People, Places, Things – Living Sober in Reykjavík

Helga Páley Friðþjófsdóttir

I moved to Iceland in May 2001. I was 23, and by this time, a product of working-class Irish Catholicism and Lower East Side punk rock hijinx both, I had already about a solid decade of alcohol abuse under my belt. In Iceland, I found the same attitude towards booze I had been raised with: drink hard, apologise, repeat. I found a culture similar to the one I left behind, I found a whole nation of drinking buddies.

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Unruly and Loud

The accordion, or harmonica in Icelandic, has a long history in Iceland, even longer than many might suspect. For decades an Icelandic party wasn’t a decent party without someone pulling out their harmonika, or simply nikka, to keep the music going. Family reunions often had multiple accordion players, and county feasts did not lack them either. Even though its popularity appears to be dwindling in recent years, it has had quite an impact on Icelandic music and culture.

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In Focus: Midwives’ Wage Dispute

Midwives' strike Iceland

In 2013, ljósmóðir was voted the most beautiful word in the Icelandic language. The word translates to “midwife,” but its literal meaning is “mother of light.” Even if their title sounds ethereal, the members of this currently all-female profession insist that their demands for increased wages are all but lofty. The Ministry of Finance disagrees […]

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Rapper Criticises Band in Blackface

Icelandic rapper Króli was dismayed to witness North Iceland band The Hefners perform in blackface. Króli recounted the incident in a Facebook post, saying the band was not receptive to his calm attempts to explain why he was against the practice. Vísir reported first.

The Hefners have been performing for years in Húsavík, North Iceland, donning dark face makeup and black afro wigs for their appearances.

“I tried to tell them in a polite way that this was not OK,” Króli wrote, adding that he lost his cool when he received responses like “you just don’t get it,” “they are honouring, not insulting,” and that people found it acceptable when Robert Downey Jr. donned blackface (in the movie Tropic Thunder).

When Króli asked the band members if they were prepared to take harsh criticism for their actions, he says, they responded that they did not care what people “from the south” would say on the internet and insisted they would continue performing in the same get-up.

“I don’t want to sound as narrow-minded as this blessed band and say this whole community is blind because they are definitely not,” wrote Króli, but stated that many Húsavík residents responded arrogantly to his attempts to explain what was wrong with the performance and laughed at him. “I am dumbfounded that this is happening in this country in 2018,” said Króli at the end of his post. “Can we please not let this be accepted[?]”

Þingvellir Road to Close for Two Months

Road 36 through Þingvellir National Park will be closed from tomorrow, July 31, until October. The two-month closure is due to repairs and will apply to the section of the road which passes through the park. RÚV reported first.

Þingvellir National Park is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Iceland and one of the stops on the Golden Circle route. The park receives some 500,000 visitors per year.

Travellers in the region are directed to bypass the closure through road 361 (Vallavegur). The road is however narrow and not suited for large vehicles. Travellers are thus advised caution and encouraged to consider other routes while the closure stands.

In a statement released on July 26, the Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration recommended tourism companies use smaller vehicles in the park while the repairs are ongoing. The administration also stated that Road 36, also known as Þingvallavegur, will be closed again in the spring.

Einar Sæmundsen, a park ranger at Þingvellir, says fully closing the road was the best option under the circumstances. “When the Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration was looking at this it was absolutely clear that all of the options were difficult, it is difficult terrain in which to repair a road and especially under the requirements we put forth,” Einar stated. “We want it to be[…] restored as well as possible. That’s why they have to tackle the whole road.”

Further road and travel information can be accessed at