Notes From Iceland (2005)

I was such a nerd taking notes on the back of that tour bus, everything was just so interesting though, I couldn’t help myself.  Prior to arriving I had learned that Iceland is the most volcanic country in the world, which sparked my interest; but on the back of that bus I would continue to be amazed by Iceland’s awesomeness.

My notes and sketches were done in pencil, so I had to extremify the brightness and contrast for them to be seen at all.

Page 1 – notes

  • School children sometimes have wind days, as winds here can get up to 70 mph.
  • Land forms and rock formations 16 million years old
  • 200 volcanoes – 70 active still
  • No golden artifacts
  • Settled in 900 AD by Vikings (from Norway)
    • The weather got colder after they settled
  • Soil is so new, and erosion causes mosses to mature after 1000 years



When the Vikings first came from Norway to settle, the temperatures got colder and many of the settlers died of sickness or starvation.  It was not until their second attempt, in which they brought sheep, that the Vikings were successful at settling the land.

Obviously a very important point here is that elves steal your dirty socks at night while you sleep.  Maybe I should explain a bit.  When my mother and I checked into our bed and breakfast, the woman who ran the place said, “you know we have fairies in Iceland, you can see them if you believe.”  To which my response was, “oh, I believe!”  Iceland is the home of the troll (and the troll doll for that matter), fairies, elves, and all kinds of other mystical pranksters.  That being said, I am sure that my mother and I’s socks were stolen by elves, possibly to be used as clothing.  Mom had only brought 3 pairs of socks with her for the entire 7 days she would be with me through Iceland and Denmark.  She always puts her socks in her shoes at night (easy access for the next day), and did so on our first night in Keflaveck.  In the morning, her socks were gone.  “We’ll find them, I’m sure that they are here,” I kept saying, “They’ll show up when we pack.”  She kept insisting that they should be in her shoes, and I kept insisting they would show up when we packed to leave.  The next night, she and I both put our socks in our shoes…and the next morning, both of our socks were gone.  My conclusion, definitely the elves.

Page 2 – notes

  • Horny Viking House 🙂
  • Mount of Law
  • Parliamentary gathering rock which became capital of country for 2 days annually
  • Christianity became national religion in the year 1000, without bloodshed
  • People were still allowed to practice Pagan rituals


At some point Pagan rituals were banned, and Christianity reigned supreme as the Icelandic religion.   There’s also some story about a guy and a cave, something like the Mohammed story for Pagans, but that’s as detailed as my memory goes there.

Page 3 – notes:

There are none on this page.


Other than the telephone lines at the top, I have no idea what this page is about.  Nothing I guess, just sketches…and not the best ones either.  There was a lot of open, rocky, green space in Iceland, not the most exciting landscape to draw.

Page 4

  • Five Presidents
    • One woman : 18 years
  • All pine trees were planted (most native trees grow up to 1.5 meters)
  • Rock piles lead you through land
    • As people passed they would take a stone and leave a stone
  • 1stPostal System:
    • Messenger (when missed direct route he was supposed to go) would leave stick with runic letters at rock pile, and next passer-by going that direction would deliver message
  • Caves, sandy rock
    • 920 AD farmer moved family there
    • Two compartments – one for animals, one for family


Due to the extreme cold, and lack of sunlight through the winter months, the plants here do not grow very tall, conserving their energy for the dark season.

I found the rock piles across the landscape to be very interesting, used as a guide through the country, stones were taken and left as a way of upkeep on the piles.  As long as someone is passing, the pile is refreshed.  And what a logical postal system…one where anyone can bring mail to the town they are heading.  Brilliant!!

Page 5 – notes:

  • Icelandic sheep – 2 layers of wool
    • Smaller than European sheep
    • Horns made into spoons
    • Bones made into needles
  • Rock wool
    • Rocks warmed up and made into fibers – used for insulation in pipes and homes


Icelandic sheep would evolve to have 2 layers of wool, cuz boy is it cold there!  I visited in July, when the temperature was around 50 deg (F), and it was light out 24/7.  Not that 50’s really that cold, but paired with the frozen coastal wind, I had to layer.  Bundled up in 2 hoodies, a vest, and a wool hat (purchased in Iceland) covering my ears and tied under my chin, I watched as the native high-schoolers played hackey sack in shorts and tee shirts.

Rock wool is a product specific to Iceland, which is able to meet the insulation needs for their homes and pipes.  The pipes seen running across the landscape carry hot water after being processed at the plants near the natural hot springs, to the cities for use.

