A lot of people don’t realize that Iceland has only been an independent republic for just over 60 years. Still fewer realize how amazingly far this nation has come in that time. After all, well into the last century, the people of Iceland were still living in turf houses and Reykjavík – now a modern and thriving capital – was just a small town.
Then came what the people here [only half-]jokingly refer to as ‘the blessed war’. First, Iceland was occupied by the British, and suddenly capital flowed into the country, enabling the building of a proper airport and roads. A couple of years later, the Brits were replaced by Americans, who set up a NATO base [which is still here]. And with the Americans came… jobs.
If you’ve ever read anything by Halldór Laxness [Iceland’s Nobel laureate for literature] you’ll know that if there is anything of supreme importance to the Icelanders as a collective whole, it is: Independence. [Indeed, the novel that is widely agreed to have secured him the Nobel prize is Independent People]. And after being granted independence in 1944*, it’s safe to say that things Took Off for the Icelanders. They purchased trawlers and took to the sea with even more fervour than before, they set about building an infrastructure, an educational system, a health care system – in short, transforming the nation into a modern republic with one of the highest standards of living in the world. Today, a mere six decades later, and even with a population of only 300,000, Icelanders are world leaders in such areas as equipment for the fishing industry and the utilization of geothermal energy, and pioneers in the use of hydrogen energy [we actually have hydrogen buses running on the streets of Reykjavík]. The work force is highly educated, with a large portion of the population obtaining their education abroad [there is a very good loans and funding system], after which they return home to enrich the nation with their know-how and expertise. The health care system is excellent and on par with the best in the world, as is the social system. This nation is very quick to adopt technology and, for instance, has the highest level of Internet penetration in the world. The Icelandic nation is also party to various European and international cooperation, such as the United Nations, the European Economic Area, NATO, the Nordic Council of Ministers, etc. To repeat an oft-used quote: Iceland is a small country with a big-country mentality.
In Fréttablaðið today, a handful of people are asked the question: What is most Icelandic of all? One man responded with a hint of irony: ‘Our overdeveloped sense of nationalism’. It’s true: the Icelanders do tend to think they’ve done pretty well. And I say: let them. Because they have.
AND OUR SUPER-DUPER ICELANDIC WEATHER IS…
Wet. Finally! This weekend you could almost hear the vegetation sighing with relief. It showered relentlessly yesterday and today there are scattered showers with overcast skies and a slight damp chill in the air. I’m told it’s supposed to turn nice again tomorrow, though. [See? Everything is best over here!] Current temps are 10°C and the sun came up at 02.54 and will go down at 24.04 – oh INCIDENTALLY! Tomorrow is the summer solstice, which means that will be the LAST DAY for a while that the day will be getting longer. After that, we begin the slow descent into darkness again. Yikes!
* Just to avoid confusion: Iceland was granted Home Rule in 1904, but full independence came 40 years later after a series of peaceful negotiations with the Danes.