I lived in Reykjavík for 2 months and got hit pretty hard by post-Iceland blues, when I had to go back to Copenhagen. I actually started being sad weeks before even leaving Reykjavík, because I loved the place so much. None of my friends or family back home had been to Iceland, which made it difficult to explain to them why I was feeling blue. However, it really got my reflections going, as I had to attempt to explain it by pin-pointing specific aspects of Iceland and Icelandic culture that made me miss Iceland so damn much. So here you go! While in Iceland don’t forget to appreciate:
You can drink tap water in Denmark as well – it is actually quite good. However, it is nothing compared to Icelandic tap water. Or even better: Icelandic water straight from the glaciers. Nothing beats filling up your reusable water bottle with fresh, cool water from an Icelandic river or just dipping your head straight in there. It is amazing. I miss it every day.
Ever since I visited Iceland for the first time in the summer 2018 I have trying to learn Icelandic. I will never fully learn it – that much is certain! It is simply too complex. However, it is also a beautiful language and it is great fun and a wonderful challenge. I love it. While living in Reykjavík I went to Icelandic class 3 times a week in the evenings and I learned so much. Even though I am back in Copenhagen I keep practicing once a week in an evening school. What is really cool about Icelandic is that it is the closest language to the original old norse that the vikings used to speak. Thus, it teaches me a lot about all of the Scandinavian languages too. So by learning Icelandic I am actually improving my Norwegian and Swedish skills as well. Total win!
… and the gyms and the best hot yoga (shout out to Sólir on Fiskislóð). Finding motivation to live a healthy and active life in Reykjavík was so easy. First of all because the gyms are amazing, but second because they are combined with amazing geothermal swimmingpools. What better motivation to go to the gym than a geothermal dip with the locals. I miss this way more than I can even begin to describe.
Snúður is the Icelandic version of a cinnamon roll. We have someting similar in Denmark and I have also tried an amazing Finnish version in Helsinki (with cardemom). However, Icelandic snúður is someting very special. The bread is soft, juicy and never dry nor smothered in butter. My favorite version is a classic cinnamon snúður. It comes warm from the oven and it is perfection.
The ice cream
I love how Icelanders love their ice cream. Even in during winter the cold weather does not stop the Icelanders from an ísbíltúr (a pass time that involves getting in the car and going for ice cream). I totally understand! The ice cream is amazing. I especially miss a good bragðaref (soft serve mixed with candy of your choice and stirred) with cookie dough. It is approximately a thousand calories – but so worth it. Also, there is no such thing as a small ice cream in Iceland. Even when you order a small you get a giant portion, which you can then eat with no guilt. Love it!
The Icelandic nature
Icelandic nature is what I miss the most and at the same time it is the thing that is hardest to explain to people who have not been to Iceland. Icelandic nature is so incredibly beautiful. There are no words to describe it and yet here goes: Icelandic nature changes radically from area to area. It can be baren, black sand deserts for kilometers or lush and green beautiful fields with purple lupin flowers all over. It can be filled with powerful waterfalls hidden behind dramatic cliffs. It can be frozen and majestic glaciers that invite you to ice climb them and ice caves that wait to be explored. It can be volcanic craters that you can explore or go for a geothermal swim in. It can be crazy rivers just waiting for you to go rafting or ocean waters with gentle giants such as hump back whales. The list goes on and on. It cannot be compared to any other country. Icelandic nature is simply breathtaking.
I have never been to a city with so many cats as Reykjavík. I miss stopping on a random street for a spontaneous 5 minute break to chat with a random fur ball who is in the mood for some attention. It was one of the things that made me stop for a minute during the day. No matter how hectic work was there was always room for a kitty break. I miss these little unplanned pauses.
The weather optimism
I never realized how much Danes complain about the weather until I lived in Reykjavík. Finally, people who appreciate a sunny day – or even just a non-windy day or even just an above 15 degrees day. 14-16 degrees celsius is summer in Iceland and Icelanders do not hesitate for one minute to put on their shorts and enjoy the weather. By the swimmingpools they lay in the sun to get a tan – in 16 degrees weather. I love it. I lived in Reykjavík in the summer of 2019, which was the warmest and driest summer ever recorded in Iceland. Deeply concerning from a global warming perspective. Nonetheless, I made the most of it and went exploring as much as I possibly could in the lovely weather. I loved every ray of sunlight and so do the Icelanders.
