Projektstop wegen geplanter Energiesteuer

Die Planungen von sieben ausländischen Projekten in Island sind zum Stillstand gekommen, nachdem die Investoren von den Plänen der Regierung erfahren haben, die Energiepreise zu besteuern. Bei den Projekten ging es um Datenspeicherung und um Aluminiumproduktion.

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Beloved Icelandic Actor Passes Away

Flosi Ólafsson, a beloved Icelandic actor, director, author and translator passed away on Saturday, a few days before his 80th birthday on October 27. Ólafsson was admitted to hospital after a serious traffic accident on Wednesday last week.

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A Fresh Approach to Clichés: The Iceland Cool & Crisp Guides

The original tour guides/photography books in Veröld’s “Iceland Cool & Crisp” series, Reykjavík and The Golden Circle and Blue Lagoon, offered a fresh perspective on tired tourist destinations when they published in 2007.

Reykjavík is particularly interesting for the fact that it’s written by a blogger, Maria Alva Roff, as sort of a print version of her website Iceland Eyes.

Just when people predicted that the internet would kill print media, fascinating developments occurred. Media began to merge in all possible ways and Roff is certainly not the first blogger to be offered a book contract.

Born to Icelandic parents and raised in California, Roff decided to relocate to Reykjavík to reconnect with her roots. Due to her background, she has quite a unique perspective on Iceland’s capital, somewhere between that of the local and outsider.

Although some of her photographs may not be especially strong or eye-catching at first look, they offer a curious glimpse into Roff’s Reykjavík, things that, if not for her careful documentation, might both have passed capital residents and foreign visitors by.

Roff’s captions are insightful and provide readers with small doses of information on city life, history, geography and culture, some of which I, having grown up in a different part of Iceland, was unaware of. For example that the third-year students of Kvennaskólinn high school dress up in the national costume and parade the streets of Reykjavík every spring (page 38).

I also appreciate her paying attention to buildings other than the capital’s most famous landmarks, such as Háteigskirkja church, which I’ve always found strikingly beautiful (much more beautiful than the gray spiral of Hallgrímskirkja) and attention-deserving (page 42).

However, given that the book was published in 2007, some of the information in Roff’s Reykjavík is dated, for example her coverage of the obsolete whaling industry (page 22)—which with a controversial quota issued by the Ministry of Fisheries this year is set to become a “real” industry in Iceland again.

But even so, by keeping themselves up-to-date with current affairs, readers can enjoy Roff’s original guide to Reykjavík and let it open their eyes to some of the capital’s lesser-known characteristics and places that they might otherwise have missed.

As for The Golden Circle and Blue Lagoon by Gunnsteinn Ólafsson (also published in German), including pictures from a range of photographers, primarily Ragnar Th. Sigurdsson, I had prepared myself for the usual clichés.

The name of this most-frequently taken day-tour in Iceland—of Thingvellir national park, Geysir hot spring area and Gullfoss waterfall—alone has become a cliché, not to mention the Blue Lagoon natural thermal baths, which is almost an obligatory stop for every tourist that comes to Iceland, either on the way to or from Keflavík International Airport.

However, there is a reason for these places being frequently traveled: They are not to be missed (although for people traveling on a budget I’d rather recommend outdoor swimming pools, see page 30 in Reykjavík, than the overpriced Blue Lagoon).

While containing detailed information on the most famous destinations of the Golden Circle tour, such as UNESCO world heritage site Thingvellir (pages 16-30), the guide also covers lesser-known places in the region and on Reykjanes peninsula, which is usually not included in the tour.

The book includes pictures of different quality, some typical, others unusual—almost magical—for example “Gullfoss in Winter’s Grip” by Sigurdsson (page 52).

All in all The Golden Circle and Blue Lagoon is a recipe for a long and comprehensive tour, which, if every stop is included, is likely to take more than a day.

Both books are easy to read, yet informative, and tastefully designed. And despite covering well-trodden paths, especially The Golden Circle and Blue Lagoon, and Reykjavík being a bit dated, they still provide old clichés with new angles and should prove interesting for those interested in digging a bit deeper.

Now all that is needed are guides like that on other parts of Iceland that are not as frequently-traveled by tourists!

For questions on availability, email [email protected].

Eygló Svala Arnarsdóttir

Greatest Hits: Iceland Getaway

This is the third book by renowned Icelandic photographer Sigurgeir Sigurjónsson that I have reviewed, the other two being The Little Big Book About Iceland (2009) and Icelandic Horses (2008).

