Road names or Road numbers?

  • This summer we met a young man from France, cycling over the Highland. We met him at Versalir in the middle of the road Sprengisandur or Sprengisandsleið.
Oct 18 2016

When discussing driving plans or road trips or planning any driving tour in Iceland, there is a striking difference between Icelanders and visitors.  For decades, even centuries, Icelanders have referred to places in the landscape by name. Everything has a name. This is also true when we talk about roads.  Every road in Iceland has a name and Icelanders use that name when talking about their summer tour and when planning a driving tour.  Although many visitors are familiar with the term Ring Road which Icelanders call Hringvegurin, most af them talk about Road Nr. 1
This summer we met a young man from France, cycling over the Highland. We met him at Versalir in the middle of the road Sprengisandur or Sprengisandsleið.  When we asked him about his plans for his current location at Sprengisandusleið, he only replied, “Hmmm? Am I where?”
Then he told us that his plan was to turn east on Road F910 from Road F26 by Nýidalur valley.  But he realized that Road Nr. F910 could be difficult if he were going to cycle all the way to Road Nr. 1 near Jökuldalur Valley, so his backup plan was to take F88.  So here is where we had some question marks on our faces. We had to look at the map and realized that he was planning to take Sprengisandsleið to Nýidalur and the take the road Gæsavatnaleið. The plan was to take the path towards Krepputunga and over Kreppa all the way to Jökuldalur on F910.  If He thought that was too difficult, he was going to take Öskjuleið to Road Nr. 1.
Most of the names are so integrated into our language and how we understand our landscape and roads that it will take að long time before Icelanders start talking in road numbers. Visitors will continue to meet Icelanders and describe their plans, and Icelanders will probably look at them like they are either speaking a language from another planet.  Visitors will most likely never even try to learn the names of the roads that all sound as complicated as Eyjafjallajökull.