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August 06, 2008


Robert Greenman

Hi, Steve —

Mim suggested that as a former Iceland visitor, and ever-since-then enthusiast, I should chime in here. I was never in an Iceland library, nor do I recall seeing one, for I certainly would have dropped in. But I was in lovely bookstores in Reykjavik and Akureyri, the second largest city. They were crowded and the books cost much more than in U.S. bookstores. Iceland has 100 percent literacy, and I've read that it has more authors per capita than any other country. I met two people who didn't speak English, both elderly. But it's the scenery, not the literacy, that brings one to Iceland. Carol and I spent two summer weeks there, several years ago, driving the Virginia-sized country in a Rav, a great adventure. Volcanoes (the dead ones of which one can climb and peer into the crater), glaciers, ice fields, lava fields (Carol wasn't watching her step and almost fell into a pit with molten lava at the bottom) geysers and geothermal fields (no protective barriers), and fields of moss-covered volcanic ricks that make you almost believe you can see elves hiding among them (and we've read that a good many Icelanders believe elves exist). One barren area was used to train U.S. astronauts for the future moon terrain they'd be walking on. For the amazing and plentiful waterfalls, see www.world-of waterfalls.com/iceland.html. We drove the circumference on what is Iceland's only paved road outside of a city or town, and crossed every river but one by fording it in the car, the only way to get across them. Once outside Reykjavik we stayed in hotels that double as public schools during the school year,each room with two beds, two desks and two bookcases. The dining rooms and the lobbies were indistinguishable from those in a hotel, but these were schools nevertheless. On a map, Iceland has hundreds of what seem to be towns, but but most of the name are of hamlets and farms whose children attend these boarding schools.We saw many cyclists circumnavigating the island (and fording the rivers). One of our biggest thrills was getting only a few feet from puffins at their cliffside nests. Iceland has much more to see than what I've mentioned including sites in whole areas of the country inaccessible except to hikers. But I think you get the idea: a wondrous place, literally jaw-droppingly awesome. And nice people. Bob

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