Felicity Long
Felicity Long

While no European destination has been immune from the volatility of the economy this past year, recent events in Iceland fall into a category all their own.

Let's recap: in 2007 Iceland was selected among 175 countries as the best place in the world to live, according to no less august an authority than the United Nations (for the record, the U.S. came in 12th).

Fast forward to October 2008, and headlines around the globe proclaimed that the country had gone bankrupt, something that most people would never have imagined could happen to an entire country.

Banks closed, the stock market froze and the country's coalition government collapsed, prompting the once serene and proper citizens of Iceland to take to the streets in high dudgeon.

Loans from the International Monetary Fund were one solution, but another could be membership in the European Union, which most experts believe would go a long way toward stabilizing the country.

Word has it that the EU would be receptive to an application for membership from Iceland and that acceptance could be fast tracked -- not out of favoritism but rather because the country is a known quantity -- with approval as soon as 2011.

Helping to shepherd Iceland through this crisis is a new prime minister, Johanna Sigurdardottir, the world's first openly gay head of state.

The silver lining for would-be visitors is that bargains abound, including a Winter/Spring Iceland Budget Getaway, available through April, which includes roundtrip air fare from Boston or New York, two nights' accommodations and daily breakfast from $479 per person, double; $799 for bookings after Feb. 13.

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