Sunday, 26 May 2013

Sigur Ros on Jay Leno last night - VIDEO

Sigur Rós performed on Jay Leno's Tonight Show last friday night. They played their song Kveikur which they also performed on Jimmy Fallon's show earlier this year.

Sigur Ros has without a doubt become even more famous after appearing on the latest Simpons episode, but the band wrote the music for a whole episode.

Iceland24 - May 2013

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Iceland’s government promises EU referendum

The newly-elected government of Iceland has promised to hold a referendum on EU membership. Talks began nearly three years ago but have now been called off.

Fish and fish products make up 70 percent of the country’s exports and fishing rights are the most contentious issue in negotiations. The prime minister says no date has been set yet for the referendum.

But a report will be presented to parliament on the status of accession talks and the current situation in the EU as this has changed since Iceland originally applied. Benediktsson’s party won 26.5 percent of the vote, giving it 19 seats in the 63-seat parliament.

The country’s banking system collapsed but export strength means Iceland has made a good recovery since then. Opinion polls suggest the majority of the population are now against joining, fearing their fishing rights may be eroded.

May 2013

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Travel in Iceland: Europe's biggest national park is in Iceland

In 2008, Iceland embarked on a nature conservation project on a hitherto unparalleled scale with the establishment of the 12,000 sq km Vatnajökull National Park. Few if any regions in the world offer such a mixture of dynamic ice cap and outlet glaciers, geothermal energy and frequent subglacial volcanic activity, coupled with outburst floods.

Initially, the park will include some areas already under protection, such as the Skaftafell and Jökulsárgljúfur National Parks, Lónsöræfi wilderness and Vatnajökull glacier, which is larger than all the other glaciers in Europe combined. Already occupying about 12% of the country, the park boundaries are expected to expand in the coming months and years, so as to offer a unique opportunity to observe the wide-ranging impact of the Vatnajökull glacier on its surroundings, in which ice and fire play leading and often complementary roles.

The park is the single largest nature conservation project the Icelanders have ever undertaken. Moreover, it marks one of the largest economic and rural development schemes that the government has implemented in Iceland. Tourists visiting this protected area will be able to observe the culture and history of the communities dotted around the glacier, which have learned through the ages to live with and utilise their volatile surroundings. The proximity to nature’s land-sculpting elements opens up boundless possibilities for research and study visits, and not least for experiencing the silence and solitude of the wilderness and thus feeling at one with nature.

Visitor Centres are the park’s core service facilities and will be based at the national park’s main entrance points. Two already exist and four more will be added. They contain exhibitions and displays, provide information and host various cultural events, as well as housing the park wardens.

Wardens offer guided nature interpretation tours and children’s activities in different parts of the park, providing an insight into the area’s natural wonders, from volcanic eruptions and catastrophic floods at the grander end of the scale, to the delicate world of Iceland’s fragile flora and fauna.

May 2013

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

President of Iceland becomes 70 years old today

Olafur Ragnar Grimsson, the president of Iceland, has a birthday today and becomes 70 years old. Olafur was elected as the fifth president of Iceland in 1996. He began his fifth term last summer. Olafur will celebrate his birthday with his family today.

Ólafur was born in Ísafjörður, Iceland. From 1962 to 1970, he studied economics and political science at the University of Manchester; in 1970 he was the first person from Iceland to earn a PhD in political science. He became a lecturer in political science at the University of Iceland in 1970, then a Professor of Political Science at the same university in 1973. He was the University's first Professor of Political Science.

In 1984, with three other left-wing intellectuals, he took part in a debate with economist Milton Friedman, who was in Iceland to give a lecture on the "tyranny of the status quo" at the University of Iceland. As part of the left-wing People's Alliance, Ólafur was a Member of Althing for Reykjavík from 1978 to 1983; during this time he was Chairman of the People's Alliance parliamentary group from 1980 to 1983. Subsequently, he was Chairman of the People's Alliance executive committee from 1983 to 1987; additionally, from 1983 to 1985 he was editor of a newspaper, Þjóðviljinn. From 1987 to 1995, he was Leader of the People's Alliance; during this time, he served as Minister of Finance from 1988 to 1991 and as a Member of Althing for Reykjanes from 1991 to 1996.

