Quirky. That’s the first word that springs to mind when I think of Iceland. Raw and beautiful, sure, but quirky most of all.
I love the sly sense of humour that comes across so well from the people, the friendliness, and the laid back attitude.
For someone who’s used to travelling to the States and being grilled by Immigration on the way in, the bare glance given to my passport at Keflavik was a surprise, the way the bus driver forgot to apply the handbrake when he stopped to let someone out on a hill on the way to our hotel, the way we were told to leave coats hanging on an open rack because “there is no crime in Iceland” was all a delight.
Of course, considering I am in Rekjavík for Iceland Noir, Iceland’s first festival of crime fiction, that’s a bit of a drawback. Still, better for all the crime to be committed on the page than on the streets—especially considering the long dark winter nights that are the current norm.
Getting to see fellow Murder Is Everywhere blogger Yrsa Sigurðardóttir is one of the highlights, but everything about this small country (and I’m talking population here—only around 325,000 people in total, most of whom live in or around the capital city) is a joyful experience.
I particularly liked the way they offered to sell you Icelandic Fresh Air at one of the gift shops, that the taxi drivers take a casual short cut through a supermarket car park to avoid waiting at traffic lights, and that there’s a sign in my hotel room saying that although the name Rekjavík translates to Smoky Bay because of the steam from the hot springs, smoking in my room was not allowed.
Maybe it’s the fact that at 10am you have to resist the urge to whisper in the streets because it feels like nobody is up yet, but at 3am the following morning they’re all still partying in the bars and restaurants.
Quirkiness presents itself in the way a bit of string is all that separates you from the 100degree water at the Geysir, and a smilingly delivered warning not to get wet. Or not to stand too near the edge of the drop-off into the freezing glacier-fed Gullfoss waterfall.
As I write this I have moderated one panel, for which I had to demonstrate a certain amount of moderation, and am waiting to appear on another panel, for which I am allowed to show no moderation at all. Later we have a trip laid on to try to capture the elusive Northern Lights.
Tomorrow, all too soon, I fly home to what will probably be a colder climate, with less humour and more rain. But a little bit of me will always remain in Iceland. I expected to be interested. Instead I find myself enthralled.
This week's Word of the Week is blamestorming, which is to sit around in a group discussing why a deadline was missed or a project failed, and who was responsible.