Iceland Origins: Rising From Extreme Poverty & Mass Migration to Become the Best Country to Live in!
For the month of December, we will be profiling Iceland – everything from its amazing Geological gems to its People i.e. Our Day in the Life of Series. It will include Fisherman, Entrepreneurs, Artists and their former quirky Mayor! But before we go into that, we wanted to understand what Iceland was all about. So of course, we started researching and the stuff that we came across was just fascinating! Did you know Iceland used to be the poorest of all European countries till the 20th century and now is the second best country and the HAPPIEST country to live in?! Who knew (of course, other than the Icelanders!)...Why Iceland profile in December? Firstly, why not? And secondly, it’s December – all about snow and ice and what better country to profile than Iceland – it literally has Ice in its name!
Okay now that we are done with the administrative stuff, let’s dive into Iceland! Apart from being both volcanically and geologically active, did you know Iceland is one of the most sparsely populated countries in Europe – with 330,000 people across 40,000 square miles of space; it roughly has 8.25 people per square mile. Compare that to NYC which has 28,000 people per square mile!! (Yeah, Iceland is VERY sparsely populated) Oh and of the 330,000 people who live in Iceland, almost two-third live in Reykjavik area! It is so sparse that there is literally an app in the country that tells you if you are related to someone (…you know before you go on a date & then some with them!)
Geologically, Iceland (which btw is an Island) includes parts of both continental plates– North American and European plates making Iceland the ONLY place in the world where you can dive and touch both continental plates at the same time! It also has a TON of very active volcanoes – Hekla, Eldgjá, Herðubreið, and Eldfell (I had to triple check the names to make sure I didn’t butcher it!) They are so strong that during one of the eruptions in the 18th century, almost a quarter of the already sparse population was wiped out and caused a dust of clouds that was visible in Asia and Africa for several months! It also has quite a few geysers, rivers, waterfalls and fjords which at the end of the day translates to a hella lot of geothermal power so much so that 85 percent of total primary energy supply in Iceland is derived from domestically produced renewable energy sources making Iceland the world’s LARGEST electricity producer per capita and one of the greenest countries to live in! $ wise, Icelanders make their money through aluminum manufacturing, fisheries (although its declining) & financial sector.
We know what you are thinking – if it has such strong Volcanoes, Geothermal Energy, Geysers, why on earth is it called Iceland?! The FICTIONAL story is that when a war broke out among Norwegian Vikings, a group of folks from the opposing team fled Norway and reached Iceland. Fearful that their enemies would reach them, they spread rumors in Norway about their island being full of ice aka Iceland whereas the neighboring island, which in fact had a lot more ice, was bountiful with all the greens aka Greenland! The REAL story is less interesting - A Norwegian chieftain, Ingolfur Arnason, first arrived on the island and saw a pack of ice on some of the mountains and thus named the island as Iceland. Greenland was ‘uncovered’ a century later and named by Erik the Red – who, in reality, was actually fleeing Norwegian Vikings and after settling in Greenland, named it so to entice additional settlers by using clever branding.
Now getting to the more interesting part of Iceland –its People. I truly believe the Icelanders are one of the most resilient people. Throughout history they have gone through a shit ton of problems and calamities, one after another, and yet they have survived and thrived! Let’s see:
Another interesting fact about the Icelanders is that they have an extremely egalitarian attitude towards life-from having the lowest income inequality in the world to being the first country to have a political party to be formed & led by women to being the first to legalize gay marriage and define it as a marriage between two individuals, Iceland does it all! We honestly don’t want this to be read as a fluff piece but when you see what the country has done for its people, it is definitely something to shed further spotlight on.
Now that you know about Iceland’s geology and people, it’s our next favorite topic- the Food! “What do Icelanders eat?” is the most frequently asked question after ‘Does Iceland really have a lot of Ice?” So without further ado lets talk Iceland Food! Did you know Icelanders use little to no herbs or spices when they cook! The climate doesn’t support growth of herbs, fruits and vegetables which is why the cuisine is based on fish, lamb and dairy products only. Even within that, for centuries, Icelanders had to smoke, pickle or dry their food to preserve it through the harsh winters and so as a result, the traditional Icelandic food mainly consists of food that's gone through some preservation method. There are 6 most popular food items that people have heard of when it comes to Icelandic food
That’s it folks! Hope you had as much fun reading this blog about Iceland as we had fun writing it! The country is cold, yes but the people are warm and the food, although interesting at times, will warm your heart! So do go check it out on your next offbeat adventure! In the coming weeks, we will be covering Days in the Life of regular Icelanders doing amazing things – so make sure to subscribe!