smith

I asked my wife where she wanted to go this summer. She said, “Someplace cool.” So we went to Iceland, the western most part of Europe. The capital city of Reykjavik is the most northern capital city in the world. In preparing for the trip we watched several videos but none were as beautiful as the sights we saw.

Dallas has a direct 7-hour flight to Reykjavik, a city full of young people, interesting narrow and curving downtown streets with shops, bars, hotels and much construction. The feeling is very similar to what we’ve found in Montreal or Quebec or other cities that have street performers, strolling musicians and lots of activity.

Iceland is a small country about the size of Colorado. Half the population of 330,000 live in or near Reykjavik. Fishing is a major industry and fish is the number one export item. There are small fishing villages all along the coastline. Some have less than a hundred residents. We heard about one that had 240 people living there and 60 of them are in the same family.

Iceland had a major financial crisis in 2008 but rebounded quickly. One of the 300 volcanoes erupted causing major air traffic problems all over the western hemisphere. But it put Iceland on the map and the traveling public became curious about the country. Tourism soared and is now a big part of the country’s economy. There is a volcano eruption every 3 years, up from every 6 years a while back.

We saw spectacular waterfalls, clouds of steam, lakes, glaciers, whales and green mountains. The temperature in early August was around 60 degrees and we had sunshine every day. We were expecting rain, wind and cold and brought plenty of winter clothes. Didn’t need them, thank goodness. We took long hikes and had delicious food. Lots of fish. We cruised around the entire island stopping at Seydisfjordur, Akurevri, Isafjordur and Grundarfjordur. Our cruise ship, the Star Breeze, part of the Windstar fleet, presented us with certificates indicating we had crossed the Arctic Circle.

A lot of people drive the ring road around the entire island (the last part of it was paved while we were there). Gas is 8 dollars a gallon. Another popular activity is to take a hot soak in the Blue Lagoon thermal baths. Some of the spots we visited were in remote areas with dirt roads. Suddenly we would see dozens of tour buses at the site, letting passengers view the waterfalls, glaciers or steam clouds. Our captain stopped the ship so passengers could see 18 whales playing around the ship. He was as excited as the passengers. He had never seen anything like this before even though he had been at the spot many times.

Iceland is a surprising place. It is an emerging country just now becoming an important destination. It dates back to the late 800’s when settlers came from Norway and Denmark. The country got its independence from Denmark in 1944.

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