‘How did you recognaiss that I am from Yisslant? Ys yt becouss of my aksent?’ (How did you recognise that I am from Iceland? Is it because of my accent?), asked a young girl at Vaclavske Namesti in Prague. Kacper just couldn’t resist the temptation of talking to the Icelander that he accidentally met while she was enquiring in English for directions to the Charles Bridge. ‘Please forgive me, but yes… your accent made me suspect that you might be from Iceland’ answered Kacper as politely as he could. ‘You see…’ he carried on. ‘I love Iceland and have plenty of Icelandic friends, so when I heard you I just thought that I need to say hello!’ he explained. ‘Very well’ the girl seemed to be won over by him. ‘Where did you go in Iceland?’ she asked. Kacper happily explained that he had visited Reykjavik, Akureyri in the north, and little Neskupstathur in the eastern part of the island. ‘You have been everywhere!’ exclaimed the girl rather impressed. ‘My name is Bjork’ she added and offered Kacper her hand. Kacper shook it, and introduced himself too. ‘So perhaps, you can explain to me how to get to the Charles Bridge?’ she went on. ‘Do you care for lunch before?’ offered Kacper, hoping she would say yes. He really felt like reconnecting with Iceland now. ‘This is a very good idea’ she smiled.
Kacper first encounter with Icelanders was rather shocking. Years ago, he studied for some time in Denmark. The course that he was participated in was very international; students came from many different parts of the world. The strong political, economical and cultural connections between Denmark and Iceland make many citizens of the Nordic island move either temporarily, or permanently to Denmark. Hence, Kacper was explained, it was hardly surprising that one of the largest groups at his course were the Vikings!
During one of the first days in the college, when he still didn’t know his new companions that well, he went swimming. At the pool, he met one of the Icelandic girls, called Thorun. Kacper was genuinely impressed with Thorun, and how she swam. She was very sporty, and her movements in water were actually pleasant to look at. He decided that he was going to be a gentleman, as he was taught in his native Poland, and wanted to compliment Thorun. ‘You swim really well Thorun!’ he shouted to make sure that she could hear. She obviously must have misunderstood Kacper’s intentions, and have thought that Kacper was a kind of dirty-minded playboy, so responded very sharply: ‘Eat your shit!’
Being, still quite innocent, he didn’t understand what Thorun meant. Confused, he looked at giggling John – his English friend, and asked him to help him understand what he had just heard from Thorun. ‘I do not think she accepted your compliment Kacper’ explained John, still quite amused… ‘Don’t be shocked Kacper…’ went on John. Icelandic girls are very independent, and they sometimes think that compliments from men are a sign of chauvinism’, John carried on talking to Kacper, who seemed even more confused.
Thorun later became a very good friend of Kacper, and couldn’t apologise enough for her remark at the swimming pool, which by the way, soon became very famous in the whole college. It was used as a synonym of any cultural differences, which the students experienced in the college. Whenever there was a situation, where people perceived it in slightly different ways, or there were misunderstandings deriving possibly from various upbringings, everyone started laughing and quoting Thorun’s famous Eat your shit!
The more Kacper interacted with the Icelanders, the more enjoyed their ‘national characteristics.’ Iceland is a small country, where only slightly over 300,000 people live. The fact that there are so few of them makes them extremely proud, especially when overseas. They like underlining where they come from, and ensuring that everyone around knows what Iceland is. They do it however in a very sweet, and non-imposing way, and therefore they make friends extremely quickly everywhere. Kacper also found Icelanders to be the most dirty-minded people on earth. Some jokes that he heard from them were just shocking, nearly obscene, and he wouldn’t ever dare repeating them to anyone. They also seemed to be very messy, but very efficient in a same time. His Icelandic friends, always scored very well in all kinds of assignments, and were doing very well in group undertakings and tasks. They were definitely fun and friendly people to be with, and what Kacper really loved, extremely helpful.
‘Kacper, are you packed yet?’ asked Hron, before they were taking a train to Copenhagen, from where they would fly to Reykjavik. ‘You are joking Hron. I have been ready to go for last 2 days’ he answered. ‘Good Kacper minn (my Kacper), you need to come and help me pack then!’ she begged. ‘Hron, we are leaving in 30 minutes, and you are not packed?’ he panicked. ‘That’s why you need to come and help!’ she exclaimed laughingly.
