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What happens in Iceland ...

OPINION

(Chicago Tribune file photo )
June 10, 2012|By Stephen Markley, For RedEye

Hey, who's in Iceland right now? Just me? OK, then I'll explain the entire country in this column.

It started like this: My friends Bojo and Trin decided to quit their jobs and hop around places that are not America for a while. I decided to more or less empty my bank account to travel with them on the first leg of their journey to this strange, magical world called Iceland.

Honestly, I've never been to a place I've had so much difficulty describing both aesthetically and socially. I totally get it now: how when you talk to people who've been here they just go, "Oh, my God. Yes. Iceland. You have to go."

During the summer there are essentially 20-22 hours of daylight, which acts on your body like a permanent Four Loko fed into you via neck IV. You feel like a cokehead until exhaustion comes crashing down about every third day. I'm not exaggerating when I say I slept maybe 10 of my first 72 hours in country. This is OK, though, because there is a hell of a lot to do/see/experience/survive.

We started in Reykjavik, rented a car and have just been driving around the island ever since—staying in hostels in weird little towns and working out a system in which Trin and I haggle about where to go, how much time to spend in each place and which mordantly attractive blond women we will strike up conversations with. Bojo drives. ("Shut up, Bojo," we tell him. "Daddy and Daddy 2 are talking.")

Therefore, I'm filing this column from another unpronounceable town on the Eastern coast that combines the spatial majesty of "Lord of the Rings" vistas with the creepy 800-people vibe of "Twin Peaks."

We spent the previous night in Akureyri, the second-largest city in the country, which has fewer people than Lakeview. We managed to find only three bars, one of which was called the Post Office (for no discernible reason).

The only real advice I can pass on from Akureyri is that if you're ever in the midst of dated American hip-hop, grimy machined fog and eye-zapping green lasers and you have the choice of talking to a mildewing Icelandic womanizer in his mid-50s who just demonstrated the foulest pick-up line perhaps in the entire English language or a mother of four who's making it a little too clear she wants to take you back to her bed in a small fishing village an hour away, then ... well, actually I don't remember what happened with all that, but I do know I couldn't properly digest soup in the morning.

Unfortunately, I've failed here because Iceland is stunning in a way that requires more than a column-space of adjectives. You begin the day watching miniature horses with funny haircuts galloping across a golden plain and end it on top of a mountain snapping pictures of frozen lakes through the clouds.

Less than halfway through the trip, I'm already a total convert who will speak of this country in blunt, wide-eyed, period-ended words upon my return. Daddy 2 digs this place.

REDEYE SPECIAL CONTRIBUTOR STEPHEN MARKLEY IS THE AUTHOR OF "PUBLISH THIS BOOK." REDEYECHICAGO.COM/MARKLEY

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