Sunday, 17 December 2006


Sprinkle some snow into this picture and you have a lovely holiday scene from downtown Reykjavik. Those of you who've been here will most probably recognizethis charming house on Bankastræti, right next to the tourist info center. It's one of my favorite buildings in our little city. The very nice restaurant Lækjarbrekka is housed here, and in the greenish building farther off the street is Humarhúsið, or The Lobster House. Both are highly recommended.

More soon...

Saturday, 9 December 2006


Ice skating at Ingólfstorg in the heart of Reykajvík

I took this photo today before this evening's storm hit. I'm wondering how the skating was when the wind picked up and started slamming wet snow all about...I'm sure there were at least a few hearty souls braving the weather to get in a few minutes on the ice. There's always one or two.

A local insurance company is sponsoring this rink at Ingólfstorg plaza downtown. It's a great idea. The plaza is generally considered a metropolitan design disaster. It was intended as a gathering place for locals in the heart of the oldest part of Reykjavik, somewhere where you can rest your feet and chat with friends and such. The square is depressed a few feet from ground level and lined with benches, but nobody ever sits on them. It's become a skateboarders paradise, with short ramps, steps and rails to slide. No one dares walk through it for fear of getting a board in the head (the skaters aren't very good!) and aside from the occasional rally or concert, this is the best use its been put to in years.


It's that season again, when choirs of children sing angelic songs at Sunday services and Advent candleabras grace windows across the country. Strings of Christmas lights are twined through bare tree branches and thousands of tiny lit bulbs outline houses, making the long darkness of winter more tolerable.

Right now, at 9 a.m., it's nighttime black outside, with a few hours left to go. I like the coziness of the dark days, personally, but I thank the stars for sweet holiday music, warm scarves and the wonder that is electricity!

Thursday, 7 December 2006


Just a little something from a wall in downtown Reykjavik...

Thursday, 30 November 2006


My daughterss like a bloom (an ice cream eating bloom) amongst the foliage at the Eden greenhouse and gift store in Hveragerði, a half an hour's drive east of Reykjavik. Stopping by there is definitely a must for travellers, both foreign and local alike. They even have a banana tree or two!

By the way, I have reposted this photo in the size I want it to be in and was going to delete my last post to avoid duplication, until I realized that I would be deleting a small bunch of very nice comments at the same time. My solution? I've copied and pasted the comments into this post so they will be saved for posterity. Thanks you all for the lovely words!

Jen said...
I really love your photos. I had no idea what to expect when thinking of what Iceland would look like. Its really very beautiful.

Lovewine said...
Hi Maria
I'm also wondering about the blogger beta thing and you mention having trouble. I think I'll hold out as long as possible. When I left a comment on your last post I thought it was lost when it didn't show up but it appears to be there now.
Yay winter!

Anonymous said...
Just glad you're back posting. I have been a reader for a couple of months and find your blog very insightful, informative and entertaining. BTW, my niece is named Valentina and I thought, until recently, that was a name unique to our family :-)

Luis said...
Glad you're back posting. I always enjoy the photos and descriptions on your blog.

There is something so unique and appealling about Iceland and I feel you capture it very well.

Hope to read further posts soon.

Barb said...
I was just going to take a quick peek at your blog after searching for one from Iceland and now an hour later, I've had to force myself to stop reading and head off to bed. I thoroughly enjoyed every post and your photographs are stunning. I'll be back!

Faye Pekas said...
Your daughter is very pretty and it looks as if she is enjoying her ice cream :)

I've had the beta blogger since the beginning and just started using flickr. I don't have any problem posting from flickr with it. I do love the beta now that the bugs are ironed out.

(Thankfully, all is finally well with beta here, too!)

Wednesday, 25 October 2006


Valentina's uncle Snorri Ásmundsson, a very humorously controversial artist, sharpens his thoughts in a plexiglass rendition of the Great Pyramid of Cheops at the intersection of Laugavegur and Skólavörðurstigur. I'm sure a dose of Pyramid Power has given this ecclectic Icelander a serious brain boost, and us Saturday strollers a good giggle.

Sunday, 22 October 2006


Here's just a tiny slice of this weekend's Iceland Airwaves life: a gig by a local act (could it have been Jakobínarína?) at the alternative music boutique, 12 Tónar.

