Once there were fuel stations for travellers. They were built on farms and were the modern equivalent of a service economy that had sustained wealthy farms for many hundreds of years. Some even had garage and tire services and predated the Ring Road of Dutch Camper Company fame. Many of the country hotels in Iceland still follow this old model of serving travellers on farms. The fuel stations are gone now as working centres, though. The more remote of them have been replaced with a lone pump, an automatic card reader, a light, and the bright sign of a national chain in a corner of a field. Not at Starmyri, though!
This translation of a bustling service centre on a rich farm is a bitter story. Once on the gravel road north along the East Coast from Höfn, with valuable shore rights at the mouth of the Seal River…
… and a good, sheltered landing, it was isolated by the sea by black sand drifting south by rivers re-engineered in the North during the diversion to create the hydroelectric power for the aluminum smelter in Reyðarfjörður.
The result was a new East Coast built from lagoons and long, black sand beaches…
…beloved of tourists and useless for farms that live in 1100 years of time, not the continually re-occurring present and fictional pasts and futures of 21st century time.
Still, as you can see…
… the whale bones of an older past keep it company now, as if they were the busts of roman senators on their plinths. This is beautiful art-making. You can see 1100 years of life at once.
Whatever Siberian forest this tree grew in before washing west and south and landing on the Starymyri shore, I bet it never expected to achieve eternity like this! And, yes, at Starmyri, where the sheep pastures have eroded away in the wind…
… the shore is blocked by industrial sand, shore rights are extinguished and the road has been moved away from the farmyard, the farm still manages to draw sustenance from travellers.
Each cabin offers an ideal Iceland, framed as a work of art.
Like many important things in Iceland, you have to find the history yourself, on the principle that you only need to know what you need to know and if you find something else, then you know and don’t need to be told, in this country that dresses up as pristine nature, her newest artistic dress.
An old farmer built this artwork in his retirement. The family keeps it in his memory. What a clever man!
Granted, the sky is falling, but still. In Reykjavik, however, the catchers are caught by the light. Granted, the light is an artifice, but still.
Somehow, it is the same impulse, one that Icelanders have been walking in circles around for 1100 years, as they try to figure it out. Out on Snæfellsnes, one just gives up and leaves it as an open gesture…
…while on Vesturgata in Reykjavik, one tries to shelter from the cold of that gesture and ignore the frostbite on the nose.
These are deep mysteries. One can only rejoice at the courage with which they are met!
Ríkarður Jónsson’s Bird Falling Apart in Djúpivogur
There isn’t enough money to keep Iceland of the 1970s, at the height of the herring fishery, in good shape anymore, so such wonderful European gestures languish, in favour of a new kind of colonialism, the eggs of Merry Bay:
Don’t get me wrong, they are wonderful, playful, joyous and exquisite, but they are also global. That is the price of staying in the game when the herring go away. The sad thing is, this very real and honourable Iceland (for all its aesthetic colonialism, it is, at least, Scandinavian and European)…
…is barely findable in the tourist information of the country, or online, or anywhere, as if Icelanders are either so embarrassed by their past they want to hide it, so used to tourists not caring that they keep it to themselves to protect its honour, or so used to the government putting up this and that that to them it’s just another government project. Meanwhile, they want to be part of the global world, not of distant Reykjavik. What a bind! Now Iceland is trying to train tourists to be respectful.
Inspired by Iceland launches new tourism campaign Iceland Academy (PRNewsFoto/Inspired by Iceland)
Being respectful to art or history is not really the point. That distance from government is very Icelandic, although not always positively so.