However, most people probably know Sigurjónsson’s photographs through his wildly popular Lost in Iceland (2002), Found in Iceland (2006) and Made in Iceland(2007).

For a long time I thought the title of this book was actually Iceland Gateway and found it fitting because it’s a good introduction to Iceland for people who don’t know much about the country: a greatest hits photographic collection.

All the main tourist attractions are included, the Golden Circle with Gullfoss waterfall, the erupting hot spring Strokkur in the Geysir area and Thingvellir national park.

Then there is the Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon, Dettifoss waterfall in the north and the Blue Lagoon. And loads of pictures from the colorful Landmannalaugar region in the southern highlands.

The special features of Icelandic landscapes are all included: fire meets ice, moss-covered lava fields, columnar basalt, multicolored rocks and vegetation.

Most of these photographs are taken from a common angle, but some show often unnoticed details or are taken from the air, uncovering strange phenomena and color patterns.

These include the “Dead ice kettles east of Mýrdalsjökull glacier” p. 161, “Eystri-Rangá river, south Iceland” p. 193 and “Dynjandi in Arnarfjördur” p. 30, the greatest waterfall in the West Fjords, which is shown from a different angle than most pictures, highlighting colorful mountain sorrel that grows alongside it.

All of the photographs in this book are strikingly beautiful, documenting the versatility of Icelandic nature. Looking through it, I’d like to visit every one of these places.

While I’ve already been to some of them, including “Skógafoss waterfall in the river Skógaá, south Iceland” p. 34, others are new to me.

For example, I did not realize that “Hornbjarg, the northernmost tip of the West Fjords” p. 158 was really that steep and that the view of the endless ocean from the top of it was that amazing.

I would therefore consider this book as a tourist handbook. In 221 pages, readers can get to know Iceland through Sigurjónsson’s fantastic photographs and enjoy them as spreads without the interruption of long captions.

Then, after every 18 pictures, there is a spread with thumbnails and longer captions, explaining where each picture was taken, what is special about that place, how it formed, etc., which special emphasis on geology.

Iceland’s geological history is explained in further detail in an epilogue by Sigurdur Steinthórsson, while the book opens with an address by author of Dreamland Andri Snaer Magnason, conveying his passion for the country and his interest in preserving it the way it is.

On page 219, there is a map of Iceland showing where each photograph was taken, so readers know where they have to travel if they want to see the photographed locations with their own eyes.

I really appreciate the long captions and the map because that’s what I felt was missing from Sigurjónsson’s Little Big Book About Iceland.

However, the map also reveals that the photographer focuses on certain areas while leaving others out completely. Most of the pictures were taken in the southern highlands near Landmannalaugar.

Then there are many photographs from the southern shore and the West Fjords but only one from the Snaefellsnes peninsula, one in the northwestern region and only a handful in west, northeast and east Iceland.

I understand that a limited number of photographs fits into one book but to really be a “greatest hits” book, which I feel is what it aims to be (even though the title isn’t Iceland Gateway, as I first thought), photographs should be spread out evenly through all regions.

It’s not like there is nothing to photograph on the Snaefellsnes, Tröllaskagi or Langanes peninsulas.

I also have the feeling, same as with the Little Big Book About Iceland that although the book is new, it contains old photographs to a large extent, for example judging by the clothing of the people pictured.

It’s not a fact that the photographer is trying to hide—he clearly states that the photo of the “Blue Lagoon” p. 22 is the old lagoon—and it’s not necessarily a bad thing, as although Icelandic landscapes do change more rapidly than in most other places, they usually stay the same over only a few decades.

However, I also have the feeling that Sigurjónsson sometimes “recycles” his pictures in that he uses the same pictures in different books with different themes, although I’m sure he has a varied enough collection to not make his books repetitive.

Even so, it might not be necessary for people to possess all of his Icelandic nature photography books. I would, for example, recommend Iceland Getaway over The Little Big Book About Iceland.

Despite its few flaws, Iceland Getaway is a truly beautiful photography book and, although it does leave some regions out, it also serves its purpose as a tourist handbook. It’s a great introduction to Iceland but also interesting to people who know the country well.

Published by Forlagid, Reykjavík 2009. The book is available here. Email [email protected] if you have any questions.

Eygló Svala Arnarsdóttir