Of all of the things I have seen in Iceland, there has been nothing more beautiful than this dog.
This dog and I met for only a brief moment, but that moment was long enough to last a lifetime. He or she barked at me as though to say, “take my picture from a better angle,” and from then on out, I knew we were kindred spirits. We came across each other while we were hanging out on the bridge overlooking Hakid at the Þingvellir National Park. Don’t get me wrong, Hakid was beautiful, but it was nothing compared to this dog’s sweet face.
Here is a comprehensive list of things I saw on my trip that could have been more beautiful than this dog but absolutely were not.
Before I get started, I would like to extend a special thank you to all of the Icelanders who met with me this week. Takk to Professers Ólafur Harðarson and Hannes Hólmsteinn Gissurarson at the University of Iceland who know more about Icelandic politics than I can ever dream to know. Takk to Andri Þór Sturluson and Benedikt Jóhannesson who are serving Iceland as representatives for AlÞingi. Finally, takk to researchers Megan Whittaker and Þorvaldur Gunnlaugsson who are busy keeping whales in Iceland sustainable.
Now, let’s begin.
1. Faxaflói Bay
Every morning I woke up to the salty breeze of Faxaflói Bay. Anytime I was lost in Reykjavík, it was my guiding source. In Chicago, I orient myself based on my position to Lake Michigan. Here, I was able to look towards the bay and know where I was in the city, just like in Chicago. The bay was like bringing a little bit of my city to this city.
2. Reykjavík’s Street Art
Walking the streets of Reykjavík, I saw countless street paintings on walls and buildings. Every time I passed one of those works of art, I experienced a new love for this city and it’s weird nordic grunge vibe. Every part of the city became more beautiful with a little spray paint and creative charm.
3. Tjörnin Pond
In the heart of Reykjavík, there was a pond where anyone could go to just relax and feed the swans, ducks and other birds. One day I spent almost an hour walking around the pond and videotaping the birds. I took so many photos and videos that my phone died, but it was worth it.
The Fontana Hot Springs are a secret gem, tucked away where no tour buses drive. The hot springs are full of geothermally heated pools and saunas that naturally relax you. Our class moved from one pool to the next. They got progressively hotter and hotter until we were ready to do our own little “polar plunge” into the lake next to the hot springs. Finally, we dipped our heads into the freezing cold lake and ran directly back into the hottest pool of the park. Stepping back into the hotter water, my body felt like fire. That being said, I still went back for a second round. Leaving the hot spring, my body was the most relaxed it’s ever been.
Ah, Þingvellir, the park where I met my dog friend. Þingvellir National Park is also the original location of Iceland’s parliament. The park was the first stop on our “Golden Circle” tour. Exploring the park, our class found little ledges where we could look out into Iceland, and assert our dominance over the Icelandic wilderness. Our tour guide called the area an Icelandic “holy spot.” Looking around the park and feeling the nature, I could tell why.
Geysir Hot Springs was the next stop on our tour. We did see the park’s largest geyser, Strokkur, erupt once, but our class spent the majority of our time trekking up a large hill to look over the land again. We all wanted to take pictures on top of the hill. As we were heaving and forcing our way to the top, the new motto of our trip become, “do it for the Insta.”
Gullfoss waterfall was the last stop on our “Golden Circle” tour. Visiting the waterfall was a special blast from the past for me. The last time I had been to Gullfoss, I was five-years-old. My military family was stationed in Iceland at the time, and we decided to visit Gullfoss in the dead of winter. Unfortunately, since it was colder than usual, there was no one else at the park that day, and the outhouse was locked. Poor little five-year-old me was forced to pee in the snow. That’s the last time I remember being at Gullfoss.
8. My Friends
More than anything else, I am leaving Iceland with a group of friends who I will get together with and watch The Secret Life of Walter Mitty every year. If anything has the potential to be more beautiful than that dog, it is these people. Let’s be real though. That dog was pretty cute, right?