Iceland’s Best Pirates Touch Land to Party
The picture-pleasing nation of Iceland is an island with young lava, and old souls who traveled on Viking ships or stayed home with farming tools and philosophical pens. Modern descendants holds in their hands a midnight sun summer and a deeply dark winter.
Every town in Iceland has a public pool, all are heated, and some get their heating power from volcanic geothermal energy. This land of “fire and ice” birthed earthquake swarms and new volcanoes during the time I have lived here, within my first year, 2020–2021.
On a late June day in East Iceland, I stood ankle deep in a fjord (fjórð). Children were wearing heavy woolen sweaters in summer in the Northern Hemisphere in 2021. My daughter is not a fan of the “lopapeysa”, the classic sweater of Iceland. A California girl by birth, she has adopted many local customs in her first year, such as competitive chess and the super serious candy day, Nammidagur.
My licorice popping kid was on summer holiday from school. She had memorized much of the 2021 Eurovision song entries, and our road trip in the East of Iceland featured soundtracks by the pop sugar entries from Greece and Malta.
I first heard the entries to the Eurovision contest of 2021 at my daughter’s school playground. I came to pick her up after school one day, and felt assaulted by the boom box with a particular drone track from a certain former Soviet republic. I recall chatting with an adult while waiting for my child, and needing to walk far away from the sound that was distressing my soul. I could not predict that I would willingly play that very track a few months later on a mother-daughter trip to the Westman Islands of Iceland. Mother Love knows no limits sometimes!
In the East, with my mother visiting Iceland for the first time to see us after 18 months, and a long distance move to the middle of the Atlantic Ocean from the Pacific shores of California, my daughter was frolicking with new friends on a calm fjord, enjoying a warm oatmeal raisin traditional pancake, at 9:45 PM, at night. The land of the midnight sun…
Earlier that night, wearing a rainbow striped hoodie instead of a scratchy sweater, my daughter stood frozen, not from the temperature, but in awe of the soon-to-dock pirate ship with its strong female lead, “Black Legs” and her singing manly men sidekicks. One of the pirates had bad teeth, and my daughter noted he did not sing as well as the younger male pirate who seemed to floss and brush more often. The female, “Black Legs” had a voice that rang through the valley, crystal clear as her whistle that could wrangle a gaggle of children jacked up on oatmeal pancakes and looking for treasure.
Pirates Propose More Than Two Can Register For Legal Cohabitation
From Iceland — Pirates Propose More Than Two Can Register For Legal Cohabitation
A parliamentary proposal from the Pirate Party requests that current laws be reviewed and changed, so that more than…
Iceland’s Political Pirates
Political life includes “Sjálfstæðisflokkurinn” (founded 1929) and “Samfylkingin — jafnaðarmannaflokkur Íslands” (founded 2000), and a left leaning group actually called “Pirate Party” (Píratar, founded 2012).
The School of Píratar and Jafnaðarmannaflokkur
I thought it would be fun to choose a few political parties with the most letters in their name, and as it turns out, these folks have a strong say in what happens in the Cold Lands of Iceland.
Hospitality is Alive and Well
One of my personal highlights of my travels to Iceland’s East in June 2021 was the personal invitation my family and I earned after a game of chess in a public cafe.
We were in the town of Seyðisfjörður, the actual setting for some of the most compelling scenes of the Ben Stiller movie “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.” Year round residents of the town are just under 700. We met a couple of the locals when my seven-year-old charmed them with her ability to play chess. The family invited us to their home the next day, where a spread of traditional rhubarb jam and homemade waffles was ready with hot coffee, and a sweet cocoa for my daughter. The husband is a quality control engineer in the nearby cod oil factory. The wife is a pharmacy worker and former teacher. Her mother lives in Reykjavik most of the year, but summers in the towns where her children reside.
I enjoyed being invited into an Icelander’s home. In the time of the global health concerns and wariness around strangers, the warm and genuine hospitality to me and my family, total strangers, felt extra special.
In the chess game of making a coalition government, few parties are pawns, and many in government hold cod supply as king.
“Kronur” or “Crowns” as local currency reigns supreme as the Queen’s gambit.