It's been lovely, as usual, having lots and lots of visitors here on the Lava Rock, especially ones who are here for music, music and more music. The festival's really for the tourists, anyway. Get's way too crowded at our local venues, making it hardly worth stepping out at night. But like I said before, it's nice to see new faces on our downtown sidewalks, and always a little sad when they're gone.

Thursday, 19 October 2006


I knew as soon as posted my last entry that the weather would change.

As a matter of fact I actually knew while I was writing that I was jinxing the whole Indian Summer affair, at least in my own universe. But I went ahead anyway, accepting that we were long overdue for a cold snap. It was time to whip out the mittens and get on with it.

Fall is actually my favorite time of year, probably because I'm a late September baby. When I came across these footballers practicing on a recent chilly evening, I got nostalgic; many a teenage hour was spent by me out on the Cupertino High football field rehearsing drill team routines. Over and over again we'd whip out our moves, dancing about to the music of Mr. Gomez's two hundred-strong marching band, our breath hot and white under the field lights and our brows sticky with quick-cooled sweat. Though waiting with frozen fingers for the woodwinds or drumline to grasp those certain tricky measures was never fun at the time, watching these boys run about in the cold made me want to be back there again.

So say goodbye to summer and hello to a new and decidedly snappy autumn season, full of its own uniquely falltime pleasures...

Friday, 13 October 2006


It's a little cheap tossing skyline shots from our balcony onto a site dedicated to life in Reykjavik, but yesterday's sunset was a wonder.

We are slipping gently into winter here on the island: most days this last month have tipped to the better side of 10°C. To you readers in southern latitudes that may seem hyper-chilly (that's only 50°F!) but those in northern climes will know that a windless, sunny double-digit day, even the lowest double digit, is cause for joy.

I've been lax about noting celebrity visits to our lava rock, so let it suffice to know that Yoko Ono was here the other day, as well as director Atom Egoyan, Brendan Fraser and Dilana from Rockstar: Supernova performing with our very own Magni. I know I'm forgetting some slebs, but that's going to have to do for now.

A blogger named Antoine sent me a link to his site detailing his trip to Iceland, so check it out. Also, a certain Osman is starting up a kind of blog directory, Whole Blogs, so check that out as well (there are some interesting international sites linked on his site.)

More later...Have a groovy weekend!

Thursday, 5 October 2006


Been ages since I've added a new post but that's a good thing...I've been happily busy, you see.

This pic is shot from the top of the Hallgrímskirkja tower on a lovely day last year. Amazingly, the link I added above is for a Wikipedia article on this, our famously oversized church. But maybe not so odd after all when one of the first and very prolific writers for that prodigious online encyclopedia is an Icelander living in a small trailer somewhere New Mexico-ish, happily typing away and filing entry after entry on his native country.

Of course there is the ubiquitous exterior shot of the tower on the Wikipedia link, as well as one very similar to this one, taken in winter. I have to say, though, that I like mine better! ;-)

Sunday, 10 September 2006


This charming, dreamy young man is the brother of two sweet sisters enrolled at the International School of Iceland where I teach (more on that later). Our 18 students and four teachers went tree-planting with the kids from Sjálandsskóli, (our school is housed there) and he came along for the ride. Though we're sure not all of the few hundered birch we planted will survive the winter, any and all foliage that does is very welcome and brings us a step closer to re-foresting our nearly-barren little island.

Tuesday, 5 September 2006

Glitský II

Glitský II, originally uploaded by blue eyes.

An amazingly fleeting and beautiful phenomenon in the Icelandic sky, called glitský, or "shimmer cloud".

Monday, 21 August 2006


They say somewhere around four thousand kiddies took part in last Saturday's Lazy Town marathon, all of 1.5 kilometers around our downtown lake. Along with all those tykes were a slew of mammas and pabbis and ammas and afis, jogging, walking, pushing full or empty strollers, dressed in track suits or leather jackets and heels, laughing with their kids or talking on their cell phones.

I stood mid stream taking pictures and hoping to see my Valentina run by, to no avail. Participants flowed from the starting line endlessly, or so it seemed, and I'm positive that some little ones completed their lap before others had even begun. There were quarter, half and full marathons that day for the longer legged, but this one was a joy to watch on such a beautiful summer afternoon.

