DAVIS COLUMN: Falling in love with Akureyri
Tammy Davis, her teenage daughter, Laura, and Laura’s best friend, Lyndsay, recently set out on a trip of a lifetime to Iceland. This is part three of a four part series on their Iceland adventure.
Remember the TV show Wings back in the 90’s? I had a flashback to that series when I flew out of Iceland’s domestic airport. Two differences: the airport in Iceland might be smaller than the fictional New England airport, and the pilot in Iceland wasn’t nearly as cute as Tim Daly. Darn it.
We showed up two hours early. Two minutes would have worked. I’m pretty sure they never checked IDs. No real security to speak of. Everything about our trip to Iceland felt a little surreal, and this experience was no different. The flight attendants had on stockings and little pill hats. They were friendly and professional and beautiful. Was I still on the set of Wings or had I moved on to the sound stage of Pan Am, the series about stewardesses (yes, that’s what they called them in the 60’s)?
Iceland is not a big country, somewhere in between the size of SC and NC, so in my initial planning stage I really didn’t understand why I couldn’t just drive where I wanted to go. It didn’t take long to realize the issues: lava fields, geysers, snow-capped mountains and glaciers. Rather than driving, I booked the flight to Akureryri, in northern Iceland.
We left the otherworldly southwestern part of Iceland and landed in heaven. That’s the only way I know how to describe it. I’ve been to the Rocky Mountains, but this was not that. My guess is Alaska is the closest thing we have that would compare to the beauty of northern Iceland.
Akureyri is the second largest city in Iceland with a population of less than 20,000. To put that in perspective, that’s close to our Anderson.
I had seen a picture of a stop light with the top red part of the light as a heart instead of a circle, but I didn’t know all the stop lights are like that. Hearts on every corner. Gotta love a place like that. The hearts of the people are also in the right place in this charming little community.
Do the right thing. Love one another. Those themes were woven throughout our big Iceland adventure and were apparent in a very practical way as we tried to find parking. There was two-hour parking and three-hour parking and 15-minute parking. We didn’t see any ticket booths or stations or attendants to pay so the girls hopped out to ask what to do. I love Icelanders. This was the explanation: if you need 2 hours, park there. If you think you’ll need three hours, park in that lot. If it’s a quick trip, it’s fine to park in the 15-minute zone. Parking is a great example of the Iceland way. Take what you need. Don’t take advantage. Do what’s right. No timed tickets or stamped slips or officers issuing fines. They assume folks will do the right thing. What a lovely way to live.
Art is everywhere in this little town. When I hopped up on the heart sculpture for a photo, I realized the big, red heart spun on the base. Of course, I got pictures with lots of views, taken from lots of angles. There’s wasn’t a bad picture of the city, no matter how you turned it. As I went through my photos later, I wondered if there was a deeper meaning to the artist’s design. Did he mean to emphasize that every view is important? Not just every view of the this idyllic Nordic city, but every person’s view as well?
We stayed in a lovely family-owned lodge outside the city. There were no screens on the windows because there are no bugs in Iceland. They sleep with the windows open because they can. There is no crime. There is no violence. They expect people do the right thing. Their hearts are in the right place. Open windows, open hearts.
I loved my time in Akureyri and hope to get back there again. Next time, I will allow ten minutes in the airport, and that will be more than enough. Maybe when I go back I’ll know enough Icelandic to greet the flight attendants with a simple, “Good morning. You look lovely today” because I know they will. I’ll make my way into the charming little city, and I’ll make sure to stop at every heart-shaped light. I’ll park in the three-hour parking but secretly wish for a longer option, maybe forever or at least all summer.
I’ll enjoy my time walking on the cobblestone streets and popping in and out of galleries and shops, and at the end of the day I’ll head back out into the countryside for a soak in one of the hot springs, the same ones the Vikings used to bathe in by the light of each full moon. I’ll look up to the mountains and out to the water. On a clear day I’ll see into the Arctic Circle. And just like the art and the stoplights and the people of Akureyri, my heart will be full.