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On the Icelandic government's collapse

Today Iceland's coalition government collapsed under the strain of an escalating economic crisis, finally some would say (thanks to @lauraoliver for alerting me to this story)

I was in Reykjavik to do story in December, on media of course, and it was a surreal experience. The sense of doom and gloom was not helped by Iceland's barren "moon landscape", nor by these weird sculptures along the road from Keflavik airport to Reykjavik (this photo was taken from behind a dirty bus window, click on the pictures to see them in full size):


"Welcome to the sinking Iceland," wrote Andri Snær Magnason, the author of «Dreamland: Self-help for a frightened nation»," when I contacted him by email (photo below snapped from the airplane when taking off.)

Reykjavik 056

"I'm not so sure Bjørgólfur Guðmundsson, or anyone else in Landsbanki were criminal: they could drive in 250 km/hrs and they did," said DV's editor-in-chief Reynir Traustasson, with reference to the Icesave scandal. But if Traustasson did not think the bank directors and others criminal, a large portion of the population certainly do, with signs comparing prime minister, Geir Haarde, and the head of the central bank, David Oddson, to bin Laden and worse flourishing at the weekly demonstrations.



I truly felt like a stranger in a strange world while I was on Iceland, and if we think we're having a bad time here due to the struggling economy it's nothing compared to the situation there. However, I was told one upside for journalists, who're facing massive job cuts, is the fact that the financial woes of the island has attracted so much interest from international press that some journalists have been able to compensate for loosing their Icelandic jobs by working as stringers for international agencies such as Reuters and AP (by the way, these photos are all my own haphazard shots, but I worked with a great photographer, Haraldur Jónasson - highly recommened: very professional, flexible, knowledgeable and fun to work with - while there)

Bonus link (added 27/1-09 8pm CET): Is this the most hated man in Iceland? (via Andrisig on Twitter)


You've got me curious how exactly it felt - you say "surreal," but I'm wondering exactly what you sensed.

I always imagine myself being gripped by utter dread and locking myself in a cabinet or something. But I guess there's a more general feeling of unease? Something like, you don't know what to expect from people because they're all stressed?

Surreal as in walking into a bad dream wide awake or into a surrealist painting: it's not your dream or your painting, which gives you a sense of detachement; a sense of being a mere spectator as you know your flight will bring you back to the world you know Monday morning. I'll get back with more on this story soonish, which I hope will convey more of the atmosphere.

Would you recommend vacationing there in light of the current conditions? I was planning a trip for March but was waiting to book since their economy kept sinking.

I don't know of anything that would make me feel wary of travelling to Iceland. The demonstrations I attended as a reporter were all peaceful enough, and people were friendly. As a tourist you would probably not seek out the demos anyway, and the price level is agreeable for foreigners. My plane over there was fully booked, as did my hotel seem to be. Perhaps I'd make extra sure I was well covered in case my travel operator or hotel should go bust, but I haven't looked into that side of things in any detail.

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