By Ship to Iceland
Iceland. The country with the lowest population density in Europe... Volcanoes, geysers, hot springs, and lava fields.
Iceland is the youngest European island and it develops before our very eyes. You could say that this island has not even reached puberty. Less than 20 million years ago volcanoes deep in the Atlantic Ocean began to erupt, laying the foundation for Iceland. The surface was formed by cold: During Ice Age when temperatures were to 15 degress lower than today, Iceland was covered by glaciers.
To this day glaciers are covering 12 % of the country. Among them is a true ice giant: The Vatnajökull with 8,100 km² is Europe's largest glacier (see below right the white area).
Beside the geysers, water on this island is quite a show with mighty waterfalls: The Dettifoss is the most water-rich one of Europe; the highest one is Glymur which near Botnsá falls off 190 metres.
Around the year 900 the Norwegian Flóki Vilgerdarson was one of the first who came to the island with a purpose to settle.
He did not succeed to overwinter his cattle, left, and in a disappointed spirit called the region "Iceland". The name did not stop further visitors from settling here.
Once to go to Iceland, the island of fire and ice and the Northern Lights of course... That was our idea and it wasn't a new one.
After our Scotland-schedule came to nothing and our darling cottage at Loch Rannoch was not vacant, we had to change our plans.
What we wanted:
1. A cruise, the longer, the better
2. A destination of fantastic landscape
3. Some place we have never seen before
Naturally now and then puffins were hinted at and Northern Lights mentioned as demand.
Puffins only return to the coasts for breeding, that is from May to August. Northern Lights can be seen (if at all) from end of August to beginning of April. Well, what now?
And what about Vikings? Or trolls?
By chance we found the so-called Viking Cruise to Iceland. The Vikings have the reputation of medieval terrorists, from Denmark penetrated into France and Southern England, from Norway to Ireland, Iceland, Greeland, and Northern England - even to the Faeroese and Shetlands. They also raided Iona were still a copy of the 'Book of Kells' can be seen. The Vikings did look for the book of Calum Cille but did not find it.
The original is in Dublin College today, a copy can be found in the Iona Abbey.
And finally, what about trolls and elfs?
The belief in natural spirits is deeply rooted in Iceland's society. Icelanders talk about the hidden people, the Huldufólk. Among others elfs ands trolls are meant by this. Sometimes they even influence daily life. About 60 % of the locals are sincerely convinced of the existence of these spirits. There even is an elf-commissioner, Erla Stefansdottir.
She takes care of disturbed elf-houses. Elfs being robbed of their dwelling can become most unpleasant troublemakers: bulldozers stop to function or frequent accidents happen at the site.
Iceland's Building Ministry takes good care if a new road or house is planned. Only too well they remember the story of the rocksite blasted to enlarge a hen farm. Reportedly the hens stopped laying eggs and the enterprise went bankrupt.
All this really sounded more than interestig. To avoid the hectic of a missed ship we booked an overnight stay at a Hirtshals hotel. And we would leave our car there which has earned a break after Scotland and Norway. Next morning we would quietly board the MS Norröna.
Actually we never have been keen on guided tours and felt somewhat sceptic. But how else should Iceland be scheduled? We knew neither country nor inhabitants and the stay would be a short one. A guided tour would not be that bad after all.
Questions about a cottage did not come up. We were to spend the nights on board. So we booked an outside cabin with separate beds. It's simply more space.
The Viking Cruise offers three stays on land:
- On Monday we reach Torshavn on the Faeroese with a scheduled stay of 5 1/2 hours
- From Tuesday to Wednesday we spend 35 hours in all in Seydisfjördur in Iceland and
- finally there will be another 4 hours on the Faeroese.
So here is our report, even if are still not able to pronouce the Icelandic names without throat accidents...