Olafur married Guðrún Katrín Þorbergsdóttir in 1974, who gave birth to twin daughters the following year, Guðrún Tinna, a graduate in Business Studies, and Svanhildur Dalla, a graduate both in Political Science and Law. Guðrún Katrín was a popular figure in Iceland, and the country mourned when she passed away after a fight with leukaemia in 1998. Ólafur's second marriage was to Israeli-born Dorrit Moussaieff, to whom he became engaged in May 2000. The wedding took place on his 60th birthday, 14 May 2003, in a private ceremony held at the presidential residence. They have a dog, Sámur, who is named after the dog of Gunnar of Hlíðarendi, one of the main characters in the Icelandic family saga Njála.

May 2013

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Monday, 13 May 2013

More Artists Announced for Iceland Airwaves 2013

Twenty-five artists were added to this year’s Iceland Airwaves lineup earlier this week.

The latest additions include indie band Yo La Tengo (US), pop/folk TAPE (SE), electronic due Legend, electronic and progressive rock outfit Jukham Bänd (EE). Other bands include El Rojo Adios (SE), Carmen Villain (NO), Moon King (CA), Ólafur Arnalds (IS), Sólstafir, Prins Póló, RetRoBot, The Vintage Caravan, Borko, Kontinuum, Samaris, Ophidian I, Hymnalaya, Angist, Low Roar, Nolo, UMTBS, Lord Pusswhip, Blood Feud, Magnoose and the Iceland Symphony Orchestra.

This year's festival runs from October 30-November 3.

Do you want to listen?

Friday, 10 May 2013

24 Hours in Reykjavík - Trip to Iceland

How to make good use of your time in Iceland’s capital, Reykjavík. Good food, whale watching, swimming pools, a bit of culture and shopping should do the trick.

If I was a tourist I’d probably go to Perlan (Öskjuhlíð. It’s that globe-y thing you see on the hill.) and enjoy a wonderful 360° view of Reykjavík in a perfectly kitsch location and have breakfast in the cafeteria. Although I do have the sneaking suspicion that food wise Grái kötturinn, a hole in the wall on Hverfisgata 16a, known for luxurious brunches, would be a better choice. It’s perfect if you have a big hole to fill and it opens ridiculously early. Or just head to the next Kaffitár (Bankastræti 8, Höfðatorg and more) and have amazing coffee and something breakfasty on the side.


Whale of a time
There’s nothing like spending your morning spotting those “gentle giants”. From April through September there are tours a few times a day, the first at 9am and they last 2.5 to 3.5 hours. In winter there is one tour a day at 1pm and lasts a bit longer. In June and July there is also a midnight tour, leaving at half past eight, which sounds like pure delight. Dress accordingly with the right clothes you've packed (although some gear is provided), and understand that you might be on one of the unlucky boats (an even better reason to do some giant-eating later). But if you are lucky there is nothing quite like it! Check out Elding, a local whale watching company.

Or a different kind of splashing….
the swimming pool. If you’re an early bird, I recommend you sneak this one in before breakfast, that’s when the regulars go. If you don’t like to swim, don’t worry, just soak your traveling-sore muscles in steaming hot water in one of the whirlpools and talk politics with some strangers. But please, please wash first, without your swimwear that is, or you might expect a lashing out from one of the locals.
Every Reykvíkingur (a person from Reykjavík) will have their preferred pool and there’s bound to be one near you. Note that Sundhöllin (Barónsstígur 45a), the one closest to the city center has an indoor pool (the whirlpools however are outside), whilst traditionally Icelandic swimming pools are outdoors, heated of course, but on the other hand the architecture of Sundhöllin is wonderful.


If you’re in the mood for a rustic seafood experience, Sægreifinn (Geirsgata 8 ) is the place. The lobster soup has a Thai feel to it and is delicious. Here you can also taste some barbecued minke whale. I find this particularly fitting if you just got off the boat and saw some alive ones. It’s also perfectly convenient as it is right next to the whale watching pier.
If you want a different kind of seafood, the more upscale Fiskmarkaðurinn(Aðalstræti 12) does an excellent lunch menu and for extremely reasonable prices. The spider maki is drop dead good.

If you are in the mood for culture, the Reykjavik Art Museum (Tryggvagata 17) at Hafnarhúsið is one of the best places in town to see art, and just a skip and a hop down the street is Gallery i8 (Tryggvagata 16), a nice little private art gallery.

If it’s weekend, head next to Kolaportið (Tryggvagata 19), the Reykjavík flea market, located on the same street. Browse through second hand records and buy some gravlax, salmon cured in sugar, salt and dill, or whatever else takes your fancy.

