Bobby and My Icelandic Fantasy

Roads in Iceland

I have intermittent Icelandic fantasies. Somewhere, deep in my soul, I want to be Icelandic, live there, be a part of that culture. None of this is my fault. It all started with Bobby Fischer back in 1972. I also think too much about toasters but that’s not Bobby’s fault. Iceland is different.

Back then, Fischer claimed the world chess championship from Boris Spassky in Reykjavik. That’s the capital of Iceland. Fisher was a brilliant chess master but also a certifiable wacko. Spassky was the front-man for the USSR. Both the USSR and Fischer have passed on. But, the big event was everywhere in 1972, on television, radio, all over the media. It was huge news Stateside and everywhere else. Like most provincial Americans, it was my personal introduction to Iceland. I didn’t care all that much about the chess match. I was caught up in Fischer behaviorisms and the exotic lure of far-away Iceland.

Boris Spassky and Bobby Fischer at the 1970 ch...

Before Fischer invaded that peaceful country with his combination of grandeur and bizarre antics, I knew nothing about Iceland. Oh, sure, I could find it on a world map but that’s about all. When Fischer left Reykjavik and went forth into his life of madness, Iceland fell off the world’s map once again. But, not for me. It stayed on my mind. It was Fischer’s legacy.

Iceland has relatively few inhabitants and that’s very appealing to me. It hasn’t declared war on another nation. It’s never been a prime target for invasion. If you don’t mind freezing your butt off, it’s scenic and serene. With only about 40,000 square miles of land space, it’s never going to be on the top forty destination spots for world domination. In other words, it’s delightfully out of the way of most nastiness.

Overpopulation is not an issue. There are some 320,000 Icelanders and they all seem to get along pretty well. Lots of room to breathe. There’s no history of civil war, or at least it never made big news anywhere else. Nice.

For those of the monetary persuasion, Iceland has a free-market economy and low corporate taxes. It also has a national health care system that works well, and a paid system of education for its citizens. It has become one of the wealthiest and most highly developed nations in the world. Cost of living can be a bit gaggy, but you can’t have everything. Gender equality is not an issue over there. See what can happen when you don’t have the need to conquer the world?

From Reykjavik, Iceland

Sounds pretty good, right? Well, there’s that weather thing. On a warm, sunny day, the thermometer stalks a balmy 56F. Winter lows are in the 20s, mostly. It snows, but not all that much. It just never gets warm. I mean, it’s called Iceland for a reason. That’s kind of a bummer for those of us accustomed to a bit more comfort. Oh, well. Weather’s not everything.

How about the food? Fish, lamb and dairy products rule over everything else. Especially fish. Now, a lot of that fish is pickled, sauced up, and made gooey in other fancy ways. It’s OK, I suppose. I’d have to think about it. I’m fine with lamb, but not every day. Dairy? Sure. I hear that Icelandic breakfasts usually consist of coffee, fruit, cereal and pancakes. That’s yummy enough. Things go a bit downhill as the day wears on. I wonder about Chinese take-out and Mama’s pizza. I need to check on that.

Glíma (Icelandic Wrestling)

Sports are a bit on the thin side. Icelanders love Glima, which is a kind of wrestling that originated in medieval times. I can’t really get into that type of thing. NASCAR doesn’t visit Iceland for the obvious reasons. I’ve never heard of the New York Yankees over there. Even the Vikings don’t play football in Iceland. There are other sports, of course, but nothing to really compete with the popularity of Glima. I suppose there’s always snowboarding. I wonder what the old folks do for fun?

Music and literature? Sure. The music leans heavily on traditionalism. Lots of religious themes. On the literary scene, poetry is big. I like that. Lots of art over there, especially statues. I see in my picture book that many of the buildings are beautiful, ornate. Looks good to me. That could work, for a while.

Did I mention that weed is illegal in Iceland? If that’s your interest, you need somewhere else to land.

So, maybe I should go to Iceland. Maybe. It seems like a fun place. There’s only one thing that has held me back all these years. It all goes back to Bobby. When he left Iceland he went nuts, completely and forever. He should have stayed there. I don’t want to go to Iceland and never be able to leave. That would be a real drag.

Thanks for the fantasy, Bobby. I guess I’ll stay here for a while longer. If I go nuts here I can always go to Iceland for rehab.

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12 thoughts on “Bobby and My Icelandic Fantasy

  1. I manage an Icelandic band called Sólstafir (anything BUT religious music, but they do sing in Icelandic, which I don’t speak, so they could be lying to me), and have been to the country before. You’re 100% correct on the food choices available (there’s a whole lot of happy sheep running abundant and free throughout the country). One thing you failed to mention was the constant impending doom over the fact that the entire country is made up of active volcanos. So there is that. Other than that, I highly recommend a visit, and definitely take a dip in the Blue Lagoon.
    A friend of mine recently went there for a visit and wrote a pretty informative and entertaining blog about it, if your Icelandic fantasy needs more fuel.
    http://thegermanperspectiveblog.wordpress.com/2013/02/01/perspectives-on-iceland/

  2. I’m with you – nice place to visit but maybe not stay forever. What about this – Bobby saw his madness coming back at him on Iceland’s reflective surface and that’s way he was never the same. Yet another point to maybe not visit! (speaking for myself only, here)

  3. I never really thought about Iceland too much because of the weather. Even if it weren’t for the weather, there wouldn’t be too much to eat for me. I don’t drink milk, eat lamb or fish. Now the pancakes I could do. Thanks for your perspective on Iceland,

    • Thanks back at ya. Yep, me too. I guess that’s why it’s a fantasy instead of a reality. I’m intrigued, though. There’s something fascinating about Iceland. Or, I’m just nuts. Either way, it works.

  4. The Phonyon staff is unanimous in its recommendation of avoiding the putrefied shark. We also experienced horse meat, and what can best be described as an incinerated sheep’s head at something akin to a family diner/buffet. Also, plenty of less esoteric options.

    Swimming is very a popular sport or activity, we were told there are dozens of naturally heated public pools around the city, in addition to the Blue Lagoon.

    A really interesting place, especially the sometimes otherworldly landscape outside of the city, and certainly easy to travel for English speakers because nearly everyone except perhaps the elderly speaks excellent English.

    It’s much cheaper to travel off-season, and typically no worse in the winter than northern US climate (the Phonyon offices are in suburban Detroit). Also, that is the time to see the Northern Lights if one is so inclined (also lucky and patient).

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