Friday, 7 February 2014

Don't speak

Our arrival in Keflavík was a very excited one.
We had been flying in from Copenhagen, and our flight was full of drunk Danes. This didn't stop us from being in complete awe when we first glimpsed the midnight sun over Norway.

Landing, 4am

After a 4 hours flight spent in awe and happiness (and craziness), we entered the tiny international airport in high spirits. And spirits, of a different kind, were what all our fellow passengers were after: every one bought a lot of brennivín at the duty free shop.

We decided to follow the tradition and entered the cool night with a bottle of brennivín, too, and looked for our taxi.

A stout man with a sign was waiting for us. It was 4am, yet he seemed incredibly pleased to welcome 3 foreigners on his taxi and move our luggage, telling us we must be tired from the flight and shouldn't be pulling luggage.

As soon as he started driving towards Reykjavík, he began to tell us about a lot of things. The radio was playing Don't Speak by No doubt.

We were in a strange land, almost alien, with huge lava fields in every direction and the dark sea roaring on our left side. We could see smoke rising from the mountains and some lights coming from the villages we passed, even though the midnight sun made the night light and clear.

While we were astonished by the sight, our driver was speaking. I suddenly started to pay attention to what he was saying in his adorable and sweet accent.

"Out there is the blue lagoon. You must go. But if you don't want to pay, there are many hot pools around the country. I can make you a list!"

This is the Icelandic spirit. It's 4am, and the cab driver offers to give you a list of free hot pools in the country. This is what I call welcoming people.

He then started telling us the history of the first settlements in the area, and of the volcanic eruptions he remembered from when he was a kid. As we entered the Reykjavík urban area, he told us about the Perlan and that if we didn't want to spend all our money in food we'd better shop at Bónus.

We arrived to downtown Reykjavík (the famous 101 area) with our driver biding us welcome to his city.

We met our flat contact person in Laugavegur, and the cab driver offered to drive us further for the 500 meters that separated us from our flat. Because, you know, we shouldn't pull our luggage.

And suddenly I realized why there's a sign that says "Welcome home" at the airport.

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Sin Fang with love

Everyone's been head over heels for Sin Fang lately because...hell...he's awesome.
That's why The Reykjavík Grapevine decided to award him their Second Ever Music Award, Ever prize for best album and best song for, respectively, Flowers and Young Boys. They even dedicated the cover of this month's issue to him, with a remarkable photo by Axel Sigurðarson (you can find the complete issue here ).

Cover photo of The Reykjavík Grapevine by Axel Sigurðarson

If you are familiar with Sindri and his surprisingly wide range of music then you'll be already head over heels for this album as well. If not, you need to check it out now.

What you may not know, though, is that Jónsi from Sigur Rós did an amazing remix of Young Boys that you can listen for free on soundcloud.

Go on and enjoy some Sindri on these cold winter days!

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Lopapeysa is good for you

Lopapeysa is the name of the most famous garment in Iceland and the smartest thing you can buy once you land there.

You probably have seen it: it's a thick sweater decorated with traditional shapes. To be fair, it seems the design isn't traditional at all and began to be knitted just about 60 years ago. Some people say it was brought from Greenland by Halldór Laxness and his wife but who knows, really.
If you have no idea what I'm talking about, here's a pic of Kjartan from Sigur Rós wearing one (on the left):

he seems quite proud, doesn't he?

Anyways even though the lopapeysa may seem incredibly expensive, you will need it (not only in Iceland, I use it really often in Switzerland too for example). It comes in any form and shape and design (I even saw one with a peacock design which I didn't quite understand but, you see, you can find anything). You can even have one made specifically for you in some shops and lopapeysa dominate every thrift shop I've seen across Iceland. I bought mine in a thrift shop and the girl told me it was knitted by a 90 years old lady. every lopapeysa is hand knitted, as I don't think there is a large scale production.

Believe me, it's a win/win situation. 

What always struck me as awesome is that Icelanders seem to be really proud of their traditional sweaters. They own many and wear it whenever and wherever possible. 
They don't seem to be embarassed by their customs, on the contrary. 
And rightly so, because their sweaters are comfy, cozy and incredibly warm. Thank you, Iceland, for one more amazing product of yours. 

Sorry for the hiatus!

I've been dealing with changes and stuff lately, and haven't been able to post much at all. I've also been away to Paris for some time and discovering that beautiful city took up a lot of my time.

Anyways, here I am ready to resume talking about Iceland.

You know, while I was dealing with problems and changes Icelandic music really helped me going through it all.

Be it the calm and cozy feeling from Of Monsters And Men or the wild sound of Reykjavik!, Iceland gave me once again what no other Country was ever able to give me.

