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Full Haus

There are many theories as to what fosters creativity and innovation in society: education, inspiration, even suffering. Yet from SoHo to Montmartre, there’s one simple ingredient that never fails to foster creative communities: affordable rent. The new hafnar.haus creative hub in downtown Reykjavík is providing just that – as well as a vision to unite […]

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Frost

Individually, snowflakes are fragile, easily broken, dissolving into droplets of water at the mere touch of a finger or a breath of air, while en masse, they’re capable of wreaking havoc on the city streets and causing catastrophe when avalanching down a mountainside.

Contrary to expectation, the correlation between outside temperature and the feeling of cold is less straightforward than people would think. It’s the wind that gets you.

At -19°C [-2.2°F], everything feels crisp. The air, certainly, but also the few rays of light that make it all the way up north at this time of year. The horizon turns an impossibly pastel shade of blue or pink and the grey streaks on the sides of the mountains solidify into a texture that, from a distance, looks soft to the touch.

They say there’s no such thing as bad weather: only a bad attitude to whatever conditions nature offers. Besides, bad weather is good weather under the right conditions. Snuggling beneath a warm blanket wouldn’t be half as nice if the sun were out and temperatures were warm.The weather is an opportunity: a not-so-blank canvas on which one can impose one’s limited imagination.

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These past two months have suggested, however, that the gods have come to show a more determined frigidity towards their human subjects: a lasting and glowering disapproval for our nonchalance towards nature.

Temperatures in Iceland usually vacillate. The weather here is infamously fickle. As if the product of temperamental gods, bestowing, depending on their mood – commendation or condemnation on the mortals dwelling below them.

It’s hard to describe the feeling when you breathe deep in -19°C weather and – for a split second – your nose freezes shut.

We care about the cold weather only as it affects our human lives. We lament that the accompanying snow has blocked the road to the airport. That the municipalities have been lacklustre in their clearing of sidewalks.

And we, worst of all, remain continually apprehensive that the utility companies will announce the indefinite closure of the public pools. Otherwise, the constant cold has made for beautiful weather. Less wind, clearer skies; there’s beauty in steadfastness.

The ground is frozen solid. Icicles form along the gutters of roofs. And birds struggle to eke out their existence. Cars are warmed before passengers clamber inside. Old people slip on the sidewalks. And the unhoused entreat the municipalities to keep the shelters open around the clock. But even so, nature’s long exhalation of cold air provides pleasant relief for a mind dreading the coming warmth. 

The Night Watch

During the summer solstice, construction workers pave new roads in the night. It’s late June. The skies are clear. The yellow vests are grimy. Above the banks of lake Þingvallavatn, a crew of men are laying asphalt – working on a stretch of road maybe a kilometre long. As the dump trucks come and go, […]

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The 2014 Eruption in Holuhraun

As the eruption by Fagradalsfjall in the Reykjanes peninsula began, many feared that air traffic would halt as it did during the 2010 Eyjafjallajökull eruption. Lucky for us (and the rest of Europe) the Fagradalsfjall eruption is a fissure eruption that isn’t coming up under the ocean, a lake, or a glacier. Instead, it produces slow-flowing lava that sputters up from a long fissure before lazily sliding down the valley until it cools from a bright red or yellow to a dull, craggy black. Only the steam rising from the fresh rock indicates the enormous heat that lies below.
In fact, the eruption has a lot more in common with the 2014 eruption in Holuhraun, albeit on a much smaller scale.

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Falco Rusticolus

Gyrfalcon researcher Ólafur Nielsen

“The gyrfalcon’s whole life revolves around the ptarmigan,” ornithologist Ólafur Nielsen tells me as I sit in the back of his pickup truck. We’re navigating a trail through spiky black lava in the northeast on the longest day of the year. At his side is his son and namesake, Ólafur Nielsen Junior, known as Óli to distinguish him from his father. He’s been accompanying his father on his falcon trips since he was 10 years old and can’t imagine a summer without them. In order to get to follow the father-son duo on their trip for a day, I had to apply for a special permit from the Environment Agency of Iceland, months in advance. The purpose of our trip is to visit two or three gyrfalcon nests to mark and measure the nestlings. Even approaching gyrfalcon nests in Iceland is illegal, and only a few researchers and scientists are exempted. Ólafur is one of Iceland’s most notable falcon scholars.

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World Cup Adventure

Iceland FIFA world cup 2018

Last year, Iceland became the smallest nation ever to qualify for the World Cup tournament in men’s football. For a nation just about a century old, living on a small island north of almost everything, making such an achievement on an international scale is something that will go down in history.

For the past few decades, Icelanders put a lot of energy and pride into building up top-notch training facilities and quality youth programs for sports of all kinds. Icelanders have excelled in sports such as gymnastics, handball, and golf but the crowning glory of Iceland’s sporting industry are the national football teams. Excelling in the world’s favourite sport, and certainly, the most-watched sport in Iceland has unlocked new levels of national pride in this small group of 350 000 souls.

As the men’s football team travelled to Russia to compete with the best of the best, the whole nation held its breath. Airline tickets to Russia sold like hotcakes, as did the official team shirts. Buses, offices, homes, and faces were decorated with the Icelandic flag, and the national broadcasting company scored record ratings on game days. Every football enthusiast was in an emotional uproar as the game against Argentina, led by Messi, ended in a draw, but even when the team wasn’t winning, the boys had the love and attention of supporters from Russia to Akureyri, and even a small gas station in Blönduós.

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Freshly Hatched

landnámshænan áslaug snorradóttir

Iceland is one place in the world where the chicken most certainly came before the egg. Norse settlers arrived on the island in the 9th century, bringing a unique breed of feathered friends known today as landnámshænur (settlement hens). Settlement hens’ eggs have nourished Icelanders through centuries of wind, snow, and volcanic eruptions.From 1752 to […]

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Kaldrananes

Kaldrananes - Bjarnarfirði Ströndum

Bjarnarfjörður á Ströndum is about as far off the beaten path as you can imagine. On sunny summer days, the area is full of life. Year-round residences turned summer houses fill up with vacationing city folk, and there’s a steady traffic of tourists on their way to the Strandir trails. During winter, however, the roads are impassable, and most of the houses are empty. Kaldrananes, an isolated farm, whose name in Icelandic implies chilliness and inhospitality, is one of the few farms occupied all year round.

The shortest day of the year is an important one for the inhabitants of Kaldrananes. Two houses stand on the grounds along with a sheepcote, an old church, and a large, decaying freezing plant, ambitiously built shortly after WWII but only in use for a few years. One of the houses is empty; its only use is as a vacation home. The owners don’t live in the area, and the place can be rented through Airbnb. In the other house, Ingi and Birna are awaiting the arrival of their daughter, Alda, who’s joining them for one of the most important tasks of the year. It’s time for the sheep’s mating season to commence.

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Mental Nutrition

Superfoods can nourish both body and soul as Thelma Björk Jónsdóttir is well aware. The multitasker is both an acclaimed yoga teacher as well as a fashion designer. She spearheads the Slökun í borg (Relax in the city) project, which aims to discover calm in everyday life’s strife.

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