But with all the buzz surrounding Icelandair's Edmonton debut, EIA's other new route, American Airlines' forthcoming daily non-stop to Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, has received less attention than it merits. While Dallas might strike one as a less "exotic" destination than Reykjavik, this new US route is a huge coup for the Edmonton region. After all, DFW is the fourth busiest airport in the world by aircraft movements and the ninth busiest in the world by passenger traffic. It is also the primary hub for American Airlines, which, following its merger last year with US Airways, became the world's largest air carrier. And with AA's unparalleled network across the Americas, this new non-stop is a huge deal for central and northern Alberta.
But enough about air connections. What about Dallas and Reykjavik? Which destination is cooler? On the surface Iceland seems to score over Texas in the hipness department, what with its midnight sun, its deceptively temperate climate in spite of its arctic latitude, its haunting volcanic landscape, its ancient language little changed from Old Norse and its über-hip contemporary culture. But the great state of Texas is not to be underestimated, and not just because of its heavily armed citizenry. This is, after all, the state that gave the world gunslinger movies, tailgate barbecues, Tex-Mex, Davy Crockett, Janis Joplin, the Dixie Chicks, Tommy Lee Jones' glare, Beyoncé's legs, Matt McConaughey's pects, Nolan Ryan's arm, Chuck Norris' beard and a band that calls themselves the Butthole Surfers and expects us to keep a straight face. Indeed not a place you mess with.
So how do these two places stack up against one another? See for yourselves courtesy of this highly scientific study.
1) Cowboys vs Vikings
No, we're not talking NFL here. We're talking a pitched battle between actual cowboys and actual Vikings. Who would win? In long-range combat, Texas' iconic gunslingers would definitely have the edge thanks to their firepower, but at close quarters it's hard to imagine Billy the Kid besting the battle axe-wielding death horde of Erik the Red. As for pure coolness factor, cowboys have plenty of cachet thanks to the movies of John Wayne et al, but the sheer terror that the Norsemen of old inspired back in their heydey has lasted to the present, with Vikings remaining an enduring symbol of the Scandinavian lands - even in the era of Ikea, ABBA and socialized medicine. We give the Vikings the edge.
2) Endless Sky vs Midnight Sun
"The stars at night are big and bright - deep in the heart of Texas" go the lyrics to the Lone Star State's unofficial 'national' anthem. When it comes to spectacular skies, few places can match Texas - particularly when coupled with the awe-inspiring mix of canyons, desert and forest that characterize the state's landscape. But while few places can match Texas in this regard, Iceland, with its spectacular aurora borealis in winter and 24-hour sunshine in summer - juxtaposed with its haunting lunar landscapes, is one of them. And in a land of poets like this one, we're sure there are plenty of songs written about these things too. We just can't understand the lyrics. It's a split.
3) Cacti vs Juniper Bushes
Not much of a contest here. When it comes to vegetation, Iceland's starkly beautiful but largely barren landscape is no match for the Lone Star State. Even Texas' desert terrain has more impressive flora than most of Iceland's interior, and its eastern forests and hypnotic fields of native wildflowers blow anything Iceland has out of the water. Texas by a landslide.
4) Sam Houston vs Erik the Red
The founding father of the modern state of Texas was a petulant Ulster Scot who, in spite of his famous hairtrigger temper, was a devoted peacemaker who sought to avoid war with Mexico and famously fought for justice for Native American tribes. Iceland's most famous son, by contrast, was a murderous thug who founded the ill-fated Norse colony in southern Greenland (the first bona-fide European colony in the Americas) and whose relationship with the native Inuit was, shall we say, less than friendly. In this contest between a flawed by ultimately principled statesman and a convicted felon who, by all we've heard, was basically a total bastard, we're going to go with Ol' Sam on this one.
5) Canyons and Deserts vs Geysers and Volcanoes
In geological terms it's a battle of the titans between these two. Texas' spectacular deserts and canyons are the stuff of western romanticism, and it's hard to imagine a more breathtaking landscape. But while the Texas landscape most definitely inspires, Iceland's not only captivates visitors but also positively keeps them on their toes. Situated smack-dab on top of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, Iceland is a land of awesome volcanic and geothermic power - a lunar landscape with land that's always liable to explode below your feet. For sheer geological shock and awe, we're forced to give Iceland the nod here.