Thursday, 10 August 2006

Town Square

On good days (sunny that is, and warm) city folk gather at Austurvellir, a charming little grassy square right in the heart of Reykjavik. Often, of course, a bit of sunshine creates a kind of mass delusion of warmth, when in fact the thermometer barely edges up to 60°F. Those who understand this phenomena make the trek anyway, knowing they'll see a familiar face or two, but armed with sweaters and even a decent something to put between their bum and the almost always damp grass. What amazes me is that some locals seem just as surprised each time a cloud covers the precious sun, dropping temps by the tens of degrees. Regardless, it's always nice to grab a to-go latte and join the hopeful masses down at the town square.

Monday, 7 August 2006


This statue is dedicated to those who've lost their lives at sea. It sits at fjord's edge in Eskifjörður, on the east coast of Iceland. The life size seaman, praying for mercy to the heavens, is a powerful reminder that this country is built on backs of men and women who strove to eke sustenance from these raw lands and from the very mercurial seas.

Monday, 31 July 2006


This young lady played gleefully at the playground in Miklatún park during last night's outdoor Sigur Rós concert (more below).


Audience, originally uploaded by blue eyes.

The fairly amazing Icelandic ambient group Sigur Rós played an outside concert last night in the heart of Reykjavik. I walked to the Miklatún park with Valentina, her friend Telma from across the street and a sleeping Óðinn to take part in what was sure to be a much talked about local event (i.e. something you wouldn't want to admit you missed due to laziness or apathy). It's only a fifteen minute walk from our home to the park, but it was an interesting journey...people of all shapes and sizes streamed from all directions and funneled into the park, gathering into an estimated fifteen thousand-strong crowd by ten p.m. I didn't even try to get up close to the stage, so no pix of the band, but I liked the seriousness and cool of these young gents who climbd a sculpture to get a better view.

Saturday, 22 July 2006


Hún á afmæli í dag, hún Valentína, hún á afmæli í dag... Happy birthday to my 9 year old girl, the best ever daughter in the world!

Friday, 21 July 2006


Seljalandsfoss, Iceland

This is Seljalandsfoss in the south, a quarter mile off the main road just east of Hella. The cool thing about this falls is that you can walk behind it (if you look closely at the photo you'll see people in the shelf under the cliff.) Valentina and I walked behind when we went on our road trip three years ago. Since it was a beautiful day we rolled up our pant legs and went barefoot and bare armed along the muddy path. The parka-ed and hiking booted tourists thought we were a lttle nuts and took pictures of us: the local wildlife.

Dramatic Landscape

Ominous skeis and hard rain followed us south from Eskifjörður, along the winding eastern Icelandic coast.

Thursday, 20 July 2006

Vala's Ís

My girl is here showing her messier side as she eats a seasonal ice cream, or ís , in Eskifjörður ... by seasonal I mean that soft serve ice cream is only available in the summer months, much to the some younger residents' chagrin.

Tuesday, 18 July 2006


Sómastaðir, or Pleasant Place, is the house my langafi (great grandfather) built in Reyðarfjörður. My amma, or grandmother, spent her early years here in this tiny cottage her father erected for his family. I thought that I had already written about Hans Beck, my great grandfather, but I can't seem to find my post on him and the story of his 23 children to link. Needless to say, they didn't all live in house at the same time, but I understand that it was always pretty crowded nevertheless.

My grandmother Ásta Beck is the last surviving child of Hans and now, in her 94th year, her little family home is being overwhelmed by a massive aluminum smelter just across the road. Only meters behind where I stood to take this photo is a massive continuously buzzing electrical power generator site and a small shack that houses the Alcoa Project Office.

Not being a resident of the Eastern fjords, I had until now reserved judgement on whether or not the smelter was a practical improvement for the region. After all, it is creating many many jobs for the locals. Even the smelter itself across the road from this family heirloom wasn't as obnoxious a site as I thought it would be, buil into the slope of the hill as it is. But the generator site, twice at least the size of this simple cottage is an absolute abomination. It's a noisy and ugly peice of infrastructure that Alcoa unfortunately had the temerity to plonk down side by side with a house protected by the National Museum of Iceland. Which begs the question why no one tried any harder to stop this from happening. A relative of mine, one Guðmundur Beck at least tried. Maybe the mystic who once lived there and who protects the fjord will give him an otherworldly helping hand...

