I was very excited when I was contacted to do some lettering work for Mapfre Genel Sigorta, an insurance company in Turkey. I worked with Murat Bodur of Modiki on this project, and I am super excited about how it turned out! The phrase I lettered, Emin Ellerdesiniz, means "You are in good hands." Here is one of the posters my lettering was used on for this ad campaign. What other countries can I do lettering for? We'll see...
Chris and I went to Norway for Christmas. Though the Icelandic Christmas stories and traditions are incredibly amusing and interesting, I don't have time to tell you about that now. That will have to wait until next Christmas, perhaps. This post will focus on our trip to Norway, our celebrations and adventures with our dear friend Janne and her wonderful family, and our getting to see my relatives whom I hadn't seen in ages. When we arrived, Janne met us at the airport and was excitedly waving a Slovakian flag because this is the type of randomness Janne enjoys and knew we would appreciate. We took a fancy speedy train from the airport into the city center. From there we walked through a pedestrian street Karl Johann to drop our bags off at the hotel we would be staying at that night. The street was decorated, as in Reykjavik, with lights and garland, and the familiar stores I associate with Norway are even visible in this photo below. H&M stores are on every block, featuring different collections at different locations. And 7-Elevens are not at all uncommon, though they much fancier in Norway, of course.
Janne took us to see a smaller version of the famous little mermaid statue in Denmark. We posed by it for some silly photos, and then saw this statue on our way out of the building. It is Kate Moss in a difficult yoga pose, and it is supposed to make the viewer uncomfortable, I guess. Mission accomplished? We struck poses of our own, though without the same level of flexibility.
Then Janne took us to the new Norwegian National Opera & Ballet House designed by the Norwegian firm Snøhetta. It is an amazing work of architecture and landscape, situated on the bay like an iceberg. It's large windows at street level give passers by an inside look at what goes into each production, from the sets and scenery to the wigs and costumes, inviting everyone to participate in the arts and enjoy the spectacle. As we climbed the ascent of the outer limits of the building, at times it appeared otherworldly, like we were on the set of some alien adventure film. The texture on the building corresponds, we were told, to a Norwegian knitting pattern. I thought at first it was braille. We had some fun with shadow play, admired the skyline from up top, and on our way out we peeked into the windows to see some sets and costumes. It is a beautiful place, and I'm glad Janne shared it with us.
Reflections in a window offered a rare chance to get a photo of all three of us together. Then Chris and Janne tried to capture the walk of the pedestrian symbol painted along the walkway while we walked over to more windows. Pretty good, right?
After a lovely night's rest, we met up with Janne at her apartment. I had never been there before, but it was exactly how I had imagined it. Of course, Janne is also the kind of creative person who would organize her books by color. I love that!
Then we stopped by a fancy mc fancy grocery store to pick up some snacks for the four hour bus trip to Arendal. The whole trip Janne and I sit beside each other and finish up the Christmas gifts we are nearly done with. I was needle-felting kitties for Janne's neices, Sofia and Cora, since the Christmas cat is a tradition in Iceland. Janne was working on sewing the final touches on a couple of intricately designed and beautifully embroidered tie pockets for Sofia and Cora. I'm only sorry I didn't get a picture of them, for they were stunning!
We arrived in Arendal and were greeted by Janne's brother-in-law. He drove us to their house where we were greeted by Janne's sister, Hilde, and their two adorable daughters, Sofia and Cora. We celebrated Lille Julaften (Christmas Eve Eve) by enjoying the delicious traditional rice porridge with a blanched almond in it. Whoever gets the almond in their porridge keeps it a secret until the end of the meal. Then they get a marsipan prize. We were introduced to two feuding Christmas sodas at this meal, and we tried a little of each, but decided to not weigh in on it so as not to disappoint or offend either of our hosts. :)
Before we left for the evening, Hilde offered us her old car to drive, but because it was a stick shift and Janne doesn't have a driver's license, Chris became the designated driver for the trip. We thanked her, and Chris nervously drove us to Tromøya and the beautiful cabin on the ocean where we stayed while in Arendal. No photo of that either, but believe me...beautiful!
