The residents of the world’s northernmost capital city, ReykJavik, are walking around in shorts and t-shirts in the same kind of temperature that would see a Floridian covered from head to toe (about 60 degrees F). At the outdoor pool, they are sunbathing in bikinis without shivering. I saw a blond schoolgirl with her adorable little classmates get on a public bus wearing nothing but pale green leggings under her black leotard—while I wore a parka. A common refrain from my traveling companions from Florida was, ‘I don’t get it.”
So the people are nearly as different as the landscape. Both are warmer than expected, and even my cold-phobic self has to admit that the weather is very mild. The outdoor “heat wave” this week was nearly insufferable at the indoor competition pool (the reason I’m here), because the solid structure lacks ventilation. Even I didn’t need a t-shirt.
Then there is the exuberant sunniness to deal with. People are literally gardening at midnight. The constant sunshine makes you hyper-awake, as the bright light at 10 p.m. makes it feels like 5 p.m., and walking home at 1 a.m., the hour in between sunset and sunrise, is either dusk or dawn, or both. Your internal clock is screwed.
The people are uniformly helpful and poised to cash in on the growing tourism industry, which is a much wiser investment for Iceland than its failed banking industry. Few places on earth can offer the full “National Geographic” experience like Iceland can. Geysers. Fjords. Glaciers. Waterfalls around every turn. Endless fields of moss-covered lava. The continental divide of Europe and North America. One moment you’re swimming on the moon and the next you’re flying through a rainbow. Not only have we left Kansas, Toto—we have jumped dimensions.
So far Iceland has exceeded expectations, and I’m sure the 10 days here will end too quickly. Having left the capital in the west for the fishing villages of the east, now I’m really lost in time and space. Having also lost my voice, I’m dumbstruck. Beyond breathtaking, my impression of Iceland is that it is voice-taking. Words can’t really capture it anyway, so I’ll enjoy the silence and let the elves do the talking.