Iceland And Alex


If it wasn’t before, Iceland is well and truly on the tourist map now, thanks to its starring role in Game Of Thrones.

The world is full of incredible places, of course. But nowhere I’ve been has left quite the same impression on me as Iceland.

With a cluster of settlements hanging on to life around the island’s coast, and a mere 323,000 inhabitants, it’s a world still ruled by nature. Specifically the ice and snow that covers much of its interior for great periods of the year.

And its enormous volcanoes.

It’s actually quite hard to imagine why people settled here in the first place. There are few trees, and the land itself does its best to make folks feel welcome.

But it’s well worth the trip.

What’s in a name?

With such a small population and a good tradition of record-keeping (better than mine!), they have ledgers of every native family and their entire lineage. Everybody knows every member of their family, all the way back to when their forebears arrived on the island!

Native Icelandic surnames are one way they keep track of family. They are created by taking the father’s first name and adding either “daughter of” or “son of” to the end.

This leads to quite a lot of similar surnames, so Icelandic phone books list people by first name!

Any child born on the island has to have a name chosen from a list of suitable options. If it hasn’t been used in the country before, it must be approved by the Icelandic Naming Committee.

They take these things very, very seriously. Which, for me, adds to the appeal.

The country has one road that circumnavigates it, dubbed Route 1.

It traverses over 800 miles around the coast to connect the country, and was only completed in 1974.

Up until this point, only boats could reach some of the wilder settlements. No permanent roads can be built through the interior, as it’s too inhospitable for much of the year.

And even the great ring road has sections built to be disposable when the great melt waters rage down from active volcanoes.

Unfairly labelled

It’s an endlessly fascinating place. And, curiously, unfairly labelled.

It’s probably the northernmost land mass that still benefits from the Gulf Stream, so the coast can be surprisingly mild.

Ironically unlike neighbouring Greenland, which is permanently ice-capped!

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Alex Corlett

Alex is the "Friend's" Features Editor, working with the talented Features Team to bring you everything from cryptic crosswords to financial advice, knitting patterns to international travel and inspirational real life stories. Always on the hunt for a new feature idea, Alex also enjoys cycling and loves a good tea room.