On my recent trip to Belgium and Slovakia, I flew Icelandic Air. I did that so I could have a free stop-over in Reykjavik. My favorite souvenir in Iceland was not a magnificent $200 hand-knit sweater. Beautiful! But, way out of my budget. No, I take interesting photos and then draw portraits for my best souvenirs.
There is a reason why they call the place Iceland. The place knows how to get cold. And, I was not prepared for the kind of cold I faced in Reykjavik. On a previous trip to the Arctic Circle, in Finland, I learned that cold doesn’t matter as long as you know how to dress for it. I was warm and comfortable in Finland. So, I guess I didn’t learn my lesson because, I repeat, I was not prepared for Iceland. I froze.
I knew to wear layers. I wore a T-shirt, a regular shirt, a pull-over hoodie, a coat, double pants and double socks. Notice, that list didn't include a hat, thermal winter coat, gloves, scarf or winter boots. (I had sneakers.) I was ready for winter in Belgium, but I wasn't in Belgium. Actually, the shoes were wrong for Belgium, too.
Anyway, I opted for two tours in the cold. The first was a night tour to see the Northern Lights. We’ve all seen the postcards with amazing greens, blues, purples and reds. What nobody ever tells you, until after you’ve paid for the tour, is that the “color” most often seen is white. My guide said that those other colors are only seen two or three times a season. Now, you know.
Okay, so they maybe should be called the “Northern Whites”. Regardless, they were amazing. From inside the warmth of van, I first saw a great band of white slash the sky from top to bottom. But, when I crawled out of the warmth of my van to face the full brunt of sub-freezing Iceland cold, I saw a double white “rainbow” cross the entire sky. Those lights continually danced and changed. The rainbow merged into a giant loop before totally disappearing. Then, I saw a huge halo over the mountains in the horizon. The final spectacle showed swirling curves across the sky like a Van Gogh painting. It was a “Starry Night” sky in real life.
The second tour was a day trip along the southern coast of Iceland to unpronounceable waterfalls, glaciers, beaches and a volcano that blurred together in the cold. The thermometer in the van claimed it was -11 degrees Centigrade outside. That didn’t include the wind chill factor with a gale force strong enough to knock you over. At one point, I took this photo of fellow passenger Ben. I thought he looked as cold and miserable as I felt. And, he had the perfect name for a title.