Travellers around the world write their impressions and stories about the countries they visit. It has been written so much about stunning Iceland, its nature, people, culture, old sagas, cities and villages. And surely, it is well deserved. I have decided that this story is going to be told a bit differently, from the eyes and hearts of theirs. Who knows their country better than them? I would like them to speak out loud, and this short article is my honour and thanks for the unforgettable and extraordinary one and a half years of living here.
So I asked a simple question: ‘What do you love about your country the most?‘ Various people: men and women, young and old, different professions, point of view on life, background, experience. From students to lifetime-long guides, from always laughing and chatty person to a complete introvert, from youngsters through parents to grandparents, people living in cities or little villages. They all have, though, one thing in common. They love their country.
So what do they say?
‘The variety of nature that also often feels alive. The driving attitude in people towards whatever is facing them and that ‘þetta
‘I like the nature, the clean water, and air. I love the sense of community, to belong to a closely-knit society which still cares about each other. And swimming pools. They are the best!’
‘I love to lie down in a field of thick moss, especially on one of those long summer nights when there‘s a gentle breeze and the sky is clear. There‘s something quite unique about Icelandic heathlands; the softness of the moss, the fresh smell of wild thyme and the incredibly delicate and beautiful purple flowers of the heather, while the golden plover, whimbrel and black-tailed godwit sing their summer tunes above and around me. When the days get shorter and this island is wrapped in the darkness of winter I just need to close my eyes and I‘m back there again; in the union of fresh, lightly scented air, orange evening light, and the feel of soft moss. This is what I love about my country.’
‘What I love the most about Iceland is the sense of togetherness between Icelanders. Any two Icelanders will have at least one common friend/acquaintance and can bond together through that. Also, when bad things happen here Icelanders almost always band together and try to help in any way they can.’
‘After I have been thinking about it, I discovered that it is the nature and the connection to the nature that is most important to me. I like the space and nature is close.’
‘Well, of course, I love nature. The water and fresh air.’
‘Safety is number one for me since I had my children. I would also mention clean air and healthy food that is not produced in the factories, with steroids and such. I have lived in a major city and that made me appreciate the small-town feeling even more.’
‘One of the best things about Iceland is the swimming pools. Swimming brings nourishment to body and soul. All this hot water is used all over the country in swimming pools. I know what it would be like to live without them. I lived for 5 years in Denmark where there are fewer pools and not as hot. Right now, I have about a 5-minute walk from the next pool and my family goes swimming as many times as we can, many times each week.’
‘Even though the weather can be sad, it does keep away a lot of unwanted bugs and insects! I like how small the population is sometimes, every Icelander knows a large percentage of the total population and I love the nature here, the clear lakes, the Rocky Mountains, the sharp fjords and the strange green colour of the moss.’
It is remarkable to hear their voices, laughter, read their words. Iceland indeed is a fascinating country, where one of the biggest treasures is not only unique and breathtaking nature, clean waters and air, but their small communities and compassion they show to each other. Living there has taught me a lot and undoubtedly this time became one of my most precious memories. From being a long term volunteer in the (mostly) international community, to work normally and being among Icelanders in their every-day lives. Getting to know them, their lifestyles, habits, beliefs, or problems. When I think of ordinary days in Dalvík, our afternoon conversations with Ragnar and usual cups of coffee, retrospectively now I realise, that those were unique days full of stories about Iceland and his life. I always found it fascinating. He took us to a journey diving into his memories, shared it all with laughter and passion and I will always be grateful I could meet and spend some time with such a person.
I can not end this article without expressing my thanks to all the inspirational and kind people I met, and also mentioning things which are becoming rarer in this age. I remember days we went picking the berries and ate them straight away, collected herbs and made teas, drank the freshwater from waterfalls and brooks without any worries of pollution. The fresh arctic air filled our lungs and view of the fjord our souls.
Iceland, Icelanders, thank you for everything! See you soon again.
‘The biggest adventure you can ever take is to live the life of your dreams.’