Vestmannaeyjar

Even though I returned to Germany on December 17th, so I closed this short, but intense chapter of Iceland at least for now, I wanted to write one last “travelling” post on a special place. The place I am talking about is Vestmannaeyjar (Westman Islands) in the south of Iceland. Vestmannaeyjar is an archipelago (a group of islands) which in geological terms is considered rather young and consists of about 15 islands, of which only the largest one, Heimaey, is inhabited with a population of around 4.500 people. In 1973 there was a huge volcano eruption of Eldfell volcano, which destroyed many houses and the whole population had to be evacuated to the mainland for many months. This is why you can visit beautiful, young lava-fields on the island.

 

I went there with a friend from Reykjavík. We hitchhiked down to Hveregerdi, from where we wanted to continue to the harbor of Thorlakshöfn, from where the ferry was supposed to leave at 11 am. It was damn cold to stand out in the dark, snowy intersection and it seemed that no one was going that way. So we went to the gas station at Hveregerdi, where we accidently walked into two guys, who informed us that the ferry in the morning was not going and we had to wait for the ferry in the evening. They gave us a ride to Selfoss, where we spend the day in a cute little bookstore, reading. We caught the bus the Thorlakshöfn and made it on the ferry by 7 pm. In Heimaey we found a host through couchsurfing, an originally Canadian lady in her fifties, who enjoys sharing her house with travelers from all over the world. Unfortunately the weather was rather bad the whole weekend. We stayed there for two nights and spend a lot of time with Viktoria, talking, knitting and drinking tea while it was stormy and ice-cold outside. The day we were leaving, a Sunday, we got quite lucky with the weather, even some sun, so we took the opportunity for a walk along the beautiful coast, before we had to rush to catch the ferry back.

 

On a German radio-station I heard a short broadcast on Iceland and its membership at the European Union (it is quite interesting, you can hear it here, in case you understand German). They also interviewed some fishermen from Heimaey. Practically the whole island lives off fish there, they are doing well. The fisherman they talked to was rather skeptical about Iceland’s EU entry. Asked “why?” he said, amongst others, that the bureaucracy is too ridiculous and they’re scared the EU would want to influence the Icelandic fishing-quota system. But it is EU-law that fish factories need to have cockroach traps distributed everywhere in the facilities. “We had inspectors coming from Brussels checking our fishing factories. They had a long list with rules and asked ‘Could we see the traps for the cockroaches?’ The Icelanders said ‘No, you can’t’. The inspectors asked ‘Why?’ And the Icelanders said ‚Because there are no cockroaches on the island.’ And the guy from the EU responded ‘How do you know? You don’t have traps.’” It is a matter of fact that there are barely any insects on the island… One of the first things you see when you drive from the international airport in Keflavík to Reykjavík is this sign: Island+EU.

At this moment I don’t want to go into more detail about the long discussion whether it is a good or a bad idea for Iceland to join the EU. But obviously, especially around the capital area, there are also many people in favor of an entry. If you make it to Iceland though, do not miss out on visiting this place, it is well worth it, as hopefully the pictures posted get across.

I am going to keep writing this blog, but the focus will of course shift away from Iceland. Most probably I will keep using it for uploading pictures – and writing, but writing more about political/social topics, that rise in Germany. Let’s see. I wish you all a happy new year.

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