Update, June 2012: My grandmother Ásta Beck passed away last year in her 98th year, seven years after her last surviving brother, Unnsteinn Beck. She was the absolute matriarch of our extended family and is very much missed. She lived to see the complete and careful renovation of her childhood home, though, sponsored in main by Alcoa. 

Regarding the benefit to the local Reyðafjörður community, I've had the chance in the past six years to chat with various people from or living in Fjarðabyggð. Almost all of them agree that the aluminum smelter has done nothing but add to the life and livelihood of the region. 

Inside Sómastaðir

Sunday, 16 July 2006

Waterfall Valley

...driving from Seyðisfjörður east toward Egilsstaðir. The climb up out of the deep fjörd valley is amazing, with a winding road that skirts a series of beautiful cascades. The midday fog wisping on the tarmac made the scene ethereal.

Thursday, 13 July 2006

Blue Church

This church in Seyðisfjörður is actually called the Blue Church, or Bláa kirkja. Like a lot of the buildings here it's turn-of-the century, when fishing money poured into the eastern fjords, turning villages into important towns. Seyðisfjörður, nestled as it is between protective mountains on either side, is especially charming, and even the fog that creeps in in broad daylight adds a lovely mystique. The ferry Norræna docks here every week in the summer months, taking passengers to and from the Faroe and Shetland Islands and Norway. Unfortunately, last week a man was busted for trying to smuggle some poundage of meth into the country in his car, an all too common occurance on the ferry, but that ugliness simply cannot tarnish the beauty of this sweet spot.

Friday, 7 July 2006


This is only a smattering of the 160 or so folk who traveled to Seyðisfjörður for the reunion we attended, a gathering of Thorgeir's people on his Grandmother's side. We met on a hillside plateau on the north side of the fjord where his great-grandmother's house once stood and had a picnic in the summer sun. This photo looks east out of the long fjord and to the Atlantic, next stop Norway.

Tuesday, 4 July 2006


We just got back a week or so ago from our great trip around Iceland. We set off to the North, which is actually called going West, then phased to the East, reaching the Northern city of Akureyri where we spent the night in a very nice hostel.

The following day we picked up Valentina, who was bussed into town around noon from her summer camp at Ástjörn and hit the road on the way to a family reunion on the east coast. On our way we stopped at the Námafjall fumarole/sulpher zone (video), where the earth's bowels ooze and steam to surface in bubbling pits of brimstone. The tourists thought we were nuts for bringing the baby out of the car, exposing him as we were to wind and stench and mudpits, but he's an Icelander and this land, sulpher zones included, is his to learn to love.

Wednesday, 14 June 2006

Flower Day

Skólavörðurstígur in Reykjavík
The Saturday before last was Flower Day in Reykjavik. I went for a stroll with Óðinn in his belly pack and noticed that just about every woman I passed on Skólavörðurstígur (the street leading up to the big church) held a rose in her hand. Valentína, who was holding a tombóla with Marsibil at the top of Skólavörðurstígur told me when I went to visit their enterprise (they made over $25 each that day!) that someone was handing out flowers to women downtown, though she didn't know who. I didn't make it far enough on my walk to find out, but I did see this charming group of people with their watering cans. It must have been an acting troupe....they were very cute and kind of pranced about watering things like parking meters and garbage cans. We definitely more of this type of urban attraction here in our little city!

Saturday, 10 June 2006


Achievement, originally uploaded by blue eyes.

This often overlooked bust of (aaack...I don't know her name!) on the campus of the University of Iceland is symbolic of womanly achievement in the realm of the scholastic arts. And speaking of achievement, I somehow managed to pass all my classes and will be presented with my teaching credential later this month. My daughter said, "Of course you passed everything, Mamma," and my mother asked, rhetorically, if I'd ever failed anything in my life, but honstly I was seriously doubting that I'd make it through the last month of essay writing and exams. I joke that I had to learn to type with one finger and a sleeping baby in the crook of my arm, but that's less of a joke than it sounds! I honestly have to thank my beautiful, patient Valentina for keeping me encouraged through the final haul. And of course little Óðinn for being such a sweet sweet baby. I should also mention my core instructor, Hafdís Ingvarsdóttir for totally believing in my potential as an English teacher. What a powerhouse that woman is!

