February 19, 2017 · Iceland Reykjavik.
Iceland 2016 February
From Fishermen to Fishers of Men
My interpretation of Iceland was muddled until my final nights, when I realized that an isle of fishermen had become an isle of Fisher’s of Man (Humans; men, women and children AKA Tourists).
A story was told to me by Gunner the owner of ‘Our Guest House’ who had been a fisherman but was now a Guest House proprietor.
The story he told was of his grandparents and the home they owned upon the sea in 1953. A stormy night it was as fishermen slept in boat and ship. The ship was balanced by a boat on either side, only to have one of the boats set loose by the wind, and the main ship toppled with crew aboard. The ice cold waters in gusty winds was not a safe place to be. The men got in the remaining boat, as their bodies froze in the crispest of air and lashing of the frozen rains. Once ashore they came to Gunner’s grandparent’s home seeking warmth of body. A few died and were laid outside to be further frozen. The others came inside where the grandmother laid between them sharing her warmth to help return theirs.
Iceland was not a weather or geographically friendly place to be. One of the last places on Earth to be inhabited and those who did, did so at great risk and peril to self and family. A hardy and maybe foolish bunch they were. For 13 Centuries, Icelanders were pretty much left alone to their own devices; whale hunting, fishing, wool production, self-sustaining farms. Others were not interested in visiting such a place of living here.
As time happens, things began to change. World awareness was brought upon this island of fisherman, by another Fischer man, Bobby, a player of chess. Neutral territory was needed, and nothing could be more neutral than the land of Ice straddling two continents, for a battle between world powers. Fischer representing the USA and West and Boris Spassky of the Soviet Union and Communist Block, in 1972. With this notoriety, people found out that there was more to Iceland than Ice, it actually had a city and a whole pronunciation of Reykjavik discussion began. The match may not always be remembered but now the Island would no longer remain undiscovered. It was further exposed to the world, by a Cold War ending 1986 summit between Ronald Regan and Gorbachev. The Cold War was ending and fortunes for Iceland were warming.
With change comes doing old things new ways. The whale hunts have been replaced by whale watching tours, the nets for catching fish have been replaced by the internet for catching tourist. Tourist which now come, as if they were on conveyor belts as they are herded to one harsh but awesome place to the next, but are protected by luxury bus, accommodation and restaurant. Instead of making their daily catch, selling or consuming, the Fisher of Man, now have a catch and release policy, knowing there will be a return or good words back to others in the schools of tourist to come.
Gunner (his Cousin Marteinn who has Sudur-Bár Guesthouse at which I also stayed) and his family, now do not have to risk life and limb to make a living, just as their grandmother did Gunner and his family, provide warmth in their homes, to strangers they have not met, in hopes they or their kind will return.
Iceland is a land of two continents, with geologic rifts and fissures, volcanoes, and more, but its people show no rifts in their ability to adapt to a new way of doing the old thing. Now their challenge, which they seem to be handling it well, is sharing their hard worked for space with others. They have created a safe place for many (well except bankers, who actually go to jail for committing fraud,) and now many new people of various languages, cultures and appearances are joining them. There is some disconcertion with this, but it appears the adjustments are occurring. There is more than one way to catch a fish, and many type of fish to catch.
Iceland is an awesome place with the Northern Lights, mountains, beaches, oceans, volcanic activity, waterfalls and spas, it is a wondrous place to play and explore. As for timing a visit to Iceland, two trips will be needed one in mid-winter in or around the holiday to make the best of the Northern Lights and winter celebration and another in mid-summer during the 24 hours Sun, where if you go to the attractions in the light of midnight you may be able to avoid the mid-day conveyor belt crowds.
The big surprise for me was that I heard the food was not good and was expensive. I found the food wonderful and well worth the price.