It’s been a while since Iceland was famous for something. In the mid-nineties, we had Magnus Ver Magnusson holding the title of the World’s Strongest Man. In the late-nineties we had Bjork, an eccentric singer who took the world by a storm and was featured in tabloid headlines after wearing a swan to the Oscars.
Oh, Magnus Magnusson was the charming host of BBC television quiz programme Mastermind for 25 years.
But, of late, all the news about my country has focused on one of our volcanoes shutting European airspace, leaving millions of travelers stranded throughout the world. In 2008, Icelanders did not just take down their own economy with bad credit, they also managed to leave a trail of financial ruin in the UK and the Netherlands. Iceland’s latest star act has been: Eyjafjallajokull.
It is a volcano that caused little harm to Icelanders, but managed to successfully shut down European airspace for six days. Not even Osama bin Laden's Al Qaida managed that after 9/11. As British travelers suffered, Icelanders joked that because there’s no ‘c’ in the Icelandic alphabet; we mistook "send cash" for "send ash". Perhaps a bit cheeky, but it sure proves that you shouldn’t mess with Iceland.
With air-space reopened, and erupting Eyjafjallajokull no longer spewing ash thousands of feet into the atmosphere, it seems as if Britons can go on living their life, merrily flying across the world. But just because the volcano with the unpronounceable name has calmed down, there’s always the chance that Katla, the "mother" of Icelandic volcanism, will take over. She is due to erupt any time soon.
Perhaps tomorrow or perhaps in a few years from now. At the moment there are no signs of Katla's volcanic turbulence, but if the UK and the Netherlands start hassling Iceland for "owed" money in an attempt to bankrupt us – Icelanders won’t be expecting the country’s geological activity to react in peace.
As a Reuters journalist, Neill Collins put it: “Having to wait for our ship to come in will teach us patience. It may be that Icelanders are unwittingly doing us a favour. Even if they’re not, it serves the rest of us right for being so beastly to the place.”
Now, while Iceland caused chaos across Europe, its 320,000-strong population of former hardy Vikings noted that, had there not been so much international media coverage of the event, they would not even have known of the eruption themselves. That said, I suggest you get on with booking your tickets to Iceland to witness its stunning sights of hot geysers, glaciers and volcanoes. I hope days of global publicity for our island has worked wonders for our flagging tourism industry.
It's amazing that, once UK airspace opened, the first flight to leave Glasgow airport flew straight to Iceland. Coincidence? No, more like a magnetic force that attracts people to one of the world’s most northerly countries. The lava that came from the "original 2010 eruption" has not cooled down.
So, there’s plenty of spectacular sight-seeing on offer. Why not fly to Iceland, pick up a volcanic rock and get your hands on a piece of history? "A rock from the volcano that saved the environment", or "The rock that grounded Europe" - depending on your environmental vantage point - would make for fantastic memorabilia in years to come.
And while you’re there, digging for a prized souvenir under a layer of ash next to a glacier whose name you can’t possibly learn to pronounce, you could buy yourself a pint or two of local lager for a job well done and support an economy smolderingly keen to take your tourism cash.
* Agnes Valdimarsdottir is studying for a masters degree in international journalism at London's City University.