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ICELAND - Facts, History and Culture of a Beautiful and Mysterious Land

Article By: gerabel
Travel



Please enjoy reading about this beautiful and mysterious land from my personal travels, while learning about the facts, history and culture of Iceland.


Submitted:Dec 12, 2008    Reads: 727    Comments: 9    Likes: 8   


ICELAND - Facts, History and Culture Page 1 of 4
GEOGRAPHY

Location: European island in the North Atlantic (3 hours' flight from London, 5 ½ hours from New York).
Capital: Reykjavik (pop. 116,446 (2006)). 1/3 of total population of Iceland lives here!!
Total area: 103,000 km² (39,756 square.miles); vegetation: 23.1%, lakes: 2.7%, glaciers: 11.6%, wasteland: 62.6%.
Sea area within fishing limits: 758,000 km².
Coastline: 4,970 km.
PEOPLE

Population July 2006: 304,334 (2.9 per sq. km).
Ethnic groups: Homogenous mixture of descendants of the original Nordic and Celtic settlers.
Religion: State Lutheran Church 84%.

GOVERNMENT

Type: Republic since 17 June 1944. Independent since 1 December 1918.
President (since 1996): Mr. Olafur Ragnar GRIMSSON.
Prime Minister (since 2006): Mr. Geir H. HAARDE. The cabinet is responsible to the legislature.;

ECONOMY

Currency: Icelandic krona (ISK)
Gross domestic product (GDP) per capita 2005: USD 54,427.
Labour force: 165,600 (2005).
Unemployment: 2.6% (2005).
Employment by industry: Agriculture: 3.4%. Fishing: 3.1%. Industry: 21.7%. Services: 71.8% (2005).
Europe's most western state - ICELAND Page 2 of 4
I vacationed in Iceland twice, once in 1998 and again the following year in 1999 as sort of an adventure to conquer the pain and depression from my first battle with cancer. Iceland is a great stop-over on your way to more distant and popular European destinations and a great weekend getaway for us New Englanders as it is only about a five hour flight from Boston, Massachusetts.
My first impression and thoughts on my ride from the airport into the capital of Reykjavik to my hotel was one of…. "What in God am I doing here>!!" Looking out of the windows on both sides of the small bus, all I could see was lava rock. Miles and miles of lava rock formations. I remember one of my first thoughts was that it looked similar to pictures I had seen of the moon's landscape. And then I learned in a lecture that I attended that the astronauts had been sent to Iceland for their training for the early trips to the moon! However, I was soon to learn that not all of Iceland was covered with lava rock and it is a beautiful land of mystery, culture and discovery.
Iceland is a European borderless state. It is officially referred to as the Republic of Iceland and it occupies a volcanic island in the northern Atlantic Ocean . Iceland is the westernmost European country having a population of approximately 300,000 people, with 1/3 of it's population found in the southwestern capital city of Reykjavik . The state's area is of 39,698 sq mi and it is situated a little south from the Arctic Circle, about 600 mi west of Norway and about 180 mi south-east of Greenland. The republic occupies a whole island in the Atlantic Ocean , but the fact is that it also includes several other smaller islands that gravitate around the main island. Iceland is the world's 18th largest island and started to be populated only in the 9th century when the Scandinavian Vikings discovered it. Iceland is the youngest land formation on earth, having been formed by volcanic activity approximately 10,0000 years ago.
The island's coasts are indented by wonderful, deep fjords, which are more visible in the northern and western parts. Geologically speaking, the island is a young plateau of approximately 2,000 ft in height. The highest point in Iceland is 6,950 ft high. The island is covered with about 200 volcanoes, many of which are still active. The highest volcano is that of Mt.Hekla of 4,900 ft. Because of the tectonic plates that move under the ocean the Island is abounded with hot springs, which are a great attraction for tourists, but they are also a source of inexpensive heating. The most famous hot spring is the great Geysir, whose name is now used for all the water springs around the world. The climate in Iceland is
quite mild and humid because of the North Atlantic Drift. It has a moderate climate averaging temperatures between 28 and 65 degrees, year round. It seldom goes lower or higher. However, only one fourth of the island is habitable because of the central large barren areas of volcanic rock.

The most populated areas in
Iceland are, of course, the coasts and the largest inhabited city as notated before is Reykjavik, a sheik, ultra-modern city. The population represents the offspring of the Norse settlers and the slaves they brought with them. Most of the population follows the Lutheran religion, which is also the established church. However, Iceland is very well known for its complete religious freedom. The language of this interesting people is called Icelandic and it is very similar to the Old Norse. The Vikings that conquered the country have established their language as the official language and since there hadn't been any native language on the island Old Norse didn't suffer too many changes along the centuries. Another interesting thing about the Icelanders is that practically all of them are literate, having been proven that they read more books per capita than any other people in the world.
GEOTHERMAL ENERGY
One of the things you will notice when visiting Iceland is that homes do not have any chimney's. This is because of the natural resource of geothermal energy.
Geothermal energy is the heat energy that occurs naturally in the earth. The energy is recovered from the heat of the earth's core. In nature, geothermal heat shows up in the form of volcanoes, hot springs and geysers. The heat itself is derived from radioactive decay beneath the earth's surface. In certain locations, it is concentrated and is close enough to surface waters to be brought to the surface for many different purposes. When it is above 150 degree Celsius, it is considered hot enough to be used to generate electricity and heat in Iceland.
For thousands of years, humans have used naturally occurring hot springs for bathing. More recently, geothermal energy has been used to generate electricity, and to provide heat for homes and industries. Geothermal energy is a versatile and reliable source of heat and electricity which generally produces none of the greenhouse gases associated with the combustion of fossil fuels. Unfortunately, the best geothermal resources are concentrated in areas of volcanic activity and are not widely distributed. California, Iceland, Italy, New Zealand and Japan are all areas where geothermal energy is used on a significant scale.
In Iceland there are mainly two sources of energy; geothermal energy and hydro power . Geothermal heat is one of Iceland's greatest natural resources. The Iceland's capital has enjoyed this valuable power source for more than 60 years. Icelanders are very lucky to have this geothermal heat. For that reason central heating and warm water are rather inexpensive.
On the more expensive side of things is food as most everything must be imported. There is very little vegetation and animal life is mainly goats and the beautiful Icelandic horse. Salmon is plentiful and is a favorite food menu item.
A must visit would be to The Blue Lagoon which is a beautiful, geothermal hot springs lagoon filled with natural healing mineral salts where you can visit and bathe if you wish on your way from Reykjavik to the airport in Keflavik for your trip home.
Icelandic people are warm and inviting and if you're looking for a place to visit for an adventure or for something out of the ordinary, this is a place for you to check out. Icelandair Airlines offers trip package holidays where you can travel to Europe and visit cities like London, Paris, Amsterdam or Copenhagen and have a stop-over in Iceland, (for up to six days), on your way to or from another European destination with your only additional charges being for your hotel stay.
Bon Voyage!!




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