In Hindsight

Spoiler: As this is the summary and some random thoughts, there aren't a lot of pictures in here.

As contemplated at the beginning of this blog, and the Iceland trip in particular, this post will be my summary and final thoughts on my Iceland adventure.

Following I will give some of my thoughts that didn't really fit into the previous stories without blowing up their extent.

So few people on so much land

Granted, I made a number of comments in this direction and with around 100.000 square kilometers Iceland isn't exactly a giant of a country but after my return to Austria, I came across a nice statistic (based on the development of Austrian population numbers) that might help with a comparison.

Both snippets are from Openstreetmap

On the right you can see Iceland in all its glory. If it's not immediately recognizable, don't worry, normally it is shown as part of something larger, but for the comparison I only require Vorarlberg (which really doesn't float in the northern Atlantic), which is the red outline. If I didn't mess up the map projection, both are to the same scale. As current census and statistics show, Iceland has a population of approximately 350.000 while Vorarlberg has a population of around 390.000.

The human impact

Another striking feature of Iceland is the lack of forests. There are trees, of course, but Iceland has very little in the way of forests to cover all the land.

However, this is not the natural state, that greeted the first settlers that arrived in 874. Back then around 10% of Icelands land area was covered in forests. Most of this was logged for building material in the following 150 - 200 years until only 1% (covered land area) remained. This is pretty much the same state as it is today, which goes to show the incredibly long lifecycles from barren land, via moss and grassland to trees and forests in such northern latitudes.

This is also reflected in the absolute ban of offroading and wild camping, outside of designated areas. In the case of offroad-driving the rational is that the moss and grass cover will be destroyed when a car drives over it and will require about 50 years to grow back to its original state.

Finding natives

Especially during the high season (June - September, but already beginning in May) and in the more densely populated areas (around Reykjavik) it's might be hard to find any native Icelanders. In hotels, restaurants and museums you'll most likely find seasonal workers from central and eastern Europe. This is due to the high demand for labour in all touristic fields.

The Language

Hearing Icelandic on the radio, it doesn't sound too differently from the other Scandinavian languages. The fun begins if you see it written. There are some letters, that don't exist in German or English, although they have phonetic counterparts.

In an early post I made a comment along the lines of "it doesn't look like somebody fell asleep on the keyboard". This honour goes to a tunnel in the east of Iceland that I drove through. Fáskrúðsfjarðargöng... absolutely no idea how to pronounce that. Part of the problem is that written and spoken Icelandic don't always match up.

I only managed to pick up one rule on pronunciation, the easiest to spot (because of beer and an infamous volcano). The rule says that double L is pronounced DL, making the local beer Gull sound something like Gudl. For that certain volcano, Eyjafjallajökull, this rule applies to both LL.

The Summary

Iceland is full of remarkable beauty, history, culture and adventure. I am glad that I made this holiday and, as with most holidays, I haven't seen everything there is to see.

The choice to go before the main season also worked out fine for the most part. The first few sun-filled days were magnificent and the following three snow days also had their charm and brought along some amazing contrasts (snow on black jagged volcanic rock). The rain towards the end of my journey made for some inconvenience but likewise it made for quite a lot of empty landscape, even in the area around Reykjavik that sees lots of tourists year-round ;)

With my experience I would only change one small aspect of my holiday. Moving the holiday back two weeks (e.g. starting around May 15th instead of May 4th) there would already be more tour and excursion offers, that I missed by only a few days. Other than that I could not have wished for a better experience.