Quick Guide to Easy Icelandic Words

easy icelandic words
Hallgrimskirkja – You’re required to take a photo before leaving the country. And you can spot a few easy Icelandic words hiding in the full name.

My ears love the Icelandic language. My tongue, though, hates it. Just about every attempt at saying a few bits (aside from "takk fyrir," the phrase for "thank you") earned me a few chuckles. I still had fun trying, and I think it’s good for any traveler to try learning a few words – no matter how bad you might mispronounce them.

That said, your odds are good of picking up a few easy Icelandic words – in written form, at least. You’ll see some of them repeated often in the names of towns and other landmarks. This will help you remember where you’re going, and maybe even give you a sense of what each place is about. So here’s a handy list of easy Icelandic words you’ll often see repeated in your itinerary and maps. If you’re good at speaking Icelandic, feel free to add a few more in the comments. And let me know if I goofed anything up.

kirkja – This is the word for church. You’ll see it in the names of places like Hallgrimskirkja, the iconic church in Reykjavik, and in the small town of Kirkjabærklaustur on the south coast.

foss – One of the few easy Icelandic words here. It means waterfall. Goðafoss is one example.

easy icelandic words
One of Iceland’s many waterfalls. But this one freezes in winter to become The Wall in the HBO series “A Game of Thrones.”

jökull – This means "glacier." This one is harder to pronounce than you’d expect. Some language guides say the double-l produces a sound like the last syllable in "cuddle." Um, no. This hits my ear as a really interesting clicking in the sides of the throat. Kind of like "yuck-ultl", but with the last sound very clipped and truncated. Example: Eyjafjallajökull, a word that is double black-diamond scary for a non-Scandinavian language speaker.

vik – Here’s a nice single-syllable word that means "bay." I heard some native speakers say "Veek," while I could swear others said "week." Not sure what is correct. There’s a small town called Vik, and it’s a great place to go for a hike and take photos on a black-sand beach.

reykja – You’ll recognize this from the capitol city of Reykjavik. It means smoky, which makes the city’s name translate to -- Smoky Bay. I hear it got that name from all the geothermal features that emitted steam.

easy icelandic words
Part of the pseudocrater field near Myvatn

klaustur – This one means convent, and you’ll see it used in that tongue-twister of a town name I mentioned above. My ears detected what sounded like a very fast, truncated roll on the final r … so it sounded like “Klow-stirt.”

vatn РThis one does double-duty as water or lake. Vatna appears to be the plural, like in Vatnaj̦kull.

my – This word, pronounced "me," is the word for annoying little flies known in English as midges. So the region known as Myvatn means "Midge Lake." Take that name seriously, especially on the lake’s south shore. Those little bugs are everywhere.


Where to Beat the Summer Heat in Arizona

Summer Heat in Arizona
A summer hike near Flagstaff – a great place to beat the summer heat in Arizona.

If you live in Arizona, there’s a good chance the summer heat has its oppressive boot squished against your neck. And you want to know how and where to beat the summer heat in Arizona, someway, somehow. I have some tips for all of you who are afraid of getting heatstroke on the way out to the mailbox.

Go Curling

That’s right. Curling. The Coyotes Curling Club has a legitimate, for-real curling barn – none of this playing-on-hockey rinks crap. It’s always cool in there. Just sign up for one of its ever-more-frequent Learn to Curl sessions. Better yet, talk your employer into doing a Learn to Curl session for your company. Call it team building while cooling off. The Coyotes Curling Club has all the gear you need. Just wear a good pair of pants that allow freedom of movement and won’t show your buttcrack. (This is pretty much the only item on the list that involves staying in town. Do you really need a blogger to tell you to do obvious stuff like go to a movie, a public pool or an ice-skating rink? No.)

Beat the Summer Heat in Arizona
The Coyotes Curling Club – a great place to wear funny pants AND beat the summer heat in Arizona.

Get Out of Town

There are plenty of places around the state to beat the summer heat in Arizona. Here’s a quick roundup of them.

Prescott – The problem with Prescott is that its summers are warmer than they used to be. But the temperatures are still lower up there, and you’ll probably get an afternoon monsoon storm to cool things off. You’ll find plenty of hiking and mountain biking, but you can also just lounge around near the old-school courthouse area if you’re more sedate. No matter what, I no longer consider a trip to Prescott complete without a visit to Granite Mountain Brewing Company. Its own beers are great, and you’ll often find mead from Superstition Meadery on-tap at Granite Mountain Brewing, too (if you’re never had mead, this is the place to try it). There’s a lot of places to catch live music, too, and they’re walking distance from each other. Just one thing – NEVER go to Prescott anywhere near Independence Day. It’s a madhouse.

beat the summer heat in Arizona
On horseback near Greer.

