From Iceland — LONDON


Published May 28, 2004


The Greater London Metropolis spreads out below as far as the eye can see as the plane descends from the clouds. During the Blitz just over half a century ago, it was still the largest city in the world before the mantle passed outside of Europe, perhaps never to return. For someone born in a country where “the city” refers to a town of 100.000 souls, London seems impossibly big. On the ground, it still seems impossibly big. There´s no Laugavegur that serves as the main street, no Hallgrímskirkja towering over everything to get your bearing. There´s Big Ben, Nelson’s column, and the latest addition, the London Eye ferris wheel. But these, unlike said church, aren´t visible from wherever you stand. Along with big cities comes big traffic, and it can be frustrating to sit in a car, even if it is the upper floor of a double decker bus, to get where you want to go. The City of London, the old part of the city situated right in the heart of the London, has finally decided to do something about this, adding a special tax on those who wish to enter by car. The tube, fortunately, is easy to use, even if you´re from a country which doesn´t even have trains, much less ones that go underground.

For many young Icelanders, London, the HQ of the swinging sixties, punk rock and later Cool Britannia, is still the Promised Land. Berlin has its appeal for painters and poets, Copenhagen is home away from home, the neighbouring cities of Oslo and Gothenburg are nice and safe if a little dull. But the twenty something seeking the one thing that can unquestioningly prove his worth to friends and family – international recognition – London is the place to be. Most eventually come home, wiser for the experience but have to find other ways to gain esteem in the eyes of friends, family and the still-elusive girl/boy next door. Some stay on. Some even do manage to conquer the world.

Lines of communication between London and Reykjavík have been shortened considerably in the past decade. After Björk, all of Cool Britannia seemed to have their holidays here, Damon Albarn even buying a house here and one of the Spice girls, at the peak of their power, taking an Icelandic boy home.

Thanks to low cost airline Iceland Express, Icelanders are now able to go to London without having to emigrate. Weekend trips have suddenly become a viable option. London, of course, is still impossibly big. But these days, you can always go again.

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