things that make the news in Iceland: football victories and flying trampolines

Every language has words the meanings of which seem incredibly specific in any context outside of that language. That is, some characteristic of the people who speak the language or the place(s) in which it is spoken has rendered this word necessary, whereas it might not be quite as useful in other cultural or geographic contexts. In Iceland, many such words are tied to the weather. For anyone who has ever lived in Iceland or even visited for a few days, this will come as no surprise. The weather here is volatile, and it is often big. It is experienced with multiple senses – you see it, you hear it, you definitely feel it – especially when the weather in question involves strong winds, which it pretty much always does.

One of my favorite Icelandic verbs is að fjúka, which means essentially “to be blown by the wind.” As an added bónus, if something has been blown away by the wind, you would say “það hefur verið fokið” (“fokið” being the past participle), which of course bears an uncanny resemblance to a certain less polite English word. So as a native English speaker, it always appeals to my less mature sense of humor when I come across this word in its many incarnations.

This week, thanks to our first bout of stormy autumn weather, the word has been cropping up all over the place, sort of like the tree branches and leaves that have been blown all over the city.

A sampling of flying trampoline news:

“Now Jónas has a trampoline”

(“Nú á Jónas trampólín“)

In this delightful little snippet from Víkurfréttir, one photo and a snappy headline speak louder than a long string of words ever could.

Víkurfréttir - vf.is
Víkurfréttir – vf.is

The article reads,

Sometimes warnings go in one ear and out the other. Yesterday, trampoline owners were specifically requested to safely secure these summer playthings.

Someone in Sandgerður chose to ignore this warning, so his trampoline took to the air.

Kristinn Ingi Hjaltalín shared this photo from Sandgerður on Facebook this morning, noting in the caption, “Now Jónas has a trampoline.”

____

“Twenty-two trampolines on the move: Severe weather this evening and overnight”

(“22 trampólín á ferðinni: Vont veður í kvöld og í nótt“)

This article, from pressan.is, notes that no fewer than twenty-two trampolines were reportedly found blown into trees, onto cars, around light poles, etc. in the greater capital area.

Bónus fact: The séríslenskt orð (uniquely Icelandic word) for trampoline is “fjaðradýna” or “fjaðurdýna,” which literally means something like “elastic/springy mattress.” I know I’ve already overused the adjective “delightful,” but how else can I describe these wonderfully literal Icelandic words? They are truly delightful.

_____

Besides the flying trampolines, probably the biggest news in these parts is the Icelandic men’s football (that’s soccer to you, my American friends) team’s qualifying for the 2016 UEFA European Championship, to be held in France next year. This is the first time ever that the Icelandic men’s football team has made it to an international championship. (Iceland is also apparently the smallest nation ever to make it into a national tournament.) Anyway, football is hugely popular here, and things that earn Iceland international recognition are hugely popular here, and partying is hugely popular here. Put all these things together and you can imagine what the scene was like downtown after Iceland’s win against Kazakhstan (the game was actually a draw, but for some reason I don’t understand and don’t actually care to understand, a tie meant that Iceland advanced and Kazakhstan did not).

But should you have trouble imagining the scene, don’t fear – Some industrious journalist at Vísir took it upon himself to painstakingly detail the entire evening’s timeline:

National football team downtown: Where did the boys celebrate?

(“Landsliðið í miðbænum: Hvar fögnuðu strákarnir?“)

The timeline begins with the end of the game at 20.45, at which point the team of course celebrated heartily on the field, before devoting a good amount of time to interviews and the like. The article then (unnecessarily, if you ask me) points out that the boys showered and got all dolled up (well, okay, I’m embellishing on the translation here) for the celebration.

At 21.55, the team appeared at Ingólfstorg, a square downtown where the game had been live streamed on a big screen thanks to mobile phone company Nova.

At 22.20, the team hopped on a bus which took them to Gamla Bíó, where the celebration continued.

Around midnight, most of the team headed to b5, where they were greeted by a whole host of supporters, including a few famous names (UFC fighter Gunnar Nelson… actually, that’s the only “famous” person on this list that I’ve ever heard of).

Apparently there was a lot of singing at b5, and the song “N*ggas in Paris” by Kanye West and Jay-Z was in heavy rotation. The article describes this song as “appropriate” for the occasion, since the team is heading to France next year. I think we have different definitions of “appropriate,” Mr. Journalist.