And here I am now, longing to go back to my safe place on Laugavegur and take a walk on the harbour admiring the Harpa from afar pretending to hate it.

Oh Iceland, this is a love note for you.

You are always in my heart.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Jón Gnarr nominated Moomin Valley as vinaborgir

MoominValley, Finland: a city that can improve Iceland's understanding of UE policies

In a good article published today by the Reykjavik Grapevine, it is said that Reykjavik has many friend-cities all over the world. The most peculiar vinaborgir (this is what “friend-cities” are called) has to be Moomin Valley though. Even if not confirmed yet, the mayor of Reykjavik Jón Gnarr (which you may know because of his Darth Vader attire, or because he strongly supports LGBT rights) seems pretty determined to make it happen. In an interview appeared some time ago on the Grapevine, he said:
I am one of many Icelanders that believe in elves and trolls. I mainly believe in Moomin elves. It is more of a certainty than a belief. I have seen them and touched them. I know they exist. I have been to Moominworld in Naantali, Finland. I have evidence; photographs, video recordings and witnesses. I had a good talk with Moomin Papa. He told me that life in Moominvalley was much better after Finland joined the EU. He encouraged us Icelanders to join the EU. He also said that the Moomins had always existed, long before Tove Jansson “invented” them. The Moomins are eternal, at least in books.

Now let me tell you something about Iceland. The fact that trolls and elves and stuff are a huge part of the icelandic culture may be alughed about or frowned upon. Still, it’s there. There’s a thin line on which this culture positiones itself: it’s between serious and a joke. You never quite understand if Icelanders truly believe in trolls or if they want you to believe they do. One cannot deny, though, that there are some pretty awesome legends going on about them. There’s probably the hugest amount of legends than in any other Country. Some of the traditions are well known: the “invisible people”, the elves, the 12 Jule lads. There are some terrifying things, too, like the zombie cat that eats children around Christmas. When we were touring the Golden Circle with our kind guide, Jon, he told us a lot of different and crazy legends linked to the places we were visiting. Some were variations of the fact that elves appear to be extremely territorial and can get very offended if you accidentally move a rock that is their home. Other stories were new: I remember in particular a story about a farmer who lived in the middle of nowhere beyond Þingvellir. He needed someone to help him tending to the animals and do farm work, so he simply woke the dead. Let me tell that again: he woke the dead. He created zombies. He had zombie slaves. HBO, did you hear that?? So, you know, the fact that Jón Gnarr wants Moomin Valley to become a friend-city to Reykjavik doesn’t surprise me at all. In a land were every rock probably carries a legend, having an imaginary town as your friend is no big deal. In conlusion, I really hope the legacy between Reykjavik and Moomin Valley is going to happen. I really do like Moomins and I think they can bring a fresh look to European policies.

Iceland outside of Iceland: Sigur Rós shows

You know it was coming, sooner or later. Just bear with it.

So, Sigur Rós shows.
As many people obsessed with Iceland, I’m also obsessed with the post-rock-pixie-crazy-drunk-magic band from Reykjavik.

Photos from

Of course, as a big fan, I’ve seen them a few times. Just, never in Iceland (because of stupid flight times, I must add – which prevented me from seeing OMAM live as well, but that’s a story for another time).

Back to Sigur.
The first time I saw them was in Switzerland, near Zürich. They played a fairly small open air festival in August, which isn’t very wise. In fact, it started  POURING just before the beginning of the show.
But that didn’t stop us and didn’t stop them. Jónsi actually joked about the weather being Iceland-like, which made him feel heima (I think at this point he knows the most hardcore fans do know a few icelandic words).
They then proceeded playing their amazing songs, accompanied by the most amazing lights show I’ve ever seen: the whole square was turned into a forest. And it was raining. Can you even imagine?!!
Photos from:
Let me tell you: no, you can’t.
You need to be there and be hooked to Jónsi’s vocals and the bow on the guitar and the mesmerizing texture of bass, violins, drums, celesta and weird little instruments to really understand.
You need to have your heart beating in time with Hafsól and feel the pounding in your body.

Sigur Rós are extremely talented.

Never before I’ve seen people at any show collectively hold their breath for seconds to create absolute silence, a silence which is part of the music and of the collective experience you’re sharing with other human beings.
Never before I’ve seen people dancing slowly under the rain, bright eyes, like they were in a trance, deep in a forest made of light.
Yes: re-read the last sentence. That did actually happen.

I don't know what to tell you other than: if Sigur Rós happen to be playing near you (the concept of "near" varies here – near for me, in relation to them, is Denmark) by all means get your ass there.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013