CultureTravel

I visited Iceland in May and I can’t lie— it’s the most fascinating country I’ve ever been to. Iceland is a land of lava and ice where geysers burst, glaciers glimmer, and valleys of all colors stretch into the horizon. Here is a list of some fascinating things about Iceland:

1. American and European Influence 

Iceland lies on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, the underwater border where the tectonic plates of America and Eurasia are slowly spreading apart. Iceland is geographically part of Europe (not part of EU), but half of it lies on the American plate, which is gradually moving westward (estimated 1-2cm a year). Due to its geographical location, the country is culturally influenced both by the United States and Europe. Icelanders say that the cars, music, and television are more American, but fashion and architecture more European.

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2. One of the most sparsely populated countries in Europe

Almost four-fifths of the country is uninhabited. The population is only 320,000 and 200,000 of the people live in and around the capital, Reykjavik. The country’s size is disproportionally large given its small population. Iceland is 103,000 square km or 40,000 square mi. It’s approximately 25% larger than Ireland, or about the size of the state of Ohio.

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3. The world’s most eco-friendly country in terms of energy

Because Iceland has a substantial amount of volcanic activity, about 85% of the country’s energy comes from renewable resources. 30% of Iceland’s electricity is geothermal – the highest percentage worldwide. The rest of the nation’s electricity is generated by hydropower, making Iceland the world’s most eco-friendly country in terms of energy. Iceland has over 150 public swimming pools and most of them are heated by all-natural volcanic heat. 

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4. Swimming is a hobby

Icelanders go to the heated outdoor swimming pools, where the water either comes from the hot springs or the geothermal power plant, at least once a week. It’s a place for social interaction, where they discuss weather and politics with strangers. You must always take a shower before going into the pool — they have strict policies about this. Everyone highly recommends visiting the Blue Lagoon, a huge outdoor geothermal spa. 

Harpa- a concert hall and conference centre in Reykjavík

5. It’s not that cold

Despite the name suggesting otherwise, the coastal climate in Iceland is mild. Even though summers in Iceland don’t get hot, the winters don’t get cold either. The average temperature in the summer in Reykjavik is 10 – 13 °C (50–55 °F). The average temperature in the winter is about 0 °C (32 °F).

6. Bright or Dark All Day

During the peak of summer, the sun stays out for 24 hours.  During the middle of winter, there are only a few hours of daylight, but the northern lights fill the sky.  The best season to see the northern lights is from September to mid-April – the nights are darkest during these months.

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7. Icelanders Eat Puffins 

Puffins are small birds with black and white feathers, and they’re absolutely adorable. The puffin population in Iceland is around 8-10 million. Icelanders eat puffins all the time and a raw puffin heart is considered a delicacy. You can find a meal similar to this on a restaurant menu: “smoked puffin with blueberry sauce.”

There couldn’t have been a better advertisement for Iceland’s tourism industry than the volcano eruption in 2010 that resulted in the cancelation of thousands of flights. The number of visitors to Iceland more than doubled between 2010 and 2014. Tourism is currently country’s biggest source of export revenue, surpassing even fishing, which has dominated the nation’s economy since the Vikings first arrived in the ninth century. 

Icelandair has been crucial to this tourism boom because it offers travellers the option of stopping over in Iceland for up to seven days for no extra airfare. So next time you’re flying across the Atlantic, have a layover in Iceland for at least 24 hours— you won’t regret it and will collect memories for a lifetime. Every time I look at the photo I took of the Gullfoss Waterfall, it reminds me what it felt like to stand at the edge of the earth.

Images: Courtesy of Demi Vitkute

 

Health

It is still fall and yet, somehow, winter is already upon us.  I know that there are people who are fortunate enough to live or go to school in a state where snow and cold weather are not a problem. But for those of us who have to deal with freezing temperatures and (worst of all) snow, here are a list of ways to stay warm:

  1. Tea/Coffee/Hot Chocolate – Having a nice, hot drink is essential to keeping warm. Not only are they extremely yummy but they also help warm you up in a matter of seconds. Get yourself a travel mug and fill it with a hot beverage of your choice.
  2. Layer up! – I know you might feel ridiculous at first but you won’t regret it later when you’re feeling nice and toasty. Put on several long-sleeved shirts, sweaters, a hoodie, two pairs of socks, and leggings underneath your jeans or sweats. Throw on whatever you have and don’t worry if it doesn’t match. The more layers you have on, the warmer you’ll be. Trust me!
  3. Gloves, hats, and scarves – Remember that hat and scarf set your grandma made you? You know the one you didn’t want to wear because it makes you look funny? Well, now is the time to break it out! If your grandma doesn’t knit or crochet, then you should probably go to the nearest Walmart or Target and stock up on gloves/mittens (2-3 pairs will do) and get yourself a scarf and hat set if you don’t already have one.
  4. Are you sleeping near the window? – Unfortunately, I had to push my bed up against the window so we’d have more floor space in the room. If you’re in the same predicament as I am, make sure to keep more than one blanket on the bed. Also try to keep the curtains closed at all times to block the air out and keep the heat on when you’re in the room. If you don’t have heat in your room, get a small space heater (if it’s allowed on your campus). Lastly, don’t forget to sleep with a pair of socks on and a warm pair of pajamas or a onesie!
  5. No canvas shoes – I learned the hard way that canvas shoes don’t really do anything to keep your feet warm. If you can, try to avoid wearing them in the colder weather because your feet will freeze up as soon as you step outside. If you don’t have a wide range of shoes to pick from, then wear two pairs of socks with your canvas shoes to protect your feet from the bitter cold.
  6. Eat warm food – No ice cream or frozen yogurt during this time of the year, unless you really can’t live without it. Instead, eat any soup or stew you can find. Those are the kinds of things you eat when it’s cold out. Not only are they filling but they also will help keep you warm.
  7. Are you forgetting something? – I have quite a few friends who walk outside without some sort of coat or jacket on and I never understand it. Don’t be like them! The key to surviving these cold months is to stay as warm as possible and the best way to do that is to wear a coat or a jacket. Whatever it is that you have! If you forget to put it on, then you’ll more than likely regret it.

There are not any right or wrong ways to stay warm. Do whatever works for you! These are just a few tips that help me survive the colder months. How do you stay warm?

Image: Jens Cedar