1. It’s a museum of the penis
Some people come to Iceland for the countryside, some too… eh … The Phallological Museum of Iceland, of course! The ICE Phallology Museum in Reykjavík has the largest penis exhibition in the world with more than 90 different species — including a whale penis of five feet. Seals, land mammals, and even the overshadowed persons are also penises (huldufólk). The museum has always tried to secure its first human donor in 2011 for a larger and better collection, but it has failed — the specimen has been shrink-blown and can not appear. But visitors didn’t make judgments, and after all, it isn’t about size, shape, or species (about 12000 people visit the museum every year)—this is what you do with it!
2. It’s called Magnús (nearly) everybody
Icelanders are strongly convinced that language is a basic element of national identity, but they take that extremely to try to preserve their heritage. Icelandic is one of the few languages which has remained unchanged since its inception. The Icelandic people can not use, for example, family names or adopt the surname of their spouse when they marry, and their parents must choose 1,712 male and 1 853 female names when their children are born. You can imagine what this means in a country as tiny as Iceland when you cry ‘Magnús!
3. Until 1989, the country prohibited Beer
A century ago, for political reasons, Iceland prohibited all alcoholic drinks. Although beer was ultimately legalized to red wine and spirits, it remained off-limits till 1 March 1989. Iceland struggled then for independence from Denmark, and beer associated with the Danish lifestyle was linked to Icelanders; hence the prohibition. Life has improved since 1989, and every year, on 1 March, Iceland is celebrating Bjordagur (Beer Day). Strange enough, alcohol is still extremely well-regulated in Iceland, only in the Vínbuðin store it can be bought. Supermarkets are made of what seems like real beer cans, but do not be fooled – the alcohol content here is only 2.25%.
4. Radiators are filled with water
Iceland is a natural power pioneer. Approximately 85% of Iceland’s energy use comes from renewable sources, and 66% from geothermal sources. There are clean radiator systems — strange and beautiful contraptions — full of water inside constructions and homes. You turn the heat and the sound of liquid rises through the inner avenues of the radiator and heats the room in an elegant, humid manner. In Iceland, you must always use the radiator as a drying rack, contrary to what you have learned throughout your life. Given the geothermal energy, drying up clothing on the radiators is not a fire hazard. You never feel any socks toaster, I guarantee. I guarantee.
5. Mosquitos do not exist
On my first trip to Iceland, I was terrified. Besides the cold that I was thinking I would solidify in the volcanic terrain, I was afraid of the mosquitoes. Maybe because of the Zika outbreak recently, or West Nile Virus, or because I lived in Taiwan — where it was difficult to ignore the ever-present threat of malaria — my mosquito fears almost stopped me from experiencing the wonders of the Ice nature. In the morning I woke up to brilliants copper-pink sunrise, wind hiss, and utterly zeros mosquitos after an evening camping on the outer reaches of the West Fjord. Iceland is an area where the weather is changing dramatically (and rapidly). Because of this, mosquitoes do not have enough time and die under harsh conditions to complete their life cycle. They can’t suck us here, sucks for them!
6. No trees exist
There are no trees in Iceland. Actually. Actually. However, that was not always the case. When the Viking settlers axed most of Iceland’s timber forests to clear land. Since then, the battle for reforestation has been uphill but the Icelandic Government made considerable efforts in this regard. Trees are apparently pretty finite; despite years of carefully replanted trees, little is progress has been made and the Icelandic landscape remains largely unclear (it’s exquisite, don’t get me wrong). The environment still attracts millions of tourists, of course, but in the face of climate change, it remains a cause for concern.
7. No rail system is available
Perhaps it is not surprising that there is no railway system in a small island nation. But when you’re stuck on a gas-free mountain road in 60 MPH winds, you tend to turn your thoughts to alternative modes of transport such as traveling by train while looking at the world outdoors. Iceland has previously played on several railways – three small ‘test’ trains were used, but none have been made public – but in all cases, the same conclusion is arrived at: in a country, with such a small population, a tough environment, and a high percentage of ownership of cars there is no point in building a railway. The latest gossip involves building a possible light rail system that links Reykjavík to the airport … but we will see that.
8. It’s just a step from North America
You can reach the intersection between North America and Europe only a 30-minute drive from Reykjavík. Seriously.-Seriously. Two severe earthquakes occurred in the summer of 2000 in South Iceland, which resulted in the shifting of the tectonic plates of Eurasia and North America — which pass through Iceland. Today you can visit Thingvellir, and stand on the bottom line between the two continents and immerse yourself in the water between them. Thingvellir is the perfect place, apart from being deeply cool, for a European to put this question to their future North-American fiancée — because of what better place than the meeting of the two hearts?
