Between Europe and North America, cutting the Arctic Circle stands this incredible country – Iceland. Contrasting forces of ice and fire exist side by side. Some 11% of the country’s surface is covered with glaciers and about 30% are lava fields. On average, a volcano erupts every five years, but fortunately only rarely where anyone lives. During two weeks I was discovering this amazing country and this is the list of weird facts about Iceland, which surprised me the most.
Weird facts about Iceland:
1. The only country with no mosquitoes!
Mosquitoes can breed in a variety of environments such as hot and humid climates as well as cold climatic conditions. They are even known to breed in Antarctica, which is the coldest place on earth, but not in Iceland. Why? Iceland is cold and windy, has tough oceanic climate and that keeps mosquitoes at bay. Moreover, there is a theory that chemical composition of the country’s water and soil is unbearable for mosquitoes. Well, if you are tired of constant buzzzing sound around, you may consider moving to Iceland. Anyone interested?
2. There are no surnames or family names in Iceland
Icelanders use the traditional Nordic naming system, which includes a last name that is comprised from their father’s (or mother’s) first name with the addition of -dóttir (-daughter) or -son. Besides, the Icelandic language remains unchanged from ancient Norse. That means 1,000-year-old texts are still easily read.
3. 60% of the Icelandic population lives in Reykjavík
Reykjavik is the northernmost city of any sovereign state in the world. The biggest city in Iceland you can easily walk interesting spots in the center in half an hour. Reykjavik means Smoky Bay and was the first permanent settlement in Iceland in 874. The city has many heated sidewalks due to geothermal energy flowing from the volcanoes. Pipes with hot water that run underneath, help to melt the snow and ice away. This becomes very helpful during long winter months.
4. Iceland is perfect for hitch-hiking and solo female travelers
Solo female travelers may be looking for destinations, which are safe and hitch-hikers friendly. Iceland should be surely on their bucket list! Hitch-hiking there is easy as long as you have any cars on the road. Mind that Iceland is not highly populated country, traveling around Golden Circle is easy, although going into small, countryside road can make you stuck forever. Besides, traveling there I quickly realized how easy it is to get a ride and that everyone speaks English! Communication makes traveling so much easier! Iceland is one of the safest countries in the world, there is almost no crime. Woman traveling or even hitch-hiking alone shouldn’t be worried.
5. Icelandic people believe in elves and trolls
Mountains, rocks, ocean, no trees, no houses – this is how traveling looks here. Iceland has population just over 300 000, which makes 989909 person per km. Empty roads and overwhelming nature create the magic atmosphere of of the most stunning Europeans countries. Elf is supposedly sleeping under the big stone, so it cannot be removed to don’t destroy his house. While building new road, architects have to take it into consideration and roads often go around the big stones, instead of going straight…
Trolls, however, live up in the mountains. When you get lost and fog surrounds you suddenly, you may hear voice of singing woman (if you are a boy) or cry of a baby (if you are a girl). Both means that troll is getting a trap for you. I was asking many people if they believe in elves and trolls and most were saying that in reality no, BUT in fact, they were raised with all those fairly tales and legends from Vikings and somewhere deep inside they believe in them. Especially when they are alone just them, and the nature.
One woman told me, that she knows that they don’t really exist BUT when she drives a car and there is no other human or car, when she sees a big stone she feels better thinking that Elf is there. Another said, that she doesn’t believe BUT when we went to hike, up in the mountains, above the clouds she got so scared about the troll, so we had to return. I happened to be on the Elves festival, where many tales were read and all children and adults were listening with interest. That was a weird and spectacular festival.
6. Beer remained illegal in Iceland until 1989
Full prohibition became law 100 years ago, alcohol in general was frowned upon, and beer was especially out of favor – for political reasons. Iceland was engaged in a struggle for independence from Denmark at the time, and Icelanders strongly associated beer with Danish lifestyles. Drinking beer was not a patriotic act than. Prohibition was seen progressive, same as smoking bans, campaigns today.
7. Iceland has the most clean water in the world
You can drink pretty much from every tap or stream. Surprisingly, cold water is more rare than hot, because of the volcanoes sleeping under the ground. What’s more, Iceland’s soil is not spoiled by industry, there is no air pollution and in general climate is one of the purest you can get in our planet.
8. It’s a myth that Iceland doesn’t have trees
I was told that Vikings cut them all for boats, timber and firewood and because of the hard climate circumstances it is not easy for new trees to grow. Currently Iceland has many campaigns to encourage people to plant trees, government makes new parks with species, which can survive cold and grow fast. Moreover, development in the agriculture shows, that thanks to increasing number of green houses and resistant genres of vegetables brought from Siberia, in the following years country will be getting more and more independent and gradually decline need for import.
9. Babies in Iceland are routinely left outside to nap
It is not uncommon to see a pram outside a coffee shop, parents grabbing a cup while the baby sleeps in freezing temperature. Or to see one outside of a home as many Icelandic babies nap outside at least once a day, no matter the season. If you are walking around downtown Reykjavik, don’t be alarmed when you see baby strollers with a sleeping baby outside a cafe. It is completely normal to leave a baby sleeping outside, and the moms are never far either watching over their sleeping child from the window or with a baby monitor. Some fresh air is good for us!
10. The world’s highest renewable energy
We have to admit that Iceland is an example to follow in terms of ecology. About 85% of total primary energy supply in Iceland is delivered from domestically produced, renewable energy sources. The elements are used to produce energy – water, wind, bio-farms being more and more popular. Do you know that people in Iceland don’t have to pay any bills? It is enough when you buy house and then all is free: unlimited water, hot water sources, electricity from eco energy resources. Even internet is free and well delivered even to the most isolated houses.
