Ruth & I went to Iceland 5 years ago. We had the trip of a lifetime driving the ring road in October. About a week ago I finished a novel published in 2019 called The Sacrament that took place in Iceland. I read all that I can about my favorite destination. Now I’m reading Iceland: Land of the Sagas by respected writer Jon Krakauer. He took the pictures and David Roberts wrote the text. It’s still in print 30 years after being published and suffers from a common book curse. Books can become out-of-date. Krakauer and Roberts book is no exception. I am learning a lot that has always been true about Iceland, but some of it is no longer the case.
An example of this is on page 18. Roberts reports, “Reykjavik became one of the first cities in the world to ban dogs….” I was shocked by this. This ban went into effect in 1924 and was legally the case for 60 years. However, things have changed. As long as the dog’s owner has a permit and he or she obeys leash and other laws, he or she can have a dog in Iceland’s capital city. Roberts reports a few pages before this, “Since 1944, when it won full autonomy from Denmark, Iceland has been an independent European nation.” This is, of course, still true. It’s also true that Iceland is about the size of the State of Virginia.”and that Iceland had “Europe’s first parliament.”
Iceland established its national assembly called the Althing in the year 930. It still rules. What I did not know is that it doesn’t meet in Reykjavik, which I assumed to be the case. Its assembly place is Thingvellir, which lies 30 miles east of Reykjavik in a national park. This is unusual for a capital.
That Iceland lies close to the Arctic Circle is also true. I’ve never been there when it is warm. However, the Gulf Stream does affect it so that New York City has colder winters. Iceland remains remarkably wild for a country that has existed for more than 1,000 years. I learned from Roberts’s text that Iceland’s highest elevation is 6,950 feet. I also learned that it is the only place in the world without a prehistory. The Irish were the first to travel to it when no one lived there. They were followed shortly by the Vikings. The Vikings and the Irish didn’t get along, so the Vikings left for Greenland. Iceland became peaceful and farm-like. Roberts reports that in the year 1,100 there were 4,560 farms in Iceland. The climate has grown colder since then and raising animals and fishing have become larger enterprises. We saw and photographed lots of animals on the Ring Road. Iceland still has 3 National Parks and tourists flock to Thingvellir.
…to be continued.