Notes from Iceland

The restaurant scene is much improved, compared to nineteen years ago, though don’t expect much in the way of vegetables.  Reykjavik seems to have an excessive capital stock relative to current income.  Natasha finds it hard to get decaffeinated coffee.  The tap water is superb and, on weekends, only two people work in what is the world’s second largest geothermal plant.  Icelandic horses and ponies look quite genetically distinct.  Puffins fly faster than you might expect.  It is back to being an expensive country.

Overall I see a society on the verge of a massive and permanent transformation.  The Icelanders face two questions rather immediately.  First, will they allow mass tourism, with its cultural and environmental implications?  (Most likely they will, if only because they don’t know how to stop it.)  Second, will they allow continuing or perhaps even accelerating immigration?, noting that the current population (not all native Icelanders) is only about 320,000.  A relatively small amount of immigration, or tourism for that matter, would make for a big cultural change, most likely with no way of turning back, for better or worse.  High-skilled immigration alone could do it.  It is already the case that the biggest association of Icelandic horses worldwide is in Germany, namely the Islandpferde-Reiter- und Züchterverband.


Wikipedia claims that Icelandic has no unique word for “pony.”


Are the Icelandic horses distinct from Icelandic ponies, or distinct from non-Icelandic ponies? And I am no pony breeder, but perhaps the horses and ponies differ mostly in phenotype rather than genotype. Would that still make them genetically distinct?

No, the term "horses" and "ponies" is unsed interchangebaly though I believe that horses is preferred.

They are wonderful animals and extremely hardy.

I was once mountain biking across the center of Iceland and a large dust cloud appeared in the distance. It turned out to be the annual drive of the Icelandic ponies from the north to the south of the island. Magical.

The Icelandic Horse is not considered a pony. There is no Icelandic Pony.

I hope they bring in a bunch of Africans, so they can feel our pain

Who are you and why are you in pain.

(And I wish English had a 2nd person plural that was worth a damn).

Y'all is defintely worth a damn, it is all just Yankee predjudice. Though I can't really imagine Rhett Butler uttering it, Margret Mitchell reserved its use for black characters.

I suggest using the now quiescent formal tense "ye".

"on weekends, only two people work in what is the world’s second largest geothermal plant"

What do they do during the week?

presumably on the weekend only a couple technicians/operators/monitors need to keep watch, and the plant more or less runs itself. Maybe one is a security guard.

I bet there's many more people there during the week, including HR, janitors, maintenance, finance and accounting, administrative assistants, documentation people, regulatory compliance folk, etc.

'The restaurant scene is much improved'

Closing McDonalds might have contributed to this - but then, back in 2009, the idea of McDonalds closing was 'scary.'

Consider it the benefits of actually experiencing what is going on somewhere, compared to just commenting about about it from afar.

What is your point?

One doesn't have to personally like McDonald's food to think that them not being able to make it is a worrying sign for an economy.

"The restaurant scene is much improved, compared to nineteen years ago"

There is a cliche that Open Borders types are obsessed with food...

The charms and glories of Iceland are not to be found in its restaurants, even in Reykjavík. Outside of Reykjavík... The truck stop greasy spoons should be avoided unless you are desperate. Try buying food from a food store. You have to bag (actually box) your own groceries. No imported reserve army of cheap labor.

Austria has a reserve army of cheap labor, but we all have to bag our own groceries in Vienna. Austrians claim it is a cultural thing, but the lack of bag-boys may reflect the high marginal cost of hiring an additional employee.


It looks like Austria's de facto minimum wage is around $11 per hour. Of course, there might also be payroll taxes.

Actually, they have a large semi underclass of Polish workers there. Not unlike our "mexicans" here.

Talk about reading too fast -

'Most likely they will, if only because they don’t know how to stop it.'

The Icelanders will have no problem restricting tourism if they wish - they certainly know how to stop it. As for reducing it, they could just start charging all visitors a fee merely for the privilege of applying for a travel permission that might not be granted ( ), grant their border personnel the 'absolute' authority to refuse entry to anyone for any reason, without recourse to any oversight ( ), and start allowing their citizens to gun down anyone they think is annoying ( )

It is certainly working like a charm for the U.S., at least in decreasing EU tourists - (actual link to a Word document format text is )

Still no mention of Halldór Laxness?

I was wondering about that too.

Laxness's house outside Reykjavik is a must-visit for literary tourists. But not very big, so hopefully no mass tourism.

Iceland gets 73.8% of its electricity from hydro and yes, hydro projects are controversial

Á Næstu Grösum on Laugavegur is a great little vegetarian cafe. The produce is all grown in the geothermally heated greenhouses northeast of Reykjavik. The Indian curries are better than you'd expect and welcome on cold winter days.

Krua Thai in Reykjavik harbour is frequented by the local Thai community and does decent Thai curries, including some vegetarian ones. Best of all, they let you mix your sugar, fish sauce and chilli flakes to your own personal preference.

Á næstu grösum closed a few months ago.

The best vegetarian in Reykjavik is Greinkoster (sp) a few blocks off Laugavergur. Hotdogs at the Hlemur bus station are excellent as well...

How are the Puffin Burgers?

Have you been to Saegreifinn? It is excellent. A little hole in the wall (although on a dock) fish shack, and a great place to try minke whale.

If one's horses are smaller than ones in other places and there is nothing around smaller, one will call them horses and not ponies. Curiously, pony is one of those odd words like crock that apparently is not only of Celtic origin, but apparently entered English at the time of the Anglo-Saxon genocide/rape of the sixth century that replaced Brythonic speakers of the Arthur's remnant semi-Roman realm with speakers of Old English. Another curiosity is that while Icelandic is supposedly the most ancient and purest of Scandinavian languages, essentially Old Viking as of the Sagas from which Tolkien stole his dwarf names, along with Gandalf, but that the population based on blood types actually appears more closely related to the Irish, so, another genocide/rape involved. Kill the men, rape the women, and teach the offspring the man's language.

Icelandic horses have two gaits other breeds of horses do not; tolt (like walking, but done at all speeds) and something called "flying pace."

Tölt is actually found in most of the world (American Saddle Horse and Tennesse Walker in the US (as far as I remember)) and existed in Europe before it was bred out because it isn't useful for work animals. Tölt is superior for rider comfort on long trips so it can still be found in many places where horses are used for carrying people on their backs.

So one can argue that it is the lack of Tölt in most of the western world that is the anomaly.

Think back to that late chapter in Independent People involving Bjartur's son and the politician's daughter, I prefer not to imagine her horse or his looked like that.

And if immigration accelerates, will the Icelandic Naming Committee continue to insist on saga-attested names?

On a recent visit to Iceland, our linguistic circuits overloaded and we confused the words "skál" ("cheers!") and "skyr" ("thick yogurt product"). This amused our waitress so much that we got free drinks. Recommended!

I deduce that young, attractive Icelandic women do not drink tap water, because logic.

They should bring in a bunch of jungle bunnies

Comments for this post are closed