When you were little, did you ever mix together all of the ingredients in the fridge, just for fun? Did you ever swirl two incompatible colors of finger-paint on the pallet, just to see if you could make something new, something previously unseen? I did both. Frequently. I turned out a decent chef and artist as a result. For the others out there who experimented similarly, Iceland is a dream. It’s the hyperactive child of the Great North, where nature has experimented and left streaks of invented colors and disproportionate animals. It’s where the sun always shines, to desensitize you and lure you into the fantasy. At the end of the year, it’s where the sun never shines and instead lets particles in the sky dance for you with a fury and energy that breathes life into even the coldest of souls.
The land of ice and fire, reminiscent of Rohan and the area Beyond the Wall, Iceland has not surprisingly been prime location for the filming of many fantasy classics. For those who aim to create the unreal, the fantastic, it makes sense to go to Iceland as it will take you well beyond the limit of your imagination and show youwhat this earth, and not even the people that inhabit it, is truly capable of.
Reykjavik, the most pronounceable of Iceland’s windy cities, has the drab of any Atlantic port, with a significant dose of Ikea and brawn. Padded with corrugated metal, most of Reykjavik’s buildings are entirely unimpressive, but step inside and you all of a sudden feel like you’re about to have your retinas scanned and a robot give you a cold-handed pat down. Everything is clean. Everything is sterile, which stands quite in contrast to the image of the filthy, Grendel-slaying, mead-hall Vikings that inhabit(ed) the island.
The classic Scando sterility is no denial of the, as I said, brawny history of Iceland. It’s buildings may be from Mars (as epitomized by the Harpa—a boxy opera house that looks like what you see through a kaleidoscope), but its heart is made of meat and rocks. The sheep, and people, are well-fed, bred for resilience and extreme contrasts of ice and fire, day and night, land and sea. Everything in Reykjavik indicates a deep sense of pride and even of independence, with an ironic twist of uniformity.
I can’t help but go back to the idea of Iceland as a hyperactive kid, spewing steam in one place, frozen solid just a minute later, and then bursting with fluorescent green and yellow alien plants. Each landscape is breathtakingly beautiful, even if the gasp if followed by a raised eyebrow and a check of your pulse to make sure you didn’t die and are actually driving an SUV through purgatory.
In a land of contrasts, confusion, and truly enigmatic landscapes, it is not surprising that instead of ghosts and gods, Icelanders speak of elves, trolls, and hidden peoples. Had I seen a unicorn or a Pegasus strutting on the side of the road I probably would not have been to bothered. The horses that do exist look a bit like a failed experiment, with their miniature legs and weave-like hair dos blowing in the cold wind.
When you get bored of ruins, of deserts, of “just mountains,” there is a place you can go, a place where you can swim in waters colored like your dreams, a place where the earth lets off its beautiful steam and shows you just what a beautiful thing she is.
What I’m saying is, go to Iceland. It’s a dream, a paradise on ice.