It's Like We've Always Known Winter This Way

Out at Seltjarnarnes on a lovely crisp winter's day 
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I've taken quite a few Iceland Eyes photos out at Seltjarnarnes over the past twelve years, including shots of midnight golf and walks along its beach, that it feels a bit like cheating to share another one.   It's such a photogenic spot, though, and so close to the Reykjavik city center where we live. 

This isn't the greatest picture in the world, but I chose it for a few reasons. For starters, it shows the snow cover we were graced with a week ago when Reykjavik got more of the "white rain" in one 24-hour period than ever recorded and which, very surprisingly, is still here. It's a crispy, dry, packed snow as temperatures have stayed below freezing for the last seven days. Having that combination, frost and heavy snow, at the same time is actually so common here in the south of Iceland. 

Another reason I'm sharing it is because I took it at the sundial that's at the highest point in Seltjarnarnes at just about 5pm. It showed me that the sun was sitting at exactly southwest in the crisp blue sky, which for some reason I found pretty cool. In addition, that our glowing orb of light and life was that high off the horizon in the last days of February gave me hope for the near return of summer. 

We're getting used to the constant snow by this point. It's almost as if it's been here for ages. I'm starting to be on familiar terms with the bumps and ditches that have formed in the hard pack on the roads around my neighborhood, navigating them with pro dexterity as I drive around town. Channels and grooves and paths have been etched by cars and carriages and feet on common travel routes. Kids are nearly blasé about putting on their snow pants and thick winter gear each morning, and the yellow stains left by pets are becoming a ubiquitous sight. Cross-country skis that've been stored away like relics have been dusted off and taken for runs out at the many nature trails that surround the city, and photos taken, thousands upon thousands of them, of our lovely winter wonderland. 

I'm happy for tourists who picked this time to come, as it's a rare thing to see our land so well-covered, bright and clean, with clear aurora-filled night skies to boot. This is how Iceland is advertised as being, and how we'd most like to see it. A week ago everyone was freaking out because of the weather, and now it's as if it's always been this way! And if the Icelandic Met Office's forecasts are right, we'll get to keep it all for a few more days until it'll all unfortunately melt away...

Our little island, all white, taken by NASA satellite on March 3rd.

New Snow and Madia, My Other Name

Our backyard in the heart of Reykjavik, all prettied with fresh snow

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In the States I spelled my name Madia instead of Maria. It was a phonetic thing that my dad says he suggested to me when I was going into 8th grade. I'd been kind of a book geek up until that summer of '80 and was socially hung up on the fact that Maria was not a common name, and that my real name was pronounced with the Icelandic rolling R which no one in Cupertino, California seemed to be able to master.

 Even though the US boycotted the 1980 Olympic Games, the name of Romanian gymnast Nadia Comaneci, who scored a perfect 10 in the 1976 Games, was being mentioned as the favorite that year. I remember making the connection between her name and mine, how similar they sounded, and how much more beautiful Madia sounded than Maria.

When Dad encouraged me to try out the new spelling, I did: at the start of each new class in 8th grade I raised my hand and explained to the teacher how I'd be spelling my name, and how to pronounce it. This took serious guts, making a spectacle of myself in front of all my peers, but I was tired of the cocoon I'd been hiding in and wanted to emerge as a butterfly, finally.  It didn't hurt that my sister, Addy, had coerced me into trying out for cheerleading that year, and had coached me so well that I'd made the squad. I was a New Person, book geek no longer, a twelve-year old reinvented to fit the social stage of Hyde Junior High, and later Cupertino High School.

The new name stuck. Out in the States I'll always be Madia Roff. I never changed my name legally, so there's been confusion when the true spelling has been found out. Friends I've known for years who see my drivers license, and the name Maria on it, suddenly get all jumbly and can't pronounce my name. Mardria, Madradia, Madiria, they flub. And then there's the boys I went to junior high with, who thought I was a snot for trying to be different. At the last high school reunion I attended in 1996, I had to chuckle at the fact that the "popular" boys, sixteen years later, still called me Maria, with childish obstinance, and in a pre-teen teasing tone. How cute.

Nowadays I can go to the States and say my name like an Icelander says it, and people say, ahh, ok, no explanation necessary. Unusual names are so common now, and in major metro areas people pride themselves on being international enough to get it the first time around.

