Monday, February 11, 2013

Republic of Iceland

My trip to Iceland is coming up and I'm getting excited.  I'm not a big fan of the cold so heading to a country near the Arctic Circle isn't exactly at the top of my bucket list.  But this is where my readers have voted for me to visit this year.  So I'll be on my way.  It's been a bit rainy there lately but Reykjavík is actually a few degrees warmer now than Brno.

The Republic of Iceland is a Nordic country, northwest of the United Kingdom, between the North Atlantic Ocean and the Greenland Sea.  It is the USA's closest European neighbor.  Iceland is the 18th largest island in the world and the second largest island in Europe after Great Britain.  At 103,000 km² (40,000 sq miles), it is a little smaller than Kentucky.  Iceland has a population of 320,000 people.  Almost two-thirds of the country live in and around the capital city Reykjavík.

Iceland was settled by Norwegians and Scottish and Irish Celts in the 9th and 10th centuries.  It was independent for more than 300 years before being ruled by Norway and Denmark.  It was given limited home rule, in 1874, by Denmark.  In 1918, Iceland gained independence and in 1944, the republic was declared.

Iceland is part of the European Economic Area which gives it access to the EU but it is not an EU member.  The country officially applied for membership in 2009 but there is no immediate outlook to join.  Iceland is part of the Schengen area.  While the country doesn't have an army it is a member of NATO.

Ten percent of the country is covered by glaciers.  It is a geologically active area.  There are 130 volcanic mountains; 18 of which have erupted since the country was settled.  In 2010, Eyjafjallajökull erupted.  The ash it sent in to the air disrupted European air traffic for almost a month.

In 2001, Iceland's banks were deregulated.  The three major banks issued debt that amounted to more than the nation's GDP.  In 2007, the Icelandic króna was ranked as the most overvalued currency in the world.  In 2008, the country's entire banking system failed causing lots of political unrest.  Relative to its size, Iceland's banking collapse is the largest of any country in history.  Things are better now but the country is still recovering from the economic crisis.  Here's a video I found out on YouTube that explains what happened.


1 comment:

  1. Something that never gets covered in American mainstream media is that Iceland let their banks take the haircut for their mistake. Those banks were not bailed out.