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Iceland from the air. Posted by on Jun 14, 2012 in Icelandic culture, Icelandic customs

For the last couple of weeks I’ve been on a bit of a vacation and while it was most fun and relaxing it also feels good to be back.

I have to admit that when I first moved to Iceland it was out of necessity rather than any real wish of living here. I had a perfectly comfortable life back home and had I not met an Icelander who swept me off my feet I would perhaps not have even visited Iceland, ever. However, as things went I ended up living and studying here and despite the initial difficulties somehow, without me noticing it, Iceland grew on me. The first sign was that I had accidentally begun to refer to Iceland as “home” and now I realized, to my great surprise, that being away now made me miss Iceland!

The plane took off in clear weather. This gave us a magnificent opportunity to watch and photograph Iceland from far above it and boy, did we ever. Iceland is such a beautiful little country it defies belief. I’ve often said when I look at mountain Esja on my way to the university that it doesn’t even look real. It’s like a backdrop, a computer wallpaper blown out to gigantic proportions, and the feeling has not changed even after climbing her (don’t worry you folks, I will take you to the top of the mountain in yet one more post about the climbing trip). Seeing Iceland from above is quite an unforgettable experience: on our way back we had a steady flow of enthusiastic photographers crawl behind our seats because apparently the view was at its best behind the last seats – I actually have no idea why but I do understand the feeling of looking out of the plane window and wanting to shout out the first word that comes into mind out of sheer beauty shock*.

I apologize in advance for what will now become a photo flooding post. After going through all the photos taken from the plane I really cannot contain myself, and even as photographs cannot ever fully do justice to reality I hope to be able to show you just a glimpse of the experience.

Reykjavík from above and behind it the ever so lovely Esjan.

It may be good to note that the takeoff and landing can be a little bit rocky on Iceland’s side. This is due to the strong winds that are very usual around here. However, the Icelandic pilots are among the top in the world and it’s easy to tell you’re in good hands when travelling on a plane flown by them. There’s a saying that goes that in weather conditions that elsewhere would keep planes down, Icelandic pilots go up on practice flights.

Hvalfjörður, “the Whale Fjord”. There’s a local story linked to this fjord: once upon a time a man so angered an elf lady that she turned him into a whale and left him swimming around in the fjord where he caused massive damage to people out of anger. One day he drowned a relative of a priest who then decided to do something about the whale, lured it to follow him up the fjord and then up a river and to a waterfall. The whale trashed so wildly it re-shaped the waterfall that was then known as Glymur (= resound, rumble, echo), and when it had finally made its way up and to a lake upstream of the fall it was so tired it exploded. The lake’s name is Hvalvatn, Whale Lake.

Langjökull (= Long Glacier) up ahead. It’s the second largest glacier of Iceland only bested by Vatnajökull (= Water Glacier).

A cloud goes over a mountain.

Mountains with what I like to call “lazy clouds”, clouds that cannot be bothered to glide across the sky but instead lay down on the ground. I have to repeat myself a little here: Iceland’s beauty is so unbelievable it’s hard to believe even after seeing it.

Then for the Icelandic lessons of this post! Icelandair likes to teach tourists some handy vocabulary.

In this occasion all of the words printed on the sides of the cup mean a cup of some kind (although we’re not entirely certain on the word “drekka“, which seems to only be used as a verb “to drink”).

The pillows also come with a print, this time an Icelandic lullaby Bíum bíum bambaló made famous by Sigur Rós.

The head rest covers are also printed with useful phrases in Icelandic. This one’s my personal favourite of them all, although the one teaching how to say thank you both in the formal (þakka þér fyrir) and the informal way (takk) is also a good one.

And now I suppose it’s time to relax a little, unpack, admire my Saintpaulias that have been in such good care while I’ve been gone that they’ve begun to blossom, go buy some groceries and perhaps stop to admire Esjan for a while on the way. Be it above it or on the ground I don’t think I’ll ever get used to looking at Iceland.


*For me it would apparently be “mugwump”. Yes, I actually stopped to think of this in the middle of a blog post, whoops. I also realize that had I never read Harry Potter I would not likely have learned it in the first place…

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About the Author: hulda

Hi, I'm Hulda, originally Finnish but now living in the suburbs of Reykjavík. I'm here to help you in any way I can if you're considering learning Icelandic. Nice to meet you!