6) Texas Blues vs Nordic Post-Rock
7) Dixie Chicks vs Björk
When it comes to edgy female pop stars, it's a heated contest between C&W's most controversial trio and pop music's most outlandish diva. Both have achieved international stardom and fanbases well beyond their genre, and both have courted controversy with their uncompromising social and political stances. But in this bracket, Björk Guðmundsdóttir stands out with both her prodigious musical output, both with her original band the Sugarcubes and under her own name, and her experimental nature - to the point of becoming her country's most famous export. With respect to Natalie, Martie and Emily, they can't match this.
6) Chili Con Carne vs Hákarl
Here, alas, we fear poor Iceland is out of its depth. From Tex-Mex to tailgate barbecues, Texas cuisine kicks serious ass on every level. And with no disrespect to Iceland's minke whale kebabs and whatnot, Icelandic cuisine appears to consist mostly of dishes invented on a dare - or at least concocted out of desperation by Erik the Red's starving descendents, most notoriously kæstur hákarl (fermented shark meat), a food considered by many to be the most horrifying thing ever to be voluntarily eaten by human beings. Mind you, this alone will attract a niche group of thrill-seeking gastronomic tourists, but most will probably be wishing they'd chosen Dallas instead once the putrefied shark is sitting on a plate in front of them.
7) Margaritas vs Brennivín
Two decades ago Texas would have run away with this category, but the picture is very different today. For decades Iceland was home to the western world's strictest liquor laws, with beer being outlawed until 1989 and other tipples, including Brennivín, the country's signature unsweetened Schnapps, severely restricted. But today Icelanders count among the world's most devoted party animals, even celebrating National Beer Day every March 1 (the anniversary of the overturning of the hated beer prohibition) with an all-night pub crawl in Reykjavik. While Texas is justifiably well known for its excellent margaritas and its respectable microbrews, the Icelanders' hard-won status as 24-hour party people gives them the edge here.
8) Caribbean Beaches vs Geothermal Spas
Texas generally isn't thought of as a beach destination, but with over 600 miles of shoreline along the Gulf of Mexico, it really ought to be. Places like Matagorda and Padre Island have sandy beaches to compare with Maui or Cancun but without the huge tourist crowds, and the reef diving and surfing options make it a legit alternative to Southern California or Queensland. Still, Texas is far from unique in this regard, with Mexico only a sombrero's toss away and Florida and the Caribbean islands also enticingly close. Iceland, by contrast, is without rival in the hot springs category, putting even Japan to shame. Point goes to Iceland.
9) Football vs Ice Hockey
There's no question that Iceland is a sports-mad country. Iceland's national men's football (soccer) team made an inspiring run in the European qualifiers for the 2014 FIFA World Cup only to suffer a heartbreaking defeat to Croatia, while its national ice hockey team (probably the country's most popular team sport) has made impressive gains in international standings in recent years. But while Icelanders have excelled at numerous sports, nothing in the country can compare to the hysteria surrounding college and NFL football in the Lone Star State. Dallas' beloved Cowboys are more than a team; they're a cultural institution, and for that we give Texas the nod here.
10) Gun Ranges vs Rifle Shooting
It may come as a surprise to many given the Nordic lands' reputation for being socialistic 'nanny states', but Iceland - and indeed Scandinavia as a whole - has a decidedly Red State streak to it when it comes to firearms. Roughly one third of all Icelanders are gun-owners and marksmanship was once actively encouraged by the country's leaders as a means of asserting Iceland's national independence. (Sound familiar?) Texans of course are famously fond of their firearms, but Icelanders' abiding love of hunting and target shooting makes it an equally enticing destination for gun enthusiasts, and while guns are more heavily regulated there than in Texas, hunting licences and tour packages are available for international visitors. Both destinations hit the proverbial mark on this one.
11) Texas Hold 'Em vs Grandmaster Chess
There's nothing like dark, bleak winters when it comes to producing high-level chess players, and Iceland is no slouch in this category. Chess is serious business in Iceland and the country has easily the highest number of titled players per capita with over three per 100,000 residents and a substantial number of grandmasters, most notably Friðrik Ólafsson, Jóhann Hjartarson, Margeir Pétursson and Jón Loftur Árnason. Texans, by contrast, are better known as card sharks than chess mavens, and their signature version of poker, which was born in the southeastern town of Robstown in the early 1900s, is a Vegas staple today. But while Texas Hold 'Em is well known to the North American card-playing public, it scarcely has the global ubiquity of chess. And while Hungarian-born prodigy Susan Polgar now calls the state home, it's still a far cry from Iceland in this department. Check mate, y'all!
