ICELAND

During my time in New York, Columbia scheduled a week of vacations in the middle of the term. Flights back to most parts of the US were really expensive and looking at the map Iceland seemed suddenly incredibly close, if compared to when I lived in Munich. I really wanted to get at an out from the buzzing lights and loud noises of New York and I knew Nikita would be the perfect partner in crime for this random expedition (I later realised that my flight was double as long as his, since London-Reykjavík is about 3h, but anyway). Booking one month in advance made the whole thing relatively affordable and so I did just that.

Of course back then I had no idea that it would be one of the coldest winters ever reported in New York since Scrat lived in that geographic area during Ice Age. (Fyi Scrat is the name of the saber-toothed squirrel in the film(s) Ice Age, if you need the perfect imitation of his eye-tick, you should get in touch with my dad, he’s the master.) So as it turned out, I found myself in the middle of a snowstorm with about 1m of snow and any imaginable flight from Newark Airport being cancelled. Nikita (being 6h in advance to my time in New York) was taking his flight with the almost certain scenario in which my flight would not even have taken off from Newark. Funnily, while flights cancelled continued being cancelled consistently, mine was still scheduled.

My mom, who knew about the snowstorm and my rational plan to fly through it and over the ocean to Iceland, called me while I was waiting to depart. She has this funny habit of focussing on the worst scenario possible. So there I was, waiting in an almost empty airport hall while she literally said goodbye, as if it was the last time she would be able to talk to me. Looking back, that actually made sense: the airport was empty and our flight was the only one to depart. As it turned out, Icelandic pilots are used to snowstorms and most importantly, cheap airlines have to pay high fees to park their planes overnight. Hence we took off, and 5h later, there I was.

I arrived at 6am in the morning, took the bus to town and started strolling around while I waited for Nikita to wake up (he arrived the day before and slept in a hostel overnight). It was cold and dark, I remember that all shops were closed and I was possibly the only person around at that time. I was listening to Tilted by Christine and the Queens in a loop and passed by the Cathedral, which looked like this. I wondered about the image that the church wanted to give to his supporters. All I could think of was this daunting, severe, imposing figure that looked all but inviting and loving to me.

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The atmosphere was melancholic and the air cut my face while I climbed up the hill to the center. After some time Nikita woke up and we met for breakfast. Just after we took off with our little red car. We put on Paul Kalkbrenner and drove without any direction. At some point, after driving through some breathtaking landscapes, we parked just by the street and hiked up what we later called “Mohnkuss”.

When we arrived on top (this is obviously a diachronic statement, since I arrived at least 10min after him), this is what I saw: Nikita heading to some meteo-station.

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And this is my first view of Iceland from an elevated point.

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In the next days, we drove through empty streets where I could drive illegally (I don’t have a driving licence–yet!) and practice serenely. This is how it looked:

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We had long walks in sand, encountering geysers, beautiful cliffs and icebergs floating in lakes.

The force of water

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This is a cliff we hiked to. It was full of birds, which created nests all over the unreachable parts. Eventually the sun came out and we fell asleep in the smooth grass.

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This is what we could see around us. The ocean to the front and Iceland’s coast to our sides.

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One day, after a very long walk featuring a very very long discussion about global warming, climate change and whether the individual can actually make a difference on a daily basis, we got to this black sand beach. The waves were huge and the wind was really waving us away.

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Nikita and the waves

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Together with the time I was in Nubra Valley with my brother, this was one of the most silent and introspective places I have been so far. I think both of us remember it as such.

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