Now that the haze of being in a time zone 8 hours ahead of my native time has worn off I can share my observations of Iceland. First know that I don’t travel to judge. I have never identified much with my own culture so I travel to observe, maybe to find a place I do identify with. Iceland, although stunning, perplexes me on many levels.
The impression most Americans have about traveling to Europe is that it is more expensive than home, well it is in most cases unless you can do it on the cheap as I do. Iceland, however, is hella expensive no matter how little you buy….and, outside of the metro area of Reykjavik, there ain’t much to buy. I am not a fan of big cities so I tend to avoid most or don’t linger too long. I did not go into Reykjavik but passed by it quickly twice. I intended to visit on my last day but just driving by it one thing was very obvious…..the influence of America. Strip malls, car lots aplenty (mostly American names), bright neon lights and a KFC, Subway and Taco Bell on every corner and lots of traffic, no thanks, I’ll pass. Outside of the city is much different.
In my previous post I was in a remote town about 5 hours drive outside of the big city. During my voyage around the area I passed through about a dozen towns or villages, most smaller than Olafsvik (pop. 1000), several containing less than a handful of houses. Most coastal villages have a harbor, a fish processing plant, and if you are lucky a combo gas station and grocery store….a term I use loosely….. (Segway alert).
Let’s talk about food here for a moment since it is the most necessary thing there is (water is abundant, they encourage you to suck on the glaciers here). Traveling on the cheap with a gluten intolerance I don’t typically go out to eat much. I tend to locate the grocery store and stock up. In outer Iceland the variety is severely limited. Since I did not see a farm that was not for hay or horses I would image that most of their produce is imported….which would explain all the shrink wrap and probably the shocking prices….almost as much as meat! Meat, too, is limited and if you see a steak (that you can afford) you had better grab it because there might not be any the next day. I bought one pound of beef stew meat and 3 heads of garlic and it cost me $20. This leaves little desire to impulse buy and might cost you an arm and with groceries being this expense, I didn’t even venture into the only restaurant I could find open in a 100 mile radius….this may also have a little to do with the fact I can’t read Icelandic and their specialty is split and roasted sheep’s head. I just can’t bring myself to,eat something that is staring up at me…call me picky.
Every Icelander is taught to speak English in school but you NEVER hear them speak it unless you engage them with it first. It’s almost like a strange sub culture but I am grateful they speak English because outside of the city you hardly see it either…it makes getting gas and money a terrifying challenge!