Tuesday, September 29, 2020

2020 Travel the World - Week 39

I started a Travel the World Series last year. (It should be noted that I did a similar thing in 2018, only it was the 50 states.) For 50 weeks in 2019, I visited a different country (virtually) and shared facts about that country. I then selected one tidbit of information about that week's country as inspiration for a card. Fifty weeks; fifty countries... BUT there are 195 countries in the world so that was just a little over 25% of them. Of course I couldn't stop, so this year I'm continuing with fifty more countries, one per week.

This week's country is...


Iceland is a Nordic island country in the North Atlantic.

Just south of the Artic Circle, Iceland is considered to be part of Europe for political, historical, cultural and practical reasons.

Iceland is the 18th largest island int he world and Europe's second largest island after Great Britain.

Despite its name, Iceland's surface is only ten percent ice and it has surprisingly mild winters due to the warming effect of the Atlantic Gulf Stream.

Iceland was settled by Vikings from Norway sometime in the 800s, making Iceland a fairly young country when it comes to settlement. This also contributes to its distinct cultural background.

Only about 20% of the country is inhabited.

There are only about 330,000 people in Iceland, and almost 200,000 of them live in Reykjavik. Moreover, most of them are descended from the same group of 9th century Viking settlers.

Before the Vikings plundered Iceland, 40 percent of the nation was covered in trees. However, they needed all the trees to build homes, boats and to clean land for farming.

Only one fourth of the island has any vegetation and only one percent of the soil is arable. The once extensive forests are depleted and now almost non-existent. The remaining trees are mostly birch, spruce, aspen, and willow.

There are over 30 active volcanoes in Iceland.

About 11% of the country is covered in glaciers.

Iceland is full of remote and rugged landscapes, and to reach some of them, especially in the winter, some locals use "super jeeps". A super jeep is a highly modified truck with a lifted suspension and oversized tires that allow it to cross deep rivers or drive through deep snow and ice. Most of Iceland's roads are paved, but for the off-road trails that go into the central highlands, these jeeps make it possible to travel in the winter.

Iceland's conditions are excellent for skiing, snowboarding, rock and ice climbing, mountain climbing, hiking, fishing, cycling, and ski touring. 

A fantastic destination for hiking is the wilderness area of Hornstrandir with its craggy mountains, sea cliffs, and plunging waterfalls. Seals, arctic foxes, whales, and a variety of bird life can be seen there.

Over half of Icelanders believe in the existence of invisible elves and trolls living in the countryside, with many others at least open to the possibility. It is not unusual to see small elf houses in the country that people have built so that the elves will have somewhere to live. There is also an official Elf School in Iceland, where one can learn about Icelandic elf history.

Icelanders love to play sports including football, basketball, volleyball, and horseback riding, but the national sport of Iceland is actually handball. The game is played between two teams consisting of seven players in a rectangular field. The object of the game is to score by driving the ball into the opposing net. After 60 minutes, the team with the most goals wins.

Children in Iceland don't get the same name as either of their parents. Instead the child's last name is derived from the father's or mother's first name.

Iceland has a "naming committee" that keeps an official register of approved Icelandic names. There are many names that are banned, and anyone wanting to name their child something that's not already on the list has to submit it for approval.

Icelanders call each other by their given names, even the president. The telephone directory is even listed alphabetically by first name rather than surname.

Iceland has many geysers. The English word geyser is derived from Iceland's famous Geysir. Today Geysir doesn't erupt often, but nearby Strokkur erupts ever eight to ten minutes.

The Northern Lights can be seen in Iceland from September to March.

Iceland is one of the safest countries in the world. The country had an unprecedented number of murders in 2017 - a total of four. In a typical yer, there's an average of 1.6 murders and a very low instance of other violent or drug-related crimes.

There is no standing army, but the Coast Guard maintains the Iceland Air Defense System and patrols coastal waters. The police forces carry no guns.

On average, workers in Iceland work 45 hours per week, longer than any other country in Europe.

Iceland is a very literacy-focused country. The tradition of reading in Iceland dates back to the 13th century. One our of every ten Icelanders will publish a book in his/her lifetime.

Iceland students learn three languages - their native language as well as English and Danish.

Iceland was the last place on earth to be settled by humans.

The only mammal native to Iceland is the Arctic Fox. Settlers originally brought the other animals found on the island, including Icelandic sheep, cattle, goats, chickens, Icelandic horses and the Icelandic sheepdog. 

Polar bears occasionally arrive on an ice flow from Greenland but they don't live in Iceland.

The Icelandic horse is the only horse breed in Iceland. The Icelandic horse has played a very important part in Iceland's history. They are believed to be one of the purest breeds in the world and are known for their muscular bodies and their ability to grow long hair in the winter and shorter hair in the summer. Icelandic horses can be found all around the country and are known to be both friendly and curious.

Commercial whaling is practiced as well as scientific whale hunts, but Iceland makes more money from whale watching tours than the whaling industry.

Iceland is mosquito free.

It's illegal to own a pet lizard, snake, or turtle in Iceland. There are no reptiles of amphibians there.

Iceland is home to over 60% of the world's Atlantic puffin population with over 8 million puffins there (I have to wonder how they know these things???). The puffins are best seen between May and August when they breed on small uninhabited islands just off the shore of the mainland. Most of the time, puffins live on the sea, resting on the waves. Once a year, they return to their mating grounds where the female lays one egg. Both the male and female take turns incubating the egg. They mate for life, remaining monogamous for over 20 years. Another interesting fact about puffins: they flap their wings over 400 times per minute.

McDonald's does not exist in Iceland. McDonald's did open a restaurant in Reykjavik in the 1990s, but the chain was not popular enough to survive and pulled out, never to return. There are several other fast food chains there though... and hot dogs are particularly popular.

Coffee is a popular beverage for every meal and an afternoon treat.

Coca cola is consumed in Iceland at one of the world's highest per capita rates.

There is no tipping in Iceland.

Instead of Santa, the thirteen Yule Lads help children celebrate Icelandic Christmases.

I decided to let this Iceland fact be the inspiration for this week's card... The day before Christmas in most parts of the world is simply known as Christmas Eve, but in Iceland it's more than that. It's the day on which family members exchange books as gifts and spend the evening reading them.

Thanks for stopping by my blog today!

Stamp Sets
: MFT Birdie Brown Our Story stamped with Memento Tuxedo Black Ink and colored with Copic Markers and SU Lovely Like a Tree stamped with Memento Cottage Ivy Ink

Papers: Accent Opaque 120# White and SU Cherry Cobbler CS and DP from my scrap file

Die: Rubbernecker Nested Rectangle Stitch

Embellishments: Michael's Rhinestones


Beth Norman-Roberts said...

Sounds like a nice Christmas tradition. I found many things of interest. Weird about how children are named. Very cute card.

kiwimeskreations said...

Now that is one fascinating country - a lot of the Scandinavian countries used the same naming system in the past... hard to build a family tree!
Stay safe

Lynn McAuley said...

What an awesome tradition!! Love this fabulous card depicting Christmas Eve in Iceland! Love the elf houses, too!