These water purification plants are not like the polluting types we are used to in The States either.  The runoff from this system creates pools of mineral rich waters (perfect for treating the skin), paving the way for spas to be operated nearby.  The only downside to using this natural hot-spring water for everyday use would be the sulfuric smell that comes along with it.  Can we say rotten egg shower anyone?

Page 6 – notes:

  • Purple bonneted flowers
  • With fuzzy dark green bean pods


Too bad I didn’t draw these in color, huh?  In the various plants around Iceland, I only noticed a few colors, mainly purples and deep blues, though some yellows, whites, and reds might have popped up as well.  Overall though, Iceland is a very green place.

Page 7 – notes

  • South Coast – most agricultural part of country – still a hard task
    • Dig ditches to dry marshland for planting
    • Ditches turn to frost heaps which farmers must empty annually
  • Main industry is fishing
    • 65% of income is from fishing (and exports)’
  • 11,000 “summer houses” used year-round
  • Arctic fox is only animal native to Iceland, other than fish and birds which he hunted.
  • Can take farmers up to 2 weeks to collect sheep from the highlands
  • Main geyser, which retires now and again, may be revived by earthquakes.


Iceland is an island, and so almost everything must be imported.  That being said, it’s expensive.  While there is a town with greenhouses, most of their produce is still imported and therefore costs more.  Fish and wool (from their double layered sheep) are the few things easily available within the country, though it doesn’t mean they are very cheap either.  On our first day there, not buying much, my mother and I spent over $400.00

page 8 – notes:

  • Other geysers
    • One erupts every 3-5 minutes


Geisers, like volcanoes, pop up randomly in Iceland (a new geyser may pop up every 3-5 minutes); and the main geyser may retire and revive itself due to earthquake tremors.  Before coming to the country I watched a special on volcanic Iceland, which introduced me to the countries dependence on nature.  I learned that they use the volcanoes and natural hot springs to provide heat, hot water, and some energy.  I learned that new volcanoes can pop up at random, and I learned of a town who saved themselves from the flowing lava of a new volcano by having a rotating stream of citizens spray cold water onto the molten lava for days on end.  They saved more than 50% of the town, which is pretty amazing, not to mention brave.

Page 9 – notes:

  • Speak old Norwegian language which was preserved in Iceland, and became Icelandic
  • 100% literacy rate, best in world


Now this is where it gets very interesting to me.  Okay, so they preserved the Norwegian language, making it Icelandic, and that’s cool; but you know what’s even cooler?  They have an association which keeps the language sounding genuine.  What exactly does that mean?  Well, when new inventions are introduced to the world they tend to keep the name from their country of origin (ex: computer, television, automobile).  Not in Iceland though.  Here’s a short list of some items that have different names in Iceland, but are globally known by the original name:

sími – telephone
sjónvarp – television
tölva – computer
fax vél – fax machine
bifreið – automobile
Bill – car
myndavél – camera
stafræna myndavél – digital camera

Page 10 – notes:

  • Have seven tenses instead of 3
    • Past, present, future à 4 more?!?!
  • Perla
    • Saga museum in one cylinder
    • Water reserves for Rejkyavek in other 4
    • Dome at top has revolving restaurant and observation deck


Now, if you thought 100% literacy rate was pretty amazing, be even more amazed by the fact that Icelandic has seven tenses…beyond past, present and future, there is even a tense to extremify what you are saying.  So, if you are very mad about something, there’s a tense that says that without adding the word “very” (or at least that’s my understanding of it).  I have no idea what the remaining three tenses are about, so you’ll have to look that one up yourself.

Page 11 – comments:

This church topped a hill on the route between our bed and breakfast, and Reykjavik.  While I don’t really remember any facts about it, I do remember convincing my mother that going down the steep hill would be a great shortcut back to the B&B…which it was not.

Overall, Iceland was an extremely interesting and beautiful place, which I strongly desire returning to.  Hopefully Iceland Air will continue to run that free stopover special forever.


About katrinamauro

Landlord in Brooklyn, antique rug dealer, food & travel junkie who loves to experience new cultures and customs. On a mission to do big things.
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2 Responses to Notes From Iceland (2005)

  1. Anis Salvesen says:

    I love this blog post! I too like to fill travel journals with cool facts and sketches ; the best part is definitely looking at them years later and reliving the adventures.
    The 100% literacy rate I did not know about, but I had heard about them creating their own words rather than using the same words the rest of the world uses for new inventions. Iceland seems like an incredibly cool place, and I can’t wait to visit one day.

  2. Toni says:

    Did you mention that Iceland is the only place where both the North American and European tectonic plates break through the surface?

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