Dan's Singaround Iceland tour – a few myths about Iceland
Hello all! Happy New Year, and thanks for coming back – after three months I've just finished collecting my sponsorship in for my Singaroundiceland cycle tour (£3933, plus another few hundred in Gift Aid!), but now it's about time I told you a bit more about the place, and set a few myths to rest. Sael(l)! It's good to be back!
A traditional Icelandic hunting lodge.. or maybe not
Villi (Hvarf)'s workshop of the found, the created and the preserved, Djúpivogur
How much do you really know about Iceland? I won't beat you up about this, as we all learn by anecdote first, then by the opinions of others (however reliable), then, if we're really keen, by committed study, firsthand experience or both. There's plenty of gaps in all our knowledge though, and I can't tell you much about South Korea or childbirth, though I've heard a bit about both. It's fair to say though that not so many of us know an awful lot about our nearest neighbour to the North outside these British Isles*. I knew a bit before I went (but only that), and even then, only because I've long had an interest in reading about places, and particularly those places that are hard to get to, isolated, wild and mysterious – and preferably at a higher latitude than us.
You may be getting an idea of why I chose Iceland.
Fjaðragljúfur – a canyon in the middle of nowhere..
..Here Be Trolls 😀
I knew, for instance, that Iceland was *just* below the Arctic circle, but as close as makes no difference – and that the island of Grimséy, just a few tens of kilometres north of Iceland, sits directly on the circle and therefore experiences the true Midnight Sun at the summer solstice, and a day without sun at all a few days before Christmas each year. Iceland is so close to the Arctic Circle, in fact, that even in May and July the sun hardly sets, and it doesn't really get dark even when it's cloudy.. however the converse is true in winter, and even though the sun may be above the horizon, several towns in the far north (Ísafjörður and Siglufjörður particularly) do not get direct sunlight for several months until the sun appears again in spring from behind the mountains. This is celebrated by toasting the return of the sun with a typically Icelandic greeting combining the old and new worlds with a quirky Icelandic twist – they drink Sólarkaffí, or solar coffee, to mark the reappearance of their old friend.
Here comes the Sun..
Norðfjörður, East Iceland
But here's Myth 1: Icelanders do not live out their lives in perpetual darkness during winter. Yes, their winters are long, cold and hard (we'll get to that too); but then, Britain in December can be pretty grim too. We also suffer from much-reduced daylight in winter; Iceland just has it rather worse. But – and here's the difference: whereas every day it gets a bit lighter that little bit earlier in the UK from January onwards, and sunset gets a little later too, in Iceland this difference is about twice as apparent as here. Spring marches on faster in Iceland than in the rest of Europe (at least in terms of daylight hours); by contrast, autumn and winter come in with a vengeance. Where I was cooking by evening light at 11pm in early August, by late September it was getting pretty dark not much after 6pm.
Carry on to find out more about Iceland... (next page)
*And here's my first correction: our nearest neighbours to the north are in fact the Faeroe Islands, lying halfway between Iceland and the UK, similarly independent and beautiful. I have to go there too, but I'll warrant most of us know even less about them.