Life here is good and sometimes sunny and everyone is buying new barbeques and people with summer houses are splurging on hot tubs and the young and free are getting out their shorts and sunglasses and drinking chilled summer beers. Political life is beyond my comprehension, with ministers switching seats in some bizzare grownup version of musical chairs, but no one seems to care. The krona is not so very strong these days and gas is over $6 a gallon, but that isn't stopping anyone from spending like money grows on trees. That's the start of summer for you...full of hope and life and endless days that anyone in a northern clime would be foolish to not take advantage of. Skál fyrir því!

Wednesday, 31 May 2006

The Bridge

Yep, we popped off to Northern California for a week's stay pretty much the day after I turned in my last assignments at University. We took the very first direct flight of the season to San Francisco, a trip that takes a relatively easy seven+ hours if all goes as planned. It's a Major Improvement over stopover flights and made it especially easy to travel with Óðinn (Valentina is always easy to travel with.) At six weeks old, he basically slept the entire time there and back. Dad calls him a miracle baby... : )

SF is always beautiful, and we particularly lucked out on this day since it had rained buckets the day before. We took a break from shopping and hiked up to the top of Buena Vista Hill, overlooking lower Haight, meeting a few squirrels, a little black dog and some sweet old Italian tourist ladies on the way. Valentina thought it would be fun to run down the hill but I nixed that plan; instead she cartwheeled the entire descent. Crazy girl!

The beauty of this one-week trip was that we didn't have to say too many big goodbyes: my parents are moving back to Reykjavik after forty years in Northern California in just two weeks time, and my sister's clan will be coming late summer. One week was actually just perfect...we got off the Lava Rock for a much needed reality check (otherwise known as a shopping spree, American style) and found that we were more than happy to return home. And that's exactly how a vacation should be!

Monday, 29 May 2006


Once again, just a short post...

I encountered this wacky group of young people having a grill party at the base of sculptor Einar Jónsson's Úr Álögum, (anyone want to translate that for brain's on holiday) just the other side of the Reykjavik town lake. Alas, I was late for a very important date and so couldn't stop to find out who these spunky rebels were.

Now, as charming and Sunday-in-the-Park-like as this looks, I'm sure it wasn't legal, so I applaude them for doing it anyway. They were happy and casual and I'm sure they packed their trash, so I hope they got to down some hot dogs before being asked to leave. This town needs more good old-fashioned public outdoorsy stuff like this to make better use of our greenways and bring social life out into the sunshine while we've got it. Croquet, anyone?

Saturday, 27 May 2006

May Sunset

I'll let this one speak for itself...

(p.s. this was taken from our balcony at around 11 pm in early May.)

Friday, 28 April 2006


After weeks of night-snows and slushy rainfall, spring weather has finally arrived And none too soon. We're experiencing serious cabin fever here as we've not been able to take Óðinn Flóki Þorgeirsson outside (and yep, that's his name everyone!) It's recommended that new babie sdon't go out for strolls here in the sub-arctic until they are 4 kilos, and he's just topped 3 a month into waking life. So we still won't be taking walks with a carriage yet, but at least we can feel more comfortable opeing windows and letting some air in knowing he's steadily gaining the extra fat he needs to stay warm by himself.

So, about the name. Most people know who Óðinn is, as in super-god of the Norse pantheon. But Óðinn is also Toggi's father's name. Toggi is formally known as Þorgeir Frímann Óðinsson (remember, the letter Þ makes a th sound), so now we have a Þorgeir-son-of-Óðinn and an Óðinn-son-of-Þorgeir in the family. And a Valentína Jóhannsdóttir (daughter-of-Jóhann) and a María Þórisdóttir, otherwise known as Roff. So none of us have the same last names, and one of us (me) have two! Got that?

About his middle name, Flóki. It literally means complex or knotted. As in solving a mysstery can be flóki, or a ball of yarn can become flækt which is the conjugated version of the word. Historically, the name is associated with Hrafn-Flóki who was supposedly the guy who thought Iceland would be a good name for this not-so-icy island. And then there's Alfreð Flóki, Iceland's premier surrealist, who passed away in 1987. Toggi, as an artist, liked the idea that the name, which we simply like for the way it sounds and looks, references one of Iceland's more intriguing creative minds.

