Reykjavik Snow

You probably wouldn’t know it, but Iceland has had the most clement winter for years. While Europe has been overwhelmed by snow, rain and generally heavy winter weather, and North America confounded by massive snowfalls and cold, mid-continent temperatures, Iceland has been basking under a warm and comforting winter. A lost tribe of Global Warmers among the cooling gloom.

But this visit, a couple of days in January to finish off some new business opportunities, brought a heavy snowfall and cold temperatures; probably a winter day that the rest of the world would feel normal for this rocky, North Atlantic outcrop, but this winter, unusual.

I arrived in Keflavik on a flight from London and picked up my vehicle; fortunately an SUV. By the time I had reached the city, the snow had started, and although I could park quickly enough, I wasn’t sure about finding my car again. I like Reykjavik, particularly the old town, and in the snow, it looks truly cosy, and very romantic.

Again the Hotel Fron, as friendly as last time, but quite full of winter sports enthusiasts, and a couple of bewildered Australians, and soon, my friend Shonni came to pick me up.

Shonni manages a travel business in Reykjavik, and is the agent for the Smyril Line, a fascinating shipping company that plies the waters between Iceland, the Faroe Islands and Denmark; as a former fisherman, used to the vagaries of the Sea of Murmansk in the winter, he is scornful of my doubts regarding the sanity of winter passengers on the MV Norunna. We are together, however, to talk about travel to Canada for Icelanders this summer, now that there is a direct flight between Winnipeg and Iceland and of Icelandic life in general.

For some, the economic tsunami endured over the past year or so has been good; for most it has been dreadful. Good for those with export businesses, poor for everyone else. The anger is intense; anger toward the small cabal of business people, perhaps as few as thirty, who engineered this collapse by undermining every moral and ethical principle that our business world is built upon. Now I know that the use of the words “ethical”, “moral” and “business” in the same sentence will cause merriment, if not a wholesale search for aisles to roll in, but one must always believe in “the system” as having an undercurrent of principle that mirrors its broader society; otherwise we would all face the same meltdown that Iceland has undergone, and the rest of us so narrowly avoided.

The second target of his anger is the government, both elected and appointed officials who so willingly turned a blind eye. Or in the most generous possible explanations, complete and utter incompetence. It is a tragedy; Icelanders, the most confident, friendly, accommodating and generous people it has been my privilege to know, did not deserve this pain.

But back to the flight. Iceland Express will fly twice weekly this summer, and we are looking forward to an exciting time selling both ends of the flight. It is all systems go now, and we have an allocation of 20 seats on each plane to sell, so off we go! Iceland is great; scenic, wild, sophisticated, pastoral, dramatic and photogenic, and an absolute must for travellers’ agendas. Independent touring by car with accommodation in comfortable guest-houses, escorted bus tours, exciting city breaks or some of the world’s most challenging outdoor activities, Iceland has it all.

So come! 2010 is the year to visit the Vikings!

The snow was over by the time I left, although there was a pretty nasty squall as I refilled the car’s tank at the airport. And this is an odd situation; the only gas station within range of the airport only takes credit cards with the chip & PIN technology. For North Americans, this can come as a rude wake-up call; so please, credit card companies, bring the US and Canada into the 21st century and give us chips with all cards, and not just a select few.

I was sorry to leave this afternoon, but I am now heading to Boston for a meeting this evening and tomorrow to St. John’s in Newfoundland and finally Halifax before getting home to Winnipeg on March 4th. I am looking forward to visiting Newfoundland again, as I have always had a soft spot for the province; probably Canada’s most gorgeous region. Perhaps Saturday night at some small, noisy bar on Water Street will prove to be fun! I will be sure to let you know.

And for those who follow this blog, and have been kind enough to ask, my father died this morning; peacefully.