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.

Tuesday, 24 January 2006


This is the National and University Library (or in Icelandic bókhlöð , meaning "book stacks" - no, more like book repository) located just across the street from the University of Iceland and the National Museum of Iceland on Suðurgata at Hringbraut. It's a nice walk past the town lake and through the sculpture-filled lakeside garden (see this map - the library is point number 14). Bring some bread and feed the ducks and geese on your way. Or you can pass through the very beautiful old cemetary (marked with a blue cross on the map) then stop at the museum or library for a cup of coffee before strolling back to your hotel or guesthouse. Worth the round trip!

By the way, I just found a really cool interactive map at the Visit Reykjavik web site. Go there and click on, you guessed it, Interactive Map.

I also want to plug The Reykjavik Grapevine which, with it's (relatively) new editorial staff, has taken leaps and bounds in quality. It's the only truly independent newspaper in Iceland and, whether or not you agree with its editorial content, it is an important source of alternative information here on the island. And it's all in English!

Tuesday, 17 January 2006


Mount Esja seen from Reykjavik

Just a nice view north over Reykjavik suburb Grafarvogur to a fluff-covered Mount Esja...

Monday, 16 January 2006

Chico's Eyes

A thank you to Chico Rock Star for the use of this photo...

He titled it "finally" which I take to mean the long wait for skiable snow here in Iceland is finally over. Oh, don't get me wrong, you can play snow sports all year long on our various glaciers (for how long, though, we don't know as they appear to be shrinking rapidly) but good old fashioned downhill skiing and snowboarding sites with tow-lines and a lift or two have been slow to open during the past few years. Valentina told me that her cousin went boarding in Akureyri over the holidays and that the site had their snow machine going to pad the hillsides. Weird stuff so far north.

We used to go as a family for one week every winter to Tahoe, and usually skied at Alpine Meadows (today's snow report: 60-124 inches of snow with "31 inches of fresh powder!").

There is absolutely no comparison between Sierra Nevada skiing and that on offer here. The sheer scale of the mountains, the number of trails and lifts available, the trees...I think by the time I was fifteen I had done every trail at Alpine, including double black diamond Scott Chute and all the short numbers front side below the Sherwood Express. Admittedly, some of those trips were accidental: I'd find myself at the top of a trecherous chute with no other option but down, hopefully not on my butt.

My most memorable incident at Alpine, however, was the time my hard-core Icelandic parents decided a little snowstorm wasn't going to stop us from enjoying the slopes. We bundled up, my sister and I a little hesitantly (I was probably eleven years old), and followed them out of the lodge and into what was building up to be a blinding snowstorm. After a few initial runs lower down the mountain, my parents, with a bizzare Nordic love of elemental adversity, decided we should go higher up the hill. By the time we got to the top of the Alpine Bowl Chair, visibility was literally only a few feet, with horizontal winds whipping ice crystals into my cheeks. The last thing I remember hearing up there at the top was Mom laughing something like "This is just like back home!" And very Icelandic this weather was. Within moments I'd lost them, lost my direction, lost sight of the tip of my skis, lost feeling in my fingertips and toes and lost my nerve. A few tears of self-pity froze onto my eyelashes as I hopelessly called out to anyone who might be able to hear me. After a few more seconds I accepted that the only way out of this dilemma was by moving: by finding first a trail head then by inching my way down the slope until something lodge-like came into view. And that I did. What must have been almost an hour later I reached base, furious, driven, heated and proud of myself. Though unintentional and ethically questionable, my parents had helped me prove to myself that I was a survivor: tough, capable and very Icelandic.

Friday, 13 January 2006

Night Snow

I woke at five am this morning to an eerie peachy light glowing into our bedroom window. I went out to the balcony and there, outside, lovely white flakes were swirling in that special muffled quiet that accompanies snowfall. Though writing about the weather is about as exciting as talking about it, this was a beautiful moment for me, and a wonderful way to wake to a new day.

Tuesday, 10 January 2006

Season's Passing

Discarded holiday trees lie scattered about the streets of Reykjavik now that the Season is over. The last fireworks have exploded, Quentin T has gone home, Epiphany has passed, the Thirteen Icelandic Santas have gone one by one back up to their mountain cave, decorations have been taken down and a post-gluttonous sigh can be heard throughout the nation.

Every year it comes to this, and every year its just as sad to see all the bare and awkward Norman Pines flung carelessly out onto our sidewalks. The city collects them for dumping, but every year its as much of a mystery when the trucks will come. In the meantime, the once-glorious evergreens whip about in the winter winds, blocking walkways and roads and even menacing drivers.

While taking this picture a friend of mine who was walking past told me about how once a rogue discarded Christmas tree gale-swept off a sidewalk and smashed in to his car, causing much destruction. When he tried to have his insurance cover the damage they just laughed and shrugged their shoulders. Flying pine trees, it seems, were not part of his coverage package.

Sunday, 1 January 2006

New Years Eve!

Happy New Year from Reykjavik!

Thanks to all for a wonderful 2005 and best wishes for an even better year to come!

Hallgrímskirkja, New Years Eve

Amazing night in Reykjavik...the town all aglow and revellers out in full force...I'll never get over the sheer number of fireworks, the craziness of rockets and bombs going off everywhere around you, booming and cracking and lighting up the faces of the joyous, young and old.

Wish you all were here!