How do I love thee, let me count the ways…
I fell in love with Iceland last summer. Here are a few of the reasons why…
Amphetamine Effect…long days and short nights (2 hours) mean plenty of time to get things done. After 17 hours of daylight, you don’t even feel tired, you eat dinner, grab a steam and a schvitz in a public bath and shazam, you are ready to hit the hot spots all night, I mean twi-light, long. I have never had as much energy as I did during my week in Iceland.
Fish…the best seafood I have tasted in years has been the local catch from the docks in and around the Icelandic sea coast. But then again the lambs eat the freshest grass, the cows drink the cleanest water, the fish swim in the purest seas…Icelandic food tastes better because it is. Simple idea really.
Eat Out…Vox, Siggi Hall, The Sea Baron… from high brow dining to street food gluttony; there are more good restaurants in Rekyavik than in many American cities 5 times the size. The local chefs cook with verve, a respect for tradition and an amazing lack of self consciousness. And the food is killer almost anywhere you go. Even the Rekyavik bus depot serves good food.
Dairy…the cream, the milk, the fresh handmade Icelandic skyr sweetened with local honey is something I will never forget. Not yogurt, but really a cheese, eaten fresh, whipped until silky smooth. There is no replicating it, you can make a great version yourself, and many local dairy farmers all over the country have similar farmhouse recipes, but there is no getting around the simple fact that skyr stands alone in the Dairyland Valhalla.
Fermented Foods…from pickled herring to cured salmon, from dried fish to hakarl, the national dishes of Iceland are predominantly cured, salted, fermented or putrified seafood. You gotta love that! The drive out to Bjarnhofn takes only a few hours but is dominated by ancient lava fields, miles of wildflower beds, waterfall speckled hillsides, cascading mountain fed streams, breathtaking ocean vistas…the usual. You wish the ride took 10 hours not 3. At the end of the line is a 5th generation rotten shark merchant who knows a thing or two about hakarl, and his dad will treat you to a piece of dried cod dipped in seal oil if you ask nicely.
Natural Wonders… Iceland is called the Land of Fire and Ice for a reason. Glacial splendor, world class geysers, raging rapids, active lava flow, black sand beaches, it’s the inverse of Hawaii. Take a horse back camping trip, it’s a local excursion that is very popular and the best way to see the backcountry. I am still thinking of the day I spent in the saddle. We trotted across verdant valleys, through tidal estuaries stretching to the horizon, across canyons and along mile high ice fields…all in one day.
Puffin…but still, the best thing about Iceland is the Westmann Islands. Volcanic, remote, grass topped cliffs, killer whales, seals, and billions of little birds that taste great on the grill. My kind of place.