Have you ever been to the chalk cliffs, the tip of Rügen, which Caspar David Friedrich immortalized in a painting over 200 years ago? Or in Hanover? Then maybe you know that it doesn’t take that long to jet from the capital to the neighboring state capital or to the Baltic Sea. That’s a good 270 kilometers each way. I’m just as close to the Arctic Circle right now, typing these lines from the northernmost capital in the world: Reykjavík. Overlooking the North Atlantic and snow-capped mountain peaks.
There are worse places for hired labor. I have an alcoholic drink in front of me. Cost point: low two-digit euro value. Precariously busy in Iceland you can only enjoy the view. In local patriotic terms, however, beer is called “Viking” here, so maybe you pay a bit more for the PR-heavy history of warlike Scandinavia.
City buffs shouldn’t travel to Reykjavík, even though the metropolitan area is home to more than half of the country’s population. Iceland, and therefore its capital, is small. At the moment life is still taking place outside. It’s not really going to be dark. At nine in the evening it is just as bright as at four in the afternoon. Until the end of June, the days will be longer – and brighter. Hard to imagine for me at the moment, because it’s not really getting dark here just below the Arctic Circle.
The main means of transport for the compatriots – at least that’s my first impression – seems to be the e-scooter, which is so frowned upon in Berlin. However, there are no rental stations and scooters lying around carelessly. So do people here all buy one of these things?
Elves, trolls & gnomes: Every tenth person in Iceland believes in them
Perhaps this is also due to the sometimes less straight course of the road. When it comes to construction projects, not only Icelanders are given a say, but also Huldufólk. A hidden people that are not visible to the naked – human – eye. Almost 10 percent of the country’s residents are believed to believe in the existence of elves and trolls, while around 45 percent do not want to rule them out. In initial conversations with the people here, however, I was told that these surveys are not entirely correct, and younger Icelanders in particular seem to be more suspicious of the legends. However, if there is a risk of angering trolls, elves or gnomes by building a road, it can be rebuilt without further ado so that it runs in a curve instead of straight.
Danger of climate change: Okjökull officially no longer a glacier
Meanwhile, there is no doubt about climate change: the ice island is sweating. Three years ago, the 700-year-old Okjökull glacier was officially declared dead, the first in the country. The supposedly eternal ice of Iceland – it’s finite. At the official farewell ceremony, a plaque with the heading “A Letter to the Future” was unveiled. Among other things, it warns that in the next 200 years all “our most important glaciers will follow the same path”.
Glaciers not only slow down global warming, but also control volcanic activity, especially here in Iceland. When ice melts, volcanoes underneath it can discharge much stronger and easier. When the volcano beneath Eyjafjallajökull erupted in spring 2010, European air traffic was paralyzed for days. Incidentally, the journey there from Reykjavík takes less time than from Berlin to Hanover. I’ll give it a try. The glaciers are still there.