Iceland Did Not Suck

I just got back from the trip of a lifetime, so you probably won’t feel all that sorry for me, despite the fact that I am waking up every day at 4 a.m.  I toss and turn for 45 minutes or so–just long enough to really start annoying the spouse–then drag myself out of bed and stare at the wall, waiting for the kids to wake up.  They have jet lag, too, so this doesn’t take nearly as long as one might hope.

Though cranky and somewhat incoherent, I do manage to muddle around somewhat successfully until about 4 p.m, at which point I give up and let the kids watch Project Runway reruns ad nauseum.  Meanwhile, I push myself to multitask; I try to think about dinner magically appearing while simultaneously staring at the wall.

In a burst of inspiration, I have decided to try to use the extra comatose hours I now have each day to do a little writing.  Staring at a blank computer screen is not that much of a stretch.

Let’s start with Iceland, then.

As you may have gathered from my post title, going there did not suck, and someday I will wow you with amazing stories about the days and nights I spent in Reykjavik and beyond.  At the moment, though, I am still mourning my departure.  In fact, in order to pry myself out of that country I had to make a list of the things I would NOT miss, which is all I am prepared to share at the moment.


1.  The midnight sun is unbelievably awesome but no love will be lost on the 4 a.m. sun.  Reykjavik is nestled much closer to the North Pole than anywhere I have ever visited, and I was eagerly awaiting the impossibly long days.  But, I did not fully comprehend that there would be no darkness at all, or how that would feel.  The sun sets and sets for hours and hours, burning across the horizon line; teasing.  There is a buzz of anticipation, like when you throw something up in the air, and you don’t see or hear it hit the ground.  You keep looking, stomach in a lurch.   Likewise, I kept waiting for the moment when a breath of shadow would bring relief and the capacity to sleep.  I had a sleep mask.  I had melatonin.  I had ambien, but even when I dozed off, I simply could not continue to do so for a reasonable number of hours when all visual indications were counterintuitive.  With my temporal clues turned on end, I was actually widest awake at all the wrong times.  Of course, now that I am home, I am still a mess.  It gets dark here, but I still lie wide awake, waiting for the sun to finally drift out of the Icelandic sky.

2.  Taking a shower at our apartment in Reykjavik.  Iceland has about 130 volcanoes.  Consequently, they use the hot water and steam from geothermal hot springs to heat homes and generate power.  There is absolutely no need for water heaters.  That is fantastically green and fabulous, and there are some marvelous side effects:  the pools, geysers, steaming landscape, and all.  Meanwhile, the hot water from the tap smells overwhelmingly like sulphur.  Imagine taking a shower in that.  Steamy, rotten-eggy nastiness, streaming over your head.  Possible upside: whence emerging from the bathroom after a lengthy spell, no one is quite sure if you have taken a particularly malodorous dump or merely washed your hair.

3.  Vegetables?  What vegetables?  There is very little that grows in Iceland.  No trees, for example.  Or nearly none.  This is the source of  the only Icelandic joke, according to the internet.  (i.e., “what do you do if you are lost in the forest in Iceland?” Stand up.)  Visualize stark, stoic, volcanic peaks rising sharply out of lava fields like Scandinavian relatives.  Throw in some glaciers.  In the other direction, fjords, the ocean.  There are sheep–lots of sheep–and a multitude of mullet-sporting horses, but no foliage.  A chocolate bar is therefore less expensive–not cheap!–and much easier to find than an apple, for example.  I spent $3 on a half-rotten onion.  One dinner at a lovely, well-regarded, jaw-droppingly expensive restaurant, I was initially thrilled to find a single mangy-looking strawberry garnishing my plate.  It tasted like dust.

Ah, the memories.

As the rest of the world is starting to stir, the remaining list items will have to wait for another day.

Published by

Beret Olsen

Writer, photographer, teacher, and part-time insomniac.

4 thoughts on “Iceland Did Not Suck”

  1. Hi there, I was wondering what about Iceland you would miss. And…if you took any photographs. It’s a place I’d love to visit one day. Congrats on being Freshly Pressed!


    1. Thank you so much! Iceland was one of my favorite trips, ever, although I understand that I got remarkably lucky with the weather. In the guidebooks, they tell you to park into the wind, so your car door doesn’t blow off when you open it! We had sunny days, 55-60 degrees, and it was absolutely fantastic. Some day, I really should write the follow up post, but here’s the short list that comes up in the first couple of minutes of contemplation: the entire place is stunningly beautiful. Really. Beyond what I could have expected. If I could go back, I would spend more time, and rent a car to get to Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon. Except for Reykjavik and the Golden Circle (Thingvellir, Geysir, and a waterfall called Gullfoss) there were hardly any tourists around. The water is pristine. You can drink out of the streams and meander the beautiful country. I also loved that I had no preconceived notions about it, because we don’t grow up hearing about it like, say, Paris. You know? I was fascinated by the culture. Since it is often dark and freezing, every town has a fantastic geothermal pool. I have some photos, and though they don’t live up to my expectations, I’ll put a few in my post when I get around to it. In the meantime, thanks for reading!


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