Iceland Mag

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Iceland Mag


An American in Reykjavík: Sleeping through the midnight sun

By Matt Eliason

  • In June the sun never dips below the horizon in Iceland. Photo/Vilhelm Gunnarsson

Matt Eliason is new to Iceland. He will chronicle his first impressions of the country, its people and traditions for Iceland Magazine. Changing of the seasons is today's subject.

A new set of blinds and an eye cover for bedtime sleep are among the most important investments for all foreigners during Iceland’s summer months. 

The muscle memory developed from my 25 years of sleeping in the dark provides a challenging environment to get the necessary hours of sleep during Iceland’s 20 hours of daylight. I have found myself consistently laying up in bed at 4am, frustrated from my inability to go back to sleep as the rays of bright sunlight create the improbable task of drifting back into the unconscious.

Additionally, there is no greater feeling of disgust, or satisfaction based on how your night is going, to groggily exit a Reykjavik bar on a Saturday night as the sun is making its first appearance over the horizon.

This excess of sunlight comes in stark contrast to my January visit to Reykjavik at which point I was basically deprived of all signs of life. Sitting in my room at the hostel, I had trouble waking up before noon as the sun refused to make its first appearance before reaching the afternoon hours. In accordance, I believe it is the long, brutal winters that help Icelanders have a true appreciation for the weather here during the summer months.

I can relate to the emotions of seasonal mood changes due to my experience dealing with the harsh Chicago winters that plague my hometown every November through February. Known for extremely cold temperatures, erratic wind gusts and heavy snow blizzards, Chicago winters are infamous for their unforgiving nature and painfully cold wind chills. In turn, Chicagoans have a sense of gratefulness for the summertime weather after enduring the treacherous cold of the winter months. At the first sign of any weather resembling spring temperatures and sunlight, Chicagoans can be seen wearing shorts and sunbathing at our beaches on the shore of Lake Michigan.

Likewise, Icelanders were out in abundance this past weekend as temperatures hit 16 degrees Celsius (60 F) and the sun shone down on the numerous visitors to the hot tubs at Laugardalslaug Swimming Pool. The notion rings true that you appreciate something so much more once it´s gone. Icelanders as well as my native Chicagoans have to feel the sting of winter in order to fully appreciate the more favorable summer weather. 

Chicago winter. This is Matt's car in February. Photo/Matt Eliason


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