5 Silly Questions People Ask About Going to Iceland

Next month I’m going to Iceland, fulfilling a long-held dream I’ve been too lazy to pursue in the many years since I bought a second-hand guidebook that spells Reykjavik incorrectly, a pair of hiking boots that were too small, and then went to China instead. But now I’m going! And invariably the news is greeted by friends with a look of incredulity and the utterance of one of the following silly questions.

1. Why the heck are you going to Iceland?

Many consider the perfect holiday to be some combination of spreading their steadily increasing bulk across a sun bed/beach/attractive foreigner, shopping until it’s time to drop it like it’s hot on the dance floor, and preferably drinking enough not to remember much about any of it. That’s not really the appeal of Iceland. It’s more about geysers and glaciers and the Golden Circle and other grievous alliteration. My idea of a perfect holiday is traipsing across endlessly bleak landscapes, feet mangled by undersized boots, and relentless moaning about the frigid and forlorn weather. Why wouldn’t I go to Iceland?

2. Are you going to see the Northern Lights?

Maybe! Unfortunately this otherworldly celestial phenomena isn’t a controllable part of tourist infrastructure. Think of it like a wild My Little Pony: it is untameable by the meagre hand of man, its transcendent colours and staggering beauty only roaming the skies when it wishes. The Aurora is top of my all-time bucket list (well, second to ‘Meet Arnold Schwarzenegger’), and my accommodation offers wake-up calls if it obstinately appears in the middle of the night. All I can do is keep my fingers crossed.

3. Can you buy me some chicken nuggets?

What? Oh, I see. Iceland, a volcanically and geologically active country with well over a thousand years of fascinating history – including Vikings, vast environmental fluctuation, and wartime occupation – and a long tradition of high culture, religious freedom, and fine cuisine, shares its name with a cheap British supermarket long endorsed by a former member of Atomic Kitten. You are so witty! And now you’re not getting any puffin fillets.

4. Will you be killed by a volcano?

You may remember the pleasingly unpronounceable Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull trolling the entire planet in 2010 by belching a 30,000km high ash cloud into the sky and grounding flights across Europe and beyond for a week. I am reliably informed that this is what volcanoes consider ‘banter.’ Well, that’s over now. I’ll be fine. As long as I stay away from Bardarbunga, which has been spewing lava in northeast Iceland for over 7 weeks straight. What a legend, eh?

5. Do you think you’ll see the elves?

No one has actually asked me this. I just wanted an excuse to mention that, apparently, around half of the Icelandic population believes or entertains the notion of the Huldufolk, human-sized elves that are invisible to most people. I don’t believe in elves, but I do  believe in The Lord of the Rings. As far as I’m concerned I’m going to frickin’ Rivendell.

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