I have had a fascination with Iceland for a while now, it all started when I was booking a trip last minute to visit two friends living in London and NYC. When trying to cut corners on flight costs I discovered that flying from one city to the other via Iceland was significantly cheaper than flying direct (a tourism ploy I shall delve into later). A night in Reykjavik (Rake-a-vick) by myself?… At first the prospect scared me a little but the more I researched, the more and more I got excited by this amazing country on the opposite side of the world from home.
As a kid I was always fascinated by the atlas and would enjoy travelling around the world with my imagination whilst watching the reruns of the Brady Bunch. I remember reading “Iceland” and thinking that place sounds completely inhospitable and not much fun…. Boy was I wrong.
My second encounter of learning more about Iceland was when I watched an episode of Oprah when I was home from school sick one day. The whole show was dedicated to women across the globe talking about their culture and bringing their national dish for Oprah to taste. Most of them were run of the mill – the French lady brought snails, the Belgium lady brought chocolate, The Japanese lady brought sushi blah blah blah. As my blocked sinuses and Oprah’s annoyingness started to send me into a cough syrup sedated sleep, my ears pricked up when I heard this striking super model looking lady talk about rotten shark meat… Whaaaat?
As disgusting as it sounded, I was intrigued. She went on to explain the culture which made the others pale in comparison because where else in the world do you know of mothers of new borns leaving their children in their pram outside on the street while they enjoy coffee with their friends? ….Before you pass judgement, this isn’t because these beauty queens are irresponsible, it is because there is almost NO CRIME in this crazy little country.
As my excitement reached fever pitch leading up to my visit, a hurricane came along and ruined everything. Flights into JFK were suspended and I had to try direct a couple of days later. That was about 3.5 years ago and ever since my fasciation, or what some might call obsession, has grown day by day. After a lot of reading and research I discovered this could possible be the best place on earth – gender equality, a creative epicentre, beautiful people, organic food and free wifi everywhere? Sounds like heaven on earth… and it was! I got back from Iceland recently, so before giving you the run down on where to go and what to do, here are some interesting facts:
- Iceland’s population is small, there are approximately 320,000 in the country, 60% of which live in the capital, Reykjavik
- Icelanders have one of the highest life expectancy rates in the world
- Iceland has more artists per capita than anywhere in the world – hence the amazing musical talent!
- Iceland is has more Miss Worlds titles per capita than anywhere in the world, both the women and men are gorgeous
- It is said that the Vikings raped pillaged Ireland and Scandinavian countries, stealing the most attractive of the races and taking them to Iceland, which explains the good genes
- Iceland is one of the happiest nations in the world and has the 2nd highest quality of living
- 33 years ago in 1980, Iceland elected the world’s first female head of state and their current head of state is a lesbian (Iceland is a good place for women!)
- Many people in Iceland believe in elves, or what they call ‘The Hidden People’ … surprised they didn’t mistake me for one!
- The first people to inhabit the island nation were Irish Monks, but it has a long and proud Viking history
- Iceland is sustainable and self-sufficient – over 70% all energy used in Iceland is produced from own resources – either geothermal energy from hot springs or hydro-electric from the big waterfalls.
- Iceland has barely any trees although it used to be covered in them to to deforestation in the 12th century, harsh climate and volcanic ash, trees have difficulty rooting to the ground. To combat this, 4million trees are planted per year
- The Whale in the Free Willy movie was captured in Icelandic Waters
- Icelandic last names are derived from fathers names, so instead of being Hannah Lewis, my name would actually be Hannah Petersdaughter, because of this, people usually only are referred to by their first names
- Iceland is the youngest country in the world, with new mountains and islands forming as we speak, the land is still so ruggered astronauts train their due to its similarity to the moon
- One of the country’s most unusual attraction is the Icelandic Phallological Museum, which houses the world’s largest display of penises and penile parts but selling any undergarments with the Icelandic flag is forbidden
- Beer was banned nationwide until 1989.
- Icelanders love to drive, often people can own up the 3 cars, and there is no railway system
- The Icelandic government has banned prostitution in 2009, strip clubs in 2010, and is planning to ban online pornography as well
- The word ‘slut’ isn’t in the Icelandic vernacular because gender quality is prevalent. Sleeping around is standard practise it is not uncommon (or frowned upon) to have several children to different partners
- Icelandic state has a monopoly on the sale of alcohol.
- The sale of food items containing more than 2 grams of trans fat for every 100 grams is forbidden
- If Icelandic parents give their child a name that has not been previously used in Iceland, that name has to be approved by the Icelandic Naming Committee
- About 11% of the country is covered by glaciers
- Iceland is the most literate country in the world and has an impressive amount of Noble Peace Prizes
- Iceland’s national sport is handball, they also love soccer, fishing and golf
- Fishing is their biggest industry, with tourism slowly taking over. GET THERE!
Have you ever been to Iceland or re you Icelandic yourself? I would love to know your favourite fact about my second favourite country (I am patriotic after all).