At 02.00, the friendly local police force appeared to kick people out of b5, since by law, clubs/bars have to close at 1 AM Sunday through Thursday. The journalist points out that it was pretty difficult for the police to get everyone to leave (although I have heard only reports of extreme glee and drunkenness, not violence) and states that people there were somehow likening the situation to the battle between American hip-hop group N.W.A. and the cops. Seriously? I can only imagine that a vast amount of alcohol went into this comparison.

On a more serious but equally ridiculous note: The way this achievement has been reported in the news, both here in Iceland and abroad, you could easily assume that this is the first time any Icelandic national football team has made it to an international championship. But in fact, the Icelandic national women’s football team has made it to the European championship not once, not twice, but three times (1995, 2009, 2013). That whole idea, so popular in clickbait articles and blogs, that Iceland is an oasis of perfect gender equality? Not true. Iceland might be doing a lot of things right on this front, but gender inequality is pervasive, not least in sports. So if you’ve been excited about the men’s football team, by all means, be excited. But don’t forget the women’s team. Don’t diminish their accomplishments.

________

Parliament members walk past a naked Jón Sigurðsson

(“Þingmenn gengu fram á nakinn Jón Sigurðsson“)

From visir.is
From visir.is

To Americanize this headline, we could say something like, “Congressmen walk past naked George Washington.”

Jón Sigurðsson was the foremost hero of the 19th-century independence movement that resulted in Iceland finally shrugging off the Danish crown. A statue of him stands in Austurvöllur, the square right in front of the parliament building. A few days ago, there also happened to be a giant poster advertising the film “Fyrir framan annað fólk” on the side of the building behind the statue (and therefore also across from parliament). Why the promo poster involves a photo of naked Jón Sigurðsson remains a mystery to me, despite a good amount of googling. If anyone knows, please, by all means, educate me.

Anyway, I’m pretty sure this article came into existence simply because some photographer or journalist happened to be near the Alþingi and took note of this admittedly amusing sight. It might not be big news, but since I’ve decided to blog about just this sort of “news,” I’m certainly not complaining.

_____

And that concludes the second edition of “things that make the news in Iceland.” Let’s give it a few days for more non-news to break, and then I will return with more.

Advertisements

janúar

Well, January was a blur of fireworks, snow, school, and friends. The days lengthened, mornings brightened, and all sorts of adventures kept me busy.

Without further adieu, here are some of the highlights from my first January in Iceland.

áramót

Having only arrived back in Iceland the morning of the 30th, I was pretty jet lagged on New Year’s Eve, but I still managed to enjoy the festivities. I walked up to Alyssa’s for an early dinner with my Fulbright family, then back home for another dinner with my Icelandic family. After we ate, we of course took part in the time-honored tradition of watching áramótaskaup, sort of an SNL-type comedy sketch show that pokes fun at the past year’s happenings. Since we arrived in August, Kelsey and I had been speculating about what might appear on áramótaskaup, and our predictions were pretty much right on. There was plenty about the crumbling health care system, the never-ending barrage of tourists, and of course Justin Timberlake made an appearance.

Shortly before midnight, Ásta, Kristján, Leon and I bundled up and walked up the street to Hallgrímskirkja to watch the ridiculously long and loud amateur fireworks show. It’s basically a free-for-all that somehow manages to seem almost like an organized show. It was festive and wonderful… that is, until it kept going and going and going and I couldn’t fall asleep until about 8 am. Yeah, that part was less than festive.

Janelle and Sophie telling New Year's Eve secrets in their sparkle-attire.
Janelle and Sophie telling New Year’s Eve secrets in their sparkle-attire.

Hannah hops islands

My Lopez friend Hannah officially became the first person to visit me in Iceland when she stopped over on this icy rock on her way to England. She arrived dark and early on the seventh and stayed for about a week. We stayed in the city while she was here, as it was too expensive to do a tour or rent a car (not to mention driving conditions weren’t exactly ideal, especially for someone not used to driving in snow). But we managed to find plenty to do. We visited Baktus at Gyllti Kötturinn, sent postcards, bought tourist gifts. Hannah fell in love with Nói. We went to Harpa to see Sinfóníuhljómsveit Íslands (The Icelandic Symphony Orchestra) perform Austrian music. Afterward, we walked over to Bæjarins Beztu for hot dogs. It was a very Icelandic evening, and a perfect combination of high culture and not-so-high culture. All in all, it was a lovely week. It’s always a bit strange when one of my worlds collides with another world, but Hannah-world and Iceland-world got along quite swimmingly (although we never went swimming).