How can someone don’t love this country! OK it is cold, fucking cold, but staying at home with the heater on for the whole year, because it is free and natural, pure water, which also healed my skin from allergy.
11. There is no Mc Donald’s!
McDonald’s closed in Iceland due to the collapse of the Icelandic krona in 2009. Citing prohibitive costs of importing foreign food products as required by the company, Jon Gardar Ogmundsson, who owned one of three McDonald’s restaurants in the country, said he was forced to shut his doors. By the way, very interesting fact is that one hostel decided to keep last fries and burger sold by Mc Donald’s in Reykjavik.
The idea was to keep it as an exhibition and throw away when it gets rotten. The problem is, that the food doesn’t get rotten… It was kept in the hostel, which had even set up a live stream – of the burger under glass – to allow fans to watch it rots and decay. After some time, they decided to give it to the museum as a part of permanent exhibition, since food seem to be eternal. Know what shit you eat huh…
12. Consumption of Coca–Cola per capita is higher than in any other country
In contrast, not having McDonald’s doesn’t mean that Icelanders leading healthy lifestyle. They consume enormous amounts of Coke! It was quite a surprise for me. I thought nation which has one of the most pure nature in the world must also eat healthy. I was totally wrong…
13. Iceland doesn’t have standing army
Navy or air force doesn’t exist! Iceland doesn’t even have American army base! What’s more, the Icelandic police don’t carry guns. Crime in Iceland is very low and violent is practically nonexistent.
14. Rotten shark or raw puffin heart for dinner?
Traditional food is made using the only preservation methods available when people had to store up for the winter in the days before refrigerators. Delicacies there include some quite indelicate cuts of meat, including boiled sheep’s head (on the bone or pressed), ram’s testicles pickled in whey, and loin bags. Raw puffin heart (Icelandic bird) is considered a delicacy as well. Hákarl, or rotten shark, is a national dish of Iceland. Moreover, Icelandic people love eating ice cream even though temperatures are well below zero. Among dairy products, a big favorite with visitors is skyr (curds), especially served with fresh bilberries in late summer.
15. Hot dogs are Iceland’s most popular food
You can get hot dog pretty much everywhere, including gas stations, roadside stops, and restaurants. In Rejkjavik I was recommended to try “the best hot dog” in the world! As you can see, Iceland is very good in being “the best” in something… Hot dog bar was a simple booth, very small in size, serving ordinary hot dogs. Not bad though, however I didn’t find something particular in the taste. I hope nobody from Iceland wants to kill me now for admitting that…
16. Country is struggling in a war with a flower
Lupine flower is widely spread over the country. Unfortunately, beautiful plant is also dangerous for distinctive woolly moss, known in Icelandic as graymoss, which covers the lava. Nature conservation activists are working hard at destroying the lupine plant. On the other hand the lupine is an important ally in stopping topsoil loss and combat erosion. Locals told me that this plant was brought some years ago from Alaska and spreads over the whole island very quickly. Apart from looking pretty it fertilizes the soil and little by little rocky areas of Iceland turning into fields possible to grow vegetables or plant the tree. I have to admit Reykjavik has the most beautiful airport I have ever seen – instead of empty soil, or grass whole area of the airport zone (except the airstrip of course) is full of purple flowers.
17. There is a penis museum in Reykjavik
Penis Museum contains a collection of penises from over 200 different mammals, including one from a man. From the weird facts about Iceland this one is just the cherry on the top. Visitors to the museum will encounter fifty six specimens belonging to seventeen different kinds of whale, one specimen taken from a rogue polar bear, thirty-six specimens belonging to seven different kinds of seal and walrus, and one hundred and fifteen specimens originating from twenty different kinds of land mammal: all in all, a total of two hundred and nine specimens belonging to forty six different kinds of mammal, including specimens from Homo Sapiens.
18. The youngest country in the world
Iceland only began to rise from the North Atlantic seabed about 25 million years ago, the product of volcanic eruptions that are still going on today. It is still taking shape before peoples eyes: the newest land is Surtsey, an island which rose from the sea during an underwater eruption off the south coast in 1963.
19. One of the most seismic danger on the earth
Unfortunately, is based on very dangerous contact of tectonic plates. On the other hand, it’s activity of the volcanoes makes this place so unique. Seeing steaming hot river or smoky holes in the ground, exploding gazers, makes you realize what an enormous power is sleeping under your feet, and can wake up any moment. Eruption of the volcano can be predicted in 100% just half an hour before. But not only this time is left for evacuation. From the moment of the explosion, all ash and rocks exploding high up can take even 1h to start falling to the ground, because it is thrown in the air so strong and so high.
Eruption of the famous volcano few years ego, Eyjafjallajökull which stopped most of the European airports, didn’t make any visible effect in Iceland. Because all the ashes were so tiny and light it didn’t fall down back to Iceland but went with the Western wind straight to Europe mainland. Nowadays citizens are worry about Hekla volcano, which has its eruption every 9383 years and didn’t have since 3939 years. Volcano is very strong and eruption can happen at any time.
20. Home for artists
Iceland, just over 300,000 people has more writers, more books published and more books read, per head, than anywhere else in the world. According to a research, one in 10 people will publish a book, isn’t it amazing? Icelanders have unique sensitivity to arts and music. Why? Find out in another article!