My time in Europe ended with a trip to Iceland, a convenient pause on the way back to the US.
In sum, Iceland felt martian. I arrived in the dead of night to the midnight sun. We drove through lava fields, great black and green mounds covering the ground.
It was only ever dusk at darkest the three days I was there. I stayed with a Chinese family who had moved there because they were in the tourism business. I fell asleep in their spare bedroom at 3am, the gray not-quite-sunlight coming through the sheer curtains.
Everything works perfectly in Iceland, much like it does in Scandinavian countries. Tourism is bringing in tons of money, and it’s obvious in the infrastructure the small fishing country has to sustain bougie tourists. Since the re-vamping of the Blue Lagoon and the free stopover offered to Icelandair flyers on their way to Europe or the US, tourism has expanded greatly in recent years. (Not only was this evident by everyone and their mom (literally) being there, and as a consequence guided trips and transportation to those trips being made so easy a three-year-old could figure it out, but a swimmingcapped Icelandic woman with fuschia lipstick confirmed this at the Blue Lagoon as I wiped the silicone ish she was handing out all over my face.)
I learned that there, lots more people than normal believe in fairies, they eat raw puffin hearts, the national beer is like 2% (learned the hard/expensive way), and Icelandic is frustratingly only hardly familiar from my days studying Old Norse.
My last day there, I sat at a nearby lake. The sun was out, the water was calm, and across the way I could see that in lieu of a beach there was only green. A derelict wooden cabin was visible on the shore. It looked like the Shire. I sat there for a long while and read.