The rook and bishop and knight metaphors require me to learn more chess before I can write about them! Stay tuned.
“Chess is not like basketball or soccer. Men and women face one another on equal terms, and no one can tell the gender of a player from the moves on a scorecard…” writes Louisa Thomas in The New Yorker, July 26, 2021, edition. In Iceland, gender equality is written into much of the current legislation. Áslaug Arna Sigurbjörnsdóttir is the current minister of Higher Education, Industry, and Innovation. She was most recently Iceland’s Minister of Justice.
Of note to this American voter, Ms. Sigurbjörnsdóttir is significantly younger than the youngest USA President to date (Barack Obama, age 47 when first taking the Oath of Office). Though called a center-right in Iceland, she is more of a center-left within the USA political spectrum. Like Mr. Obama, she understands how to leverage popular media.
Her public instagram of late November 2021 features her diving into a cold waterfall:
Áslaug Arna Sigurbjörnsdóttir
Minister of Higher Education, Industry and Innovation💡
“Secrets of the Sprakkar”
Iceland’s coalition government is currently led by a woman, Katrín Jakobsdóttir. French news notes nothing about her partner, but with lots of linguistic pride about Jakobsdóttir’s educational pedigree: “With a degree in Icelandic and French studies and a Masters in Icelandic literature, Jakobsdottir is a fan of crime novels and fiction, finding time to read almost every day.
‘It’s like a kind of therapy at the end of the day,’ she has said, revealing last year that she was working on her first crime novel with a local author.”
France 24 News, November 2021
The figurehead President is a historian, Guðni Thorlacious Jóhannesson. He became President in 2016 after a big shakeup within Icelandic governing life. His wife Eliza Reid is a writer, Canadian, with fluent Icelandic, and an English language book released this year to celebrate strong Icelandic women, “Secrets of the Sprakkar: Iceland’s Extraordinary Women and How They Are Changing the World” (forthcoming).
Traditional Gifts from Iceland: Songlists, Peysas, and Books
Writing is a big part of Icelandic life, and filmmaking is a new industry. If anyone is looking for local creatives to gift during the holiday season, I am grateful to know some of the designers and dreamers on this list I christen with pirate magic:
Magic Pirates in Iceland Might Recommend…
- Sweaters with pirate motifs. You can special order a craftsperson in Iceland to make you a sweater, or a scarf, or a pot holder for your kitchen. Though horses and stripes are common motifs on the peysa, creative requests are happily accepted at The Handknitting Association of Iceland. https://www.handknitted.is/
- Soaps, blankets, and music from a mystical family of creators https://www.fischersund.com/
- “The Seer and the Unseen” a documentary streaming now by my film colleague Sara Dosa. Her logline is: “A magic realist fable about invisible elves, financial collapse and the surprising power of belief, told through the story of an Icelandic grandmother who speaks on behalf of nature under threat.” Stream it today, or, stay tuned for the 2022 world premiere of Sara’s newest film, “Fire of Love” with a huge chapter set in Iceland.
- Audiobooks and music by acclaimed actor Thorunn Erna Clausen (https://www.storytel.com/is/is/narrators/96050-runn-Erna-Clausen
Thorunn has several albums on Spotify. Her latest is a unique album of music transforming grief into art. Clausen, who lost her husband on the eve of their Eurovision competition a decade ago, came out strong in 2021 releasing a new album to commemorate her journey surviving and thriving with new love alongside deep grief, hence the title “My Darkest Place.” In English and Icelandic, the album features her voice and simple accompaniment.
Pirates as Commerce
In the best of cases, Pirates are fun. At sea, they evoke themes of nautical adventures, parrots, and possible avenues of commerce. Robbing and stealing digital content (pirated movies) is not as exciting to a seven year old child who believes that Eimskip shipping containers are the vehicle of choice for modern city Pirates. I am so grateful our June 2021 travels took us to the heart of Pirate lands in Iceland. One of the designers who helps make the East of Iceland sustainable for tourism and pirates is Daniel Byström. I will write a separate essay about the good work he and his colleagues are doing to celebrate local culture and create family fun for all to enjoy Iceland sustainably. Until then, I need to learn more chess!