Is there any news on Borgarlína or the airport train?

Public bus in Reykjavík

Borgarlína is a bus rapid transit system designed to enable environmentally-friendly, people-oriented transportation in the capital area of Iceland. The project has been in development since 2015 and involves upgrading existing road infrastructure to include long stretches of separated public transport lanes. In June 2022, it was announced that the first section of the project would be delayed, with completion now projected for the year 2026 instead of 2025. It is not clear whether this will affect the overall deadline for the Borgarlína project, set for 2033.

Next to Borgarlína, no other railway or light-rail proposals are being considered in Iceland. There has, however, been some discussion regarding the possibility of constructing an airport rail link, called the Lava Express. The Lava Express is an ambitious project involving 49km [30 mi] of train tracks (of which 14km [8,7mi] underground) between Keflavík Airport and the capital area, with BSÍ bus station as the terminus in Reykjavík.

The average speed of the train would be 180kph [112mph] with a maximum speed of 250kph [155mph] resulting in a travel time of 15-18 minutes compared with a travel time of 40-50 minutes in a private car or a taxi. The construction time of the project is 48-60 months. The last estimate was that work on the project could begin in 2022 and that it would take three years to finish, but as funding was problematic even before COVID started, the project will not start any time soon.

What is Iceland’s high school graduation culture like?

Dimmisjón - MR

For students graduating from upper secondary school (menntaskóli), Iceland’s closest equivalent to US high schools, celebrations begin on the last day of classes, when students on the verge of graduation celebrate their dimmisjón (also spelled dimmition or dimission, from the latin dimissio). Dimmisjón traditions differ between schools, but celebrations usually last all day and can include breakfast with teachers, school dinners, and house parties. Most notably, classes or friend groups decide on a group costume, and spend the afternoon cavorting down Laugavegur street dressed as animals, objects, or movie characters. Though Iceland’s legal drinking age is 20, it is rumoured that dimmisjón celebrations involve a few glasses of alcohol.

During the graduation ceremony, graduating students put the costumes away. There’s not a robe in sight but most students wear student caps. These are black caps with a black band and peak, decorated with a silver star. During graduation, menntaskóli students wear the cap covered in a white crown. One year after graduating, graduates remove the white cover and many wear their black cap to subsequent graduation celebrations.

Different versions of the student cap have been introduced next to the traditionally white-coloured crown. Students graduating from vocational education specialising in, for instance, trades, agriculture, or the fishing industry, use red and green instead.

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SCOTT JOPLIN

In 1899, American ragtime composer Scott Joplin – living in Sedalia, Missouri – composed The Maple Leaf Rag and hoped to get it published. He took the sheet music to John Stark, one of the leading publishers in town, who looked at it and scoffed.

“There are too many notes!”

Disappointed, Joplin aired his grievances to a young lawyer and a fan, who managed to convince Stark to buy The Maple Leaf Rag on the terms that the composer would receive one penny for each copy sold. Joplin may have thereby become the recipient of the first royalty payment in history.

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Woman of Letters

Paradise is such an uncompromising word. Through the years – aided by viral headlines, marketing brochures, and proud locals extolling the virtues of their ancestral land – Iceland has acquired a reputation as a utopia. The best place in the world to experience untouched nature, where white-collar criminals get punished for their infractions, and, of course, the best place in the world to be a woman. As with all generalisations, there’s a grain of truth, but it should be taken with a grain of salt. For Eliza Reid, Director of the Iceland Writers Retreat and author of the new book, Secrets of the Sprakkar, gender equality hasn’t been achieved in Iceland. But it’s still a pretty great place to live.

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A Diamond In the Rough

There are three things that make Iceland distinct. Firstly, the relatively small land itself is full of glaciers, volcanoes, and its stark beauty. Secondly, the remarkable people who populate the land and whose ancestors only survived countless catastrophes with a combination of tenacity, hope, and stubborn love of their petulant land. And finally, the peculiar Icelandic language which is spoken by fewer than 350,000 people worldwide and is notoriously difficult to learn. This last aspect of Iceland, the Icelandic language, is perhaps one of the most difficult to appreciate for foreigners.

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It’s a Living Thing

Þjóðbúningur Icelandic national costume

In 2004, Þorgerður Katrín Gunnarsdóttir, then Minister of Education, Science, and Culture, appeared on live television wearing Iceland’s national costume. The outfit seemed perfectly appropriate for the occasion, which was the reopening of the National Museum of Iceland following its renovation. But it soon became clear that the Minister’s choice of outfit had backfired – […]

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Labour of Love

In early January, my colleague and I drove north from Reykjavík toward the northern tip of the Tröllaskagi peninsula. Although Iceland’s dimensions appear sizeable on satellite maps, it takes less than four hours to traverse its length by car; before noon, we turned into Vestur-Fljót, in the Flókadalur valley, and parked in front of a red-and-white house on the farm Syðsti-Mór. The farmstead had been abandoned since 2013 – until 20-year-old Kristófer Orri Hlynsson moved in alone and began farming.

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Of Lamb and Legends

Valdimar Jóhannsson

Valdimar Jóhannsson is not a man of many words, preferring a visual medium to express himself. That’s what shaped his whole approach to his first feature film, Lamb. Years in the making, the film premiered last year at the Cannes Film Festival in the Un Certain Regard section, winning the Originality Prize, going on to garner accolades and become a sleeper hit all over the world. At the time of writing, the film is longlisted for a BAFTA nomination, shortlisted for an Oscar nomination, and has become the highest-grossing Icelandic film ever screened in the US. But it all started with a simple sketch outlining a fantastical figure – a new addition to Iceland’s folklore.

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Ice in His Veins

the ash-streaked ice walls of the Sapphire Ice Cave.

Upon entering the cave, I become immediately wary of its integrity. It would be a rather foolish way to go. This apprehension endures for all of two minutes, however,
as the mind, seemingly bored by its own alarm, begins to wander. Few profound thoughts emerge, aside from the somewhat flaccid observation that being inside an ice cave is vaguely like standing inside an Iittala glass. After another two minutes, the unease has dissipated completely, and later, I find myself following our guide deeper and deeper into the darkness, utterly devoid of any reservations.

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