Iceland Day 1: Caught in a Kitty Crossfire

Well, we didn’t die. Which is, of course, the ultimate goal of any vacation.

I’ve always told people that I live my life my avoiding headlines, meaning, I generally avoid things that my result in a newspaper headline somewhere. “Young couple, 23, vanishes in woods after hiking trip” “Man, 23, falls to death after selfie” or “Couple, 23, taken and ransomed by Mexican Drug Cartel on mission trip.” This honeymoon however, seems to be the exception to that rule and I am quite okay with it.

Iceland is a gorgeous country, that much was evident even on the plane’s descent. I think the best way to describe it would be I of two ways: As my personal favorite “Arctic Oahu” or, alternatively “Terraformed Mars.” Our drive from Keflavik Airport to Reykyavik featured rolling, black hills speckled with bits of prairie grass. It was only as we got more into Reykjavik, the most populous city in Iceland and accounting for over a third of its population, that we found more green foliage and simply signs of life.

Reykjavik is less a city and more so an overgrown town in the sense that it is devoid of skyscrapers or traffic. The tallest buildings are the relatively new high rise condos that align the bay shore, but even those are no more than twelve stories tall. You can walk across it each way in less than an hour and it has a certain small town feel to it. The people are friendly and we have yet to encounter anyone who doesn’t speak English fluently. At the city’s center is a massive church called Hallgrimskirkja. Much to our disappointment, the church itself was constructed in the 1980’s which, in terms of European churches, would be like trying to admire a 2018 Honda Civic after having driven a Model T Ford. Nevertheless, it is quite beautiful and serves as an excellent landmark while exploring the city as our apartment is but two blocks away.

The apartment, courtesy of AirBnB, occupies the upper level of a typical home in downtown Reykyavik. It has a kitchen, a bathroom, shower and a bed (what more do you need?). It also has “cute” decor according to Zahnah and you will come to find that cuteness is currency when it comes to my wife.

We did some grocery shopping at the recommended grocery store called “Bonus” which, for some reason, chose to have a - let’s call it a “confused” pig as their mascot. Despite the peculiar taste in branding, the food was cheap and somewhat familiar. Then, we took a stroll through the shopping district where we played our favorite game called “Looking at Shit We Can’t and Probably Won’t Ever be Able to Afford.” By then it was 1800 and I gave up on my fight against jet lag and went to sleep amid Zahnah’s protests who instead chose to stay up and book both a bike tour for the following day and a ATV tour on our last day.

This brings me to a both interesting and underappreciated feature of Iceland in the summer: 24 Hour Sun. Given Iceland’s northern position, from June until September the sun does not set. We first learned of the 24 hour sun when we tried to book a tour to see the northern lights only to discover that one of the main ingredients in the northern lights is, if you can believe it, nighttime.

Side Note: If you were to search '“24 Hour Sun” on the internet, you will find links to several “Flat Earth Debunked Videos.” Apparently the 24 Hour Sun is a main point of evidence for supposed “Flat Earth Debunkers” which seems like an interesting use of ones’ time. Flat Earthers have never struck me as the sort to modify their opinions when presented evidence.

To us, the 24 Hour Sun seemed little more than an interesting trivia fact. But then according to Zahnah’s phone, it was nearly midnight despite it looking no later that 5:00 PM. I was already asleep by this point but I did once wake up at 3:00 AM believing it to be around 11:00 AM.

Another interesting fact about Iceland that we only realized once we got here was that, despite the fact that Iceland has one of lowest crime rates in the world, apparently there are frequent and violent wars between various gangs of cats. Yes, at approximately 10:30 PM, Zahnah and I heard what we at first thought was someone skinning a cat alive. I was too tired to be concerned and we back to sleep but Zahnah learned that it was actually two street cats fighting each other beneath a car.

We never learned which cat emerged victorious but we did discover that there is a large stray cat population in Reykjavik that stems from a near 200 year ban on dogs in the capital city. This ban was lifted in 2006 after a member of parliament was charged with possession of a dog and the resulting media frenzy forced lawmakers to lift the ban. Today, we’ve seen plenty of our canine friends throughout the city and in the last ten years there have been efforts to capture and spay the feral cats.

Regardless, if you ever find yourself in Reykjavik at night, do be sure to keep your bag close. Especially if it contains kibble.