Well, I am back in Iceland… and it is very white and very cold, and very wonderful to be back with my very handsome Viking.
My return to Australia was fleeting. I soaked up some sunshine, completed a portrait commission & tried to explain to my parents, friends, horse & hound why another 2 months in dead winter in Iceland was necessary… repacked my adventure pants and hopped on a plane and buggered off.
Long haul flights are never fun, but my wonderful and unquestioning travel agent Liane from Travel Dreamers in Terrey Hills made sure I had short and sweet lay overs, so it was as painless as it could be. I flew Sydney, Dubai, Oslo, Reykjavik… about 25hours in the air and plenty more getting frisked and emptying out hand luggage for X-rays. As we left Oslo and had to have the aircraft de-iced, I realised sunny Sydney and 30 degree days were far far away.
The change in the Icelandic landscape since my departure in November was apparent as we flew in to Keflavik (the International Airport near Reykjavik) with the landscape blanketed in snow. The rough rocky lava fields, were smooth sweeping planes of white. Winter had come.
I arrived late on December 30th and was met with flowers and a large smile from my handsome Viking at the airport… so despite my bag having gone AWOL I was thrilled to be back.
New Years Eve day dawned… eventually… sometime after 11am, (with solstice having been a week earlier, there is only approximately 4hours of “daylight”- the sun never gets higher than a few inches from the horizon). The snow was falling in large thick fluffy flakes, which made me quite excited, so we went exploring down near the shore, a short walk from Jón’s apartment.
We started our NYE’s celebrations with Jón cooking me an Icelandic feast including the long promised Rjúpa (Ptarmigan – the fat white birds we had climbed a mountain in a blizzard to shoot in November… they had been in the deep freeze awaiting my arrival). From the diet of wild blueberries, the meat has a dark almost berry like colour, they are lean and quite gamey tasting birds, delicious! I am incredibly lucky to have found a Viking who is a very talented cook!! ( Ptarmigan hunting post)
At 22:30, on the dot, every single Icelander (seriously, the streets of Reykjavík were completely empty bar a few ignorant tourists) sits down to watch Áramótaskaup, a satirical sketch show that summarises the year past. This is the most anticipated TV event in Iceland every year (the only thing that comes close is probably when the Icelandic Handball team is doing well in international competitions or Eurovision) and EVERYONE has an opinion on how terrible or fabulous it was. So as I was spending NYE with a local, we had to watch the show, obviously most of the show is in Icelandic so I didn’t understand much at all (also not helped by taking the opportunity to sneak in a quick power nap) but if you want to experience a real Icelandic new years eve you can’t miss it.
After the tv show, we headed to the Hallgrímskirkja, the largest church in Iceland, to watch the fireworks…. where a large percentage of the population gather to out do each other with their own personal firework collection. It seemed to me the closer to blowing away the bell tower you got, the more impressed the crowd were. There are no official fireworks, just a desire to out gun your neighbours or mates with fire sparkle power…