Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Hodgepodge 214/365 - Iceland

I've been seeing posts on Facebook these last couple of days by writer friends who are off to Iceland for a writing conference, Nonfiction NOW. Lucky dogs.

It reminds me that I was in Iceland once. A few lifetimes ago. I can't even remember exactly under what circumstances. I believe it was when Icelandair was offering the sweet deal of a stop in Reykjavík for no extra charge between the States and Europe, on a ticket that itself was a sweet deal: less than $300 r/t is my recollection.

It probably was 1975 or 1976, when I spent a couple of months traveling in Europe: starting in Turkey for a cruise along the coast with a colleague of my father's; stopping in Rapallo, Italy, to visit dorm neighbors from my junior year at Berkeley (while he prepared pesto, she and I went shopping for pasta: I had never even imagined there were so many kinds of pasta in the world!); and attending my good friends Ulla and Emile's wedding in Brussels. I'm pretty sure I met up with a penfriend I'd been corresponding with, via the Christian Science Monitor (they used to have a penfriends column), since a decade before, Christine Buxton, who lived in Devon at the time. And yes, I think I also visited a German friend, Carina Kötter (now Wreesmann), whom I met at boarding school in Bavaria in 1969 (the same year I met Ulla, in Liège, Belgium).

Ayhan, as I remember her
The Turkish colleague, Ayhan Ulubelen, I have just discovered (yay Google!), is now 85 and still lives in Istanbul, having had a long career as a professor of analytical chemistry at the University of Istanbul. My father met her when they were both on sabbatical in Germany; they were  phytochemists, specializing in plant flavonoids. The Italian friends I lost contact with long ago. He, Sergio Guarro, was studying nuclear physics at Cal, though it seems he went into the aerospace industry; his wife, Clorinda Donato, now teaches romance languages at Cal State University Long Beach. (Gee, Google is fun! Though it certainly helps that I remember their names.) Christine I have tenuous connection with, via the very occasional email—but not now for several years. I should drop her a line . . . Ditto Carina. As for the Belgian friends, they divorced a while back, and I've lost touch with him (he moved to France, remarried), but I got to see wonderful Ulla—she's lived in northern Italy for decades now—just this last March. I don't need no stinking Google for her!

But back to Iceland: I stopped there to visit another schoolmate from my year in Germany. Edda Herbertsson was her name, and she was studying German during my school's summer recess, the summer I arrived. We hit it off well enough and stayed in touch. So when Ulla and Emile invited me to their wedding, and this Icelandair deal appeared, I thought, why not?

I remember very, very little of my stop in Iceland. Edda ran a shop, family owned, in the high street, as I recall. Just what sort of shop, I can't say: stationery? maybe? I stayed at her family's house—it was her parents (no recollection of them: maybe her father had died?), her brother, and her. I do remember the thermal heating in the house: the idea that we were sitting atop boiling water and that it could be harnessed for heat was a revelation to me. I don't remember spending much time with her—she was working—but her brother took me on a drive into the countryside, which was impossibly green (to these California eyes), and we stopped a while to watch Icelandic horses cavort in the fields.

I believe that main street is where
the Herbertsson shop was
I also vaguely remember having been set loose downtown to sightsee on my own, and needing to find the shop again. I had a general idea of where it was and asked a stranger, probably another shopkeeper, if he knew where Edda Herbertsson's shop was. He gave me the strangest look (I'm imagining piercing blue eyes and shaggy white eyebrows for some reason, maybe a pair of silver-framed glasses) and asked if I didn't have the name wrong? No, I was sure: Edda Herbertsson. He shook his head, said he didn't know.

Only later did I realize, her last name was all wrong. Icelandic women's names are appended by -dóttir, not -son. She should have been Edda Herbertsdóttir—if, that is, she wasn't in fact going by her father's surname, which I now think maybe she was. In any event, the poor man I asked probably thought I was—oh, just another confused young American, most likely. Of whom they'd been seeing a lot lately. Thanks to Icelandair.

I vaguely remember the beautifully colored buildings of downtown Reykjavík. But nothing more, not really.

Clearly, I need to go back. I think I'd like to go for a self-guided month-long photography and hiking tour. A little bit of a return to forever. David wants to go to Iceland too. It'll happen. I do think it will.

But for now, this was an interesting little trip down memory lane. For me, anyway :-) I hope a little bit for you too, though I'm sorry it was really more about my memories than about Iceland. And now: to get in touch with Ulla (just to say hi) and Christine and Carina. It's been too long.

1 comment:

  1. I love that the inference took place in Iceland. I predict more will be the same:-)