Dinner with Sophie and Kelsey at Glo
Dinner with Sophie and Kelsey at Glo

Sinfóníuhljómsveit Íslands í Hörpu
Sinfóníuhljómsveit Íslands í Hörpu

IMG_3842

IMG_3845

10300884_570731338905_2937995406044941868_n
selssjálfsmynd

10389715_570731393795_551369133533277930_n

Ég á líf… og líka ost

By some miracle, Bónus started stocking halloumi, a delicious grilling cheese from Cyprus. Our family friends the Panayiotides stayed with us in Washington several years ago and introduced us to halloumi one night, serving it with a simple but tasty Cypriot dish called moujendra – basically just rice, lentils, caramelized onions, and plenty of olive oil. It is so delicious that it is definitely worth documenting the occasion of its consumption. Also worth noting – while we ate, we watched American Idol (“Henry Connick’s Legs!”) and talked about Gwyneth Paltrow’s vagina steaming habits.

Kelsey was eagerly watching the cheese grill to a chewy, crispy, salty perfection.
Kelsey was eagerly watching the cheese grill to a chewy, crispy, salty perfection.

IMG_3912

I may have also intermittently been playing and singing (badly) "Ég á líf" whilst we cooked. Possibly.
I may have also intermittently been playing and singing (badly) “Ég á líf” whilst we cooked. Possibly.

Ég þekki Sjón í sjón

In the fall, I read a book by Sjón. In January, I saw him three times in the span of maybe ten days. The first time, he was heading into Brynja, the hardware store on Laugavegur, while I stood outside chatting with Elliott (whom I had just happened to run into, because Iceland). The second time, he was at the post office getting some packages ready to send with a woman who I would venture to guess is his wife. The third time, he was just walking down Austurstræti heading the opposite direction as I was. I haven’t seem him in a couple weeks now, but I’m sure it’s just a matter of time. Maybe I will always have Sjón sightings in threes. Only time will tell.

I suppose in such a tiny city in such a tiny country, this shouldn’t have come as too big a surprise, but it was still fairly amusing.

Danish fish dish

It absolutely warrants mentioning that January saw the return of the best Háma meal ever, the Danish Fish Dish (also known as rauðspretta with potatoes and remoulade, but that doesn’t rhyme). The glory of the Danish Fish Dish cannot adequately be described; it must be experienced. Crunchy, fried, Danish… with an ungodly amount of remoulade (seriously, I think they use an extra-large ice cream scoop to dish it up).

Danish Fish Dish elicits feelings of pure joy
Danish Fish Dish elicits feelings of pure joy

Seriously, who can eat that much remoulade in one sitting?
Seriously, who can eat that much remoulade in one sitting?

Skammdegi brightening

At the beginning of January, I was walking to school in the dark four days a week. By the end of the month, my morning commute was only dark half the time. On Mondays and Wednesdays, when my first class starts at 10:00, I now walk to school in broad daylight. It was a little strange at first, but I can’t say I’m complaining.

9:40 and light out? Vor er á leiðinni!
9:40 and light out? Vor er á leiðinni!

January Fulbright event: Alþingishúsið

The Fulbright event for January was a visit to Alþingishúsið, Iceland’s parliamentary building. I visited with the Snorris in 2012 but I figured why not go again? It was a small group – just me, Alyssa, one of the new visiting scholars and his three boys, and María, our temporary Fulbright adviser. The experience of visiting Alþingishúsið is the polar opposite of visiting any US government building – you walk right up to the door, through a single metal detector (which María said is relatively new), up a narrow spiral staircase, and voilá, welcome to the center of Iceland’s national government. A kind lady whose name I don’t remember gave us a tour and told us all sorts of interesting and educational things that I promptly forgot because history and dates are not my forté. A few things I do remember:

-There’s a hallway with two long paintings on opposite walls, one a landscape by Jóhannes Kjarval and the other a depiction of Þjóðfundurinn 1851 (The National Assembly of 1851), a meeting intended to determine the relationship between Iceland and Denmark. The Danes wanted to make the Danish Constitution valid in Iceland and give Iceland representation in the Danish Parliament. The Icelanders put forth an alternative plan which would have afforded Iceland more independence. Not exactly pleased with this idea, the Danish representative ended the meeting prematurely in the name of the King. Jón Sigurðsson, hero of the Icelandic independence movement, then said:

„Og ég mótmæli í nafni konungs og þjóðarinnar þessari aðferð, og ég áskil þinginu rétt til, að klaga til konungs vors yfir lögleysu þeirri, sem hér er höfð í frammi.“

“And I protest in the name of the King and the people against this procedure, and I reserve for the Assembly the right to complain to the King about this act of illegality.”

