Treading on Black Ice


“Ccc-ch” “ccc-ch” “ccc-ch.” Hear that?

Ok, I know it’s an interpretive noise, but pretend for a moment it’s the sound your shoes make when you’re walking on soft, white, powdery snow. You know, the kind of snow where your foot gets some good traction, the kind of snow that almost feels like you could be walking on dry, solid ground.

Well, you don’t hear that sound when you’re walking the streets of Iceland right now. Nope, it’s more like the “chhhhhhhhhhhh” sound, followed by a pause, and sometimes followed by a “Thuuump!” The “chhhhhhhhhhh” sound is made when either yourself or someone slips interminably, and sometimes, but not always falls on his or her bum. Ok, to be fair, it’s mostly the foreigners who fall on their bums.

You know you’re living in an icy, um, wonderland (purgatory?) when you see people walking like robots, arms and feet splayed out for balance. Sometimes I find it’s easier to just pretend I have skates or skis on my feet and sliiiide across the ice rather than actually picking up my feet one by one. (Coincidentally, when I was a kid, my mom would always get on my case about not picking up my feet when I walk. Now I have an excuse. Take that, mom!)

Sure, some of the streets and sidewalks are heated – a godsend – but those magical underground pipes don’t hit all the cracks and crevices downtown. When you’re trying to squeeze past two mothers pushing their strollers on the sidewalks of Laugavegur, forget about trying to slide past them on the side closest to any building. It’ll be black ice.

Skólavördustígur is usually pretty clear, but not up top near the church and Krambúdin, home of the cheapest movie rentals in Iceland.

Sometimes when you head out for a walk here in winter you just have to put on your dancing boots and pray. Same thing when you get into a car.


Views expressed here are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Iceland Review.