Friday, 14 April 2006


Thank you all for your wonderful comments!

Here's a sweet shot of Valentina with her little brother ... he needs a little extra fuel each day bottle-wise, and this time I let her help out.

Got to's calling!

Tuesday, 11 April 2006


And here is...our little one, as yet unnamed, which I know drives Americans crazy. But here in Iceland many people choose not to reveal the name of their babies until they are christened at two or three months old. We have a "working title" for him, but so far we haven't found a name that sticks to him undeniably. Relatives have opinions about what he should be called, but we simply won't be swayed. He has a proper name, we just have to find out what it is!

Anyway, he's the picture of health at two and a half weeks old, even if he did show a certain impatience by arriving five weeks early (due date: April 23, birthday: March 25). He does all the things newborns love to do, like drink, sleep and make a fuss. He's got us all dancing around his needs, as little ones are wont to do, but we're happy to oblige. He is, after all, so little: five and a half pounds and just under twenty inches long.

We're very pleased to meet this new life, all of us except Mio the cat, who isn't quite sure what kind of creature it is that's taken over his spot on the bed. Mio is actually bigger and much heavier than Baby, and so has been banned from hopping up on the furniture or into our wouldn't be pretty if he were to misjudge his landing! He's crazy curious and pretty offended that we've chosen to bring a new life into the home, but he'll get over it, I'm sure.

A nurse came today to weight Baby and offer me any support I might need. it's actually vey nice: she'll come by once a week for the first five or six weeks to check his progress as well as my own and the family's - one of the benefits of socialized health care. That and the fact that I didn't have to pay a dime for the care I received before, during and after his birth, nearly three weeks of hospital time between the two of us in total. We've been given an almost overwhelming amount of medical attention, mostly along the lines of preventive care for premature births. The doctors and nurses had to admit though, after a nine day post-natal watch, that he was perfectly healthy (sjö, níu, þrettán) and and deserved to go home, a brilliant decision indeed!

Wednesday, 22 March 2006

Self Portrait

Dad called me today and poitely noted that the previous picture had been up for a little too long, and that it was high time I posted something new.

So here you are: a self portrait taken with my iMac Photo Booth accessory. I purposely used the gelled lense option because, well, none of us is getting any younger, right? Photo Booth is a fun toy...hours of entertainment for the whole family.

As you all can see I am not only holding our famous cat Mio (who had his picture in the paper twice in the last weeks) but I have quite a big belly. 8 months/35 weeks preggo I am! Baby could come any day now, theoretically. I'm working on finishing my teaching credential studies in concert with the upcoming birth, but of course baby is priority number 1,2 and 3. I'm nesting like crazy on top of all my research, practice teaching and essay writing, so our apartment is undergoing alterations, both big and small. It's all about organization and practicality, but with a sense personality and style.

Blogging may be spottier than usual with all this going on, but I'll do my best to keep fresh photos coming in the months ahead. But for now, ta ta!

Wednesday, 15 March 2006


No, this is not Iceland. This is a shot of my sister Addy and her husband Dan's "cabin" in the California Sierrras (just west of Bear Valley ski resort, about a three hour drive from San Francisco. There is more snow on the bumper of the SUV in the photo than we've had all winter long here in Reykjavik. As my Dad says, this could be a good time for Icelanders to start investing in palm trees...

Speaking of my Father, Thor Roff, who took this great shot, its his Birthday Today! March 15th! Yaayyy!

Til Hamingju Með Afmæli, Pabbi!

Friday, 10 March 2006

Family Stroll

Taking a shortcut across the frozen Reykjavik town lake with the City Hall and downtown area in the background...

(It's been cold here lately and is, as a matter of fact, snowing as I type. We might need to be prepared for a drawn-out winter after all.)


A sweet and private moment captured on digital...

The boyfriend in this tourist couple had to seriously encourage, and then coerce, his girl to step out onto the ice. She was not going to do it. I was with her all the way: not having experienced a lot of pond walking growing up in California, I was trepidatious to say the least the first time someone tried to get me out onto the Reykjavik town lake as an adult. Even after being told the lake is only about shin deep, I was's just not a natural thing for a valley/beach girl to do! Once on the ice and firmly attached to her gentleman's arm, though, this young woman seemed to enjoy the adventure.

