting. I hope they didn’t try to also emulate the famous waterfalls or erupting fissures.

Maybe that’s why they’re called airplanes.

Enjoy Scotland - you’ll like the haggis!

Posted by
4796 posts

Back to that return flight from Mexico Iceland - it’s too bad, in some ways, that a situation didn’t develop that required the oxygen masks to drop . . . you might’ve at least gotten some fresh air, as the plane perhaps faced a perilous loss in cabin pressure.

Does first class have more pleasant gas? Do passengers eating caviar and sipping champagne emit more tolerable fumes? Might be a reason the airlines’ marketing people could use in future ad campaigns to promote seating upgrades!

Posted by
1682 posts

Agnes, never change.

Cyn, I would have been thrilled to have access to an oxygen mask at times. I don't know what the deal was, but I wish people would go to the bathroom or something instead of just sitting there and stinking up the joint. I do wonder what the heck they ate. Surprisingly I didn't find the sulfurous smell that bad at the pools or with the hot water, except a couple of times when it hit you pretty hard for minute.

Dave, stop violating community guidelines or you will be reported. Heck, yeah I'd recommend Iceland this summer! Nobody wore masks indoors or out. It was great! The crowds are definitely returning to normal but nothing like the 2.3 million visitors two years ago. The tour guides are expecting a massive tourist resurgence in 2022 and if there is a volcano erupting, look out my friends! I liked the Viking beer. Not a big fan of hot dogs but tried one and it was OK. Have to watch the diet as I get older.

I learned Icelanders are steeped in the Sagas and 1000-year plus culture, language, and traditions of their homeland, in which they take great pride in. I hope it all survives. Tourism and fishing are critical to the economy. They also value their alliances with the United States, the Nordic countries, and European Union.

Posted by
4796 posts

BigMike, any chance another passenger carried on Icelandic rotted shark, one of their gastronomic delicacies, and its aroma was wafting from their carryon? If so, it was certainly confiscated once they landed in the USA, but you and the other passengers were exposed to it in the meantime.

Sounds like approx. 20% of residents there are outsiders, not assimilating in any way with the locals and their customs and language. Wonder why they picked Iceland for their relocation?

Posted by
1682 posts

Cyn, jobs. The thing is if they don't learn the language they are limited to entry level jobs and therefore rather apart from society, like anywhere I'm sure. I mean, no easy answers here. It's not racism as most immigrants are from Eastern Europe, but there will certainly be a chasm between Icelandic kids who grow up steeped in their rich heritage and those who are not.

Another issue is over-tourism, and one idea is to try to spread the tourists out a bit throughout the country, which will be quite a challenge. Tourism means big money, so there is some tension there.

The worst seats were literally two feet from the bathroom doors just across from the seats. There were always people going in and out. I felt bad for those who had to sit there and they did not look at all happy.

The lamb hot dog was about as far as I'll push it gastronomically. As I get older diet becomes more important. Mary wouldn't eat lamb so I teased her about cows and chickens being cute, too. C'mon!

Posted by
345 posts

Big Mike--Thank you! We are headed back there next month. It is less than a month away, but it feels like forever with waiting. We will be doing the Ring Road this time. Our adult kids and one of their S/O's are coming along, so it will be fun. We all travel well together, thankfully! Then in February my husband and I are going by ourselves. We always wanted to go I the winter and the deals were too good to pass up!