On Christmas Eve we slept in and awoke to Janne making us hot chocolate in the kitchen. The television was on, and the traditional Norwegian Christmas program was underway. We enjoyed our breakfast and hot chocolate as we watched the most hilariously dubbed version of Cinderella ever. I had seen this film parodied in a school program in 1999, but I didn't get how funny and accurate that skit was until this Christmas Eve when I saw the original for myself. Perhaps this is the slowest uptake of a joke...ever? Well worth it, though. Even Chris was thoroughly amused, and he didn't understand the language.
That afternoon we drove to a beach and took a short hike to see some sights on Tromøya. I wished us a Merry Christmas in the sand, in Norwegian, of course. The trees near the beach were tangled and twisted by the relentless winds, and the stones were worn from the lapping waves. It was overcast, but mild and lovely!
That evening Janne left for a family celebration, so Chris and I made ourselves a delicious Christmas Eve meal and enjoyed it by candlelight and the warmth of the fireplace.
The following day, Christmas Day, Chris and I went on a walk from the cabin. We walked up the road a bit and followed a hiking trail that led us into some woods and along a pond. It was charming, and the green moss covered rocks and tree trunks glowed and made me think of Andy Goldsworthy.
The following day, Chris drove us to meet my family in Melsomvik. I got to see my cousin, Tor, my aunt Helga, my uncle Sven, and meet Tor's kids, Hilde and Stian. It was wonderful to see them. In this gathering, the person I had seen most recently was my cousin Tor, and that was over 13 years ago. It was great to sit down to a meal with them and enjoy their company. Chris took this lovely picture of us before we left. I was quite emotional after this lovely reunion, so I cried many happy tears on the way home. I am so glad to be nearer to them now, so hopefully I will see them a lot more often!
The following day we were invited to Hilde and Geir's house to bake pepperkaker (gingerbread cookies) with Sofia and Cora, but mostly Sofia because Cora kept eating the dough. Here are some photos from the baking fest. The kitties in the tree are the ones I made for the girls. The cat on the floor is Billy Bob Thriller, the cat Chris and I were eager to become acquainted. And while the baking was going on, I made each of the girls a little illustration to remember me by. Elephants were requested.
The day we left Arendal, we got a quick tour of the city center before we boarded the bus to Oslo. I cried while saying my goodbyes. These are the sweetest most generous people. I cannot thank them enough for letting us join them this Christmas. It was so lovely!!!!
Janne made us pose here, and Chris was a bit reluctant. Janne got her way.
Our final evening we got together with my other cousin, Per, and we met for the first time his wife Karin and their little daughter, Helene. It was so nice. And then Per was kind enough to offer us a ride to our hotel near the airport. It was a very long drive, so we were very, very thankful that he was willing to do that for us. It also gave us a little more time to chat with him, which I was very glad for.
It was a lovely trip, but as we looked out the airplane window and admired our aerial view of Iceland, we marveled at the beauty of the island we call home. It was great to go to Norway, but it is also nice to come back home.
I just figured out how to make this series of photos our dear friend Janne took of us jumping on Tromøya into an animated gif. (It you start getting motion sickness, leave the page!) I will be posting about our Christmas trip to Norway soon, but this jump is a sneak peek. I'll try to be quick and get some photos up soon! In the meantime, Happy New Year's Eve, Happy Anniversary to my parents, and a Happy New Year to all of you, filled with great adventures!
The adventures with our friends Claire and Jeffrey continued. We rented a cabin in the middle of seemingly nowhere with an amazing view of a couple different glaciers and the surrounding mountains. It was very, very nice and modern and beautiful. Airbnb is a great way to find lodging like this! That is how Claire found this gem, and how I plan to find future getaway destinations.
In our sad car, with our trusty driver Chris at the helm, we drove and sought out new adventures each day. We stopped, per the before mentioned rule, whenever anyone wanted to explore something they saw out the window.
We saw this and stopped to explore it. It looked to be the ruins of an old house, built right into the mountain.
