Another interesting tidbid about water in Iceland is how pure and fresh it is. It is touted as being the cleanest, most refreshing natural water in the world. "Drinking cold tap water never tastes so good," the locals boast. I can't help but agree. The hot tap water, on the other hand, emits a rotten egg smell--because of the country's high levels of sulfur. It took a while to get used to showering in water that smelled like that, but it definitely made me feel extra clean.
In Inverness, we rented bikes to travel north the 30km to Loch Ness. The ride was cold and wet, and much of it was along the river you see pictured above. The 30km seemed to draw on forever--but when we arrived at the Loch, it was so worth it. I don't think I'd ever seen a body of water so big that wasn't the ocean. It was still and quiet, and a soft mist hung over the surface and spread off into the distance. I could not see the end of it. We sat on the beach for a while, playing with the smooth pebbles that made up the shoreline. Alex took a drink from the Loch, just to say he had. It wasn't the worst, he told me.
For as far as we could see along the edges of the Loch, a few boats were docked at little cottages. The point we had entered onto the Loch didn't seem like a tourist attraction--we were truly the only ones there. I couldn't help but wonder what sort of community had formed by those living at the edge of such a famous body of water.
Alex and I visited the Cliffs as part of a touring company across Ireland. We were staying in Dublin, but got the chance to bus around most of the small country and wind up in Galway. On the way, we stopped at the Cliffs and in a beautiful rocky terrain called the Burren. The Burren was made up of giant fields of limestone that had been eroded by the ocean so that nothing could really grow (because soil got washed away). Our tour guide told us lots about how the sea water had killed the economy of the towns surrounding the Burren by removing any chance at agricultural growth--no plants means no plant food but also no food for keeping animals. It sure was beautiful, though.
In both Galway and Dublin, as in many other European cities, a river flows through. The River Liffey in Dublin was important to me because of its literary significance in the writings of James Joyce. Joyce, a Dubliner himself, included many landmarks of Dublin in his novels and stories. The River Liffey is certainly one of them. As an avid Joyce fan, I particularly enjoyed seeing the places and landmarks I'd read about in real life.
Jack & I also took a day to travel into the country side. We biked through a part of Holland literally called "The Waterlands" for its marshy landscape and mini lakes that dotted it. For a majority of our bike ride, we were on a narrow strip of land that was surrounded on both sides by water. Our end goal, a lighthouse near the Northern-most part of Holland, was on a sandy strip that stretched out into the Atlantic ocean. In the towns we rode through to get to the van Maarken lighthouse, we saw that water was a major contributor to the lifestyles there. The houses were often right up at the water's edge, and when they weren't, it was because boats were docked there. We saw lots of fishermen, too.
The communities and activities that form around waterways and bodies of water anywhere grow to become significant and maybe even essential to maintaining the economy, culture, and wellbeing of the people who live near them. In all of the places I visited this summer, water certainly played a major part. In late June when I returned to New Jersey, and eventually to the Jersey Shore, I looked at the ocean differently. I actually thought about the part the ocean played in the survival of the shore towns. I thought about how the shore here and the many shores "across the pond" are incredibly different, and yet not all that dissimilar. Water, everywhere, is a key factor of human life. I will never look at a body of water and not think about its benefits and implications again. I will never look at a body of water and take it for granted.