Thoughts on a Nordic Land ….
Over the summer I added a stamp to my passport when I went to Iceland for the first time.
Traveling with a 12-year-old meant staying active and busy. But never fear dear reader, I did not neglect my book nerd duties.
But first, a few words and pictures about how incredible Iceland is.
Glaciers, geysers, geothermal spas, sheep, Icelandic horses, mountains, waterfalls, clear air, friendly people plus a small city vibe where you can walk past the French and Turkish ambassadors’ homes on the way to the old quarter …. That’s what Iceland is like.
And then, there’s the sky. In August, there is no darkness, only twilight. And I learned that there are different kinds of twilight! Who knew? There’s civil twilight, nautical twilight and astronomical twilight.
What this meant for me and my travelling companions was that the Icelandic Sky treated us to long hours of blazing scarlet and magenta before it rested briefly in a still grayness and then started the show again. It was a beautiful consolation prize for missing the Aurora Borealis.
Plus they have Icelandic horses you can ride through 800 year old lava fields. What’s not to like?
And here are some book nerdy tidbits
- Icelandic Sagas—the cornerstone of Icelandic and Norse medieval literature—are enthusiastically celebrated today. I was disappointed to miss a hugely popular Monty Python style comedy revue featuring them and all their Viking gore, but it was impossible to miss the references all around.
- As we were walking through a local cemetery—yet another book nerdy habit of mine—we noticed that the names on the gravestones were odd. Later our tour guide explained that Icelandic people don’t have last names the way most Westerners do. In a nuclear family, the children’s last name will be made from the father’s first name followed by “son” or “dottir.” So in my family, my last name would have been Prycedottir while my brothers were Pryceson. My mother’s last name would have been Charlesdottir and my father’s last name would have been Johnson. Makes life interesting!!! On a related note, there is a phone app in Iceland to let you know how closely related you are to your date—probably comes in handy for an island people who were on their own more or less for 1000 years.
- Icelanders are comfortable combining a thoroughly modern mindset with ancient beliefs in elves, trolls and other hidden beings. We drove along a straight road with one curve that had been routed to avoid an elven home.
- Game of Thrones. Need I say more?
- Finally, here’s the coolest nerdy thing about Iceland. On Christmas Eve, while the British are watching a Yule log burn down on the tele, the Americans are putting out cookies for Santa and the Swedes are enjoying the 1959 Donald Duck Christmas television special (I swear I didn’t make that up), the Icelanders are taking a different approach. Jolabokaflod is Icelandic for Christmas Book Flood. Iceland has a longstanding tradition of giving books for Christmas. They’re given on Christmas Eve and everyone spends the night reading them. http://www.npr.org/2012/12/25/167537939/literary-iceland-revels-in-its-annual-christmas-book-flood
Icelanders love to read. They publish more books per capita than any country in the world.
I think I’m in love…..
You too can enjoy Jolabokaflod! Order your copy of The Button Collector today.