Once, along the road, we saw this huge formation, so we drove closer to it and then started to explore. There were vast fields of black lava nothingness stretched out around it, with a sign that showed an exclamation point, which we took to mean that we should not go past that sign. There was a cave in which someone had recently had a campfire, and an amazing path going up to the top. Chris and Jeffrey climbed up to the top and explored the ruins they found there. I stopped at the point where I saw a warning sign. With the boys ahead of me and out of earshot, I didn't dare climb any further than the photo of my boots dangling. It felt like the ground was very far away. But as I sat there, I heard Jeffrey's voice and snapped a photo of him at the top.
We passed through Vík, a small town with a breathtakingly beautiful beach. As usual, I took a lot of pictures, so here are some favorites from the beach. Poor Claire was chilled through and through, so she sat in the car trying to regain feeling in her extremities while the boys and I explored the black sand beach.
We visited Sólheimajökull, a baby glacier compared to the larger, less easily accessible glaciers in Iceland. It was beautiful and sad, as it is melting and disappearing before our eyes.
We also visited a really nice waterfall. The mist from the waterfall coated everything from rocks to benches in a layer of ice.
On our drive back to Reykjavik, we had a lovely view of the greenhouses that provide us with delicious and consistent tomatoes and cucumbers, among other things, all year long. And then I set up the tripod for a shot of me and the boys. Claire was cold, in the sad car. She looked down and looked up and was surrounded in white. There was a sudden blizzard, so we snapped a photo and ran back to the car. It is incredible how quickly the weather can change here.
We had such a great time with Claire and Jeffrey, our first visitors to use our guest bedroom concept. It was sad to see them go, and our apartment felt a little lonelier without them, but we have great pictures to remember our adventures by. And great memories, even though mine get all shuffled out of order. Thank you so much, Claire and Jeffrey, for coming to stay at Ásvallagata!
Our adventures with Claire & Jeffrey continued throughout the weekend and into the following week. We bonded with our sad car as we headed westward, stopping frequently to explore lava fields, climb strange formations, or get drenched by blowing waterfalls, as Jeffrey memorably did here.
Occasionally Claire got too cold, in spite of her new (and positively photo-perfect) winter coat she purchased here, and she would return to the car to warm up.
While Chris and Jeffrey were off exploring, Claire and I would play feuding trolls in the lava fields, our own Icelandic version of hide and seek. I'm pretty sure I won this round.
Sometimes there would be mysterious places to explore without any explanation.
We passed through a small town, so we tried to find a place to grab some coffees. We happened upon this cafe/gift shop/floral boutique. An eclectic mix of artwork and decor, an adorable dog (that made me miss one of my best friends, Hillary, and her papillons), combined with the sound of massage music and a small bubbling fountain, made this place a memorable stop. We payed for our coffees on our way out, and while we payed we were handed a guestbook to sign. That's a first!
Warning: Nudity in the form of some kind of yarn craft is coming up in a few pictures.
The Blue Lagoon
The day we went to the Blue Lagoon together, we got there before the sun had risen, which really wasn't very early, but it still sounds impressive. We were some of the first people to get there, so before busloads of people came to join us, we took in the crazy landscape and bizarre tourist spectacle in all its bluest blueness.
When we entered the spa facilities, there was a line roped off like an amusement park ride. When we payed for our passes, we are each given a magical wristband that serves as our go-go-gadget everything while we're here. Our wristbands open the lockers, lock the lockers, and we can even charge purchases or drinks or snacks to our wristbands. Pretty cool.
Because Chris and I are used to going to our local public pool, and since we had already taken Claire and Jeff with us to our local pool, the process of readying ourselves for the Blue Lagoon experience came as no surprise to us. However, to most of the tourists who come here, it's all new to them. The idea of first disrobing at their lockers and then carrying their towel and swimsuit over to the showers is weird, and for some a bit terrifying. Then, placing their towels in a cubby while they shower and put their suits on is also a foreign concept to most. I heard many discussing this and asking if this is really what they have to do. I overheard funny statements like, "Well, I guess that's how they do things here." I am used to the open shower situation and would rather not stand in a line of naked guests clutching their towels and suits, no disrespect, so I skip the line, shower in the open and head into the lagoon.
After wading around in the swirling milky blue water for a while, I noticed someone else had taken out a nice camera and was taking pictures from out of the water, so I decided to do the same. In the meantime, Jeffrey and Claire had ordered beverages at the swim-up bar.
