Finding a Sign in Iceland

Here’s the thing about Iceland-it’s a fascinating place; the ever changing landscapes, the unpredictable weather, the unrelenting winds, the extraordinary views, and the food.

But it’s almost as if they don’t want you to know how great it is here. They’re not braggarts or, truth be told, helpful. It’s almost as if they have a national motto, “Welcome to Iceland, now you’re on your own!”

There is a definite lack of signage here. You need to really, really, really know where you want to go and how to get there. 

Yes, yes, yes there are “signs” on the road, but they make no sense – it’s a bunch of consonants strung together with one, ok, maybe two vowels – but Y’s don’t really count.

As you’re driving around in this absolutely stunning country, marveling at the splendor and total mess that is Mother Nature – good luck finding a sign for a “tourist spot.”

In the states we are assaulted with signs – I bet there’s a sign in Hoboken, NJ that says Grand Canyon 2398 miles.

Here – nothing! 

There are few, if any signs alerting you of upcoming attractions and once you actually find your destination out of sheer dumb luck, you are on your own. 

For example – the biggest thing to explode here on this tiny nation is the Fagradalsfjall volcano. It blew its lid in March, 2021 and has become a “must-see” for the vacation-starved, vaccinated masses.

Arriving in Reykjavik you can see the cloud of smoke billowing into the sky, but you have to aim for that plume to find it. There are no signs, no souvenir shops, no instant lava cakes to chart the way. 

Once you find the general area, there’s a parking lot(ish) and some handwritten signs that kind of point the way. 

The “way” is a five to 7 mile walk uphill …. both ways. There’s a “path,” but the way is defined by following the crowds. A slithering mass making its way up and up, forging ahead ever so slowly atop a series of mountain peaks allowing only the fittest and youngest to gallop to the top.

The funnel cake shaped tower of ash is always present, but when you see the river of jet black lava, you know you’re on the right trail. They look like black whipped cream rolling down the mountain filling in the valleys, hardening like freeze-dried ocean waves. And the ocean is what you hear! At first I thought I was hearing things, but the erupting volcano sounds like crashing waves.

Three peaks we ascended, each taller, and steeper than the last, each I swore would break me, each I conquered! But there on top of the last peak, I looked across the valley and saw the biggest sign in all of Iceland – Mother Nature’s fury on display – nature’s neon – the biggest billboard on the planet unleashing her full emotions, on fire, pent-up aggression and anger, and sadness.

It was the most beautiful sign I’ve ever seen – a map in motion – a combustible combination of revolution and evolution with each outburst of molten lava. 

You don’t need to be Jeff Bezos flying in a billion dollar phallic rocket to know our blue planet is beautiful and fragile. Here, she is literally spewing up her guts, heaving up from way below trying to rebuild, regenerate, replace the wrongs up on the surface – perhaps ever hopeful for a fresh start with a future generation who will take better care of her.

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