Friday, 29 February 2008

Urban Horse

Land in the greater Reykjavik area that was once reserved for horses, their stables, training rings and trails has slowly but surely been overtaken by housing developments and businesses. This stable resident is living her final winter at one of the last urban equestrian holdouts, a neighborhood of a hundred or so stalls now located just above the Smáralind shopping center. Not so long ago this site was on the very outskirts of the populated urban center. Now you can see Iceland's tallest building peeking from between the mare's ears.

The horses seem used to the constant heavy traffic on the highway just next to their paddock, but it's a sure thing that they'll not miss it when relocated to their new homes on the outer fringes of the Capital area. Of course there's always the question of how long it takes the ever-expanding city to encroach on those new lodgings as well.

Monday, 25 February 2008

Tjörnin by Batty

  Professor Batty has taken me up on my call for submissions of photos and text detailing reader's Iceland experiences. Here are his lovely words:

When a man who has spent his life on the ocean speaks poetically of water, I will give him due consideration. Sitting in a hot pot at the Vesturbæjarlaug Thermal pool, sharing water with a retired trawler captain, a Spaniard, and an elderly woman, the conversation was as warm as we were. Another unseasonably fine day in Reykjavík, I was taking a final visit to the neighborhood pool. The conversation swirled like the water in which we soaked; moving between politics,economics, wool, music and water. Always water, this rock in the North Atlantic, surrounded by water and the fish in it which generated wealth, the heat from the geothermal water making living comfortable here, and the electricity generated from the hydroelectric plants making modern life practical. I mentioned Halldór Laxness and his novel Kristnihald undir Jökli, wherein the "fallen" pastor Jón Primus declared his only theory: "...water is doesn't even have to go by my theory unless one is thirsty." Everybody laughed. Water is good, especially when one is in it with congenial company. When I became thoroughly cooked, I reluctantly left.

Two days later the weather had turned colder, and it was time for me to return to my home in Minnesota where my "real" life awaited. I showered, smiling at the faint odor of sulfur from the hot water - after only a week I was beginning to take it for granted. I dressed and gathered my bags and headed out. I went down and walked along Tjarnagata, past the pond, where the water had frozen over during the night. A few brave souls waltzed over the thin ice, the birds had congregated down by the northern end where some of the water was still open. Geese flew in formation overhead, and as I walked the paths at the southern end of Tjörnin, I slowly scanned this beautiful city.

Suddenly there was more water, but this time salty. I turned away and headed up the hill to the bus depot. I didn't look back again.

Go here for more amazing photos of the professor's travels in Iceland.

Wednesday, 20 February 2008


Every city has it's eyesores. Unfortunately, this one is located on our main strip Laugavegur, for everyone to see over and over again. We've watched the puddle in the pit fill, freeze, thaw, snow over, thaw again and refreeze, etc. Aside from that being a comment on the fickle weather over here, that means this lot has lay bare for many months now. Many months. And this is not midtown Reykjavik's only unfinished architectural business...

Commentary aside, I find this scene attractive for its rawness, for exposing the inner workings of a city block like some kind of splayed open biology dissection specimen. I wonder about the soot stain on the white building at the back, and about the block-letter graffiti on the brick garage. I applaude the person who decided to paint the face of the low-lying storage building a deep red with green trim, even though it was almost completely hidden from view before the house that filled this hole was torn down. I love the colors that contrast shockingly with the rubble and I like that we can see down to the bedrock and feel assured that the heart of Reykjavik is built on solid rock. I won't miss this raw scene when it's gone, but while it's here we might as well try to appreciate it.

Thursday, 14 February 2008


Out by the huge oil tanks at the tip of Örfirisey, the plot of land (once an island) that hugs the west side of the Reykajvik harbor, stands this old corrugated iron clad house. It was moved out to this empty lot from a location in downtown Reykjavik, though I don't recall exactly where it once stood. I'm sure it's awaiting relocation to a new site in the city center, as Örfirisey, or "island that it's possible to walk out to", (section 7 on this map) is not the most hospitable spot for a classic bit of Reykajvik's architectural history.

Of note: Trains in Iceland? Read here for a short history of Reykjavik's railways.

Tuesday, 12 February 2008


For those of you who've traveled here recently and experienced how grand our international airport is out at Keflavík (no sarcasm's a very nice building) you might get a kick out of seeing this photo of the departure lounge at the Reykjavik inland Airport. One of Air Iceland's planes is visible on the tarmac outside, a Fokker F50 ready for it's next flight to Akureyri. The lounge is about double the size of what's visible in the photo, and just behind the man with the shoulder bag is the squeaky and rickety old baggage carousel.

At the cafeteria, adjacent to the lounge, works a woman from South America named Valentina who speaks five languages and holds a degree in engineering, or so I was told by the flight attendant who checked in my Valentina during her most recent travels.

This airport is cozy and homey and well-worn. Some people want it gone from the city center, moved out to Keflavik, while others like it just where it is. Still others say one of our closer bay islands would suit it well. If it is moved we'll miss the constant low arrival fly-overs through the heart of the city and the sight of private jets coming and going, and the fun game of guessing who owns which ones. You can read more about the airport here.

And remember, Greenland is a hop and a skip away: you can literally book a day trip to Kulusuk from May to September. More info here. Very cool.
Two links:

1) Little Licker Icelandic Music Issue
2) Icelandic Cooking Recipes Food and Culture blog


Wednesday, 6 February 2008


Oh, I wish I had something to say, some deep words about extreme weather and Bobby Fischer's passing and about how I think I saw Joan Cusak walking up Bankastræti the other day. A few thoughts on local stock market wobbles would be nice, or on the ever-rising cost of gasoline (we're at $7.50 a gallon!) or even on the real-life Monopoloy game being played by out by Rvk politicos. But the well has frozen up in the recent cold snap and who knows but that I'll have to wait til Spring for a literary thaw...

In the mean time, you can help by sending in a few words of your own to me via email and if I like, I'll post. Subject: Iceland.

And if you happen to be house hunting here in Reykjavik, please let me know. Or if you're in real estate. Explanations later.

And does anyone know of any summer English teaching gigs? There's a couple coming to the island in May who'd love to share their linguistic knowledge while here.

Friday, 1 February 2008


A favorite weekend pastime here in Reykjavik is cruising through Kolapórtið, our indoor flea market and seafood bazaar. Though I could write a few good words about it myself, I thought I'd let a long-time Iceland Eyes buddy Professor Batty do the honors in this excellent entry from Flippism is the Key. He also wrote a nice swan song to our favorite local Sirkus which, if city planning has it's way, is history.