Iceland: Elves, Hidden People, and Living with Nature

We just returned from a quick 5-day trip to Iceland. Arriving at 4:30 am local time, in the dark and the rain, after leaving Boston at 6:00 pm puts your Circadian Rhythm into Jazz mode. Your eyes tell you one thing, your head tells you something else.

Being in a place so close to the Arctic Circle (66° North Latitude) the short day was a bit disconcerting.

Sunrise on our last day was 11:09 am and sunset was 3:33 pm. A whopping 4 hours 21 minutes of daylight. This time of year Iceland is dark with several hours of twilight they call daytime.

But, it does have some creative people.

One of the most popular spots on the island is the Blue Lagoon. An expansive, mystical place. You soak in geothermally heated waters, engulfed by mists, sipping an Icelandic Viking beer, surrounded by snowcapped volcanic peaks.

Water that is essentially wastewater from the power plant. It makes one feel like the manatees in Florida. The ones that gather in winter outside the warm water flowing from the power plant in Fort Lauderdale.

The water is pristine clean. They harness the geothermally superheated steam to power the turbines and generate electricity. Nevertheless, it is the stuff they discharge.

What a brilliant idea! Not only do they generate all their power and get all their hot water from a renewable source, they charge tourist to bath in the discharge. Brilliant.

Another draw to Iceland is the Northern Lights, Aurora Borealis. This phenomenon is visible as far south as 35° north latitude. But the level of light pollution in the US precludes most of it. We spent a few hours watching the lights dance in the

Well worth the effort. Listening to the comments from the uneducated masses (most of whom were Americans) was even more entertaining.

“I hear they don’t get turned on until 11”

“Why don’t they turn them on over the city?”

And then there are the legends of the Elves, Trolls, and other “hidden” people. Iceland has put curves in roadways (where none were needed) to avoid moving a rock they believe to be the home of these creatures.

They’ve hired mediums to negotiate with the hidden people. It’s like a government version of those ghost hunter shows. They never find anything, but somebody gets paid.

Legends abound of both benevolent and malevolent interactions between Icelanders and the hidden people. The stories are entertaining. They illustrate the proliferation of myths that become embedded in the fabric of a society.

So, do yourself a favor and head to Iceland. It is a beautiful country. They say there are two versions of Iceland, winter and summer. Short, dark winter days and long, bright summer days.  An experience worth adding to the list.

We’ll be back.