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 Natural History of Iceland Site

    About Iceland

The Sagas

It was the love of freedom and adventure that inspired the first Vikings to make their homes in the territory of Iceland in the ninth century. The Icelanders are of Scandinavian origin, with some early blending of Celtic blood. Freedom and respect for individual are still at the heart of twentieth-century Iceland, a parliamentary democracy and a showcase of political stability.

Visitors will find that Iceland is a classless society with a strong literary tradition. Delight in culture has been an inseparable part of the Icelander´s character and identity ever since they wrote the medieval Sagas which rank with the classics of world literature. Activity flourishes in all branches of the creative and performing arts.

The culture is just as diverse as the landscape. Iceland is far more than just unspoiled nature. Iceland is also famous writers, composers, actors and artists such as Halldor Laxnes, Leifs, Jóhannson and Björk. Attractions like the Reykjavik art-festival, museums, and food like smoked salmon and reindeer steaks.

The Icelanders harvest their food directly from the clean, unspoiled nature. Seafood, mushrooms, berries, reindeer, and the famous lamb. In recent years Icelandic cooks have learned how to turn the countries eatable resources into gourmet dishes. The cooks have learned from international trends to preserve the essence of Iceland's raw materials so one can say that Icelandic cuisine is international.

Iceland is different from most other countries. It is mountainous and situated between Greenland and Norway. It is the second largest island of Europe and its guardian in the west with rather a sparse population. About 20% of its area are populated. The central highlands and parts of the northwest are uninhabited.

People have to be prepared for the rapid changes in the weather and change clothes accordingly. It is better to be familiar with the road system, both the roads and streets in the inhabited areas and the tracks in the central highlands, if a trip is planned in the interior. Rules and regulations concerning off road driving, the sensitive vegetation at this latitude and lava formations have to be taken into account as well. Nature in this country is raw, and there are more dangers to be taken into account than the weather (snowstorms, hurricane force winds), such as unbridged rivers, crevassed glaciers, volcanoes, geothermal areas and merciless seas.

Without the Gulf Stream, the whole country would be covered with a shield of ice. The average temperature of the warmest month is about 12°C (54°F) and of the coldest month about 0°C (32°F). Usually it is considerably colder in the mountains. Warm, wind-, and waterproof clothes are highly recommended and lighter clothes for nice weather as well.

The Icelanders are friendly and polite people overall. They are very helpful, well educated, and usually fluent in foreign languages. They are less dependant on external services when it comes to inviting people to lunch or dinner than people elsewhere in Europe. An invitation to a meal usually means homemade food and an evening at home. The character of the Icelander probably was best described in this sentence: "The average Icelander is somewhat shy, but proud and is not familiar with any class distinction, and therefore behaves like an aristodemocrate".