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In 330 BC an explorer named Pytheas sailed north from Marseilles (France) to discover how far the world would reach in that direction. He navigated the British Isles and the northern seas and upon returning home wrote about an island that he called Thule or Ultima Thule, which either he had learned about from others or discovered himself. This island was six days north of Britain and one day removed from "the end of the world". The island he found is thought to have been Iceland.

Settled by Norwegian and Celtic (Scottish and Irish) immigrants during the late 9th and 10th centuries A.D.The first geographical document describing the northern seas was written by an Irish monk named Dicuil, early in the 9th century. The book was called "De mensura orbis terrae" and in it he related his interviews with Irish priests, the papas, who claimed they had sailed north to Thule and lived there from February to August.Iceland boasts the world's oldest functioning legislative assembly, the Althing, established in 930. Independent for over 300 years, Iceland was subsequently ruled by Norway and Denmark. Fallout from the Askja volcano of 1875 devastated the Icelandic economy and caused widespread famine. Over the next quarter century, 20% of the island's population emigrated, mostly to Canada and the US. Limited home rule from Denmark was granted in 1874 and complete independence attained in 1944. Literacy, longevity, income, and social cohesion are first-rate by world standards

Iceland, the second largest island in Europe, lies close to the Arctic Circle. It is about midway between New York and Moscow. Iceland has a total area of 103,000 square km (39,756 square miles). From north to south the greatest distance is about 300 km (185 miles), from west to east about 500 km (305 miles). The coastline is about 6,000 km (3,700 miles) and the shortest distances to other countries are 286 km (180 miles) to Greenland, 795 km (495 miles) to Scotland and 950 km (590 miles) to Norway. Geologically Iceland is a very young country, and the process of its formation is still going on. Iceland's interior consists entirely of mountains and high plateaus, devoid of human habitation. Its average height is 500 m above sea level, the highest point being Hvannadalshnúkur in the Öræfajökull glacier in Southeast Iceland, reaching a height of 2.119 m (6,950 feet).

Reykjavik is the capital of Iceland. It's a city with just over 100.000 people and is located in Southwest Iceland by Faxaflói, Iceland's biggest bay. The story of Reykjavik goes as far back as to the first settler Ingólfur Arnarson who came to Iceland in 874 and build himself a farm in Reykjavik. The name means "an inlet with smoke" or "Smoky Bay" and that may be one of the reasons he settled here. He saw steam coming from the ground and found natural hot springs that must have been very useful in those days. Nothing much is going on in Reykjavik until the 16th century when Reykjavik had become a trading place and by the time it was established as an independent town in 1876 it had some 170 inhabitants. By 1900 the numbers were almost 6.000 and 55.000 around 1950. It is a modern city where all the houses are heated by hot water. The staircases of apartment blocks are heated and even the parking lots and sidewalks in front of many homes and businesses have hot water flowing through to melt the snow during winter. Also very noticeable for foreign visitors are the colourful roofs and houses of the city. It is a cosmopolitan city with very active night life and many museums and art galleries. Reykjavik will be one of Europe's culture cities in the year 2000.


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