How does a person even begin to describe a place like Iceland? If you were to see it you would understand it's not one place at all, really. It's ten places, at least. A collection of all the best earth has to offer wrapped up in to one Kentucky-sized island nation off to the north. It's the rocky coast of New England, seagulls barking and cold, fresh air in your lungs and salt on your lips. It's the towering, mossy mountains of Oahu, with clouds at their peaks and a wet, warm rain in the air. It's the flat farm lands of the midwest with dairy cows and horses and white picket fences. Oh there? That's the foggy San Francisco bay. Over here? The rolling hills of New Zealand, punctuated with fluffy, white sheep and colored in green as far the eye can see. But look over there, is that snow?! Now you see glaciers and icebergs and a place that seems wholly wrapped in as much myth and magic as the north pole itself. This place can not be easily defined, it's Mordor, it's Tatooine, it's the surface of the moon.
Therefore when you go to this place, this place of volcanoes and PUFFINS! and wonder, you must allow yourself to be prepared for just about anything. And so. When the airline unexpectedly sends you to Amsterdam for the the night and then subsequently looses all your luggage for the next six days of your voyage, you cry all your tears and then you Get Over It. You are in Iceland now, and you have been waiting your whole life for an adventure like this.
You begin your journey in Reykjavik with the two best tour guides you know, internet friends, Iceland natives and the best window into this great city you could ask for. Only this time, it's IRL. When you get stuck in an elevator with them in Reykjavik's most famous church somewhere between floors 1 and 2387938 and they (half) jokingly ask if you've brought your bad luck with you to their fine city, you laugh it off, hope for a quick rescue, and then silently resolve to drive very, very carefully the rest of the week. In the end, you are rescued, you see all the sites. You talk politics and culture and history. You end the night with your new friends over dinner in a cozy french cafe followed by a lazy drive through the city just as the midnight sun finally begins its descent. It looks like things are finally starting to turn around for you after all and yes, it appears you are indeed finally, actually here.
And then you go. Into the wild of Iceland you go. You rent an absurdly tiny car and you take it as far as you can. You drive and you drive and you drive some more, and then you stop at least 87 times along the way, because "Oh my god, did you SEE that?" You climb craters and shimmy into caves. You traverse cliffs and stare in wonderment at the overwhelming bounty of waterfalls and mountain ranges that make up Iceland's backdrop. It's hard to act casual about a place like this.
And when, after many days of travel and no luck finding any of the island's most revered and ADORABLE inhabitants of your own volition, you happen upon a family who will load you into a hay cart hitched to the back of a tractor and drive you out to a remote puffin colony on a cliff overlooking the Atlantic, you thank your lucky stars and you say YES.
And later, when you race to the other side of the island in hopes of making your dinner reservation which promises "magical lobster soup" you get pulled over by the only police officer you have seen in a week's time and are then given a comically expensive speeding ticket? You chalk it up to life experiences, forget the reservations and instead go in search of a deserted hot springs under a waterfall you've heard rumors about. It turns out it does exist. And it is Glorious.
As you bask in the springs and drink in your surroundings you think, oh yes, this is Iceland. This collection of spaces and experiences and memories that will burn on in you forever. And you can not imagine a more perfect place to begin the next decade of your life.
Please stay tuned for more pictures and words on Iceland here in the near future. I'd like to give a more in depth look in to each of the drastically different regions we visited during our stay. I just need a little more time to digest and wrap my brain around everything we did and saw...and finish downloading the pictures. That would help.