Iceland Day One: Glass and Girls
Friday 3rd June 2011
Iceland is home to 300,000 people. It is roughly the same size as England, a country that is home to 52 million. Imagine this. Imagine a country with such a tiny population and a unique, diverse landscape that is shifting constantly, (the youngest hills in the world are here) ensuring we do not forget who is mother and who has control. Imagine a country so close to the Arctic that polar bears turn up on its shores and a taking a day trip to Greenland is common. A country where eating a sheep’s head instead of a pizza is considered normal and where more than 80% of the population believe in elves.
It didn’t sink in that this radical place was going to be my home for quarter of a year, until I was in the air, pressing my fingers into my ears and sucking on a polo mint as hard as I could. As we gently dropped from the sky, into Keflavik airport, I frantically searched for a way to describe the first sight of Iceland to myself. But I failed. Epically, and had to settle with the all time favourite cliché of ‘it looks like a different planet.’ (Hopefully by the end of the blog, I would have found a suitable replacement.) As Tom and I waited for the content of our lives to come around on the conveyor belt, a gorgeous gall with enviously toned arms and soft, curly brown locks that I was dying to touch approached us. She’d recognised our mugs from Facebook (Where else?) and was on Team A Trail Team, the same team as Tom and I.
We babbled on with Laura on the bus to Reykjavik and only shut up when the sight of the city came into view. To be honest, it was bleak. Ultra bleak. But as we wormed further into the centre of town, it started to get cuter and cleaner and brighter. (Which isn’t, I guess, all that surprising. Isn’t that the case with most places?) Laura hopped off at a different hostel to us, (we were all going to meet up the following day and head Up North) and left Tom and me with our exceptionally talkative driver. He told us about the new concert hall that had recently been completed, and how stupid it is.
Why? Because it’s made out of glass and is right next to the sea, so will need regular (expensive) maintenance, due to rusting, etc. He told us about how in 2007, Iceland thought it was made of money, so spent, spent, spent on useless things. They’re still trying to pick up the pieces, and for once, there is real unemployment in the country, a massive 3%. As you can tell, the bloke was quite bitter and upset about the state of Iceland in general, but it was an interesting, if not slightly depressing introduction to the country. At least he didn’t lie and say that everything was fine and dandy. I became distracted from what he was talking about when I caught sight of the Icelandic jumpers on display outside the shops on the main street. I made a decision there and then that I wasn’t going to leave Iceland without one.
Staying in our quaint, 12 bed dorm was a French lesbian couple, (who spent a long time massaging each other. Shame they didn’t look like Dita Von Teese and Liv Tyler)
a Canadian bloke and a group of really rude English people, who didn’t know the meaning of the word ‘quiet.’ The Canadian bloke was great though, telling me to use a Coke bottle when my shampoo came alive in my bag and started squirting sticky tangerine smelling goo all over my stuff. Now, as we were in Iceland in the summertime, we had light nights. The birds were still singing at 11pm. I thought I’d struggle with it, but to be honest, I was dead to the world in a matter of minutes. Good times.