Tuesday, 7 March 2006


In honor of the small but jolting 4.6 earthquake that struck the Reykjanes Peninsula yesterday, I give you a photo of the Mid-Atlantic Rift as seen from national park Thingvellir. The gorge seen the picture is actually the separator between the North American Plate and the Eurasian Plate, meaning that the people seen on the right hand side of the photo are standing on North America...just kidding. Some people, though, see this ever-growing rift as symbolic of Iceland's divided loyalties: are we Europeans or simply another capitalized US holding? Both, I'd say. But playing two side to gain the middle is always a risky venture. Ask anyone who lives in an earthquake zone...

Oh, and here is a simple, concise report on the Rift for the geology buffs among us.

(Photo courtesy of the Linköping University )website.

Thursday, 2 March 2006

Prime Real Estate

I'm investing in real estate: a sweet home with a wonderful ocean view.

Thankfully, it's not this tin shack on Ægisíða in West Side Reykjavik (the road running along the sea on this map). Instead, it's the great 3rd & 4th floor apartment I've lived in for the past 6 1/2 years (minus year or so) on Baldursgata, in central Rvk. Lucky us, my parents, who own the pad, are giving us a great deal (with the understanding that that takes care of any inheritance I might have coming!!!). And even more lucky, our friend Jónas bought my apt off me, the one that's on the first floor of the same building. One big happy family!

In other news, I've been invited to represent Reykjavik on European City Blog, a cool glimpse into life in a number of major Euro locations. Be sure to click by for a visit...

Monday, 27 February 2006


Today is Bolludagur, or Bun Day, and as you can see a certain 8 year-old I know got her mitts on a hefty cream and chocolate number! This odd semi-holiday revolves in whole around eating puff pastries...not too bad a concept, eh? You can read more about it on the The Icelandic Canadian Homepage, a charming resouce for North Americans of Icelandic origin, nicknamed Vesturíslendingar or Western Icelanders.

Tomorrow, then, is Sprengidagur, or Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday (sprengi=bursting, dagur=day) when we are to overindulge in salted lamb meat and split pea soup. And the day after is once again Ash Wednesday, or Öskudagur, which you can read more about in this post from last year.

In less pleasant news, this year's false spring has caused not only a serious shortage of snow, but glacial melting as well. On Saturday a trio of off-roaders decided to drive Hofsjökull, which only a week before had been, according to this photo travelogue, decently safe to travel over. Unfortunately, Icelandic Nature, ever fickle, swallowed one of the jeeps into a snow-covered crevace. Hundreds of mountain rescuers with helicopters, 4x4's and snowmobiles set out on Saturday to save the two men trapped 20 meters deep in the massive crack in the ice. Only the driver lived.

I always wonder at the stupid risks humans (read "men" - excuse the honesty) take for adrenalin rushes. Was a 4-wheel spree over an always-precarious glacier worth the loss of a 21 year-old's life? This wasn't an instance of new discovery or scientific exploration. This was just for fun. I suppose you can submit to the Reaper playing tennis if your time is really up, but something about giving up the ghost while taking heavy, pollutive machinery for a day tour over one of the most unreliable types of terrain in the world seems ridiculous. Call me crazy...

Saturday, 25 February 2006


I've been taking a lot of pictures of houses and buildings these days. I think I've been a little too busy to explore smaller details, rushing as I do from location to location (the university, my practice teaching school, Valentina's gymnastics gym, the grocery store, etc etc) in the station wagon. I end up seeing big, obvious things like buidings on my travels and squeeze in the time to snap off a couple of pix before heading out again.

I have a special affinity for houses or buildings that have survived demolition during modern development sprees. I like the way they often sit at angles to new roads, giving reference to some much older concept of correct lot placement. As I've written before, Iceland doesn't have very many very old buildings, but the winds, rain and snow (I've heard rumors that it used to snow here!) make sure even century-old structures look ancient.