And the delegates began chanting, “Vér mótmælum allir!” (“We all protest!”), a phrase that is now known by every Icelander. The fun fact about the painting is that Jón Sigurðsson is depicted as the tallest, most imposing figure in the room, and the representative of the oppressive Danish government is depicted as very small. In reality, Jón Sigurðsson was a very slight man. A little bit of artistic bias, perhaps?

Þjóðfundur 1851 - málverk eftir Gunnlaug Blöndal
Þjóðfundur 1851 – málverk eftir Gunnlaug Blöndal

-We got to peek into the meeting room of Sjálfstæðisflokurinn (The Independence Party) because Alþingismaður (MP) Vilhjálmur Bjarnason was with our group. He also spoke with us later and answered questions (which other people, much smarter than me, asked, because I have absolutely no brain for politics, economics, etc.).

-One of the most interesting places in the building is Kringlan, a circular area added on to the house in 1908 as a place to receive foreign guests (not to be confused with the shopping mall of the same name). It is one of the most decorative places in the house, with a gilded rosette in the domed ceiling, tall windows, and more. There are also a number of small round tables on which stand the names of Alþingismenn (Parliamentary representatives) from certain years throughout Iceland’s history.

Kringlan - from althingi.is
Kringlan – from althingi.is

Ég tala ekki færeysku

Kelsey and I are so cool that sometimes our Friday or Saturday nights look like this: Eating round “graham crackers” (they’re sort of a lie) with heaps of whipped cream whilst watching Faroese news broadcasts and exclaiming, in between mouthfuls of sugar, how strange the Faroese language is. This particularl occasion may also have included some Facebook-stalking of someone (or someones) we saw on the news. Potentially.

Anyway, Faroese really is intriguing. It’s Icelandic’s closest living relative, and in written form, the two languages are incredibly similar. But Faroese pronunciation is a whole other animal. The thing is, there are still enough words that are similar that I feel like I should be able to understand when I hear it, but I don’t. So close, yet so far.

Eitt kvöld á Seltjarnarnesi

I sent a belated Christmas card to my frænka Jóhanna who lives in Seltjarnarnes (just west of Reykjavík) and she kindly responded with a dinner invitation. I took the bus and battled some intense Icelandic wind and arrived at their house windblown but happy to see my relatives that I first met in 2012. Back then, I could barely manage a few sentences in Icelandic, and I distinctly remember sitting at the breakfast table looking at Morgunblaðið or some other paper, unable to make sense of anything more than a word here and there. This time, I spoke Icelandic the entire evening, give or take maybe 5 English words. Jóhanna, her husband Sigmar, their daughter Mæja, her boyfriend Arnar, and their two kiddos Sara and Sindri were lovely company for a chilly, blustery winter evening. After dinner, I even got to play the piano, which made my heart (and pianist’s fingers) so happy. Takk fyrir mig, Jóhanna og Sigmar!

As if all of that wasn’t enough, school started up again in early January and has of course been keeping me busy. I will have to write more about that another time, though. For now, I leave you with a few more pictures, taken on a couple of the calmer days we enjoyed in January.

náttúrufegurð Íslands
náttúrufegurð Íslands

adventure tour, day 1: wishes and tractor puzzles

Ferðaáætlun, dagur 1

>>>

On Day 1 of our adventure tour, we drove from Reykjavík to Hvolsvöllur, with stops at Þingvellir, Skálholt Cathedral, Seljalandsfoss and Skógarfoss (waterfalls), and the Eyjafjallajökull Erupts exhibit.

>>>

ÞINGVELLIR

>>>

Þingvellir, only about an hour from Reykjavík, is one of the most important (and most tourist-attracting) sites in Iceland.  The Alþingi, the oldest parliament in the world, was established here in 930 AD, and along with its historical significance, Þingvellir is also geologically significant.  The Mid-Atlantic Ridge runs through Þingvellir, meaning that Iceland is actually on two tectonic plates – the North American and the Eurasian.  Iceland is growing at a rate of 2 cm a year because of the divergence of the plates.

>>>

>>>

North America, meet Eurasia

>>>

It’s a requirement to be a dorky tourist at Þingvellir

>>>

I fought the hoards of German tourists to take my turn posing in the rift.

>>>

Þingvellir’s historical significance has a much darker side as well.  The Alþingi used to be the judicial branch of government as well as the legislative, so they judged crimes and carried out (often grisly) punishments.  Seventy-two people are known to have been executed at Þingvellir between 1602 and 1750, including 18 women who were drowned in Drekkingarhylur (I believe most if not all of them were accused of witchcraft).