Perhaps you’re more in a shopping kind of mindset. Take a stroll up Austurstræti, which changes into Bankastræti and then Laugavegur, up to Hlemmur bus station. This is our main shopping street, and also the main restaurant and bar street, well it’s actually simply our main street. Just remember to look down the streets cutting through, some gems lie hidden there. Skólavörðustígur, leading up to Hallgrímskirkja, the landmark church of Reykjavík is also stroll-worthy. Once you’re up the hill you can go up to the bell tower and admire the surroundings from there. It costs a few hundred kronur to go up in the elevator but the view is good and the wind will enliven any spirit.

Late afternoon

If it’s summer and the weather is good, do as we do and hope for an outside table somewhere at Austurvöllur (a grassy plaza in the city center) and have a little something and do some people watching. No table, no worries! There is plenty of grass, a liquor store around the corner or coffee to go from anywhere, Te og Kaffi in the Eymundsson Bookstore on Austurstræti being the recommended choice.

When there, gaze in the direction of the house of parliament – Alþingishúsið – and imagine it’s dark and snowy and the whole plaza is filled with furious, screaming protesters, Austurvöllur’s christmas tree (an enormous Norwegian gift) is on fire and history is happening. Ask people about it if you dare, you will get emotional sagas or boring speeches, but probably both.

Evening – Eating time again

It’s a little tricky to suggest something that is cheap but still a showcase of Icelandic food culture, unless it is something that shows how we have adopted other nations’ food cultures. So here goes:


My favorite burger joint is the B5-branch of Búllan (Bankastræti 5). You enter a fancy schmancy cocktail bar-type place, but on the right side of the bar there is another world, the Narnia of burger-joints. You can eat in there or get your burger served in the über cool bar area. The ketchup comes in plastic containers in the joint bit, but glass bottles in the bar, but it doesn’t matter because what you really want to do is substitute it with the best ever Béarnaise.
Osushi is a sushi-train restaurant up the escalator from Iða, the bookstore (Lækjargata 2a) and is a surprisingly comfortable place where you can easily control how much you spend and indeed how much you eat.

Mid Range

Tapas barinn (Vesturgata 3b) is perfect for a varied meal. There’s puffin on the menu here, don’t miss your chance, it’s divine! There’s also whale and kangaroo if you’re feeling adventurous. Booking ahead might be a good idea.
Íslenski barinn (Pósthússtræti 9) offers the tastes of Iceland, from herring and shellfish to lamb carpaccio and foal in a relaxed setting.


I would recommend the aforementioned Fiskmarkaðurinn (Aðalstræti 12) for Asian fish fusion or Sjávarkjallarinn (Aðalstræti 2) or Dill (Norræna Húsið, Hringbraut) for Scandinavian cuisine. Sjávarkjallarinn, or the Seafood Cellar, is located, as implied by name, in a chic yet rustic cellar in the city center. Dill is situated in the Nordic House, overlooking a beautiful bit of central moorland and beyond that the city itself. Booking ahead is advised for all three.

101 Bar (Hverfisgata 10) is the perfect place for a post-restaurant drink. Essentially a hotel bar for the ever so fancy boutique Hotel 101, this is designer chic where you still feel at home, and probably the least hotel bar-like bar you’ll ever go to.

Night Cap

I have to also mention here that if you happen to pass by Hafnarfjörður, Fjörukráin (Strandgata 55, Hafnarfjörður) is one of my favorite places to have a pint, or perhaps some Brennivín, THE shot of Iceland.

Out on the town

Tastes in places, crowds and music differ greatly so I’m not going to recommend any one place. Just take a stroll up or down Laugavegur and walk towards the tunes you like. Another trick would be to stop people in the street that look like they would frequent a place you would like and ask them for advice. Drunk Icelanders are normally quite helpful, although they might not always want to share their favorite place with newcomers, afraid that they will overcrowd it.

The party starts between 1 and 2am, and after 2am you’ll see which places are the popular ones judging by the massive queues outside. We don’t really do clubs but rather overfilled bars, which might happen to be where you had your breakfast or a cup of coffee earlier in the day.

If you’re ready to experience modern Iceland in a sip, ask for a licorice shot, Topas or Opal, we drink it like candy, which is really what it is, with some vodka added.

Early morning hours

If the bar you’re in is chucking you out, it’s surely time for a snack. Head down to Bæjarins Bestu the best Icelandic hot-dog stand in town. It is located across the street from the aforementioned flea market (if you get lost everyone knows where it is). Just look for a small shed with a long queue of hungry people in front.

May 2013

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