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Incredible Iceland!

For the year-end holidays, my family and I flew to an exotic (but not paradisiac) destination, chosen with care to be nothing like India. Here you go: Iceland! A country where it is good to breathe pure air. Or so I thought.

Upon arrival at our hotel we were engulfed in a poignant smell of fish which was not unlike what I could get in Khar, an area of Mumbai (with its fishing villages where they put up fish for drying) at its most fragrant hours. Consternation. None of us dared suggest to change the hotel – anyway all (absolutely all) the hotels are full in this season – and it was a good call because it was actually a unique day, the day before Christmas Eve, the only day of the year where Icelanders prepare a particularly tasty delicacy: fermented ray!

A few days later, our guide joined us at the hotel in the morning, with an empty tank. Indian ,get out of this body! Because it is something that drivers love here: put gas at the last minute! But this guy was even better: despite a 12-hour storm, he had not put the right tires and of course, we got stuck in the snow.

We met few Icelandic people (I must say that they are not many of them, with only 320 000 souls) but what I was told and what I could read about them really made me smile: completely family oriented (in the (very) broad sense of the term), a homebird attitude and a real attachment to the motherland, no driving rules, mixed up prononciation of v and w, a zen attitude and tendency to do everything at the last minute. Doesn’t it remind of someone?!

But the similarity ends there. Physically to start with: pale hulks with blue eyes versus chocolate (with the whole range of colours) weaklings with dark eyes. Underpopulation versus urban overpopulation (there are something like 4,000 times more Indians!). A certain sexual freedom versus a certain conservatism. An island versus a subcontinent. And then a major difference: the number of Asian tourists by square meter.

I am ashamed to say that I knew nothing of Iceland before going there. So when I saw a lot of people with slanting waiting in the queue for our flight at Paris airport I asked my favourite Indian if they were not Icelandic natives. Something like the Inuit you see? Well, little did I know that Iceland has in fact been populated by the Norwegians Vikings starting in 871. Before there was nothing. No Inuit. Just bears and polar foxes. The Vikings brought the horses, the goats (there are 3 lambs for each Icelander) and cows (which curiously have not mutated to become angora (unlike the horses) and therefore have to be kept inside during the winter because there the wind is so strong it could blow off the horns of the oxen, and it is not just an expression; it does clean your lungs!).

To get back to tourism, in 2015, Iceland received about 1.3 million visitors, of which 48,000 came from China and it probably doubled in 2016. It is only 4% but tourism figures actually include all the travelers arriving at the airport and Reykjavik has become a kind of hub for flights to the United States (which, with the United Kingdom account for 40% of the tourists). Also, apparently, Chinese like visiting Iceland in winter.

Iceland it was. A rough country where nature is queen. Where all the elements meet, air fire water, in their full power. It puts your ideas back in place, and it is splendid.

PS: Icelanders are very good at marketing, really creative, at least with regard to the promotion of their country. They sell you the northern lights like no other. But it’s a bit like the tiger in India, you go on safari searching for the Grail for hours and it is far from guaranteed ;) So better go in Iceland for anything else than the sky!

Some photos here


08:00 Posted in My stories in India | Permalink | Comments (1) | Tags: iceland, india |  Facebook | |


Did you eat the fermented ray?

Posted by: robin | 01/30/2017

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