In the summer of 2012, I ventured a little far North. As an Australian it was a big journey beyond our usual temples of Asia, a little farther than the Pyramids of Egypt and yes Big Ben in London was still not my final destination. Where the hell was I going? So far from where I had come from?
The place was Reykjavik, Iceland.
I arrived at the airport just outside the city in Keflavik and thanked the stars that my semi-tropical body arrived in summer. I was not met with tropical palms and the heat that surrounds them, but it was warmer than usual. This was some land of ice, wait! That’s a cool name, I thought, then looked out the window of my bus at a sign, the words were printed ‘Welcome to Iceland’. They had been as intelligent as I was!
I arrived to couch surf with a new friend and began a wandering exploration of the place. Couchsurfing was a wondrous way of meeting new people and experiencing new places outside of the usual hotel stay that so many travellers take. I got to meet people living locally and understood a little more of how Iceland was, not just how it may have seemed.
As I wandered around the city I was taken aback by the size of it. Reykjavik is small and had a general simple feel to life. That simple feeling was everywhere in the obvious low crime and the gay posters I saw in many windows. Calm acceptance is how I would describe my initial feeling of Modern Iceland. It was not a place of war and savage destruction, it was a place of peace and tranquillity by most triggers of the imagination. This differs from the land’s past. Iceland was always an area of low population with harsh blistering winters and the wars or battles that the old world brings us. Most people were from a Western Norwegian background while 20-40% were of Celtic origin. Showing a testament to the Irish and British long before British Colonialism took hold over the world.
I walked onto one part of the waterfront to see a concert hall. This was known as Harpa and the intricate design of textured glass took my breath away. Some of the social life witnessed in the streets allowed beautiful architecture to be built. The calm feeling of the place left intelligent minds to focus on the love of life, on the creativity of it.
Walking along the streets and into the large open spaces surrounding the city, made me think of how much work is needed globally. Some in Iceland think that this is just typical life, yet in much of the world such calmness is absent. That calmness allows one to sit and reflect on nature or the simple pleasures of being.
I remember at one stage I walked in some nearby parklands and looked over to the city. It was so close yet that small nature escape made it seem so far. I loved it. I looked beyond at the popular church in town and felt at ease.
I only had 3 days and did not get to go out and explore the country. In that way I am an underachiever but I am so happy that I made a quick stopover after student exchange in Mexico. This was my first port of call for Europe and with it I felt happy. I will not protest too much for the cold as I am an unusual Australian. We think winter in Sydney is dire at 15C. I will not ask what the average Icelandic winter feels like in terms of temperature.