Have just come home from a fantastic holiday in Iceland. When I was a teenager I read about the aurora borealis in Iceland and wanted to go ever since. These fantastical green lights were the closest thing to magic on this earth as far as I was concerned.
So I went. We saw the lights, despite thinking we wouldn’t due to low visibility, rain and snow during out 5 days there. It’s hard to describe and certainly a camera does a better job but I also think a camera lies because it has a better lens than the human eye (if you put it on slow shutter speed, that is). What you see are green ribbons that first you think is trick of the eye. They moved in languishing wiggles, trying to break from under the cloud cover. But they are beautiful. Even though we didn’t see the best ones, I was satisfied.
What surprised me even more than the aurora, is how magical the rest of Icelandic landscape is. Our hotel had a panoramic diningroom that looked out over the sea to distant mountains. On our last morning at breakfast we could see stunning snow sprinkled mountains to the north, shrouded in cloud. To the east we could see the sun breaking through and rays of light striking the side of some glass covered tall buildings. And directly in front of us it started to snow. Within minutes the horizontal snow had covered the streets in icing sugar and the mountains had vanished completely behind thick grey clouds. That was it, we thought, view over for the day. But no, minutes later it cleared again and the sky was blue, the mountains back again like some photoshopping trick. I had read about Iceland’s everchanging weather in the guidebooks but to see it before my eyes, an nature documentary camera whizzing through the seasons in seconds, was astonishing. It must have swung from snow to sun, clouds to mountains about four times during the time it took use to eat some waffles and sausages that morning.
LOTR may have been filmed in New Zealand but I have not seen as fantastical a landscape as Iceland before. You have volcanoes and geothermic pools of water hissing steam and bubbling at the surface. You have geysirs shooting water tens of metres into the air in angry bursts between placid calm. You have stunning waterfalls battering the sides of lava rocks and deep chasms as teutonic plates pull apart. In some places it is so bleak, stark without trees or much wildlife. The only thing that grows in abundance is moss and yet, I’ve never felt so invigorated. You can imagine yourself as an intrepid explorer, mounted on your trusty Icelandic stead. There’s nothing out there but your own imagination, your own will and physical strength to survive.