Hron’s room looked like a disaster zone, like if a tornado had just passed through it. Everything was on the floor, the whole wardrobe, books, shoes, clothes, boxes…everything. Hildur - Hron’s sister and John were there too, both helping Hron pack. Kacper joined in to this colourful happening. It was a hilarious experience. They were all grabbing things from the floor, and squeezing them in a massive suitcase. Somehow, everything what was on the floor managed to get transferred to the suitcase. Kacper just needed to sit on it, to help Hildur and John zip it properly. They were ready to go, and miraculously, they didn’t miss the train!
Hron and Hildur were as excited as Kacper was from their trip to Iceland. Kacper was thrilled to visit a new, and unusual country, and they were proud to be able to show it to him. They lived in eastern part of the island, in a small town called Neskupstathur. He soon found out that there actually were more people excited about his visit. ‘Are you this Polish person, who visits Hron and Hildur’ asked some woman on a street, when they walked to a local shop. ‘Yes, that is me’ answered Kacper politely. ‘We are so excited we have a guest from Poland here’ she told him and invited him along with his hosts to visit her farm, so they could do some horse riding and have coffee afterwards.
In the plane, on the way to Iceland, Hron and Hildur tried to teach Kacper some Icelandic. ‘Er thu godt i rummene krusintulli minn?’ – reapeat, demended Hildur. Kacper kept on repeating, curious of the meaning. ‘You do not need to know the meaning, just tell it to our father, when you meet him!’ the sisters insisted. So Kacper did. The moment, he was introduced to the head of the family, he recited his er thu godt i rummene krusintulli minn, in front of the whole family. Everyone started laughing hysterically, actually people didn’t laugh, they had tears in their eyes. Dad was rather pleased with his Polish visitor, hugged him, like if he was his own son, and announced friendlily in Danish ‘Velkommen til familien Kacper’ (welcome to the family Kacper). He then nearly died of shame, when he found that his first sentence, he had greeted the girl’s father was HONEY, ARE YOU GOOD IN BED?
As Iceland is such a cold island, growing plants is nearly impossible; therefore, all traditional dishes include either fish or sheep – the only animals that were plentiful in the country. Kacper was often treated with traditional delicacies like rotten fish, head of a ram, or ram’s testicles… Marinated testicles became another sources of jokes for years. Kacper was learning names, of all dishes, and he particularly enjoyed the name for ram’s balls, which in Icelandic is hrutspungur. Dad, or Pappa as Kacper called him, really enjoyed that Kacper seemed to have liked his hrutsupungurs, and that he remembered the name so quickly. ‘You are my Hrutspungur’ he said to Kacper lovingly, and amused with a new nickname he had just invented for Kacper. From now on, for many of his Icelandic and non-Icelandic friends he became Hrutspungur. Kacper didn’t mind his new name really, but thought it was quite unusual to be called Ram’s Testicles…
Iceland is a country of stunning, but unusual beauty. There are nearly no trees in the country, and those, which are there, are all planted by settlers, rather than growing naturally. Kacper was there in December, and the daylight lasted only for 3 hours, or so. Most of Kacper’s Icelandic memories are therefore related to darkness. In Kacper’s eyes, this made Iceland look magical, and a bit spooky. Mountains, volcano lava rocks in strangest possible shapes, smell of sulphur coming from hot springs, bubbling hot mud, geysers – all created an atmosphere of some fairytale land. He loved it, and he definitely fell in love with good-hearted people of Iceland.
During his trip, he also visited other friends: Thorun and her family in Akureyri, and Adalbjorg in Reykjavik. Wherever he went, everyone was wonderfully hospitable and friendly to him – it was one of the most memorable holidays that he had ever had. The relations with Iceland and his friends were far from over. His friends and his new Icelandic family visited him in Poland on multiple occasions over years. What happened when the Vikings invaded his native Nowy Sacz will need to be told in a separate chapter…
PS. Kacper is in Nairobi, glad that his fever had gone down.