Written by: James Barrett (IDP, History, Class of 2017)
Spring Break trips take many forms. Many Trinity students opt to escape the dreary March weather for a tropical paradise. Some head North to Vermont or West to Colorado to find snowy mountains for a ski vacation. In recent years, the small island nation of Iceland has seen a massive tourism increase, and not just in Spring Breakers. While Iceland certainly does not fall into the category of tropical paradise, especially in March, the totally unique landscape can make a person feel like they’re walking on a different planet. During Spring Break 2016, my girlfriend Elyssa, and I were fortunate enough to go to Iceland for a very brief trip. We flew out of Boston on a Monday night and returned Friday afternoon. Since Iceland’s tourism increase began, roughly in 2008, Icelandic citizens seem to have become used to discussing much of the history of the country.
One friendly salesperson wanted to make it very clear to Elyssa and I that she was a descendant of vikings. She was very proud of her heritage and really wanted to share her history with us. One piece of information she clued us in on (I hesitate to call it a fact) was that when the vikings arrived to Iceland they cut down all the trees to build their famous viking ships. She told us that when we drove out of Reykjavik on our way to the Golden Circle that we should try to count all the trees that we saw. It seemed like a weird request, but we obliged. The Golden Circle is a popular tourist route that leads to waterfalls, geysers, and the continental divide between North America and Europe. As we drove, stopping from place to place we did notice some trees, but they were incredibly sparse. Several miles into our day trip, our count was right around 20. It looked as if our viking descendant friend was onto something. That was until we reached the outskirts of a small town. There was a small but substantial forest outside this town. Elyssa and I were puzzled as to why this town had so many trees when the rest of the country was so sparse. We decided to ask around and our answer came from a very kind man. He told us that most of the forests in Iceland are part of a government project to regrow trees. We noticed that all the trees in the forest looked very young and he told us that this was a fairly recent project.
It seems odd to focus on trees when Iceland is so rich with scenic beauty. But this points to a really cool aspect of Iceland; their history is intricately woven into their geography. Just like it is difficult not to notice the extremely sparse tree cover, when driving from Keflavik Airport into Reykjavik it is impossible not to notice the volcanos in the distance. Similarly, it is impossible not to notice the lava rocks that one must climb over to get to an incredible cliffside ocean view. All of these scenic natural landmarks display how the landscape has shaped the history of the country.