9. There are very few fast-food restaurants
Iceland had three McDonald’s until only a few years ago. However, following the financial crisis, the country restructured its economies and eventually decided to end the chain. McDonald’s did not stand a chance against the isolated island nation of just over 300,000 inhabitants. Iceland’s also use things such as a fish enzyme on the faces or spoon a daily dose of Omega-3 (“Lýsi”) into their morning cereal. They are very health conscious. I have only recently visited Iceland’s one remaining fast-food restaurant: KFC. But their health consciousness doesn’t stop there. This KFC was wrong — the chicken was good. There was something wrong. It’s been soft, humid, real. The KFC joints in the United Nations have not been a sodium-infused, xantham-rubber, half-sponge substance. It was outstanding, disorienting, and undeniably pleasant.
10. The liberal approach to marriage and divorce is in Iceland
Recently, I participated in what Icelanders call “Farming,” an essentially 14th birthday confirmation party for children. The family portrait is one of the main events of the party. All of them crowd together in front of the photographer: their parents, children, siblings, aunts and uncles, cousins, and spouses (many spouses). I was standing in front of my husband’s camera, his two previous children, his mother, partner, son, daughter from the past, and her mother, when the time came to photograph my family. I tried to smile. I tried to smile. The shutter snapped. The band scattered. Life continued. Life continued. Iceland’s marriage and divorce approach are very liberal.
11. Without sauce, there is no food
In Iceland, the sauce becomes almost holy and food is eaten without a culinary no-no. without it. Therefore, finding food that does not come with generous help from the sauce is unbelievably difficult. Tops to just a hot dog, for example, include typically three kinds of sauces: ketchup, hot-dog mustard, and “remúlaði” mayonnaise. You can also choose to add soft or crunchy onions to your sauce. Ice cream also has its own toppings. And meat.-And meat. And bread.-And bread. And crackers.-And crackers. However, the people of Iceland are on something. You will simply drink a bite from a hot dog in the palate of colorful sauces.
12. Often Icelanders talk in the air
I was actually startled by one of my first talks with an Icelander. We talked about the weather (what else?) and I said that I had to get used to how the wind swallows you all without warning and spit off a battered version of yourself before doing it again. “Jæja,” I asked them to clarify. The Icelander nodded and wasted. “Yes!” Yes! “It was sprinkling the air increasingly loudly. The Icelandic language is unique; the Icelanders are talking about what is called the “in-breath,” which means that while they are inhaling, they will sometimes say ” yes. This is to stress consensus or encourage the speaker to continue to speak. Quite strangely, this was the opposite effect on me. It immediately surprised me. I was asked, “What is wrong?! my immediate reaction!
13. BBQs are normal throughout the year
My husband approached me some time at the start of February with a sack of lamb meat. “The grill,” he said. I stared at him all deer-in-headlights. The snow was falling over the windy, frozen land without sound outside. What was he thinking? What was he thinking? In the dead winter, how can we possibly barbeque? But I didn’t know the uncompromising determination and grit of the Icelanders when barbequing was concerned. Icelanders may not turn away any barbeque — rain, snow, hurricane, or shine due to the phenomenal quality of Icelandic lamb meat. My husband dressed his orange jumping suit and put up the little portable barbecue outside our house later that day. By a window I watched him cook, not brave enough to face the cold or the weather. He set up a beach chair just beside the barbeque, and stayed there like a true Viking, flipping the meat and enjoying the sharp winter air and the surging wind.
14. Nudity and purity go hand in hand
On my first landing at the airport of Keflavík, I gave a huge lightbox ad in the airport; a dreamy looking woman floated in a pool of milky blue water, And under her text read: come and swim with us! Suddenly, in the darkness of my jet lag, I felt I wanted a tangy swim in Iceland. An hour later in the evening, I was in the locker room of the Sundhöllin, the oldest swimming pool in Reykjavík, trying to decipher an inscription attached to the wall: a naked stick, with red rolls, feet, head, and private armpits. I went into the locker, and then the mass nudity appeared. I never saw so many naked bodies at one time in my life. I then realized that although Icelanders’ liberalism and openness, cleanliness is strangely stringent. You must shower — clothing free before you swim. There are no exceptions.
15. Iceland is not as calm as you believe it to be
The calm of living in a rural village in Iceland’s north is unmatched; one wakes to the ocean’s sound, wind, the occasional neighbor of horses … and Honda Civic’s sweaty engine carries on its way. Drag races are a different type of pastimes, because of the absence of numerous activities, in the inhabitants of small rural villages in Iceland. It is therefore not unusual to hear the whirling sound of the continuous races every day. A closer look into the Icelandic society’s offbeat sect shows those behind the wheel; many are young men who work on their local trollers (large fishing boats). Many have taken up the sport, need to find something in order to filler their time, turn their humble sedans into fiery drag monsters.