Then I handed Jeff the camera and he took some photos of us.
Then Jeff managed to take what I believe to be the only photo of all four of us, even if Jeffrey is only represented by his right foot and the rest of us are blurry.
After getting out and dressed, we walked around for a couple more photos. Claire and Jeffrey always look like they belong in a magazine. I don't understand how they do it?
More good times with Claire and Jeffrey will be posted soon! Stay tuned.
On the 26th of November, Chris and I welcomed our friends Claire and Jeffrey to Reykjavík. They're our first friends from Minneapolis to visit us at Ásvallagata, and we were overjoyed to have them stay with us. While they were here, we got to do and see some things we've neither done nor seen before, so I'd like to share some highlights of our group adventures with you. This will be a picture-heavy post, and not necessarily in the order of things, but that's how memory goes. It all gets jumbled together, but it was all great!
We rented a car from Sad Cars. Yes, the company is called Sad Cars, and it is the cheapest option we could find for car rentals here. The driver's side mirror was affixed with duct tape, and the rear windshield wiper didn't work, but it did its job of getting us where we needed to go, so our sad car made us happy.
The landscape changed quickly, and it started to wow us all. We chased glimpses of sky and looked for evidence of the sun that Claire & Jeff had not seen since their arrival. The rule was that we would pull over anytime anyone wanted to and get out and explore, hike, or take photos.
We saw lots of Icelandic horses as we drove, so at one point we decided to pull over and try to get a closer look. They are stunningly beautiful creatures, and to our surprise they started to run. (There's probably a better, more horsey word for how they moved, but I have heard they have many more gaits than a typical horse, and I haven't a clue what any of the usual gaits are called. I even had to look up how to spell the word "gait," so my limited horsey vocabulary will have to suffice, my friends.) To our surprise, they clip-clopped toward us. One horse was particularly brave and led the rest over to the fence where we stood. Chris ran back to the car to grab the carrots he had brought along as a snack. We figured giving them a treat would be the least we could do since they were being so friendly and cute.
As usual, the vegetation along wherever we were looked arranged by a professional. Ah, nature! You are so good at what you do. Naturally.
We had great adventures, and this is just the beginning. There will be more soon!
Chris and I purchased a really nice tripod and a remote control shutter release just before we moved. This weekend we used them for the first time. It was a bit chilly out, so we just took a quick walk to the lake and snapped a couple pictures there. We're gonna have to get the hang of using the tripod, the shutter release, and the manual setttings on our camera if we are going to capture the northern lights like we want to! We're practicing up and readying ourselves for it.
An interesting side note: Chris and I have been taking a beginners Icelandic class four mornings a week for two hours. When we bike to class in the morning, we look to our left and basically see the top photo. The sun doesn't rise until 10:30, and our class starts at 9:10, so the disco bridge whose lights continuously changes color is still glowing bright for us in the dark, dark morning. It's a beautiful view! The language school that we go to is a 20-25 minute bike ride away, and mostly a gradual uphill ride. The ride home takes about 10-15 minutes as we glide downhill practically the whole way home.
For those of you who don't already know this, Icelandic is a very difficult language to learn. The class has helped us quite a bit, though, and we plan to continue with the classes and move on to level 2 in January, along with some of our classmates. I will go into more detail about why Icelandic is so difficult in another post. For now, just know that we find it fun and simultaneously very challenging.
For example, here's a video of people trying to pronounce the name of the volcano whose erruption halted air traffic here and abroad not so very long ago, Eyjafjallajökull.
We walked in and wandered around the beautiful concert hall in Reykjavík called Harpa. It's amazing glass facade was designed by Olaffur Eliasson. It opened in May of 2011, so it is a fairly new landmark here. The experience of walking around inside is almost dizzying because there are so many stairs and angles and panes of glass and reflections and refractions of light. It is beautiful, and a place I will certainly bring anyone who comes here to visit us.
The ceiling offered me a unique opportinity to take a self portrait, so I took it.
When I walked toward this glass, all I could think of was my dad and how much he would want some Windex and a rag to take care of all these fingerprints and smudges. It made me chuckle, because that is kind of what I wanted to do, too!
