Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Iceland

After doin G (Guatemala) and H (Hong Kong), the next letter in the alphabet was I, so I chose Iceland as my next country.




I've travelled a lot around the world and lived in some amazing places like Samarkand, Paris, Moscow and Bangkok, but the excitement I feel when I think about going to Iceland goes beyond all reason.



Reading about Iceland and listening to the music and cooking the food have just made me yearn even more for the landscape and poetry of such a country. So much so, that I think I'll finally get myself organised and go there next summer. I feel a calling to go there.



Anyway, one of the most surprising things I discovered about Iceland is that it's not really a 'land'. It doesn't belong to any continental land mass but is, rather, part of the earth's crust that has been pushed to the surface. No wonder anyone I know who has been there has been amazed by the landscapes.




Independent People, probably the most important book ever written by an Icelander (Halldor Laxness) was a revelation on so many levels, and such a joy to read. I'm convinced that, had this book been written by an American or an Englishman, we would all be really familiar with the story and there would be Hollywood versions etc. Apart from learning new words like, dottle, rime, gimmer and snath (all English words, by the way), I also got an insight into an important period in Iceland's history and learned a bit about Icelandic traditions and the mentality of the people there.



One aspect of the novel's legends that really interested me was how our own Irish saint Colm Cille is a vestige of an older religion in Iceland and became an Icelandic devil or bogeyman, to scare naughty children or superstitious young girls.



The main character Bjartur is a crofter who recites poetry, buries successive wives and children and knows the old sagas off by heart. I've never read an Icelandic saga, but even the small pieces Bjartur recites are enough to make me realise the great debt Tolkien owes to this literary tradition and how we all, to some extent unknowingly, carry on this tradition by reading (and watching) the Lord of the Rings trilogy.



As well as reading Independent People, I also listened to Agaetis Byrjun by Sigur Ross. It's one of those albums I just have to listen to again and again, especially the track Staralfur, which I've shared with you below. When the drums come in like fireworks, it sounds like the end of the world and gives me a weepy apocalyptic feeling and reminds me of how beautiful our Earth is and all the things we're doing to destroy it.



Finally, I cooked two Icelandic dishes. I was lucky enough to find an amazing blog http://icecook.blogspot.com/ and as a result of this I found myself cooking Lifrarbuff, which is liver patties, and Plokkfiskur, which is fish with white sauce. I was really impressed with the Lifrarbuff, as I'm not a big fan of liver, but cooked in this way, it was really tasty. Plokkfiskur is very similar to an Irish dish my Dad used to make us as kids. I guess it's official name in English is Fish Chowder? Anyway, pictures supplied below and tune in again for the next country.




Image credits:





Icelandic flag from www.33ff.com/flags
Icelandic landscape by flickr.com user t_buchele, who is from Sweden.

Food images by me :)
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