12) Chuck Norris vs Magnús Ver Magnússon
13) Drag Racing vs Formula Off-Road
Thanks to their respective rugged, expansive landscapes and cultural propensity for macho stunts (see the section on the consumption of fermented shark meat in #6), Texas and Iceland share a love of extreme motorsports. For some, Iceland's lunar landscape is synonymous with the Formula Off-Roading, a gravity-defying extravaganza of souped-up exhaust-belching V8 dragsters leaping off cliff sides and embankments, which tourists can now experience for themselves thanks to Iceland's ever-outside-the-box tourism marketing machine. But as impressive as Iceland's off-road antics may be, it hardly compares to the ubiquity of Texas' drag racing culture. A statewide obsession almost on par with gridiron, drag racing is everywhere in Texas and the vehicles are a sight to behold. Iceland may get there someday, but they're not there yet.
14) Dallas vs Næturvaktin
When it comes to television, Icelanders are at a distinct disadvantage to their Texan counterparts inasmuch as their language is only understood by some 330,000 people - virtually all of whom reside in Iceland. Still, some credit is due to the creators of Iceland's most popular recent TV hit, Næturvaktin ('Night Shift'), a sitcom set in a suburban Reykjavik gas station that has been likened to a blue-collar Icelandic equivalent to The Office, which co-starred popular comedian and future Reykjavik mayor Jón Gnarr. But while talk of a US remake of the popular show is ongoing, it is scarcely in a position to compete with Texas' most famous primetime export and its beloved anti-hero J.R. Ewing. This was never a fair fight.
15) Austin Weird vs Icelandic Avant-Garde
Texas gets a bad rap when it comes to arts and culture. Far from a backward state full of uncouth rednecks, Texas' cities are replete with art galleries, symphony orchestras and an architectural and design aesthetic all its own. And nowhere is this more apparent than in the state capital Austin, a city whose unofficial slogan "Keep Austin Weird" accurately sums up its famously iconoclastic music, theatre and film scene. But while Ballet Austin, the SXSW festival and the Sixth Street music hub are all tourist draws for the city and the state, Iceland's outsized presence on the art, fashion design, modern dance and avant-garde film scene are hard to beat. Austin may be weird, but nobody owns their weird like the land of Björk, Jón Gnarr and the highway engineers that factor elf habitats into their designs.
16) The Alamo vs Njáls Saga
When it comes to identity-forging battle narratives, Texans have the Battle of the Alamo and Icelanders have Njáls Saga. Thanks in no small part to Disney's Davy Crockett miniseries and John Wayne's 1960 film The Alamo, this notorious 1836 battle in which the Mexican army's massacre of the Texan revolutionaries turned the population against the future US state's then-colonial overlords and culminated in their overthrow has become a cornerstone of Texan nationalism. But this short-lived nasty business pales in comparison to the Icelandic equivalent to the Arthurian legends, a 13th century recounting of the murderous blood feuds that consumed early Iceland and nearly wiped out the fragile Norse colony. The 19th century Mexicans may have been brutal, but the blood and gore of 10th and 11th century Iceland beggars belief.
17) Valero Texas Open vs Arctic Open
Depends entirely on where you want to go. American Airlines' shortly forthcoming EIA-DFW route gives Edmontonians easy connections to destinations across Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean and South America, while Icelandair's new route does the same to the European continent via their award-winning hub at Keflavik International Airport in Reykjavik. So whether you're bound for Munich or Mexico City, Barcelona or Buenos Aires, or Stockholm or São Paulo, your choices of air connections are about to get a whole lot better. We call it a draw here too.
For those of you counting, the final score is Reykjavik 12, Dallas 11. Granted, Reykjavik's narrow victory has much to do with this particular study's North American bias to view Texas as less exotic than Iceland. Still, Iceland wins in the coolness department, but not without a fierce fought contest with the Lone Star State.
Are you from Texas (or Iceland for that matter) and disagree with the results here? We're expecting a response from Rick Perry's office any moment now disputing the results, so if you feel strongly one way or another, we'd love to hear from you. In the meantime we'll be booking our own ticket to Reykjavik. Or Dallas. We still can't decide.