Not a big fan of being in front of a camera, but...well here's me ~.~ 

A Pretty Snow Scene, Just for Thor



I feel like I'm expecting that call any day now, the one where my father Thor clears his throat then firmly instructs me that it's time to post a new photo on Iceland Eyes, the last one's getting old. He had that authoritative way about him, but couched in a kind of absolute certainty that what he liked, what he appreciated in this world deserved his full attention and support. So when he felt that

From Dark Days to Shiny Times, Iceland's Seen It All

A quiet moment at the rink, which is usually filled with wobbles and happy laughter


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This year's skate rink down at Ingólfstorg is a far cry from the one I posted a photo of a decade ago. It may be a bit smaller, but it's definitely got more atmo, with all the shiny lights and music filling the Advent-season air. Back in the 2006 post, I mentioned that a storm has come in, a proper wind-and-snow number that walloped the island, Arctic-winter style. This skating rink ice may

Norway Demands to Own an Icelandic Child - in the 21st Century

Leifur Eiríksson standing guard
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A classic shot, and a memorable view for anyone who has traveled here to Reykjavík. This statue of adventurer Leifur Eiriksson ('Leif Eriksson') gifted to Iceland by the US in memory of his travels back in the day, stands brave and tall, silhouetted against an early winter twilight. Son of the famous Eiríkur Rauði, or Erik the Red, who settled Greenland in 986 A.D., and an ancestor of mine 27 generations back, he was also the

A September Evening in Reykjavik

The intersection of Laugavegur and Klapparstígur

I took this photo back in September 2011 when I was out for a late evening walk in my neighborhood on Skólavörðurholt.

This intersection doesn't look too much different today. The greenish house there center frame, which is always called the Hljómalind House) has transitioned from the popular but totally grotty coffee house/pub it was in the photo (fire hazard, terrible plumbing) to the much more upscale but still charming Kaffibrennslan bistro (which btw I used to work at when it was down by Hótel Borg where, incidentally, my father worked as a porter when he was only 13:)

The art deco facade of Hótel Borg, from Austurvellir town square
Today the old timber and corrugated iron building in that first photo has been revamped inside, a far cry from when it used to be the Hljómalind record shop downstairs run by Kiddi Kanína in the 90's. He was the first manager of Sigur Rós, and the story goes that their song Hjlómalind, is named after the shop. Later it was a very convenient after-party house for when the hard-core bars Sirkús (the little blue house next door in the photo, now torn down) and Bar 22, (kitty-corner, now Bravó and Kíkí) shut down their thumping music for the night.

After that some acquaintances of mine opened the hippie-organic Kaffi Hljómalind, that was later booted out under grumbly circumstances. They re-opened a few houses up the street and did their best to keep things going, even holding yoga and meditation sessions in their new basement, but they got chucked out there too, to be replaced by a candy store, of all things. Today that location houses the everything Apple Macland store where a friend as well as a former student hold court.

The reason the hippie café was tossed out of the house in the photo is because property developers had swooped in and bought the block, and had intentions of tearing down pretty much everything on it and building something shiny, new and horrible. They were stalled by local protestation against redevelopment at the expense of historic Reykjavík. While waiting for things to move forward, the Heart Park mysteriously appeared, as if overnight, on the open lot behind this house:


The old Heart Park, or Hjartagarðinn
It was much-loved for the few years it existed, but eventually it was ripped up and redevelopment marched on:

Looking north from Laugavegur over towards Smiðjustígur and Hverfisgata 
This photo was taken from a little wooden observation deck set up so that the curious could see what was going on behind the walls of the construction site. I took quite a few photos while it was ongoing, which I'm glad about, because these are scenes of Reykjavik that'll never been seen again now that the new Hilton Canopy hotel, restaurants and shops are getting their finishing touches on this same lot. 

That said, I'm actually impressed with what's been done to preserve the look and feel of the local architectural style while totally renovating what was, in many cases, very degraded and dangerous old structures, underfunded and poorly built in the first place. 

 For a closing photo, here's a shot of the mountain-top mural that you can see at the top of one of the buildings in that first pic. That building still stands, but the mural is gone. Once again, I'm glad I took a photo when I did...