www.road.is, which we found very useful, and used it on a daily basis throughout our whole trip.
16. Tank up!
It is highly advisable to keep an eye on the level of your fuel in tank. There are many places in Iceland with no petrol station. (It seems a bit of an overstatement to call 2 petrol pumps a petrol station.) There are road signs, which will draw your attention to an upcoming filling station. Or they might fail to do so, because you will be too busy watching the spectacular countryside. (So be careful about it!) There is no staff to help you, or take your credit card. Often, there are no shops or bathroom facilities either. So: to fill up, you have to pre-plan. If you have already experienced this activity, you can have quite a lot of fun watching the tourists, resolutely grabbing the hoses, only to discover and wonder why there is no fuel flow from the nozzle. All confused, looking for help, poor things, make a hilarious spectacle of themselves. But like most of us, they too, will find out that you have to pay in advance to be able to fill up. Not complicated at all, just different from what you have known so far.
17. Spa protocol
Take a proper shower before entering a spa, if you want to avoid public disgrace. In some cases, they even have a person (usually a woman) to keep an eye (a strict one!) on misdemeanours of this kind against the spa’s protocol. Yes, it seems a bit odd an occupation, to inspect someone’s quite intimate activity, such as taking a shower. Sometimes a breathing living inspector can be substituted by a notice board depicting all body parts, you should pay special attention to, and not be negligent about. You can’t miss the board, thanks to its size.
Water in public swimming pools and spas is heated by geothermal energy, so to run these places is not too pricey, which makes the entrance fee a minimum. This is not at all the case of Blue Lagoon – the best known Icelandic spa. You will find it in the middle of a lava field. What makes it famous, is its specific colour and healing powers. Thanks to this popularity, the prices start at 40€, and are rising each year.
Icelandic music is not only Björk. (Even though, she well deserves to be its representative, who is worldwide known). Björk went through various stages, musical styles, and was a member of numerous bands. After leaving the last one “The Sugercubes”, Björk started playing with the idea of a solo career, which led to her first solo single Human Behaviour, and her debut album Debut in 1993. It’s been praised by critics. It also earned Björk awards in two categories of Brit Awards, and it went platinum. Since then, she’s released 14 more albums. The last one – Vulnicura, from January 2015, was accompanied by its acoustic version Vulnicura Strings. This was released the same year, only months later. Concerning me, I don’t know… It might have been caused by my age, or who knows by what else, but Björk and I did not really hit it. She has never really impressed me, even in her golden days of her career. And now, it seems to be too late for me to take a liking to her.
BUT, I did manage to find my liking for Icelandic music after all. I haven’t managed to explore all its hidden corners and wonder places, but I am certain there are many more Icelandic musicians waiting out there to get on my Spotify. And I’m gonna find them. Sooner or later, that is for sure. In the meantime, let me introduce to bands, who have earned their spot on Spotify already.
Sigur Rós, a post-rock band which started in 1994, and has been active ever since. The words sigur and rós mean victory and rose. However, the band is called after the frontman’s sister Sigurrós, who had been born only a couple of days before the band was formed. Jónsi, the frontman is known for his falsetto vocals, his use of bowed guitar (a method which uses a bow to vibrate the strings), open homosexuality, and blindness in his right eye. He had been a member of some other band formations before he started singing in Sigur Rós. Now he also sings and has gigs with his partner Alex, and has developed a decent solo career too. I must warn you. It is very unlikely for you to be able to sing along with Jónsi. (And it is not only the falsetto standing in your way.) It is partly because of the Icelandic language, and partly because of another language which is completely made up. This artificial language is called Vonlenska. This name comes from the song Von (hope), where it was used for the first time. However, the lyrics playing the second fiddle, actually helps and allows the melody to come forward. The tunes are very pleasant to listen to, and are ideal for brooding, contemplating life. Plus, in my opinion, this music is totally fitting for a country like Iceland.
You might have heard about Sigur Rós and Jónsi, but still not even know about it. It is quite probable that you belong to at least one of the next fan clubs of TV series. The saying that “The Simpsons already did it.” has been proved right again, when Sigur Rós appeared in the episode “The Saga of Carl” (24th season). And did so more than one time.
I feel that Game of Thrones has moved the level of a proper fan into a completely new dimension. To become a part of this colossus, to write a song for it, or to appear on it, is a great honour for an artist + fan. Plus, it is a great marketing move too.
Iceland’s Mumford & Sons – that is how the band Of Monsters and Men has been addressed many times. This indie folk band is said to have become the biggest “thing” since Björk and Sigur Rós times. (According to the Record Records publishing company) Their world-wide popularity increased after the song Little Talks had been played on Philadelphia’s Radio 104.5. Their debut album My Head is an Animal was an immediate success. Beneath the Skin is the second studio album of this Reykjavik band of 5 members. In case you are interested to see them, you don’t even have to travel far. They are gonna be on the Colours Festival in Ostrava this year.
It is a well know “fact” that the number of artists in Iceland is almost directly proportional to the number of inhabitants. Well, basically it means that every other household has got an artist, painter, musician, songwriter or a poet. If you are still not into any of my chosen musicians, don’t worry. Just keep looking a bit longer. The variety and great range of Icelandic musicians has much more to offer. As you can see in the next video attached, which could work as a cheering song for Marian*. Even though it concerns totally different kind of activities…
*(TN: Marian Hossa – Slovak hockey player)