This old timber number with its ready-looking rowboat sits on a rise right next to the parking lot of the elementary school I'm practice teaching at up in Breiðholt. I have no idea how old it really I said, it could be only a couple of decades old but with an extremely tired paint job. I think its the boat that I really like, sitting so far as it does from the sea. When I first saw it I had an image of a far away time when the coastline lay just before it, with an intrepid hearty fisherman putting it out each dawn to wrastle the day's catch. But that's not possible, even with receeding sea levels: this house and boat are far up on a hill miles from the ocean. Were they part of a movie set, perhaps? Who knows. I just like the fact that its a variation on the common modern architecture that stubble Reykjavik's suburbs in blandness.

Saturday, 18 February 2006


Flickr, my photo server, has been super grumpy the pasts few days meaning I can't seem to upload new pix.

Here's an absolute brain-boggling play on focus by Addi, otherwise known as Chico Rock Star. Chico takes wicked pix, doesn't he? This shot is from the southern highlands, a bleak but beautiful place for mountain hiking and such. The travelers hut at Hrafntinnusker is one of many that dot the forbidding interior of our little lava rock...

Monday, 13 February 2006

Little Lake

Another jewel of (man made) nature in the heart of Reykjavik's Laugardalur, or Hot Spring Valley. In the summertime this place is an absolute explosion of color: the vivid greens of the thousands of plants that fill the botanical gardens and the rainbow hues of as many flowers in bloom. On a crisp winter day like last Saturday the shades were more subtle, and it was the raucous, greedy waterfowl clambering for bits of bread that took over the scene.

This valley is an absolute must for visitors, especially during the warmer months. Along with the botanical gardens, there is a charming Family Park and Zoo, an indoor ice skating rink, a huge and very popular swimming pool, Laugardalslaug, and the Reykjavik hostel and campground. You can take a bus to any part of the valley and walk about for hours, though it may be a good idea to bring something to snack on. End the day at the pool where you can rent a suit if you need to. Enjoy!

Friday, 10 February 2006


Like a lot of people, I'm sure, I've always held a fascination for castles. Especially the storybook turreted kind that cling to cliffs, laden with secrets and princesses and locked rooms. This isn't a castle, but a church, Háteigskirkja, located on the rise just to the east of Reykjavík's ubiquitous Hallgrimskirkja (just above Kjarvalstaður museum, number 29 on this map.) It's certainly a very lovely building, built in the Moorish style as the church web site notes, and probably as close as Iceland gets to a fantasy castle.

One thing that I find a little amusing is Icelanders' fascination with their illustrious history. Though I respect that our people have quite a collective story to tell (vikings, sagas, forays to America, volcanic destruction, etc.) there's little here structurally to show for it all. What I mean is that there are only a handful of buildings that pass the two century mark, and ultimately the "Icelander" as a phenomenon is just a bit over a millenia old. When I went to Norwich, England, last February and drank a draft (or two!) in a pub, The Adam and Eve, that has been serving continuously for 750 years I finally really understood what old meant (and that's aside from Bill the Conqueror's castle, erected a couple of centuries earlier!) Californians have pretty much the same problem in that there's barely a thing that's older than a century and a half, aside from an adobe mission or two. I guess I'm just a sucker for the really old, for history, for structure. Passing by this church the other day with the waxing moon between its spires, I guess I kind of wished it really were an ancient and storied castle.

Monday, 30 January 2006

Art House

In continuation of yesterday's post, here is a very gothic shot of Einar Jónsson's art deco castle, long the only structure of any note on the top of Skólavörðuholt (otherwise known as the hill that the massive Hallgrímskirkja perches upon like a fancy-groomed Shih Tzu lapdog). I can't seem to find any photos online of the hill before it was built up, you can read more about its history here.

(By the way, this is the back view from the garden. You can just see the church tower hiding behind the trees to the right of the house.)

(Oh, and on another subject: I tried taking the comment verification off so that commenters don't have to type in those crazy series of letters, but I immediately got wierd spam from bizzare companies, so I've turned it back on. C'est la vie.

Sunday, 29 January 2006

Fate of the beautiful mythological works by Einar Jónsson, Iceland's master sculptor of the last century. As I've mentioned before, his museum, located just to the west of Hallgrímskirkja, is a lovely piece of art deco architecture designed by the artist himself. This sculpture and many others can be found in the garden behind the museum, which was once his private residence.