With this summer’s scorching temperatures and all the talk about global warming, it only seems right to take the 50-cent tour of Iceland and provide you with some little known facts that are guaranteed to help you beat the heat.
It’s Really Green
The old joke is true – Iceland is green, and Greenland is ice. When Norwegian explorer Eric the Red made the trek from Iceland to the larger nearby island in the 10th century and colonized it, he decided to call it Greenland because he felt more people might be willing to move there if it had an inviting name.
Take out a second mortgage
You’ll need the extra funds. Iceland’s considered to be the second most expensive destination for travelers (behind Japan). But don’t blame it on Icelandic greed. Prices are so high because so many goods have to be imported.
Seems like a good idea
If you’re an environmentalist, don’t go to Iceland because there’s not much to protest. The country is home to a project called the Ecological City Transport System, or ECTOS. As if getting decent public transportation in America isn’t hard enough, these guys are actually trying to to achieve a hydrogen-based fuel economy, starting with Reykjavik city buses. Also included: a hydrogen filling station, where electricity is produced onsite by electrolyzing water using renewable energy. If the project is successful, Iceland will begin using hydrogen to power cars, marine vessels and fishing boats, making the country almost completely independent of imported fossil fuels.
The national language of Iceland is Icelandic, which hasn’t evolved much from the way it was spoken centuries ago. English and Danish are also popular – good news, as the native tongue is indecipherable to non-speakers. Icelandic has two unique letters, , pronounced “th” as in “thing,” and , pronounced “th” as in “them.” Similar logic applies to the English words “broad” and “road,” which should be pronounced the same but are not.
Can You Hear Me Now?
There are about twice as many cell phones as landlines in Iceland. The country, like many of its Nordic neighbors, has a reputation for mobile chattiness. Though a disputed fact, Iceland is purported to have the most cell phones per capita.
The Sun Also Rises… Sometimes
The sun shines virtually 24 hours a day during the peak of summer in Iceland. In mid-winter, however, it’s only light about four to five hours each day.
The Sun Also Rises Part II: Stay Out Past Your Bedtime
In Iceland’s city of Akureyri, you can play the links on the northernmost golf course in the world. And better yet, during the summer, you can play 24 hours a day (if your wife says it’s O.K.). The Akureyri Golf Club is home to the annual Arctic Open, the well-known, all-night golf tournament. Since the sun never sets in Iceland during the summer, golfers come to Akureyri from all over the world to play in this round-the-clock event.
Mark Your Calendar
March 1 is Beer Day (Bjordagur) in Iceland, when natives celebrate the end of prohibition against the frothy brews. “Real” beer (of more than 2.2 percent alcohol by volume) had been outlawed since the country’s independence from Denmark in 1944, and the ban wasn’t lifted until 1989. Hey, if you went 75 years without decent beer, you’d find a reason to throw a party, too.
Those fleeing the draft have always appreciated countries to the frozen north. Consider this: Iceland maintains no regular armed forces. Defense, in fact, is provided by the Icelandic Defense Force, which is U.S.-staffed.
Come to North America for the Available Food…
When overpopulation, famine and disease struck Iceland in the late 19th century, it prompted a mass exodus from the frozen land. Most immigrants ended up in the Canadian Province of Manitoba, where they created a colony called New Iceland. But many others, strangely enough, landed in Utah and converted to Mormonism.
…Stay for the Mormons!
Today, Spanish Fork, Utah, remains home to one of the largest Icelandic communities in the United States. If you can’t afford a plane ticket to the real thing, head to Spanish Fork, where you can visit the Icelandic Monument or attend the annual Icelandic cultural festival, hosted by the Icelandic Association of Utah.
All Work and No Play Makes Iceland Rich
Icelanders are notorious for their work ethic. Averaging 43.5 hours, they have the longest work week in Europe. Not surprisingly, they also have one of the highest standards of living in the world.
Skip the Zoo
More than half of Iceland’s 280,000 citizens live in the city and suburbs of Reykjavik, the northernmost capital in the world. It’s a proud and modern city that celebrates Iceland’s culture and history. Worth a visit as the nation’s only bustling metropolis, Reykjavik also deserves notice as one of the cleanest cities in the world. It’s a particularly popular destination for young people, due to its legendary nightlife. But you can forego a trip to the zoo, as its only wild inhabitants are seals, foxes and reindeer.
Fact of the Week:
Iceland has a 99.9 percent literacy rate.
Adapted from mental_floss presents: Condensed Knowledge (HarperCollins).