Iceland Through My Eyes ( Part1)

 

Iceland,

I have been meaning to share with you more insights about our everything Icelandic experience. I am going to try my best to share with you because at this point, the blogpost about all things Iceland could be a book on its own, and I am working on dividing my thoughts into its chapters. But  yeah this  is a preface…

Since I am a dork, and love to investigate  how the local lives during my travels, its only appropriate to ask the three questions “Who, Where, What” to better appreciate my journey. First I am going to start with my impression. The Icelandic people are the camping and nature  loving people.Their stoic expression almost fooled me, but they were the most helpful people I have encountered in my life. They adored their swimming pools!Trustworthy and love cleanliness ( the state of the toilets speak a true testimony to that) and  they speak English! The last part is there to describe  how convenient it was for us to communicate. Mostly consisted of Norse settlers, with Celtic and Scottish immigrants, the Icelandic first settlement was the Viking explorers!

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An island with such a powerful charisma, as strong as its geothermal activities with half of the island formed through recent volcanic origin, Iceland is the land of magic and contrast. The black lava rocks, the white glaciers, tall mountains, and wide open beaches, it is easy to fall in love with the island, and to be lured into its magic spell ,because of its pristine, serene qualities, so untainted and pure. This unique characteristic of the island is beautiful  but not without its constraints.

Only 1% of the land is cultivated due to natural terrain of the landscape.This explains the lack of decent food pictures on this post. Uhm what I meant was this explains why food cost a lot more in Iceland (one of the reasons) But I am saving all the nice pictures for the next blog posts ( promise).

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Anyway,Icelandic people are serious about fresh, homemade foods, using local natural ingredients. Consequently restaurant is scarce, making gas stations the perfect place to refuel your car and your stomach.  It was truely a gift for travellers like us who arrived at wee hours when the town has already fallen asleep.

Don’t expect the gas station food there to be anywhere like fast food in America. It is mind blowing that even the most remote gas station serves fresh foods. Sure most of them only serves burger and fries, sometimes pizza, gyros, etc. The meat qualities of those burgers ; incredible !! We are talking about real no added hormone (beef/lamb) meat burgers sold at gas stations, something that we only get at fancy restaurants in North America! Also, just an observation, it was interesting how the burgers use sweet peppers instead of tomatoes, I thought at first it’s because maybe paprika has a slightly longer shelf life than tomatoes. Found out later that paprika is a theme on its own too, even on a sweet popcorn!

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It was unbelievable how many times we ate 1500-1800 kronas burgers during our trip, and yet we didn’t get sick of those burgers.  Still, aside from their gas station cuisine, Icelandic soil bears amazing roots vegetables. Potatoes, a staple in Icelandic meals are mostly produced locally. Rutabagas, carrots, turnips and cabbage families are farmed within a restricted time frame ( one of the reason why vegetables are scarce and expensive). Recently, thanks to the uprising of Nordic and Scandinavian cuisine which focused on local, fresh ingredients, more vegetables are making their way to Icelandic cuisine, some cultivated with the use of geothermal energy in their greenhouses which mostly located in the southern part of the island.  I noticed when we travelled further away from the south; there were less and less options for produces to choose from, and a lot pricier too. Although Icelandic diet is becoming more global, their main favorite ingredients stayed true from the Viking times; meats and fishes.

On my few grocery trips, I noticed that chicken was always priced cheaper. 600-700 kronas can buy you 2 pounds of ready to eat chicken wings. I could not believe it! While other types of meats were priced 4-5 times more expensive.I found out later that chickens were factory produced while the rest of the meats are free ranged and grass fed, which explains why it was cheaper.

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When I looked around the meat sections of the grocery shops, I could say more than 50% of the products are lamb/mutton. Hotdogs, burgers,smoked, chops, anything you can think of. Made sense since Icelandic sheeps population is 2.5 times of the human.

I didn’t regret it that I didn’t try puffin or whale meat ( not that I didn’t want to try, I just didn’t happen to find them. Well to be honest I can’t get pass thinking about eating the cute puffy puffin bird.

Icelandic lambs were on my list though. It was probably the best lamb meats I have ever tasted in my life. Sweeter, and less gamier. They are very delicate and clean tasting; a result of very strict sheep rearing practices the Icelandic people follows for thousand years.

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In the next few posts will share with you in more details about my new addiction to kjotsupa lamb soup, and a fond memory of eating sushi Viking style fresh from the ocean. Stay tuned!

Meanwhile you can enjoy these views!

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