Wide landscapes. Volcanic rocks, overgrown with moss. Behind them, hiding trolls. The weather changes every time you close your eyes. Raindrops, and then again sunshine with rainbows crossing the sky. Waterfalls are crashing down the mountains. The endless route no. 1, which goes around the whole island. Getting lost in daydreams and then suddenly: sheep on the street with a farmer behind on his quad. The Icelandic cowboy. It is a life in the countryside.
At least since the volcanic eruption of 2010 Iceland is known to everybody, when the wind blew the ashes to Europe and paralysed the air traffic completely. Times of a rising awareness for a new travel destination. A country which is no longer the same since that moment.
Iceland is the biggest volcanic island in the world, located in the North Atlantic next to Greenland and Norway. It was discovered by Vikings in 870. During the Middle Ages, it had one of the first parliamentary systems in Europe, founded in the national park Þingvellir, where the tectonic plates of America and Europe come together. Nowadays tourists throw coins into the small river for luck. There is even a credit card inside!
Back to the strory: Several centuries later Iceland came under Norway‘s control, and then under Denmark‘s. During the Second World War, when the Germans occupied Denmark, the US opened a military base in Iceland and as it goes sometimes, the American men fought not only for the country, they did it although for the hearts of many Icelandic women. Not much later the wedding bells rang and the women went with their husbands to the US. The Icelandic men got the short end of the straw.
What could they do? Especially in the countryside, they were alone, and had nobody, only sheep. To solve the problem after the war, they invited women from Germany, who wanted to build a new life there. This was one opportunity.
Since the end of the war, the capital Reykjavik has become known as a great stopover for travelers, because of the central location between the US and Europe. Cheap tickets, and the route could easily be done with older aircrafts. 1980, a historic event happened in Iceland. For the first time in the world, a woman was voted to be the head of state.
At that time the tourism was still small, and more a secret among nature fans. Nowadays the numbers are exploding. 500.000 tourists were registered 2010. This year Iceland already expects more than 2.5 million. A huge number compared to the population of 335.000 inhabitants.
More jobs came with this business which attracted foreigners to live in Iceland. The second biggest ethnic group now is Polish. The prices are increasing and hotels are shooting up in many places.
Around the big natural wonders though, is silence. Then suddenly a car park and a crowd of tourists from all over the world. To see the landscape you have to fight your way through selfie-sticks and watch out not to get a drone on the head. Everybody is lying in wait for the perfect picture.
The Icelanders are worried that the infrastructure is not strong enough absorbing the millions of people. It’s a big question for the whole country: When does the nature suffer and how big should tourism be allowed to grow.