Chris and I took a sunset stroll on the southwest coast of Reykjavík a little over a week after we arrived here. I didn't have the blog up and running yet, but we took a bunch of photos that we liked very much, so I thought I would share them belatedly. I like how these photos all seem to share a color palette. This post should really be brought to you by the color blue-gray and mustard yellow.
There is an arrow on our map of Reykjavík pointing to this area by the shore with the caption, "an evening walk by the sea is very romantic." Um...agreed, map. Agreed.
Throughout my brief time here, I have taken many pictures and noticed many random things that have made me very happy. So, I thought to myself, why not post them together. This way, perhaps they will seem less random and more like a cohesive collection of random little nuggets of happiness.
"mornin sunshine" is always in my window
The first item I unpacked and put in it's rightful place in the kitchen window was this lovely little painting by artist Carla Thompson of Northfield, MN. I received it as a present from Inger & Fred, my dear family friends and my extra set of parents. They knew darkness would be coming, and that I could always use some "mornin sunshine." As daylight is beginning to dwindle, I see this little painting and it makes me remember the love of my friends and family back home and the kind thoughts and well wishes from so many wonderful people. Thank you, Inger. Thank you, Fred. And thank you, Carla Thompson. You've brought a bright little nugget of happiness into my daily life.
colorful houses and rooftops can brighten my day
This is the reflection of the red roof near our apartment in the window of the seafoam green rooftop across the courtyard from our apartment. Did you follow that? Cool color combinations are always within view! There is a bright green roof I can see through our living room window, too. Am I lucky or what?
Here, people can paint their houses like a highlighter (or the color of my boss's office) and they blend in fairly well. I think that is impressive and commendable!
they say it like it is
This is what the window reads outside the Lebowski Bar downtown. I love that it is OPEN...but with a few exceptions. I love the love of love and the intolerance of intolerance.
whoever draws this kitty face everywhere
I am not a fan of tagging. I think it is terrible. Except in the case of this person who draws a smiling kitty face. Our first days here, we walked around a lot, and we saw this kitty face all over...on trash receptacles, at bus stops, in tunnels. I think whoever wrote their initials on the fountain should have to scrub it off and publicly apologize, but I find myself on the lookout for the kitty face. I don't get it, but it makes me very happy.
moss grows on everything
Chris gave me a tour of the University campus where he works, and I had to pause to photograph the sidewalk. I had already noticed the moss everywhere, but I loved how it looks flocked almost, inching its way from the sides of the walk.
Sometimes moss decorates a lovely scene in which a cute family feeds the ducks and swans. Moss is so cute. It makes me happy, paired with...
berries and rose hips
I cannot get enough of these little pops of color. There are not many trees, but seeing berries and rose hips make me smile from ear to ear. Total happy nuggets.
Sweet things are to Kirsten what Doritos are to Chris. He loooves Doritos! And we were amused when we saw what Cool Ranch flavor is called here. We overheard a couple guys while we were on our way out of the grocery store the other day, asking where the "Cool Americans" are. "We just left," I said, and giggled. :)
Yesterday we biked to the coast (20 minutes or so) and took a ferry to Viðey, an island right off the coast of Reykjavík in Kollafjörður Bay. We took the earliest ferry (at 1:15 pm) and hiked around for a few hours and took the last ferry back at 4:30. It was an overcast day, but it was quite pleasant out. Judging by the wind and snow today, we made a good decision to do our adventure yesterday instead of today. So this morning I (Kirsten) am sitting at Stofan cafe, a cute coffee shop that has the feel of a grandmother's living room, complete with a bookshelf with old board games on it. They make nice coffee, the lighting is warm and cozy, and they play great music. What is not to love about that?
I'd like to share some of the photos we took yesterday. So, here goes.
Viðey is home to Yoko Ono's Imagine Peace Tower. It is an enormous beam of light that shines up like a tower in John Lennon's honor. Since it's installation and dedication on the anniversary of John Lennon's birthday in 2007, it has been lit every October 9th (his birthday) through December 8th (his death day), December 12th though 31st (Winter equinox to New Year's Eve), February 18th (Yoko's birthday), and March 21st through March 28th (John & Yoko's honeymoon & Spring equinox). The tower of light is visible in the sky from almost anywhere in Reykjavik, like a searchlight pointing to the heavens. You can see more about the Imagine Peace Tower here.