There is so much more to be said about Þingvellir, but I think I’ll just let you get a sense of the place through some more photos:

Roomies!

>>>

>>>

>>>

>>>

>>>

ósk: There’s a certain section of the river where you’re supposed to toss coins and make a wish.  They say if you actually see your coin hit the bottom, your wish will come true.  I watched my króna travel all the way down  🙂

>>>

SKÁLHOLT CATHEDRAL

>>>

Skálholt simplicity

>>>

Skálholt is one of the most historically significant sites in Suðurland (South Iceland).  I had to consult my trusty guidebook so as not to confuse the details, but here’s a brief overview of its history:

Skálholt was established as the bishop’s ‘see’ for all of Iceland in 1056 and held that title until 1109, when Iceland was split into two dioceses.  Skálholt remained the center of ecclesiastical life in the South, and Hólar was established in the North.  Thirty-two Catholic bishops served at Skálholt, and Iceland’s last bishop, Jón Arason, was beheaded there (um 1550).  Post-Reformation, Skálholt was the southern headquarters for the Lutheran Church (1540-1796) until 1801, when the diocese moved to Reykjavík and Skálholt was turned into an educational center.

I’m sure you can find many more details online if you’re interested, but that’s about all I know (thank you, Andrew Evans!).  We didn’t spend too much time there – just enough to snap a few pictures of the interior:

>>>

>>>

>>>

>>>

View from outside Skálholt. I believe that’s Hekla in the distance (Iceland experts, correct me if I’m wrong!).

>>>

HVOLSVÖLLUR: BRÚNALAND, ÞORVALDSEYRI, EYJAFJALLAJÖKULL

>>>

In the afternoon, we arrived at Brúnaland Farm, where Alexandra’s relative Ásta graciously agreed to host us.  We had a late lunch at the house and rested for awhile.  Amöndu found this amazing traktor puzzle, so of course we had to put it together.

>>>

>>>

Can you say, ‘Eyjafjallajökull’?

>>>

Why yes, yes I can.  Passably, anyway.  About a 20-minute drive from Brúnaland, Þorvaldseyri Farm sits in the shadow of the glacier, which unfortunately we couldn’t see due to þoka (fog).  We went to the Eyjafjallajökull Erupts exhibit, which includes a short film about the experiences of the local families with the recent eruption.

>>>

Eyjafjallajökull being shy. It’s back there. Really.

>>>

Seems like this was an already-existing building that the owners turned into a tourist attraction. Pretty good marketing opportunity, you have to admit.

>>>

Rapeseed fields. ‘Rape, not grape!’ (uhhh Snorri inside joke)

>>>

No, we didn’t do the helicopter tour, but know that it’s available, should you wish to part with what I’m guessing is a fair amount of krónur.

>>>

FOSS (M): WATERFALL

There are a lot of waterfalls in Iceland.  So many, in fact, that it’s easy to get a bit jaded and fail to recognize just how beautiful and impressive they are.  We visited two waterfalls in the south: Skógarfoss and Seljalandsfoss.

>>>

SKÓGARFOSS

>>>

Frænkur

>>>

Svartur sandur

>>>

SELJALANDSFOSS

>>>

foss og regnbogi

>>>

regnbogi

>>>

I wasn’t wearing good shoes, so I didn’t join the group for the trek behind the falls, but that’s okay; I got a better view of the rainbow from the front  🙂

>>>

BACK AT THE FARM

>>>

We spent the rest of the evening back at Brúnaland.  Ashley made some amazing spicy chicken soup for dinner, and we all sat out on the porch eating and talking.  Topics included Canadian vs. American TV shows, ketchup chips (mmm!), speedwalking (yes, it’s really truly an Olympic sport), curling, man-o-pause (Marshall!), and garburators (weird Canadian slang term for a garbage disposal AKA an In-Sink-Erator).  The Americans among us learned of the wonders of Man Tracker (‘is there a Mrs. Man Tracker?’).

Ásta served us an incredible spread of desserts – hjónabandssæla, skúffukaka, and some sort of cheesecake – öll með rjóma, auðvitað!

>>>

eftirréttur – aldrei of mikið sykur á íslandi!

>>>

So we ate more and talked more, and the dog roamed around the table seeking attention, and the sun painted the horizon pink, and behind us loomed the Westman Islands, our next destination.

>>>

hundurinn

>>>

>>>

>>>

Most of the group stayed in two campers outside, but Ásta Sól, Jolene and I stayed in the house.  Once I stopped laughing at Jolene’s fríkí Hello Kitty mask, I got a good night’s sleep.

>>>

á morgun: Vestmannaeyar