Established 2004 ~ All photos and text by Maria Alva Roff unless otherwise noted.
It's been an intense week* for our big little island, and because I try to keep this space more news-free than not it's been a bit of a challenge to imagine what to write. Too peppy a tone, and it would be an insult to all those here who have been affected by loss these past few days (loss of loved ones, of jobs, of privacy), while getting too deep and dour would dampen what we most need right now: hope.
I also wasn't so sure about a photo, so I took a walk around the neighborhood in -10°C weather last night for inspiration. We're having our first real cold snap of the season and there's dry crunchy snow covering pretty much everything, making for a beautiful winter-in-Reykjavik ambiance that we actually rarely get these days. Still, I was mostly just cold and hoping to find something groovy to photograph before my fingers went numb. Then I remembered the tree.
Located at the junction of Laufásvegur and Skothúsvegur, this 100 year-old Sycamore is covered in thousands of fairy lights and is mildly famous, with its own Instagram hashtag (#islenska) and all. I was pleasantly surprised with what I got, and more excited about this image than the full-view photo, which I'll post on our Facebook page.
There's something intense and alive about the shot, like lifeblood pulsing through veins, or like a neural network. And I think that's what we need to focus on now: our network of family and friends. Caring for the loved ones still in our lives and saying a sweet prayer for the ones who are gone. And we need to remember the heartbeat of our society, and let compassion and love flow through us, and forgiveness. It's how we'll heal ourselves, our national soul and, ultimately, our land.
*If you'd like to know more about what's been going on here, as usual I'll direct you to read the great reporting at both Grapevine and Iceland Review.
Posted by Iceland Eyes on Friday, December 06, 2013
I'm going to wager that every one of you who has been here has stood in this spot, at the top of Skólavörðurstígur in front of Hallgrímskirkja, but not for the reason we were there this morning. Today about 300 students from Austurbæjarskóli and their parents gathered with flags and drums and fire-lit torches to march down to City Hall and demand that an important promise be kept. The city had allocated money and shown intent to turn an unused space on the school property into a community center for the kids in our neighborhood (which is basically a wide circle around the Big Church, from the town lake to the northern shore of the bay, and from Snorrabraut over towards the BSÍ bus terminal and Hjlómskálagarður park.)
Austó, as it's called, has a rich 83 year history, and was the first building in Reykjavik to be heated with then-new geothermal technology Here's an informative PDF in Icelandic with images (the school is on page 10) for those of you want to practice the language. (Wow, while looking for old photos of the school, I discovered this blog post by Roddy Fox, a geology prof at Rhodes U. in South Africa, doing research into his father's army time in Iceland during WWII. A short must-read, and once again, why I love maintaining this site!)
While the newer neighborhoods the capitol region often had community spaces incorporated into the overall design, and though culture center Hitt Húsið has been a great success for the 16-25 year olds, younger kids who live downtown don't really have anywhere safe and social to go after school. As stated on the main website for what they call Leisure Centers, these are crucial places for the children of immigrants to go and feel welcome and like they belong. Our Midtown neighborhood is (thankfully) very culturally diverse, and our kids deserve to have the city fulfil their pledge to create a proper one, and soon! (Update: our mayor Jón Gnarr and our city council chairman, Dagur Eggertsson - good looking men! - are going to make it happen! :)
Re: building and development, today's front-page headline article is on the Icelandic Touring Association's new idea to protect Icelandic nature via crowdfunding (like our local Karolina Fund) basically inviting businesses, individuals and of course tourists to invest in "nature passes" and thereby avoiding what's becoming a messy bureaucratic issue about how/whether Iceland should be charging for access to our most popular natural attractions. It's our responsibility to keep them pristine for all the generations to come (for example, Icelandic Eden Project, anyone?)
Posted by Iceland Eyes on Thursday, November 28, 2013
GUEST PHOTOGRAPHER: Margrét Gústavsdóttir
Margrét posted this pic on Facebook last week and I fell for it right away. I asked her if I could use it, and if there was any story behind the moment. Here's what she wrote back to me last Monday:
I was driving home today and decided to take the 'scenic route'. Saw these amazing clouds and just had to stop. The picture is taken on an iPhone 5, out of the car window.
I walk this way every day with my dog. One of the best things about living in this city is the nearness to nature. And one of the best things about living in Iceland is the spectacular sky, the lighting, the contrasts in colors and the constantly changing scene it brings to us humble observers from below. It's an ongoing ever-changing art show that never fails to amaze us.
I'm sure that all of you who've been here fully agree with Margrét, who has been a journalist and online media presence for over a decade. As a matter of fact, she was one of the first very well-known bloggers here in Iceland, back in the old days when the blogosphere was in its infancy and there were really no other social media outlets to speak of. She's always written with sass and style, and has taken on some pretty important issues in her time.
Today she owns, runs and writes for the gorgeous and super popular Pjattrofur (Pjatt.is) website, where she's brought together a group of very sleek and savvy women writers to cover current happenings in the world of fashion, fame, lifestyle and culture. With nearly 25,000 Facebook followers they're definitely doing something right!
Speaking of culture, I was contacted by the BBC World Service radio earlier this week (via the Iceland Eyes Twitter feed! : ) and was asked to join in on the Reykjavík episode of World Have Your Say. Of course I said YES! We did the live show on Friday evening in Harpa which was thoroughly enjoyable, and pretty content-rich. The theme was "life after the financial crisis" and you can listen to it online here. I'm hoping that the dream that I talk about of Iceland becoming a model eco-sustainable society can, one day in the not-so-distant future, come true.
