Reykjavik, Iceland Icelandic Sun Slide

It doesn’t so much set, ya see, as much as it dips across the horizon for a few hours in the middle of the night. Here’s the big Leif Ericson statue in the center of Reykjavic…

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And here it is again a few hours later. If you look closely at the clock, you’ll see it’s a bit past midnight…

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Here’s what our hotel room looks like around 3 in the morning, after the big yellow ball has finished its brief hiatus and returned to active duty.

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Combine this geographical novelty with a long layover in New York en route from Seattle and we’re off and running with a thoroughly screwed-up sleep schedule.

Stopped by the airport newsstand and, with increasing regularity, we have prominent placement of our benevolent sponsor.

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Hello there, sponsor!

After sleeping through our first day in Iceland, Melissa and I set off on a middle-of-the-night wander through town — and town is about as far as you can go in describing Iceland’s capital city. Reykjavic’s population is under 200,000, which constitutes two thirds of Iceland’s overall head count. The rest of the country is a smattering of farms and small communities.

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Not much going on along the waterfront. Downtown is a bit more lively.

Someone either planted a tree through the roof of this car…

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…or somehow wrapped a car around the tree.

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The thing that really gets you about Iceland is the prices. Lord, give me the strength not to rant excessively about this issue.

Ho-lee Moly, the prices…

Take a tiny, well-educated population, put them on a remote island with abundant natural resources and growing popularity as an exotic tourist destination, slap it conveniently in the middle of the world’s two largest economies, and you’ve got yourself one of the strongest currencies in the world. A cheeseburger costs around $25. A beer, around $12. Start at the high end of reasonable, then double it and you’ve got the approximate cost of goods in Iceland.

The cumulative impact after a few days will blow any sensible budget. We split meals and bought groceries, but the cost is still staggering.

Nevertheless, we’re here. There are things to see.

The next day we rented a car and drove off into the countryside. The cost of the car itself wasn’t too bad. Paying $9 per gallon for gas was an adjustment, but it’s to be expected and the island is mercifully small.

We got a late start due to some unexpected media entanglements, but the constant sun made it not really matter all that much.

The Icelandscape is decidedly lunar.

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Volcanic residue, or "wasteland," accounts for over half the terrain. Another 10% is covered in glacier. There’s only the occasional patch of green amidst the starkness.

Stopped for a nice big waterfall called Seljalandsfoss, which just rolls off the tongue, don’t it?

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The extent of my interaction with words like that is really just copying and pasting from Wikipedia.

There’ll be a clip in the next dancing video that’ll look a whole lot like this…

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…except with me dancing badly in the middle.

Here’s Melissa looking cold and wet.

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Moving right along, here’s a big old glacier.

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I’ve seen glaciers in New Zealand and Antarctica, and this wasn’t profoundly different. They’re sort of like rivers moving in slow motion. If you leave and come back the next day, you’ll see that everything has shifted a few meters down. And the bits of rock wedged into the ice are constantly carving away at the surfaces on either side of the glacier, creating deep, jaggy fjords.

Anyway, glaciers make me think of soft serve ice cream. I long for chocolate sprinkles.

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Walking on loose rock is not a great strength of mine. One might say I’m a huge weenie under such circumstances.

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Back on the road.

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Further east along the southern coast to Jökulsárlón — an oddly tragic sight. It’s a sort of estuary where chunks of glacier are constantly breaking off and drifting out into the open ocean. Once released, they’re summarily battered and destroyed by the waves. So you stand there and watch each chunk of ice in the last leg of its millenia-long journey from mountaintop to oblivion, tasting freedom for only a moment and learning it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.

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But it’s beautiful while it lasts.

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Here’s me scoping out locations for my fortress of solitude.

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…man, I’d really like a fortress of solitude. That’d be nice.

Jökulsárlón was as far as we could make it in our one-day excursion. We turned around and raced back to Reykjavik. With another two days, we could’ve done the whole loop of the island, but time is the big sacrifice on these trips. We do what we can with what we have.

The next day, I kinda got roped into shooting a dancing clip in the center of town. I wasn’t really against the idea, it just seemed like any dancing clip in Iceland should focus on the unique environment rather than the populace. Surprisingly, most of the populace felt the same way.

Why bother with us? Go find a waterfall.

Well, we did. But we danced with people too. And it was fun.

