The Guestbook

This story is by Leonardo Piccione, written for the 10th anniversary of Húsavík Guesthouse.

Achille didn’t see the whales but has promised that he will come back. Date: May, 10th 2019. One week before, Melissa managed to spot three humpbacks, and drew them down too. On August 13th, 2018 a guest from Hong Kong illustrated a panda, and here we have two possibilities: either he actually saw a panda here in Iceland (after a few shots of Brennivín you may also be able to see a panda), or the panda is more like his signature, or his avatar – a bit like what the puffin must be for Florence, from Lorient. She added a balloon next to the red beak: “Vive la France!” seems to say the puffin.

Last night I picked up the guestbook (gestabók in Icelandic) compiled by the travelers who usually stay in the house, this one, where I will likely spend a long time. Finally, I am stuck in Iceland: it had to happen sooner or later, even if I thought that the one responsible for such a situation would have been a thing slightly bigger than a virus – a volcano, maybe. In any case, yesterday I started reading this white book, and I had the clear impression that it was a testimony from a bygone era, from a distant time during which in a small Icelandic guesthouse you could continuously meet surrealist Czechs (“The room was small, but I enjoyed the Dalí book I found in the living room”, wrote Zuzka) and grumpy Lithuanians (“Beautiful place, but why were the candles at the entrance blown out? “, wrote Emilija), moved Americans (“We came for the landscapes, we will return for the people “, from the Vignola family) and fragile Germans (” The sea was calm, but it took three hours for my stomach to calm down too”, complained Audi).

On May 14th, 2012, a group of Italians visited this place: “Four slightly older boys stopped here. And nobody got hurt, so it’s a nice place.” Signed: Fabrizio, Claudio, Alfredo and Marco. In July 2014 Makoto Koishi left a little bit disappointed, unfortunately: “Hot water tastes of sulfur”. I can’t translate the Cyrillic, but from the vehemence with which Gregor sank the pen on the sheet I deduce he also had some kind of grievances. It went better to Filippo, Claudia and Anna, who reveal that on September, 29th 2016 they had a “memorable” chat at the sunset, by the harbor, and I suddenly felt nostalgic about that sunset that I haven’t seen, and about that speech I haven’t took part in: who knows what those friends talk about that night, and who knows what made Johnny “the sailor” feel so special that on 16 September 2013 he left us the misery of three words and an exclamation point: FUN TIMES HERE! Who knows if the Finnish newlyweds who came North during their honeymoon in 2011 are still together, and what Albert remembers of his stay in Húsavík: he celebrated his 32nd birthday here, ten years ago, and he wrote “I will never forget you.”

This gestabók is a mine of faded memories and broken promises, but also of big hopes and sincere “thank you” – those really never rot. Thanks for your patience, thanks for the cake, thanks for your hospitality. For the advice, for the friendship, for the warm bed, for the coffee, for the quiet, for the books, for the help with the car. Takk, gràcies, danke, merci: it is gratitude the feeling best paired with the universal condition of the guest, of the men and the women who rejoice when they recognize a home away from home. Sooner or later they will return to populate guesthouses and to leave messages such as Jane’s, who on June 7th, 2015 decided not to write what she had done, but to give an advice to those who would come after, suggesting them to avoid doing the same things everyone does and visiting the same places everyone visits, and instead to look for the “hidden beauties”. Our unknown, wise Jane suggested everybody to find some time to “run in the fields of purple flowers, and take a deep breath”.

About Leonardo Piccione

Leonardo Piccione is a writer of stories of people and places that stand out. His book Il libro dei vulcani d'Island was published by Iperborea in 2019.

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