The summer sky
Since I was beyond lucky with the summer weather of 2019 I experienced countless of amazing sunsets in Reykjavík. I have never experienced sunsets like the once I saw in Reykjavík. Also, due to the midnight sun the beautiful, colorful skies continue for hours. It is a light show you can just keep staring at from 10.00 pm to 02.00 am. Amazing.
Both in terms of fresh groceries (shout out to Krónan on Fiskislóð) and dinning places and cafés Reykjavík is a jewel. I really miss Icelandic tomatoes – they grow them in geothermal greenhouses – and salmon. Oh my goodness the salmon. Nothing compares to fresh Icelandic salmon. I miss treating myself to “fiskur og franskar” (fish and chips) or a “pylsa” (hotdog) for a cheat meal over lunch time. And I seriously miss the best sourdough pizza I have ever had (shout out to Flatey in Grandi). I heard some people say that it is hard to come by fresh vegetables in Iceland. This is certainly not true! Veggies are in no way in short supply in Iceland where both vegetarian and vegan food is booming – and really, really good even though I love food far too much to restrict myself to any of these diets.
The fresh air
… even in Reykjavík the air is amazingly fresh. The size of the city equals fairly few cars compared to other capital cities around the world, which means less pollution. My skin had never looked better than when I lived in Reykjavík! Apart from this, if you want some really, really fresh air the most amazing landscapes are right at you doorstep, when you’re in Reykjavík. I really miss having my next arctic adventure just around the corner and available to me as soon as it became weekend.
The quiet mornings
… and just in general peace and quite. While in Reykjavík I worked from a co-working studio on Fiskislóð, where I rented a hot desk amongst great people (shout out to Minør Studio). I worked Danish office hours, which ment that I started my day at “the office” at 7 am. I am not a morning person so I seriously dreaded this. However, I grew very fond of my quiet Reykjavík mornings, biking to the studio at 06.30 am through the sleepy streets of Reykjavík, feeling the fresh, clean air on my face and taking in the smell of freshly baked snúður on the way.
The clean people
… not that Danes are dirty. However, Icelandic hygiene by the public swimmingpools is something to admire and learn from. Strip down, get your naked butt in the shower and wash your entire body properly with soap before putting one your swimsuit and getting in the pool. Common sense – or so you would think! Icelanders are brought up with this and so taking a proper shower before getting in the pool with everybody else is natural to them. Just as it should be. Also, after any other sort of exercise, Icelanders happily strip down and take a proper shower. No one is embarrassed and there is no reason to be. I miss this. After returning to Copenhagen I started to notice how this shouldn’t be taken for granted. Far from everybody takes a shower after a hot yoga class (ew! by the way) and not all know how to properly wash before going into a public swimming pool (also gross). Icelanders shower proudly and thoroughly and I respect that.
The calm people
I find that the temper of Icelandic people is in general comparable to that of Icelandic horses: They don’t bite, they don’t kick, they are dependable, kind and even tempered creatures. Icelanders are calm. What ever seems to be the problem it will work itself out – “þetta reddast” as the Icelanders say and live by. This laidback perspective on life took a little getting used to for me, but it really grew on me while living in Reykjavík. Now it is something that I seriously miss in hectic everyday life in Copenhagen. Also, making plans with an Icelander often involves “in the weekend” or “in the afternoon” or “I’ll give you a call later” and rarely at a specific time. Not that Icelanders are not punctual or don’t get things done – they just don’t stress about things. I love it and I miss it.
I was lucky to be able to work amongst very inspiring, independent professionals at Minør Studio. I think it is pretty safe to say that I was the one with to most corporate job in that place. Everybody else were either artists, graphic designers, fashion designers, freelance photographers and all sorts of entrepreneurs. Also, I was very lucky to live with a freelance photographer and restaurant and hotel entrepreneur. I miss being around all these inspiring, independent people, who create beautiful things.
Cover image by Ben Simon Rehn.