|Iceland is a great island
in the North Atlantic close to the Arctic Circle.
The landscape is wild, rocky and colourful, with red sulphur, black
lava, hot blue geysers, rivers, waterfalls and green valleys. Its
coastline is richly sunken with bays and fjords. Iceland is 1 of
the most volcanically active countries in the world. Hekla, in the
south of Iceland, has erupted no fewer than 16 times, and was once
portrayed by clergymen as the gateway to Hell. Certainly, Iceland's
seething mountains donate towards this sense of otherworldliness.
Yet around the coastal regions, Iceland is a bustle of activity,
mainly in the capital city, Reykjavík, where
over half of Iceland's population lives in or nearby. Reykjavík
is set on a large bay, surrounded by mountains, and is in an area
of geothermal hot springs, creating a natural central heating system
and pollution free environment. It is a hectic city combining old
fashioned wooden architecture and modern buildings. Despite being
a relatively small capital city, Reykjavík has managed to
forge a reputation for partying, and its bars and nightclubs are
regularly filled with hordes of fun loving citizens.
Nevertheless, the customary side of Iceland prevails, as does the
Icelander's repute as hardy and proud. Indeed, much of the attraction
surrounding Iceland resides with the Icelanders themselves. Their
descendents propagated the notion of the 'Viking poet',
as unveiled in their heroic sagas, an stimulating brew of brute
force and sensitivity. In the mid 13th century, the islanders submitted
to the authority of the King of Norway, and when Norway came under
the control of Denmark in 1380, Iceland did too. In 1814, Norway
became independent, however Iceland remained a Danish territory.
In 1840, Iceland was granted its own constitution, effectively allowing
internal self government. Full independence was
granted in 1918, although Iceland continued to identify the Danish
Monarch as head of state. It was not until 1944 that Iceland became
a fully independent nation with its own head of state. It is therefore
understandable that Icelanders now so passionately champion their
heritage. Many long established foods are still chomped with relish,
and much customary entertainment remains.
Perhaps, also, the Icelanders' character has been as shaped by the
scenery as the scenery has been shaped by impulsive forces of earth
and elements. What is better is that whether you wish to exploit
such beautiful natural isolation and quietly watch for birds or
whales, or whether you wish to go skiing, glacier skidooing or horse
riding, Iceland amply provides for both. Although you may not go
so far as to believe in magic and elves, over half of the population
still do, you will positively leave believing that Iceland is magical.