Posted by Iceland Eyes on Sunday, November 24, 2013
So one evening, over thirteen years ago, I sat at this very table at Lækjarbrekka restaurant with a handsome young man. It was a date, but not the kind you'd imagine. As a matter of fact, everything about it was as fictional as reality tv, something my poor dinner partner had absolutely no clue about.
I had jut recently come back to Iceland a year earlier, and because I'd been working in the film industry (I was Sandwich Girl!) I knew tons of people in the movies and tv field. One day got a phone call from one of them, an assistant director named Fahad Jabali (check out his creds on IMDB), who told me he needed someone who could pass as an attractive professional woman traveling on business in Reykjavík. It was for an investigative piece for the tv station Stöð 2 about prostitution in Iceland, appropriately titled Sex í Reykjavík [article in Icelandic.] I said I was game.
My job was to become a globe-trotting IT specialist and check in to one of the grandest hotels in the city at the time under a false name. Speaking of course no Icelandic, I was to then ask the hotel to find me a "date" for the evening as the company who'd brought me over had made a reservation at a nice restaurant and I didn't like eating alone. There were rumors floating around town that it was fairly easy to hire male prostitutes via hotels if you asked right...
Posted by Iceland Eyes on Thursday, November 21, 2013
Wandering around Laugavegur on Saturday was really enjoyable. A light, new snowfall still stuck on roofs and trees, glowing in the holiday lights that the city has just put up. Inside the Mál og Menning bookstore my friend Eva Einarsdóttir was signing copies of her new childrens book, Saga um Nótt (the title could easily be translated as 'The Story of Night' but it's actually based on a girl named Saga, and her journey into nighttime Dreamland.) The artwork is by Lóa Hjálmtýsdóttir who many of you will recognize from The Reykjavik Grapevine. It's a lovely story, sure to become a kids-lit classic.
I worked at Mál og Menning (voted one of the best 12 bookstores in the world by Berlingske Tidinde) one holiday season a decade ago, and I noticed that something was missing in the tourist books section: the book that I would want to buy! Something smallish, colorful, interesting and inexpensive. A year later I started Iceland Eyes, and about four years after that I walked into a random publishers with my basic idea, which he liked. The book, Reykjavik, was published, but at that point the tourist books section had been moved in the bookstore, and my life got more than busy, and more than complicated, so I basically forgot about how Mál og Menning had inspired me.
Ten years along and the bookstore has moved the tourist books section back to where it was, and that book that I had imagined is right there on that shelf, exactly where I'd pictured it. The path my life took to get to there has been fantastic and crooked and unimaginable to the girl I was, straightening and dusting off the books at Christmas time all those years ago.
But that's how manifesting works: visualize, and hold the vision in your mind. Create a prototype to touch and experience, even if it's not perfect. Keep moving forward, tending your idea, but refrain from poking at it! As they say, the seed is taking root even if you can't see the sprout just yet. And then let the Universe work its wonders while you trust that life has an almost magical way of helping your dreams come true : )
Posted by Iceland Eyes on Monday, November 18, 2013
Sorry to burst any bubbles out there in the big world, but as amazing a read as this article is, there haven't been any British anthropologists rescued after a 7-year disappearance into the elven realms. As you can see in the picture above, it is fairly easy to become one with the moss and lava if you're dressed right (can you find the human in the photo?) but there are very few modern reports of Hidden People interactions that we know of.
Unfortunately, it's just easy to permanently damage millennia-old groundcover, seriously twist an ankle, or even slip into a hidden crevice when out in Icelandic nature. I witnessed my former brother-in-law literally vanish while walking a lava field up at Mývatn. He had his baby in a front-facing backpack which made it all the scarier. We'd decided to stop for lunch and walk a few hundred yards from the road to a nice spot over there when poof! he was gone, having stepped on a layer of moss that looked solid enough but just wasn't. Thankfully the fissure was just about as deep as he was tall, and it was wide enough so little Helena didn't get scraped or banged up. We helped him out again, all very shaken and humbled by the experience.
So go gently through nature while you're here. Leave a rock on a cairn along your path to honor the local norn or spirit, pick up random trash you see along the way, and step softly and with care. Stop at some beautiful place and speak words of gratitude for our living island, and maybe, just maybe, the elven realms will open up for you, if only for a moment in time...
Posted by Iceland Eyes on Saturday, November 16, 2013
GUEST PHOTOGRAPHER: Bjarki Markússon
(The title word fé means sheep, and also money)
This photo is just so gorgeous and so appropos of today's wild weather on the Lava Rock somehow!
Bjarki, a trained photographer and creator of groovydirty electro, among other things, writes:
The story behind the photo. This picture was taken in September at Skeiðaréttum in Skeiða-og Gnúpverjahreppi. This is when all the sheeps are rounded up after the summer. Each sheep is marked with a tag and is then found by its owner. I took my kids there and I try to go every year. This picture is taken while I'm on my knees with my arms around my 3 year old daughter so the sheep don't run her down. The view is from her perspective.
I personally adore the composition and the colors in this shot, and knowing the stories about our guest photographer's photos always makes them even more alive.
Remember our Facebook Fan Page as well as our Twitter feed, both of which you can now easily follow by gently tapping the little blue circles up there in the right-hand corner : ) I try to find and post non-mainstream stuff there as well as images that don't make it onto the blog, so be sure not to miss out on your daily dose of Iceland Eyes.
Posted by Iceland Eyes on Monday, November 11, 2013