Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Most Beautiful Places On Earth

As a child growing up in the military, I had many opportunities to travel to some parts of the world I would normally not have seen. Two of the most interesting and unusual places I have lived are Hawaii and Iceland. Even though I was fairly young in both places, I still remember them as clearly as if it were yesterday. Though just as exciting, life was radically different in Iceland than it was in Hawaii. Despite their obvious differences of topography and weather patterns, Hawaii and Iceland have one fundamental thing in common — they are two of the most beautiful places on earth.
Hawaii (duh)
Iceland (duh)
Iceland (duh)
Many people haven’t been either Hawaii or Iceland, but both names conjure up very distinct images. When a person hears “Hawaii,” he/she might think about sunsets on the beach with palm trees gently swaying in the warm evening breeze; or maybe about a traditional luau, complete with roasting pig, music from a slide guitar and ukulele, and hula dancers in full grass-skirt garb. The best way to celebrate New Year’s Eve in Hawaii is to sit on a quiet beach and watch the fireworks show just up the coast at Diamond Head and Waikiki. Hawaii also offers endless opportunities for unique outdoor activities. These include trudging through rain forests, sliding down “lava shoots” into the warm ocean, snorkeling with exotic fish, hiking on dormant and active volcanoes, and simply witnessing some of the most gorgeous scenery known to man.
Other than also being volcanically active, Iceland is about as different from Hawaii as it can get. It is known for its long, dark winters, bone-chilling winds, and blizzards that could bury a building in one night. Between the months of October and April, Iceland’s weather is at its worst. The sun disappears for up to twenty hours each day, which gives the country a melancholy mood for most of the winter months. The wind gusts can get up to hurricane-level speeds, sometimes ripping roofs off of buildings and turning vehicles on their sides. The snowdrifts pile up on buildings so high that people can be trapped in their homes for days at a time (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing). One of the many interesting things about Iceland is that it has close to no trees at all. What trees Iceland does have are small and sparse. However, this makes for a very unique and stunning landscape. On a calm day, when the country is blanketed in snow, a person can see nothing but white for miles upon miles, far into the distant mountains.
Iceland is even more beautiful during the few summer months, when the mountain snow is melting and the untamed rivers and waterfalls are running at their fullest. One waterfall, called Gullfoss, is particularly extraordinary. The huge river, with its ice-blue water running violently through its veins, plunges off the side of a cliff into a deep, narrow canyon, where the river continues its path. People can stand on the other side of this small canyon, a cloud of mist billowing up, and view with amazement this breathtaking display of untouched nature. It is truly a remarkable thing to see. Although Iceland lacks in year-round sunshine and warm weather, it makes up for it two-fold in amazing displays of raw, unabashedly beautiful scenery.
Hawaii has palm trees and beaches; Iceland has snow-capped mountains and glaciers. Between their sun-soaked Christmases and blizzard-filled Easters, Hawaii and Iceland really are worlds apart. However, as anyone who’s been to both will testify, they are very similar in that their scenery will amaze and astound. It will affirm every belief that God has genuinely touched this earth with His hand.

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