A few facts about Iceland

Iceland's men's national hockey team's historic connection to Canada and other fun stuff

EDMONTON, AB, Mar 22, 2014/ Troy Media/ – The Winnipeg Falcons were an amateur team founded in 1911 with Icelandic players who’d been ostracized and not allowed to play with other Winnipeg teams due to racial prejudice.

In 1919-20, the Falcons won the Allan Cup and represented Canada in the 1920 Olympics, winning Canada’s first gold medal in hockey.

The Icelandic national team is still nicknamed the Falcons and its jersey sports a partial maple leaf on its front.

On my trip to Iceland, I joined Edmonton Economic Development Corporation CEO Brad Ferguson when he presented more than a dozen Edmonton Oilers jerseys to delighted young hockey players. Their officials returned the favour giving us Iceland’s national team’s hockey jerseys.

Land of fire and ice . . . and golf

You might not think of Iceland as a hotbed for golf, but think again.

“Iceland probably has more golf courses per capita than anywhere in the world,” said a guide who accompanied us on our trip.

“There are 66 of them.” Given the nation’s population is about 330,000, my math works that out to one golf course for every 5,000 people.

Packing for a trip to Iceland

Don’t forget to bring these items:

Icelanders love their public thermal pools, so bring a bathing suit and towel

  • a sleeping mask is handy, especially with the long, bright days of summer
  • binoculars will bring all the scenery into sharp focus especially on popular whale watching trips
  • insect repellant is always useful
  • rain gear and hiking boots are a must
  • electrical outlets use the Europlug that features two round prongs. If you’re North American, phone a luggage store or electronics shop to get an adaptor or power convertor

Weather you like it or not

Weather in Iceland is extremely unpredictable, so you’d best be prepared, one guide told me.

In our short, five-day trip in March we experienced partially clear skies, heavy snowfall and torrential rain that seemingly came down sideways. That rain was accompanied by wind gusts that almost blew me off my feet a couple of times.

Tourism officials urge visitors to bring layers of warm clothing, some rain gear and comfortable footwear that will stay dry.

Forget about umbrellas. On a windy day they would be blown apart, said our guide. Instead, stay dry under a hood on your coat.

Watch out for the ‘hidden people’

Icelandic folklore suggests “hidden people,” Huldufólk or elves, live in the countryside.

Those who believe in the folklore have forced large road projects and other construction in Iceland to divert around rock formations where hidden people are thought to live.

Glass from ash and good food to boot

Art meets food at Hendur iHofn a boutique cafe and glass art studio. Dagný Magnúsdóttir, the owner, uses ashes from Eyjafjallajökull volcano and sand from a nearby beach in many of her glass works.

The Eyjafjallajökull volcano erupted in April 2010 causing air traffic to be shut down in northern and western Europe for six days.

We stopped at the cafe and studio and the glass work is astounding as is their chocolate lava cake which they call hot chocolate pudding. It’s a quaint, friendly cafe and studio about 40 km from Reykjavík.

Hold your horses!

There are lots of places to get up close and personal with Icelandic horses.

On our brief tour of Laxnes Horse Farm we met the gentle, notoriously sure-footed steeds that stand only about as high as typical ponies.

The affable Haukur showed us the facility that was founded as a family operation in 1968 and today offers a variety of riding tours. People often come here to combine riding with a Golden Circle tour.

Don’t pass on this way to save cash

In Reykjavik you can purchase a welcome card that offers free admission to a wide array of sites including popular bathing thermal pools, the Reykjavik Zoo and Family Park, the National Art Gallery and more.

It also includes admission to Reykjavik city buses.

The cards cost about C$30 for 24 hours and there are even better deals if you buy a pass for two days or three days.

http://www.visitreykjavik.is/travel/reykjavik-welcome-card

It’s pricy but not outrageous

I’d heard Iceland could be extremely expensive.

It once was, but since the economic meltdown in 2008, costs for just about everything have come down.

At upscale establishments you’ll pay $35 to $50 for an entrée and $11 or $12 for a glass of wine.

Food, though, is sensational – especially the fish and lamb.

Most all prices in Iceland are listed in Icelandic króna (plural krónur) (ISK). Roughly 100 krónur equals one Canadian dollar.

Visa is widely accepted in Iceland and ATMs are plentiful.

Geo thermal heats up Reykjavik

One of the first things I noticed when it snowed in Reykjavik was that some roads, sidewalks, parking lots and bike paths were bare.

The city takes full advantage of geo-thermal heat to melt snow that way.

Being on a volcanic island, the city is blessed with an inexpensive source of heat and officials say melting snow makes economic sense by reducing costly vehicle collisions and cutting the number of injuries from people who could slip and fall.

What’s in a name?

Check out a phone book in Iceland and people are listed in alphabetical order by their first names.

That’s because it’s easier to identify Icelanders by their first name. In that country they still follow the old Nordic tradition of using patronymic/matronymic names that indicate you are the son of so and so or the daughter of so and so.

Consider this example using the name of one of my sources for this travel feature: Inga Hlín Pálsdóttir. That indicates she’s the (dóttir) daughter of Pal.

Or another example of a male name: Jón Hjálmarsson. That indicates Jón is the son of Hjálmar.

 


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