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Cultural Traces Around the World

Discovering Iceland, Part 1 of 2



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Situated above the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, surrounded by Atlantic waters, lies the Republic of Iceland, a Nordic Island country known for its natural beauty. Iceland is actually not a land completely covered with ice. The warm prevailing gulf stream keeps most of the land green and fertile. The country enjoys a cool and temperate maritime climate, with pleasant summers and mild winters.

Characterized by repeated volcanic activity and geothermal phenomena, Iceland is a point of fascination for geologists around the world. Formed during eruptions from 1963 to 1967, volcanic island Surtsey, south of Iceland, is home to an exclusive scientific research site as well as a UNESCO natural heritage site. The Vatnajökull National Park - Dynamic Nature of Fire and Ice, which is also a UNESCO natural heritage site since 2019, is home to Europe's second largest glacier as well as 10 volcanoes.

The capital city of Reykjavík, one of the cleanest, greenest, and safest cities in the world, is home to an estimated 60 percent of the country’s population, and is an important cultural and economic center. The supreme national parliament of Iceland, called the Alþingi, currently located in the capital, is a symbol of the country’s long-standing tradition of democracy. Despite being the most sparsely populated country in Europe, Iceland is highly ranked in the world by economic and democratic standards, as well as for its social stability and equality.

Iceland is one of the most vegan-friendly countries in the world. Not only are there plenty of traditional plant-based options available, but alternative fast food and treats, such as ice cream, can also be easily found. According to news site Iceland Monitor in 2016, Iceland had more vegetarian restaurants per capita listed on HappyCow than any other country in Europe.

Compared with other languages, Icelandic has remained relatively unchanged for centuries. The Icelandic sagas are collections of stories of the early settlers and were mostly written between the 12th and 14th centuries. Traditional Icelandic handcrafts include silversmithing, woodcarving, and weaving. The art of silverwork using silver thread to produce ornaments has been preserved for centuries. The traditional Turf House was brought to Iceland by the first settlers. Its design, shape and function are unique to the region, and are well suited to the country’s climate.

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