10 FACTS ABOUT ICELAND
Despite its "cold" name, Iceland is not too freezing and icy country. Even in winter, an average temperature rarely falls below minus 5-7C degrees. However, the local nature is incredible since ever and again it surprises the Icelanders with its unique "manifestations" ranging from fabulously beautiful Northern Lights to geysers rising up high in the sky and literally boiling rivers. By the way, thanks to these water reserves, at home the Icelanders have natural hot water straight from the hot springs. Both cold and hot drinking water does not need any filtration, unique soil systems perform this work at times better than the most modern filtration systems created by humans.
In terms of its area, Iceland is not much different from most European countries, but it is very poorly populated. Currently the Icelandic population is only 320 thousand inhabitants, about half of the tiny nation lives in Reykjavik - the world's northernmost capital. At the same time the standard of living, social security, happiness index and other important social and economic indicators are very high and the country always ranks as one of the best in various ratings. Another interesting fact is that, except for the Coast Guard and modest in numbers police, they do not have any other security forces – Iceland does not have an army, navy or air force.
The Icelanders are very patriotic in many ways, and it all begins with the Icelandic language. The special commission is carefully supervising it to protect the mother tongue from foreign words and all sorts of neologisms, so the majority of present-day Icelanders can easily read original ancient texts, which are more than a thousand years old.
Local residents believe in the existence of fantastical beings such as elves and fairies, and this is not a joke. Typically, at the start of construction or when moving to a new house, it is a custom to invite a special person who has to "negotiate" with the elves living in the neighbourhood. On the roads, here and there you can find sites recommended to the detour, so as not to disturb the elves and trolls, the legend has it that they are very powerful and sensitive.
In most cases, the Icelanders do not have names usual for us. Take, for instance, a common local male surname Karlsson and its female variant Karlsdottir. Literally, they are translated as a son of Karl and a daughter of Karl. By the way, the number of names is rather limited, there is a certain list from which parents have to pick a name for their offspring. The decision to give a more original name to a child shall be discussed with social services on an individual basis. Interestingly, when the famous Soviet conductor and pianist Vladimir Ashkenazy emigrated to Iceland, the authorities added a new name to the list of permitted names "Vladimir Ashkenazy".
Icelandic cuisine is full of paradoxes. On the one hand, it is quite typical and similar to any other North European cuisine being hearty, simple and without any complications. On the other hand, from time to time, the islanders like to indulge themselves with fairly unappetising traditional delicacies, such as putrescent shark meat, fermented herring, pickled ram’s testicles and sheep’s head boiled in milk. As they say, bon appetite...
Since most of Icelanders are settled in coastal areas, it now and then generates various topographical incidents for the visitors: go north here means to move south, towards Reykjavik. The same applies to the direction east-west. So that to reach your destination, it is better to rely on the digital navigator, but not on the tips from the locals.
Off the coast of Iceland, the scientists discovered the most long-living creature on the planet, a shellfish, whose age was around at least 420 years. At the same time, the local climate does not provide habitat for the mosquitoes, the mosquitoes are not found in Iceland, although in relative neighbouring Scandinavian countries there are much of them.
Since the country is located on the volcanic island, the volcanoes are numerous there. They play an important role in energy policy, since about 30% of all electricity in Iceland is a recycled volcanic power. Island’s subsoil is rich in minerals and theoretically the Icelanders could make good money, but mining is almost not developed, since a potential export of oil, gas, coal to other countries would be very expensive due to remote location of Iceland. So the basic industry filling the treasury is fishing.
Despite the phenomenal success of the local football team at the latest UEFA European Football Championship (they got into the top eight), and, by the way, the team included a film director, a dentist and a couple of professional fishermen, the number one sport in Iceland is still handball. Vikings’ descendants are winners of almost all world competitions, sports pubs are broadcasting sports almost every day, they are the most popular meeting points for both men and women.