Stopover Airport On An Icelandair Flight To London
|Motto: '„Þetta Reddast" (English:„Doesn't Our Water Taste Great?"(*))|
|Anthem: Við Höfum Líka Hljómsveitir Sem Eru Ekki Sigur Rós (*)|
|Largest city||That's pretty much the only one of note.|
|Official language(s)||English (most residents also speak a little Icelandic)|
|National Hero(es)||Anyone who people outside of Iceland have ever heard of.|
|1944 (source: official), 2009 (source: liberal blogs)(*)|
|Currency||Coins with pictures of fish on them. Really. I mean, do we even need to make a joke here?|
|Area||2.1 billion metric hectares|
|Major exports||Fish, aluminum, bank IOUs, aloof facial expressions.|
|National sport(s)||Chess, Reading, Aðveratöff(*)|
Iceland, not to be confused with Ireland, is a giant rock in the northern Atlantic ocean, inhabited by a large population of volcanoes and a small population of humans.
Iceland is famous for being a tourist destination, and perhaps no place in Iceland is better known than the blue lagoon spa Bláa Lónið -- Icelandic for „Most Profitable Power Plant Waste Ever". Famed for its warm, gamete-laden waters(*), it is a place where one can experience the feel of mud facial, the warmth of a steam room, and the soothing lull of squabbling British tourists.
Iceland is blessed with many large waterfalls. Due to its large size and convenient location, the most popular of these is Útsýnispallur Falls. This is usually viewed on a one-day loop tour along with Hætta Geysir and Varúð Hot Springs.(*)
The largest church in Iceland, the Hallgrímskirkja, stands in downtown Reykjavík. Its most innovative design feature is the Camera Magnet in the viewing platform, which was installed to ensure that nearly every photograph in the city is either taken from or of this location.
Iceland has a rich culinary tradition, which has in no way been influenced by the former NATO base at Keflavík. Traditional Icelandic foods include strange dishes like hamburgers (ground cow meat and condiments between two pieces of round bread) and pizza (a traditional dish made from „tomatoes" atop a „crust", with „cheese" on top). Ice Cream, a traditional dessert, is so important that the country incorporated it into its name.(*)
The national drink of Iceland is coffee. The average Icelander consumes enough coffee in a week to drown a narwhal. As a side note, coffee-drowned narwhal is a delicacy in Iceland.
The Icelandic language (norska) is an ancient and storied language. Classical Icelandic consists of tends of thousands of complex words and phrases. Modern colloquial Icelandic consists almost entirely of „Já", „Jæja", „Geðveikt", „Snilld", and „Er það ekki?"(*)
As any book will tell you, the pronunciation in Icelandic is highly regular. For example, „l" is pronounced like the English „l". Except it's more in the front of the mouth. Except when there's an „f" before it, wherein it changes the „f" to a „p". Or when there's another „l", wherein the two become a „tl". Except on imported words, wherein it becomes a „hl". Thankfully, since everyone learning Icelandic is an expert on which words are imported and which are native, you never hear an immigrant refer to „defective pants" when buying jeans.(*)
Some common tips for learning Icelandic include:
- Maintain a blood alcohol content of at least 0.05. This is admittedly difficult in a country which taxes alcohol to the point where a bottle of Absolut vodka will set you back $50.
- Make sure to keep sufficient marbles in your mouth when speaking.
- Memorize common greetings like „Talarðu ensku?" and „Afsakið, ég er frá Bandaríkjunum."(*)
- Be born in Iceland.
Iceland has a surprisingly broad and diverse music scene. The average Icelander belongs to sixteen different bands, which are generally named after the singer, a close relative, a popular candy bar, or words pulled randomly from a hat. The combination of high production values/good talent and a low population density generally means that Icelandic music is the best music you will ever hear performed in a tiny community center or an abandoned fish factory.
To properly enjoy Icelandic music in a club or festival, arrive late, dance conservatively, sing along poorly, point out to tourists whenever a song was written by an Icelander, and do the Icelandic version of „Raise the Roof" -- let your hand hang limp as you drunkenly wave it around in the air out of time with the music, with an arbitrary number of fingers extended. Really.
Note To Tourists: Since Björk is the only Icelandic musician, like, ever, and since every Icelander totally loves her music because she's, like, from Iceland, be sure to tell every Icelander you meet how much you looooooove Björk. Be sure to really stress that „oar" sound in the middle of her name. Talk about her all the time and try to get her address from everyone on the street. Because Björk totally wants you to visit her. Don't worry, you'll never come across as annoying, because, as we already mentioned, all Icelanders just totally love Björk, the country's only musician, like, evers.
Icelanders are proud of their long literary tradition, dating back to the first sagas written by the country's Viking settlers while the rest of Europe was too busy burning witches and pillorying scientists to care. Perhaps the most famous of these is Njáls' Saga, the story of a lawyer who ends up publicly burned to death, which is really just a great idea. Egil's Saga follows the life of a childhood axe-murderer who fights against King Eric Bloodaxe, and a bunch of other really metal stuff. Another famous saga, Laxdæla Saga focuses on a tragic love triangle; its slightly lower ratio of deaths per page make the earliest known piece of Icelandic "chick-lit".
Icelanders have continued their literary tradition and currently boast the highest per-capita rate of book publication in the world. Sadly, the country's proud "axe murder" tradition has largely died out.