After imagining peace for a bit, we explored the shores. I simply love the colors and textures I found among the rocks there, so I took a lot of detail shots.
This next little strange spherical nugget Chris discovered where the land formed cliffs over the rocks of the shore. He called me over to show it to me. I couldn't help but wonder if Andy Goldsworthy had been here. And the same thought crossed my mind when the rocks were arranged in a perfect gradient. Thank you, nature, for never ceasing to amaze and entertain me.
As we walked back to the dock to board our ferry for the ride back, the setting sun silhouetted Hallgrímskirkja, the church that is the tallest structure in Reykjavík. Though my fingertips were chilled and feeling a bit numb (and therefore I wasn't looking forward to the bike ride back to our apartment and then the grocery store), it was a lovely time and another beautiful adventure in this amazing place!
I thought I would title this in sequence because we plan on going back many times. This past Sunday we took the bus to the start of the hike up Esja, the mountain visible from Reykjavik that is often in the background of pictures, like this one here...
It was a beautiful day for a hike. We took a moment before the hike really got started to play with our shadows a bit because we are silly and we felt like it.
As we started to hike up the mountain, it quickly grew steep, and looking up at Esja made me a little dizzy, so I just watched where I was putting me feet.
Every once in a while, when I would pause to bring my heart rate back to normal again, I would turn around to see this breathtaking view.
About 200 meters before the mountain top, there is a rock labeled "Steinn." Within a stainless steel case attached to the stone there was a guestbook filled with signatures and dates. I signed for the both of us. Chris was bound and determined to hike up to the summit, so I told him to go ahead. I hiked after him going up a bit further, but then I returned to the rock and waited.
Meanwhile, Chris took these photos when he reached the top. I don't know who took his picture up there, but apparently he was not alone. :)
Looking down from the top gives an interesting perspective on how steep it is.
On our way down, we met an older gentleman equipped and on his way up the mountain. He asked us something in Icelandic after we gave him our best "Goðan Daginn," but instead of being awkward penguins (which we have been plenty of times here), we admitted to not understanding him. He told us, jokingly, that if he lives through this hike, it will be his 127th time up to the summit this year. We were very impressed, to say the least!
I believe, a couple times on this (and every) hike, I exclaim, "We live here!" It's hard to believe this at times, so I have to shout it out loud!
I know this is a belated post (since we took this hike two weekends ago), but I really wanted to share some more of our pictures from this beautiful hike. Better late than never! Here in Iceland, it is not uncommon to be a member of one or more hiking clubs. These clubs post their planned excursions online and you can essentially rsvp that you intend to join them or just show up at the designated meeting place. We hound this hiking club on Facebook (gasp!) and the organizer of the club offered us a ride in his self-described super-jeep. (Later on he handed us each a pamphlet. I guess he and his super-jeep are available for hire at a rate we would not be able to afford.) His club has over 2,000 members, but only some show up regularly for the hikes.
He drove us to a convenience store near a gas station and soon the place was teeming with sporty looking people sipping coffee and grabbing a quick bite to eat. From there, everyone carpooled to the start of our lava field hike, just outside Grindavík. The group gathered as our super-jeep driver addressed the crowd (in Icelandic, of course). Chris and I were the only non-Icelanders there, so we didn’t catch what he was saying, but we did catch that he said a couple funny things because everyone else laughed. Nice.
Then we headed out, people dividing into groups and chatting as the hiked. We kept to ourselves a bit, but talked to a couple friendly people on the hike. Before long, we found ourselves near the end of the pack, because we were talking, enjoying ourselves, and we paused to photograph a lot! I’ll let the pictures do the talking now.
We have noticed a few interesting things about Iceland. Icelanders, please don't take offense. These are merely the observations we have made of the people we've encountered so far.