I sort of had to compartmentalize though, as my mom’s dog, Hattie, died the same day. I only found out about an hour before I showed up to dance. She was a grand old collie and ready to go, but I grew up with her and was very sad.

She’s in the first dancing video, in the Westport clip, barking at me.

Today was our last day. We stopped at Blue Lagoon on the way to the airport. This is sort of a mandatory excursion for all tourists. It’s a big hot spring.

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I don’t really get why people are so excited about hot springs. There’s not much about a hot spring that I can’t simulate in my bath tub. And in my bath tub, the only fat naked guy I have to look at is me.

There are buckets of pore-cleansing clay all around. I’m not sure how cleansing it is when it’s slathered on about a dozen different people each day, but what do I know?

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Got in line for the plane and found that every other passenger on board was 12 years old. Melissa deduced that it was some Duke of Edinburgh rite of passage thing for a school program. I put forth the more likely explanation that our entire flight got zapped with a kid ray.

The flight attendant passed out copies of the national paper and there I was, dancing badly on the front page.

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One might call that disconcerting.

19 Responses to Reykjavik, Iceland Icelandic Sun Slide

  1. Genghisdon

    Hey Matt – awesome post, as usual. When were you and your girlfriend there? I am planning on throwing a bachelor party for a buddy of mine up there next summer and was surprised to see hats and gloves.

    DP

  2. Rich

    Those photos are breathtaking. Your summary of prices mimics my brothers take of Alaska. Very high prices, rains all the time, sun never sets… He’s been there for four weeks and is there for two more. I don’t know what he was thinking….

  3. PLENTIOUS

    Good solid post Matt. Back on the road, fortress of solitude, face clay pic; all communicate the same intangible appeal your dancing has.

    So sorry about your dog. We had three dogs while I was growing up, and the last one died around 4th of July this year. I was fifteen when the first one died. It was like losing a brother.

    Take it easy…

  4. Carolyn

    I watch your video on youtube from time to time to motivate myself to leave behind my cubicle and travel the globe. Even after repeated views, your videos never cease to amaze me! I think the next thing for you should be to dance on the moon, or a least in a space shuttle. That would be incredible! Happy traveling!

  5. great photos matt – looks amazing. this might have to be my next trip. I’ve gotta get out of the city. Also, I had no idea that it was so expensive there.

    I found you on the Blogger’s Choice Awards – link to bloggerschoiceawards.com – where you are up for the Best Travel Blog. I gave you a vote.

    Cheers!

  6. craig a

    great pictures.You never cease to amaze me with your travels. do you know if someone translated the article to English? it looks interesting.

  7. Fascinating! I got on an Iceland kick about 3 months ago, and can’t seem to let it go! Thanks for a fab review of the country, the springs, the scenery, etc.

    Oh, and love your blog, by the way.

    xox

  8. Matt, I’m glad Yahoo finally covered your globetrotting. I finally was able to come up with a decent enough comment. And what I say is quite sincere. I’ll mention the important part: There are few people in this world whom I would absolutely love to meet. Among them, Tommy Thompson of the Columbus America Discovery Group (look them up!), Robert Ballard, Richard Smalley, Juan Pablo Montoya, Neil Peart, and…*drum roll*…you. The rest, well, you’ve heardenough of that already.

  9. Vikingur from Iceland

    Hi there.
    I’m from Iceland myself and my name is Vikingur, it’s the icelandic word for viking 😀 . I know I’m late to comment on this but if you are interested. OK here goes:

    The american man and dancer Matthew Harding got a group of people to dance with him for a recording of a special dance video on “Ingólfstorg” yesterday. Harding has traveled around all the continents to record the dance at each place. He then puts the clips together into one big video and posts on his website. In an interview with Harding by Morgunblaðið(a newspaper) he says over 10 million people have read his journals over the past 2 years. The trip to Iceland is the beginning of a trip across Europe where he’ll get people to dance with him at each place.

    Cheers from Iceland 😀
    Vikingur

  10. Kolli

    Funny, I’ve lived in Iceland all my life but I’ve never been to the places you visited, except for Reykjavík and Bláa Lónið of course.

  11. Victoria

    I have allot of feeling for fellow travlers who get stuck on long flights full of children. My experence was Hong Kong to Minnisota. On the plane were way to many Childrens-Chiors all returing on the same plane. I swear my husband and I were the only adults except the burnt-out chapirones. The kids were off the wall the whole flight. Needless to say, there was no sleep. There were alot of headaches.
    It was aweful.

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