Flagstaff – The obvious choice. Cooler than Prescott, more funky, even more outdoor stuff, more culinary variety. It takes longer to get there, though. But it’s worth a little extra time. I haven’t gotten to Flagstaff Extreme Adventure Park yet, but -- an aerial obstacle course? How could I not love it? I’m also a huge fan of the Lava River Cave. If you have some time and energy, you can hike to the summit of Humphreys Peak, Arizona’s highest point at 12,600 feet and change. And you should can also think about shorter-but-still-cool hikes like SP Crater and Red Mountain (S P Crater is the coolest place you’ve never heard of). If you like microbrew and top-quality espresso, Flagstaff is silly with it. I’m partial to Fire Creek Coffee Company – they serve beer there, too.

An adventure in the trees? Count me in.(Photo credit: bill85704)

Greer/Pinetop/Show Low - I’ve combined these three towns. Greer (Arizona) is off by itself, while Pinetop and Show Low are nestled together. Look, you’re not going to find great nightlife or dining here. The mountain biking is pretty stellar, though, and the area is the closest thing Arizona has to a rain forest. If your goal is to beat the summer heat in Arizona, this is the place to trounce the triple digits. One of my highlights – going for a bike ride and having a herd of elk romp right past me.

Tombstone - OK, I admit that Tombstone is ridiculous Old West kitsch ramp straight to 11. But it’s also in one of Arizona’s wine-growing regions. If you’re into wineries, this is as good a place to base yourself as any. It’s also far cooler than you might expect, with some nice afternoon drizzle during the monsoon season. Bisbee is also nearby, and pretty funky-cool. I need to hang out there a bit more to give a more thorough rundown -- or if anyone reading this knows Bisbee and wants to do a guest post, well, consider the welcome mat out.

My Experience at the 2014 World Cup

2014 World Cup.
Brazil – they were kind of a big deal during the 2014 World Cup.

This afternoon, Germany just gave Brazil a 7-1 hiding in the 2014 World Cup semifinal. I can only imagine the anguish in Brazil right now – especially since I just had the chance to visit Brazil during the Group Stages.

So it’s a great moment to share a few of the great things I saw at the World Cup during my time in Curitiba, Brazil before the World Cup comes to a close.

Post-match Scarf Trading
I thought for sure I was about to see the 2014 World Cup go wrong. Nigeria and Iran had just battled to a goalless draw. The Arena de Baixada was starting to clear out. That’s when an Iran fan ran right up into the face of a group of Nigerians. But -- it turns out he wanted to trade his Iran scarf for a Nigerian fan’s scarf. Everyone visibly relaxed, and all was well as they traded. Very cool!

2014 World Cup
Keeping things civil at the 2014 World Cup

Nationalism Without Antagonism
During the first week, only Iran, Nigeria, Ecuador and Honduras would play in Curitiba. But sure enough, I saw people in colors from the United States, Japan, Australia, Mexico and too many other nations to count. All the fans, though, were good about supporting their own teams without riling fans from other nations.

2014 World Cup
A pensioner who fled her family to attend some 2014 World Cup fun drew a stream of supporters.

Four live matches, a heated televised Mexico-Brazil match at the FIFA FanFest, too many other televised matches at bars and restaurants to remember. And not a single fight. Nothing. Sure, a few stumbling fans who had a few too many beers. Still, I didn’t see a single punch thrown, not so much as a minor scuffle.

A World Cup-crazed Septuagenarian
I eavesdropped a bit at the FIFA FanFest when Brazil played Mexico. I overheard interviews with a woman in her 70s who gave her family the slip to attend 2014 World Cup festivities. I only understand a sliver of Portuguese, so I didn’t catch very many details. Why didn’t they just go with her? Bottom line, she was there, and the press was crazy about her – along with other fans who lined up to take photos with her.

2014 World Cup
Fun Ecuador silliness during the group stage of the 2014 World Cup.
2014 World Cup
Fun from the FIFA FanFest at the 2014 World Cup
2014 World Cup
His country isn’t playing today – or within 2,000 miles of here. But that’s OK. He’s got his flag wavin’!
2014 World Cup Honduras versus Ecuador
Cover up your nads, boys.
2014 World Cup
A foggy, cool night in Curitiba, Brazil.