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Incredible Iceland

It's the land of ice and fire, and the setting (and source) for most of the Game of Thrones stories.  For many reasons, Iceland really is one of the coolest places on the planet right now.  

Reykjavik is itself a sight to behold, with its striking profile of red, yellow and white wooden buildings set against a cerulean blue sea, below looming mountains blanketed or cobwebbed with snow according to the season. 

By the waterfront, I found that Reykjavik hosts some of the most chi-chi restaurants and bars in the world.  In the (literally)  interminable nights of the Icelandic summer, it was a bit of a tender trap - hours of socialising tempered only by the notoriously high unit cost of nordic alcoholic drinks : is it a good thing if your bank balance runs out well before your liver function test shows deterioration ? 

I couldn't stomach the idea of icelandic whale meat - a difficult topic, given the traditional consumption in this part of the world - but I was on safer ground with the gravadlax, which is also traditionally  prepared and a highlight of world gastronomy.  A little gravadlax, dill, and a sip of vodka on the terrace of the Vikingakrain bar, is a food experience to recall down the years.

Icelanders have a fascinating history, with about 40% having DNA from Scottish isles,  as a result of involuntary tourism after viking raids after 800 CE.  Only 100 years ago, Icelanders were wearing fish skin shoes and heating homes with ... lots of clothes, mostly.  Then came the cold war and US air base.... and lots of money. Today, Iceland is a geothermal energy epicentre for the world and a net exporter of  electricity.  There was some hard adjustment required after the financial crisis of 2008 but life soon regained its bearings.

The glaciers were, and are still, the master carpenters of the landscape in this part of the world - carving valleys and watercourses into spectacular shapes. A drive in a 4X4 across the glacier with AX is a memorable experience, down the rift valley where two continental plates collide and where one of the oldest parliaments in the world met annually. As a result of Iceland's delicate tectonic condition, it's an ebullient landscape of volcanoes and twisted lava flows. As you wind through it in your truck or 4x4, you may pass the subject of the ultimate classic pub trivia question - Eyafjallajokull, the volcano that closed all European air space for 2 weeks in 2010. You may also note that the one next to it is far bigger, and its next eruption is well overdue. That's life in Iceland.

Jokalsalon is amazing and you go in rubber dinghies around broken off bits of glacier with amazing bright colours. There is wildlife everywhere - especially puffins and skuas. The blue lagoon is fun for a drink in a pool, and if it is a little touristy, well, we can't complain. It's just by the airport where I designed and built the aviation fuel tanks and hydrants 30 years ago...please feel free to admire one of Iceland's under-appreciated attractions ! Less off the wall, here, are the whale-watching opportunities, and the Icelandic horses. About the size of ponies, they are nonetheless technically horses, and available for riding.

 

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