1. People in Iceland drive like Mr. Bean.
This is not a compliment, however fond of Mr. Bean we all might be. He is a charming and odd character, but there is little to laugh at on the roads in Reykjavík (besides the completely legal parking jobs where cars face every which way and are covering half the sidewalk). We are glad our darling Fred Salvage (our salvaged title Prius) is not here with us, for we would be terrified to drive him here. As bikers and pedestrians, we have to be vigilant. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Mr. Bean, here's a clip to enlighten you.
2. Bikers behave very differently here.
In Minneapolis, we have a great bike culture! There are bike paths everywhere (thanks to our great Mayor, R. T. Rybak), the Greenway is something we boast about with pride, and most of us are aware of at least the basic bicycle safety and etiquette. We say, "On your left," when we are about to pass someone on their left, for the sake of safety and as a common courtesy so we don't startle anyone by zipping around them unannounced. We wear helmets, or at least a lot of us do, in spite of the fact that they make us look uncool. We care about the contents of our sculls, and would rather have terrible helmet hair than think about what could happen if we were to have an accident without a helmet on. We also use our bells when our voices won't do the trick.
This is not the case in Reykjavík. Biking is a newish thing here, so the culture is just starting to catch on. We've noticed newly painted bike paths on some roads (the picture below shows the eagerness with which they are stenciled in lovely pastel colors), but for the longest time, we would only see bikers on the sidewalks. We nudged each other the other day when we finally saw a biker biking on the bike path on the road, and just a moment later, she switched back to riding on the sidewalk. To give bikers here credit, it is legal to bike on the sidewalks here, and as we've already noted, people here drive like Mr. Bean, so avoiding the roads might be the safest thing to do. But since the bikers prefer to bike on the sidewalks, one might think they would need to alert the pedestrians to their presence before zipping around and between them, right? Wrong. Using a bell or giving any verbal warning of your approach is considered rude. Bikers keep quiet (which we've learned is polite and respectful) and we, as pedestrians, are frequently startled by bikers who silently zip by very close to us.
3. Among Icelanders shopping for groceries, manners are nowhere to be found!
We had been warned about this by some very friendly Icelanders we knew in Minneapolis, but discounted this warning because they had also said Icelanders are not nice, yet on every single occasion they were super nice and helpful to us. We found it hard to believe until we experienced grocery shopping here for ourselves. Nobody says, "Excuse me," if they bump in to you, whether or not it was unintentional. On multiple occasions, I've had a cart driven into the back of my legs. People reach around you to grab something that is right in front of your face. And there is no respect for personal space at the register. If you turn to look behind you, you will likely see someone very, very close to you, impatiently inching closer.
4. If you smile at a stranger, don't expect a smile back.
I learned this the hard way. I am a smiley person. I like to smile. But after smiling at some strangers and only getting puzzled looks back, I began to wonder why. When we spoke to a colleague of Chris's from the University, she set us straight. People here only smile at people they know. Otherwise they avoid eye contact. I guess, when I've been smiling at these strangers, they have been trying to figure out whether they know me and wondering whether they should remember me from somewhere. That certainly would explains the confused looks I've been getting! I still smile at strangers, but I understand that I can't expect a smile back. :)
Hæ friends and family (and possibly strangers)! We have moved to Iceland on a grand adventure. And, though I (Kirsten) am terrified to start anything, I need to write an initial post on this, our blog. I have a perfectionistic nature which makes this difficult, but here goes... This will not be perfect, but rather a work in progress and a place for us to share what we've been up to, pretty things we've seen, and our thoughts and stories as we experience our new home, this interesting culture, and this country's vast and unique landscapes.
Here we are, bags packed, ready to go.
On our IcelandAir flight, we were immediately struck by the great sense of humor in the captions of the on-board à la carte menu. It seemed like a good sign of things to come. Check it out!
Also, the IcelandAir ads that ran on our personal televisions were also hilarious and insightful.
When we arrived, Chris's supervisor, Gunnar, picked us up and drove us to our apartment. The time change plus the lack of sleep on the plane left us very tired and disoriented. But after a few hours of sleep in our new bed, we were feeling like exploring our neighborhood. We walked to the ocean, which took about ten minutes!
We were wowed! Lava rocks all bubbly and smooth, black sand, and the sun shining brightly so low in the sky, as only an autumn sun can do. This is going to be a great adventure!
Kirsten & Chris