Beware Iceland's Nordic goddesses (and why they had to extradite Bjork)

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The Independent Online

Stacey really wanted to get away for her birthday. "Maybe Paris?" she wondered aloud. I promised her that I'd sort something out. Sadly, I got a bit drunk and did a bit of a late-night internet impulse buy. At the breakfast table the following morning I suddenly remembered what I'd done. "By the way, I've booked a weekend for your birthday," I muttered nonchalantly as I munched my muesli. "Oh, you shouldn't have," she said, squealing with delight, leaving me in no doubt that there would have been serious trouble if I hadn't. "Is it Paris?" she asked. I took a deep breath. "No. It's Iceland." There was a long silence, one of those silences that say so much more than words ever could. Finally, "The Ice Hotel? That's very romantic of you." "No, no," I replied. "Iceland, the country made of ice near the Arctic Circle. The Ice Hotel's in Lapland or somewhere really boring." There was an even longer, even more eloquent silence. "We're going snowmobiling and we're going to see a glacier," I said hopefully. "A

Stacey really wanted to get away for her birthday. "Maybe Paris?" she wondered aloud. I promised her that I'd sort something out. Sadly, I got a bit drunk and did a bit of a late-night internet impulse buy. At the breakfast table the following morning I suddenly remembered what I'd done. "By the way, I've booked a weekend for your birthday," I muttered nonchalantly as I munched my muesli. "Oh, you shouldn't have," she said, squealing with delight, leaving me in no doubt that there would have been serious trouble if I hadn't. "Is it Paris?" she asked. I took a deep breath. "No. It's Iceland." There was a long silence, one of those silences that say so much more than words ever could. Finally, "The Ice Hotel? That's very romantic of you." "No, no," I replied. "Iceland, the country made of ice near the Arctic Circle. The Ice Hotel's in Lapland or somewhere really boring." There was an even longer, even more eloquent silence. "We're going snowmobiling and we're going to see a glacier," I said hopefully. "As a Canadian, that's not going to be much of a novelty, to be honest," she growled. She wasn't a happy bunny.

Nevertheless here we are in Reykjavik, the northernmost capital city in the world. It's minus seven outside and we've just been snowmobiling. I had a really good time. I keep trying to cheer Stacey up but she just leafs through this magazine that has loads of pictures of Paris and shops and hardly any glaciers.

We went out on the town last night and the place is seriously hip. Apparently Damon Albarn part-owns some trendy bar somewhere. We went on a bar crawl and kept an eye out for it but the local vodka kicked in and, to be honest, the whole evening became a bit of a blur.

Having several months of the year where there is no daylight really focuses one's artistic side. There are "happenings" everywhere. Admittedly most revolve around dark suicidal thoughts but I'm sure everyone cheers up for the three weeks they call summer.

If I had to give a potential visitor here some advice it would probably be to avoid the guided tour of Iceland's forests. There wasn't a tree in the whole country until just after the Second World War. Then Leaf Treetrunkson, a proper Icelandic hero, brought a Norwegian spruce over on his boat and planted it in his back tundra. The rest is recent history. There are now trees, not many, but there are some and they are very proud of them. We were taken to a "forest" where we sat under the 20 or so spruces for a couple of minutes before deciding to move on. The countryside is staggeringly beautiful. Jagged mountains jut out of enormous lava fields while the fiery furnace that clearly lies not far beneath the place belches out violent spurts of steam. If there's a drawback it's the subtle sulphurous smell of the water that is tapped straight out of the ground. Sampling the delights of the hotel steam room, I saw little difference between it and me locking myself in a small glass box after an excellent baked bean dinner. Still, vive la différence as they might say in Paris, if we had gone there.

The other factor causing some marital friction here is the ratio of women to men. On an unscientific basis I would say that it is about four women to every man. Not only that but the women are gorgeous (Björk was extradited for failing the strict "looker" test) and the men look like physics boffins. Oh to have discovered this place when I was inter-railing rather than when I was happily married. Of course I now don't pay any attention to these Nordic goddesses as they stride around looking for single men to pick off. The physics boffins huddle in frightened groups in coffee shops. They look at you, desperate for support, but you can only look away and leave them to their hideous fate. Next year it'll have to be Paris but farewell Iceland, land of ice. You're seriously cool.

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