“You are going to move to Iceland? Why? It might be cold there. And dark! What the hell do you want there?” These are all questions people asked me when I told them I would spend my study abroad year in the land of ice and fire. Even some dude who spent a year living in Bangladesh thought I was crazy. I mean really??? Did I have to expect tons of snow, and bitter cold weather? Huge Viking-like, raw meat eating humans who believe in elves, trolls and Germanic gods? Dried fish for breakfast? Dying in an volcanic eruption?
I started to doubt my adventurous decision and thought I should have done it like most other students who spend their abroad time in the UK, US, Spain, France or elsewhere more potentially civilized… But anyway, there I went on a sunny august morning in 2008 to fly to my new home where I would celebrate my birthday two days later with a bunch of strangers. Turned out to be awesomeeeee. Of course! If you wonder why and what makes Iceland to be the perfect place to live at or however to go for a holiday keep on reading…
The first reason why are the Icelanders themselves. How it appeared to me while I lived in Reykjavík was that they are friendly, funny, happy people with a good and dry sense of humor. They are also calm and quiet personalities, who don’t stress and always find solutions. Understandable since half of them have been raised at really remote places somewhere behind some hill or fjord. To get the dimensions, Reykjavík is the capital with 150 000 inhabitants – out of 300 000 Icelanders in total. There are 3 people per km2 / 7.5 per sq. mi (compared to Germany with 225 people per km2 / 580 per sq. mi). One of their biggest cities is Ísafjörður (around 2500 inhabitants), center of the secluded Westfjords where I stayed the first month (more about that maybe some other time). Point is there are not many of them, there is a lot of space and some have been raised pretty secluded from other people but their families.
When it comes to weekends, these people turn into party animals like you’ve not experienced it before. The nightlife is crazy and stylish, like on a big wedding party. They can drink, dance and get fucked up like no one before. It’s the first time I have seen somebody being kicked out of a bar by actually getting picked up, carried through the place and being thrown on the street. If you like to party, the Laugavegur (Reykjavíks bar area) – or some random natural or artificial hot tub, where 20+ people squeeze in and drink beer – are the places to be!
A bit enviously I have to state that Iceland’s women are the prettiest. They know how to style, they know how to dress, they know how to be gorgeous. All of them. I promise. I give you a 100% model guarantee. For the guys, they also know how to style, dress up, being smart, hip and handsome. Whenever the rest of us have still been sitting on trees, hunting and gathering berries these people have already known how to look good and have swag.
If you’re into culture and arts, Iceland should definitely be your next destination. They produce odd, quirky, crazy – and honestly also some speechless – things you need to see. Dark and thoughtful movies (Noí Albínói) and great music festivals (Aldrei fór ég suður) make it an awesome cultural place.
It’s a peaceful place with little crime. Leaving your baby in the car while the engine is running for the entire time of your grocery shopping is absolutely ok. Well, at least I have seen it happening a few times thinking WTF. Even during an ongoing protest, where police officers have been egged (not shot like in other countries) some of the activists apologized the next day and gave out flowers. How’s that for sweetness?
They have awesome taste of food.. no I’m joking, but it’s worth it to try some of the culinary specialties like Hákarl (fermented shark, smelly), Svið (boiled sheep’s head, there is even a drive through to get these) or Mink whale. More enjoyable highlights of the Icelandic cuisine are Pylsur (hotdog containing of lamb) and Skyr (pasteurized skimmed milk and a bacteria culture similar to yogurt but it’s technically a soft cheese). As a local alcoholic beverage I’d suggest Brennivín, also called svarti dauði – black death. It’s a brandy like, unsweetened schnapps made from fermented grain or potato mash that can be flavored herby.
One of the most fascinating things about Iceland is the great nature. You can find Europe’s last remaining wilderness, stunning waterfalls, glaciers, volcanoes and lava flows. You can see the thermotectonical activity watching the Geysir erupt, smell the sulfuric air and watch out not to fall into a boiling mudpot or walk into a steaming fumarole. Relax in a natural hotspot after hiking through isolated mountains and crossing rivers…