Published May 4, 2012
Every now and then, Icelanders—and expats especially—complain about living on an island. The produce can certainly get old in every sense of the word, and then everything comes at an island price—it’s not cheap to fill a tank of gas.
But imagine living somewhere so remote that supply ships can only reach you two months of the year. Grapevine photographer, Hvalreki, and I just spent four days in Ittoqqortoormiit, East Greenland where that’s the reality for its 475 residents. Getting to this town isn’t easy, especially if you’re coming all the way from somewhere like China, but from Reykjavík it’s not too difficult: an hour and forty-five minute flight from Reykjavík to Kulusuk, another one from Kulusuk to Constable Point, and then a short helicopter ride from there to Ittoqqortoormiit.
That’s also how they get their goods when ship supplies run out. Yep, they fly in our wonderful produce up to two times a week during the summer and once a week during the winter.
While such isolation could prove inconvenient at times, it also has its benefits. There were no gift shops selling stuffed animal polar bears or T-shirts with tacky slogans in town and it was exhilarating to race around on snowmobiles through an untouched glacial wonderland.
This got me thinking about how Iceland has changed over the last decade. Only ten years ago you could have called Iceland one of Europe’s best kept secrets. It was exotic, untouched, foreign to most people who might have been able to tell you that Iceland was green and Greenland was icy or perhaps that they knew Björk was Icelandic.
As Hvalreki put it, Iceland is becoming a bit like “Greenland Light”—a diet version of spectacular untouched, raw nature. Of course it’s still possible to enjoy being alone in the world in the remote West Fjords or in the middle of the highlands, but beautiful spots like Gullfoss might as well be renamed Disneyland Falls. And now the tourism industry seems keen on expanding across the country. Although Chinese businessman Huang Nubo was not permitted to purchase Grímsstaðir á Fjöllum, 30,639 hectares in east Iceland, it turns out that he’s going to rent it so there’s a good chance that we’ll be getting that fancy resort and golf course after all.
Who knows what’ll happen in the coming decade, but let’s just hope we don’t turn all of our natural beauty into accommodation for tourists, and that we don’t destroy what makes Iceland special. Island life can be tough, but we should probably enjoy its unique qualities while we can.
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