Category Archives: Nationalism

Beach Wrack in Iceland Washes High Up On Shore

The sky cries tears in Iceland. Viennese waltzes warping in a banana box in a window, old hi-fi junk, and all the books of the world wash up on the shore otherwise called Hverfisgata.

Not much different than a knot of broken fishing nets and cast-off plastic knocking against the knees of kelp-eating sheep, really.

 

Maria of the Elves

Women were put to death for visiting elves here on Viðey in Reykjavik Old Harbour. Now there is a shrine to Maria made out of cut glass in their honour and in honour of birth and motherhood in general.

On the other side of the island is the John Lennon Peace Tower, which beams light up into the winter darkness.

Iceland. Giving Peace and Light a chance since 870.

Plus picnics.

The Icelandic Sagas are on CBC Radio’s “Ideas”

The Icelandic sagas tell the stories of the country’s settlers 1100 years ago, and mostly the stories that Snorri Sturluson, who lived at a volcanic hill called, simply, Borg (the German “Burg” for castle and “Berg” for mountain have the same root). The Icelandic town Borgarnes, or Borg Point, is just up the bay, at the mouth of the Breiðafjörd, or Broad Fjord. The view from Borg at sundown at 3 pm in November is really worth a saga in itself.

The story of these sagas and their importance to literature, Iceland and memory, are being told this week on CBC Radio. You can listen in. Here’s Part One, which played on January 1…

https://www.cbc.ca/radio/ideas/map-of-the-heart-the-icelandic-sagas-part-1-1.4702465

… and part 2 which is playing tonight:

https://www.cbc.ca/radio/ideas/a-map-of-the-heart-part-2-the-icelandic-sagas-1.4712468

Well worth a couple hours of your time. The light disappears quickly here.

It’s always good to warm yourself by a good story.

And even the ice tells stories at Borg!

Changing Iceland

Only nine years ago, Icelandic tourism was a simple thing: you drove around the country viewing the things Icelanders found interesting, and they served you coffee, put you up for the night, and cooked a lamb for you. An old bridge, for instance…

… or a waterfall.

… a troll at Dimmuborgir…

… and some smooching among the birches, the trees that helped to gain them a country.

Now, pain.In the waste water from a power plant. You, dear visitor, are an industry now. Iceland shows your face in a mirror.

Yet in the small towns now, far from Reykjavik, people are tired of us all; they want us to go away. In Grindavik, an old woman even rammed me with her shopping cart in the grocery store. “Fair enough,” I thought. But I remember the generosity and gratitude that began this madness…

… and trust it will continue.

The Love Story of Gulfoss, the Golden Falls

The manly trolls of Gulfoss…

 

… and the worms (um, gold collecting dragons, you know the type) of Gulfoss…

…  the Golden Falls …

… look across to the female trolls across the gorge, which are riding a worm…

.. and if the worm has the head of a ram, well, this is Iceland, after all.

And the flag … this flag:

… flies between them.

So now you know, too.

 

How Much Do Icelanders Love the Land They Live From?

The cliff at Ásbyrgi, in the far northeast, is full of ravens, trolls and elves. They’ve been camping out there (if you have eyes to see them) from the beginning of the world. If you don’t have such eyes, they are lovely lava flows cut by a paraglacial flood, with a birch, willow and rowan forest worth a trip across Iceland or around the world.

Or, you can just go to Reykjavik.

Now, that’s love for the land! Well done!

War Memorials in Iceland

In West Iceland, the aluminum plant in Hvalfjörður, which draws power from the dammed highlands, is watched over by the abandoned World War II fighter base that guarded the British Fleet, and which is now gone to the birds.

In East Iceland, the aluminum plant in Reydarfjörður draws power from Skaftafell, in the cloud at the height of the Lagarfljót, watched over by an abandoned horse-drawn manure spreader on the farm Gunnar bought to avoid the Second World War.

These too are the faces of war. In Iceland, which won its independence during the Second World War while its colonial masters in Denmark were occupied by the Germans, that war is honoured by double-edged memorials such as these.