Iceland has a rich comedic tradition which carries through to the modern day. Some sample Icelandic jokes:
- „A standup comedian walks into a polling place. He gets elected mayor of Reykjavík."
- „What is the typical Icelandic reaction to meeting someone famous on the street? Going up to him and asking him if he wants your autograph."
- „How do you get rid of the stockbroker at your front door? Pay him for the pizza."
- „How do you find your way out of an Icelandic forest? Stand up."
This latter joke is taught to every Icelander at age three in íslensksskógarbrandaraskóli(*), where students are taught how to pronounce the words in English and how to feel comfortable telling it to foreign tourists. This leads to the lesser-known meta-joke, „How can you tell if someone is or has ever met an Icelander? Ask them if they know how to find their way out of an Icelandic forest."
Iceland is traditionally divided into eight regions:
- Höfuðborgarsvæði, the Capital Region: Two thirds of Iceland's population lives here. House prices range from $250,000 USD to the GDP of Haiti.
- Suðurnes, the Southern Peninsula: Also known as Flugvallarnes, this area contains Iceland's highest concentration of tourists submerged in blue water.(*)
- Vesturland and Vestfirðir: Iceland's geographically oldest provinces, some of the rocks here are over 300 years old and no longer hot to the touch.
- Norðurland vestra, the Northwest: There's probably something worth writing about for this region.
- Norðurland eystra, the Northeast: Contains Akureyri, Iceland's largest city outside the capitol region. This burgeoning metropolis, with a population nearly that of Harker Heights, Texas, proudly boasts the motto, „We don't all fit into a phone booth anymore!"(*)
- Austurland, the East, and Suðurland, the South: Contains most of Iceland's strategic Surface-To-Air Volcano batteries.
Being a tectonically active nation, regions in Iceland are demarcated by their VSM rating („Volcanoes per Square Meter"), ranging from a low of 0.06 in Vestfirðir to 0.8 in Suðurland. Due to this high volcanic activity, Iceland is constantly having new material added to it, a mixture of cooled lava, deposited tephra, and debris from downed commercial aircraft.
Many of Iceland's volcanoes are capped by glaciers. These can lead to catastrophic jökulhlaup floods during eruptions which can take out bridges. The average highway bridge in Iceland is rebuilt in a matter of days, leaving the old bridge's debris as new playground equipment for children. No, really. As a side note, tetanus and missing limbs are common fashion statements among Icelandic children.
Perhaps the most famous of Iceland's volcanoes in modern times is Eyjafjallajökull, which loosely translates as, „Revenge For Classifying Iceland As A Terrorist Organization". Its eruption in 2010 took out travel throughout much of Europe, and more importantly, gave Icelanders sufficient opportunity to use as a backdrop for pictures to make themselves look töff.(*)
The most devastating eruption Iceland's history was the 1783 eruption of Laki, which killed six million people and 90% of Iceland's sheep, the latter of which bothered Icelanders a great deal more due a spike in the price of lamb.(*)
Some people in Iceland blame the country's natural disasters on the huldufólk -- little naked people who skulk about the wilderness. While it can be easy to dismiss this as quaint folk beliefs, tourists are advised to carefully guard their precious.
While there is some evidence of earlier settlement activities, the Icelandic sagas describe the primary settlement of Iceland in the 10th century AD as being primarily due to Norse aristocrats, fleeing King Harald Fairhair of Norway's taxes on the kingdom's „1%-ers" to fund a range of social programs (bailouts of the longship industry, healthcare for thralls, etc). The settlers first travelled to Ireland and Scotland, where they stocked up on provisions (sheep, barley, gaelic mitochondrial DNA reservoirs) before travelling to Iceland and founding the first settlements.
Within six decades, the whole of Iceland was settled, and to prevent strife, they founded the world's oldest parliament (the Alþing), which is sort of like setting up a Grateful Dead concert to benefit the War on Drugs.
After extensive proselytizing from Norway, a conflict between Christians and Pagans erupted in Iceland, which was sent to the Alþing for a settlement (that being the „Iceland Becomes Christian; Pagans, You Can Suck It" compromise). A new era of peace and prosperity involving violent and brutal warfare reigned until Icelandic chieftains reached a new settlement (the „Give The Country To Norway So They Can Stop Us From Killing Each Other" accord).
When power in Norway was ceded to Denmark, Iceland became a Danish commonwealth state, which asserted increasing control and ultimately banned the Alþing (the 1800 „Suck It, Iceland" decree). Iceland retaliated in 1944 with its „Since You're So Busy Being Occupied By The Nazis..." resolution declaring the nation's independence.
In 1940, the British introduced themselves to Iceland by occupying it, in order to prevent a non-existent Nazi plan. Codenamed „Operation Bungling Baffoon", it involved sending a fleet of sailors who had never been on a ship before and nobody who spoke Icelandic to the country, making sure that Iceland and its German embassy knew about the invasion well in advance by buzzing the harbor with an airplane, and being so slow to disembark that the curious Icelanders had to be asked to step aside to allow their new sovereigns enough room to walk ashore. Seriously.
After the war, a message („FYI, Iceland Isn't Part Of The UK. -- Bestu kveðjur, Iceland") was inadvertently lost after the postman consumed too many shots of brennivín, and the British embarked on a policy of fishing up all of the „clearly British cod that just happen to live in Icelandic waters". Iceland forced them out over a series of „Cod Wars" during the next several decades, keeping a bill on the value of the captured cod. This bill was collected in 2008 during „Operation Icesave".(*)