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 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.
Geysirs are fun for humans, but look at them, trekking up hill.
Making new humans is funner.
The question is: who has the right to erode Iceland? The Icelanders, by inviting rock stackers?
Or the rock stackers themselves? Iceland invites visitors to view nature.
Human nature is what the modern world can deliver instead.
Be careful what you wish for. Ethical dilemmas don’t go away by wishing so.
Icelandic dragon car.
Icelandic driving training school.
Icelandic winter road.
Icelandic winter car.
Icelandic winter car, summer pelt phase.
Wrong kind of car! Wrong kind of car!
Icelandic driving manual: the fine print.
Icelander with good road smarts.
Tourist with good road smarts.
Icelandic accident clean up crew on stand-by duty.
Be safe out there.
We need more rust in Reykjavik! This lovely old antique shop in Reykjavik is now a restaurant. Heck, every building downtown is either a bar or a restaurant, or a coffee shop, well, also a gift shop.
The price of this form of industrialization is history. Reykjavik is now a place where tourists go to rub shoulders with other tourists. For an industry based on sincerity, that’s dangerous.
More rust, please. Please. Save the glass for the burbs where the Icelanders live. They deserve the light.
Public access to beautiful things in Iceland, including stunning waterfalls like Hengifoss…
…is privately maintained and crosses private land at private expense.
The Way Back from the Falls is a Great Journey Too
So if the trail is muddy, give thanks. It was given to you as a gift. To be respectful, stay on it.
It’s a way of giving thanks and preparing the way for the next traveller.
Well, forget the tourist pamphlets, that collect old folktales from the 19th century. Those were created in an attempt to sort out folk stories from the many traditions of Icelandic settlers. Truth is, there are no trolls, not as a non-human, humanoid species.
There is, however, a human ability to centre landscapes in human form. It is this centring, this inseparability from place, that you will find in Iceland, if you wander there outside of books. The secret of trolls is the secret of recognition, because they are the same thing. Many Icelanders today look to New York or London for their mirrors. Not all. You don’t have to, either. A troll is where you find it. You are where you find yourself. Now, recognizing yourself when you see it, ah, now that’s a trick.