Sunday, December 15, 2013

Iceland vs. Minnesota

Seems like an interesting comparison at this dark and frozen time of year.  The most obvious is that Minnesota is much colder. At least where there are people trying to survive. In Iceland, most people live around the edge of the country and the sea keeps them warmer. Maybe the Icelanders are smarter in that respect. I mean why go looking for trouble when there is a simple solution? I live by Lake Superior which is a huge lake, but it's no ocean. It does moderate the temperature somewhat if you stay close enough to it. Of course, if you do that you tend to stay a little more damp.

Wind chill. Today the wind chill was approaching -40 as the winds were 25 to 30 mph and the temperature was well below zero. While the edge of Iceland is warmer than us it sometimes (sort of regularly) gets hit by gale force winds which sometimes reach hurricane strength. It has been known to bend automobile doors totally the wrong way. I have no idea if there are serious calculations for wind chill when it gets going that fast.

Yesterday afternoon we had about 5 inches of snow. By this morning it had blown away. I suspect it went across the lake to Michigan, but I haven't called anyone over there to verify that that's where it went.

Darkness. Iceland is darker since it is farther north. But that means they get Northern Lights more often and that may offset some of the lack of sunshine. The good news is that in a week the days start getting longer for all of us in the Northern Hemisphere.

Food. We have Lutefisk (made from cod) here in Minnesota. It is an acquired taste, but if you take a piece of lefse, stuff it with mashed potatoes and butter, and then throw on a little Lutefisk it can be tolerated. Sort of like a Norwegian taco.

O Lutefisk, O Lutefisk, how fragrant your aroma,
O Lutefisk, O Lutefisk, you put me in a coma.
You smell so strong, you look like glue,
You taste just like an overshoe,
But lutefisk, come Saturday,
I tink I eat you anyvay

Iceland has Hákarl which is fermented Greenland shark. Fermented is a nice way of saying "rotten" or "putrefied". The taste is apparently something like ammonia. I say apparently because I have never tried it. Maybe next time in Iceland. Maybe. This is also supposed to be an acquired taste, although I cannot imagine how or why anyone would want to acquire it.

Both of these "delicacies" require long periods of time to make. Burial, fermentation, sitting on the floor in the corner of the outhouse may be things they have in common. I suspect that is why the occasional stray dog gets a chance to urinate on them for that "special" flavor. Both are meant to be eaten with traditional beverages like Aquavit or Brennevin. These drinks can be referred to as "Water of Life" or "Black Death" again depending on whether or not the taste for them has been "acquired". I'll have to admit acquiring the taste for them, but not the food with which they are used to chase.

Minnesota has Cold Spring, Spring Valley, Pine Spring, Glennwood Springs, and numerous others. These are cold, but good to drink. Iceland has many hot springs because of the volcanic nature of the country. Most of these taste like sulfur. So the question here is, do you want to quench your thirst or warm up? This time of year "warm up" wins. You can always melt snow if you are thirsty or have one of the aforementioned beverages. 

Ways to stay warm. In Minnesota we have trees. We turn them into firewood and burn them in stoves to keep us toasty warm. In Iceland they have no trees. Why they don't is subject to debate, but that is usually done halfway through the Brennevin. They do, however, have sheep. Lots and lots of sheep. I suppose you could cuddle up with a bunch of them for warmth (be careful of rumors) or sheer them in the spring and make warm clothes out of the wool. Often the wool is made into a Lopapeysa, or traditional Icelandic sweater which is warm and somewhat water repellant. The preferred method of using sheep for warmth is probably different from the country to the city, but I don't want to start any rumors. What happens in Iceland stays in Iceland.

Those of you in warmer climes probably don't understand why anyone would live in such a place, but sometimes you need the painful feelings of your extremities thawing just to let you know that you are alive. Screaming, "I want to go to Miami," as this thawing occurs is permissable.


  1. Nice comparison!

    For 18 years, I lived in Jamestown, New York, a town so Swedish that it has a Swedish consulate. I know what lutefisk is, though I have never eaten it. I do like korv; my father-in-law always made it for Christmas Eve.

  2. I was going to ask if you'd ever consider living anywhere less challenging,but I think your last sentence answered my question!

  3. Brrrr, I'm going to have to turn up my heat now after reading your post.

  4. I LOVE living in a place with extreme cold. What can I say? But I"ll pass on the Lutefisk. I've heard much about it over the years, but have never tried it.

  5. PP, then you know what I am talking about.
    irbii, I've considered a lot of places, but I am still here.
    Donna, me, too!
    kKnatolee, Living like this does tend to keep out the riff raff.