I’ve always wanted to go to Iceland. A small volume of work might scratch the surface of all the amazing things you could describe. From the black sand beaches and majestic volcanoes (always intimidating the country side) to the culinary achievements and literary monuments (everybody is writing a book) it’s honestly too much; it’s just too much. So in my short time to run the landscape, I really only had one goal. It was a goal that physically could not be achieved anywhere else in the world… see an Icelandic horse! You see…
- Scotch (single malt) is only “Scotch,” if it’s made in Scotland, aged a minimum of three years (preferably five or more) made entirely of barley and made in Scotland.
- Tequila is only “Tequila,” if it’s made in specific regions of Mexico (primarily Jalisco) and 100% blue agave. However, the bottom line is, it’s made in Mexico.
- Champagne is only “Champagne,” if it’s made of no more than 3 varieties of grape, which must be pruned and pressed according to a specific set of rules. Most importantly, it’s made in Champagne, France.
But to be an Icelandic Horse, the rules are a little tougher!
Although you can drink Scotch, Tequila, and Champagne anywhere in the world, an Icelandic horse stops being an Icelandic horse, the moment it steps off the island. Yes, there are Icelandic horse clubs in a few other countries. You can even take one off the island and breed it. However, in point of fact, it’s never coming home. Icelandic law prohibits the importing of horses, including natives. Even if it was shipped off island for a weekend (maybe it needed to blow off some steam) and came back, it’s not welcome home. The line has been crossed. the knot has been cut. And in that moment, something seems lost.
So why was this so interesting? Because this concept of authenticity permeates, bubbles, gels, coagulates, seeps into the very marrow of Iceland. We are “we,” and you are “you.” You’re welcome to drink, but don’t forget what we said. Iceland! The landscape is dangerously sexy. One minute, you might contemplate whether your nose is actually burning of frostbite, and the language is so challenging (are they making fun of you) could you call out for help? Next, you are presented with a natural hot spring, eons old and you wondered how many smiles, laughs and gentle caress moments were shared here in public and private… and you’re still not sure if you’re doing it right. Everything about Iceland is so welcoming and foreboding at the same time.
I found this fascinating! It made me think, perhaps identity is more than just “where, you’re from.” It’s who you are… And seeing an Icelandic horse anywhere, other than Iceland, is simply not seeing an Icelandic horse (not really).
I felt like there were two overused jokes (one of which still holds true):
- Everyone knows someone who knows Bjork
- Everyone is writing a novel
What do you do in the barren nothingness, filled with wonder beyond reason? What do you do when you sit on the edge of time and life and distance and isolation and nature and life and death and destitute wealth? What do you do?!? You write a book (and a damned fine one at that). Historically speaking, Existentialism, as a philosophical opinion, can trace it roots to the countries with less light and Iceland’s authors somehow always seem to write in response or struggle to their natural surroundings. Truly admirable… they don’t just survive; they thrive!
But I wasn’t here for that. I came for the horses. Wow airlines is 2nd to none in getting you to Iceland (my ticket was $300). Don’t be fooled, the cabin is as empty as the acres of snow, so don’t bother asking for a complimentary water. Smiles are free. It can be as cold as you might imagine, so you better pack warm. But, your best bet is to not pack full as you’ll be charged for carry-ons. It’s a brain-teaser’s delight trying to figure out how much you’ll need to stay warm, but not get charged an arm and your son’s leg. I wore my warmest bulkiest clothes on the plane to save space.
When I arrived, I found a wonderful little guest house for about 25$ a night (shared room). Iceland can be very expensive so this was a deal worth bragging about. Through my travels, I’ve been blessed to meet people from all over. As luck would have it, my friend Lena lives with her parents just outside Reykjavik. Leaning even more on luck, she was kind enough to chauffer me around. This might have been the greatest piece of luck because car rentals can be expensive and intimidating in foreign countries.
We drove to many of the must see points including:
- The Sun Voyager sculpture, created by Icelandic artist Jón Gunnar Árnason .
- The Reynisfjara shore, famed for it’s black sand beaches.
- Reykjadalur hot-spring river, allowing one to take in all the natural beauty, in just a simple bathing suit.
But what about the horses? Well, driving along the Ring Road, we did in fact spot the famed horses in their natural and wild habitat. Although there are riding schools and farms that may allow a more intimate experience, there was something special about seeing these beautiful animals being, well… wild and free. I was not too keen to walk right up and touch or pet one, but I was incredibly surprised by how calm they really were. They seemed as inquisitive as they looked and I tried my hardest to be respectful enough and let them be.
Having achieved my goal, and quenched my desire, we drove back to the capital. It has been said that too few people explore beyond Reykjavik’s satellite, and unfortunately I was in that bunch. I didn’t have the time or the means to see more and explore more. But I know I’m coming back o do that very thing.
That being said; to walk along a black sand beach, to soak in a hot-spring river, personally view world-famous art (including street art) and to see the beautiful wildlife of another country, in just 4 days; well… not too shabby, I’d say. Iceland is one of the most amazing countries I’ve ever seen and I only hope I have the opportunity to visit again, with a few more days .
Be Well and Good Travels!