Iceland’s lit af ‘cool’ cultural experience of ísbíltúr

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Territorially Nordic, culturally Scandinavian and geographically islandic, the truly remarkable realm of Iceland warrants it so many mavericks of beauty, in aesthetics, in expression and indeed in identity. Well known as the Land of Fire and Ice with the small country residing in dynamics as contrasting as the cool allure of many a glaciers and the raging aura of quite a few volcanoes, this least densely populated of all the European nations has a way of its own in which it goes about the business of life, taking recourse to such phenomenal explorations in its intriguing experience that make it indeed a ‘cool’ country to live in, or at least be in awe of, much in the charm of what its name encompasses. But what captures our absolute attention are the virtues that inhabits Iceland, in its Scandi- Nordic lineage of continuing history and legacy and heritage, which means therefore that the country harbours within its lingo also such terms that are very specific expressions of experiences that needs to be felt to be understood. Much like the Danish hygge and the Swedish lillördag or the Norwegian friluftsliv, there is so much beauty to encounter in Icelandic terms that are but only an extension of the surreal natural glamour that bathes the diversely enchanting premises of the country steeped in magical revelations galore.

In sync therefore with the ‘icy’ attribute of the Icelandic identity, the quaint tradition that has managed to have us totally enthralled with the cultural elements of the country is one that goes by the name ísbíltúr. A work upon the of course Icelandic word bíltúr which means somethings like getting into your car and going for a ride, all impromptu, ísbíltúr though is bíltúr with a specific end in sight- the sinful indulgence in the cool delight that only a tub of icecream can generate. For a region so cold to be even named Iceland, this sure sounds like an aberration, this instinctive, very rooted desire to take long, wandering rides to seek succour in the pleasurable haven of gastronomy that is very specific to the freezing might of icecreams is however very important culturally to the Icelandic folks. Needless to say then, come pleasant summers or be it shivering winters, this jaunt specific to the immersion of the soul in the icily creamy experience is something that the people of Iceland indulge in all its simple glory. For indeed, fewer things in life can earn you a satisfaction happier than the thought of a nice, decadent icecream to swirl your tongue around and realising this experience in person, as part of a traditional pastime that has been around since no one exactly knows when, feeling so enveloped in the warmth of belonginess in adhering to a mode of life that is not just ‘prescribed’ but also desired, indeed is something that only the lucky few on earth can truly experience over the course of the human life.

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Isbíltúr translates roughly then to a quick icecream road trip, summing at once some of the most exquisite, yet at the same time, some of the most simple pleasures of a joyous life. And it is so fun and easy to yield into the ‘demands’ of this relaxing activity that Icelanders hop into it with all heart and soul, taking the very often yet occasional route to the car, hoping in for what they know is gotta be a simple fun ride, with detours numerous perhaps so that the happiness chased after- the bliss of enjoying an icecream in this case comes across as all the more heavenly, as something earned in one’s favorite flavor and the choicest assortment of toppings and sprinklings, continuing still with their happy, aimless ride to ultimately end up home, happier than they had left. A classic case of the journey being more important than the destination, ísbíltúr truly has been eternal in the Icelandic context, a ritual that you happily adhere to with family and friends and dates, in love and togetherness and happiness, even when there isn’t anything very particular to celebrate, just as a means to enjoy life in its everyday moments, small but never insignificant, routine but never monotonous, joyful but never overwhelming, a way of life that has you looking forward to life itself in anticipation of the sheer deliciousness of it all, if not for anything else.

Essentially therefore, in the many notions of happy belonginess and warm feelings it arouses, the phenomenon of ísbíltúr might not be very different from the more touted ritual of hygge. A cosy nook into which you retreat, metaphorically as well as physically as you drape yourself in fuzzy blankets and warm your hands around a hot cup of cocoa, sitting blissfully in the realisation of having a life that is filled with the beauty of love and comfort, Denmark’s globally famous residing in hygge might sound like the exact antonym to the exclusively and essentially outdoor detour of the ísbíltúr. But in reality, the essence of it all is the same- a mode of living that seeks to just derive joy from conviviality, a sort of cultural recreation that makes one fall in love with one’s culture and tradition and identity and life all the more. And with ice cream in tow, the aptly named islandic country of Iceland sure knows how to elevate all these feelings and emotions of ultimate human luxury to its pinnacle of the most optimal coolness!


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