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.