While Fort Millians were sweltering in the June heat wave, Becky and Rick Diak were bundled up and trekking along glaciers in Iceland.
"Iceland was so unusual, it's like nothing I've ever seen before," Becky says. "Iceland is the cleanest place on earth. There are no fossil fuels burned, there are very few cars, the air and the water are beautiful and clear."
Becky further describes the country as one of contrasts. "It's very stark and barren from the many volcanoes that dot the land. There are rifts in the landscape from earthquakes, and then, in contrast, a grass field appears."
The Diaks learned about the tour from their membership in the Cultural and Heritage Museum of York County. The museum is affiliated with the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., which organized the tour.
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Iceland's land mass was formed by volcanoes and the upheaval of earthquakes.
"Along with the weather report, we got the volcano report. That way we would know the areas to avoid," Becky says. "Because of the geothermal aspect just underground, hot water for showers comes directly from the ground. One thing about the showers, maybe because people in Iceland are so tall and thin, but the shower stalls are also tall and narrow, there's not a lot of room to move around."
She noted that all buildings are built from corrugated steel to protect from fire.
The Diaks got their early American history corrected during their visit. Icelanders emphatically inform visitors that Leif the Lucky discovered America in 1,000 A.D. The Vikings came to Iceland from Norway in 900 A.D. and apparently continued to push westward.
One of the special events for Becky and Rick was going out on a glacier.
"We floated in a lagoon, made from the melting glacial ice, and icebergs were floating all around us. Our tour guide showed us some ice that was 1,000 years old. It was so crystal clear. We all got a piece to taste."
As fans of ecotourism - last year they toured Costa Rica, Rick and Becky want to see firsthand the effects of modern man on the environment.
"Global warming is very frightening," says Becky. "We stood on a glacier that was melting under our feet and it was 30 degrees."
The folk lore of Icelanders is a gem. Trolls and elves figure prominently in everyday life. The Diaks would see elf houses built along the roads - about two feet high.
"Before anyone would start a building project, such as a road, the contractor would need to contact someone who had contact with the elves, to be sure the road would not go through an elf village. If so, the contractor would need to change his route. If he plowed through with the original plan, he would have many, many problems - don't disturb the elves."
Trolls are giants who live underground.
"They only come out a night," Becky says. "If you would see a rock formation that looks like a giant that meant a troll got caught in the day time."
The cities of Iceland grew up along the shores to be near fishing, a major occupation, while inland areas are made up of glaciers. Still, towns are far apart and can be sparsely populated. Education tends to be boarding schools; children attend during the week and go home on the weekend. The university is located in Reykjavik, the capital and the largest city.
"Learning about Iceland, its history and its way of life, how clean and clear everything was made for a wonderful trip," says Becky. "From the history of the Vikings who came from Norway, to traveling the land of 1,000 waterfalls, to always noticing the contrasts of the landscape, from the black sand to seeing the blue lupine flowers and the grassy fields, it was an amazing journey."
During their visit, Iceland celebrated Independence Day (from Denmark).
"There were red, white, and blue balloons, dancers, rock bands who sang in English," Becky says. "If it weren't for the difference in language, we would have thought we were at home."
• Lizann Lutz writes about the people, places and events around Fort Mill, Tega Cay, Indian Land and Van Wyck. Please share your ideas with her by calling the Fort Mill Times at 547-2353 or by e-mailing Lizann at firstname.lastname@example.org.