Friday, November 14, 2008

007 in ...

... the Fourth Cod War

Weather outside: Snow/rain, 2°C

Thursday, November 13, 2008


The direct result to the financial crisis that has hit most countries and most severely Iceland is the rise of the unemployment figures.

This was not obvious yet as September was only the beginning of the crisis and with most people getting 3 months notice the unemployment figures are not yet relevant.

Everyday brings its lot of bad news about compagnies firing some of their workforce: all staff of the free TV channel Skjár 1 were let go, the electronic stores BT have closed their doors, the financial newspaper Viðskiptablaðið is not published anymore, etc... Even Stöð 2, a paying channel, has stopped presenting the news at lunch time... which is good actually!!! I was getting sick of hearing the same thing over and over and over again.

Yesterday, the Directorate of labour published the figures for the unemployment for October 2008. The unemployment is now at 1.9%, up from 1.3% last month. This is not much but when you look at the overall picture of the unemployment for the past 2 years, this is a big jump.

And the future is bleak as they are predicting the unemployment figure to be between 3.3%-3.8% and December won't be better...

Weather outside: Rain, 3°C

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

New Iceland...

All three banks that have been nationalised: Glitnir, Landsbanki and Kaupþing are now registered under the names New Glitnir, New Landsbanki, New Kaupþing...

The expression "New Iceland" has been used several times and I suppose it is somehow true, we are now living in New Iceland.

There is a blog on the internet New Iceland, which gives an humoristical account of the "news". The purpose of New Iceland blog is as stated on their page:

New Iceland's main goal is to publish to the world - through the glorious Internet - what's really going on in Iceland, the greatest country in the world.

Our devoted and loyal employees are hard at work gathering information from all corners of Iceland with one purpose only - to bring you the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

Weather outside: Overcast, 1°C

Friday, October 24, 2008

Financial Crisis...

Today, just a cartoon:

"Wasn't there a country here?" - "Indeed... Iceland"

Weather outside: Partly sunny, 0°C

Friday, October 17, 2008

More hits...

My blog has never been getting that many hits!!!... Usually I'm "lucky" to get 2-3 hits per day but it seems that the crisis really put Iceland on the map for people around the world.

I haven't written anything about the crisis, kreppan in Icelandic, because I didn't really know what to say and I didn't want to hurt anyone's feelings:... they had it coming!

A couple of journalists got in touch with me. They all want to know how is daily life here. All I can say it's Business As Usual. People will just adjust their habits as money gets tight but it's not the first time this little island in the north Atlantic is going through a rough patch.

"Yesterday" Icelanders were shopping in Minneapolis, London, Copenhagen. "Today" Iceland is asking for the financial help of other countries to avoid bankruptcy. So far, responses from other European nations have not been very positive. No country jumped in to help the tiny, peaceful and helpless Iceland. So the government decided to find new friends: Russians... And now we can see the Europeans waking up and starting to provide loans: British, Danish and Norwegian opened their wallet recently.

Representative of the government are still in Russia discussing the terms for a 4 billions euros loan. Rumors were that the Russians would like to open an army base in Iceland. If it is true, US dollars and Euros would be thrown at us but for the moment it looks like our next currency will look something like that:

Weather outside: Rain, 6°C

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Winter is here...

-2°C (28.5°F) was showing on the display in the car this morning. The entire country woke up to negative temperatures and some of the roads in the North already have snow on them.

Yes it chilly but it also turns out to be one of my favorite time of the year. The landscape is still wearing its autumn colors and it is not raining as much. The air is crisp and vivifying. This is the best time to go out for a walk, take pictures and come back home to enjoy a hot drink.

Below is a picture taken last Saturday going up Botnssúlur. The picture shows Hvalfell (~850m/2789ft) on the left and Botnssúlur (~1080m/3543ft) on the right with already a thin layer of snow.

Weather outside: Sunny, 2°C

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Strákarnir okkar...

Strákarnir okkar, "our boys" are back. Back with their silver medal from Beijing.

Islanders were there to greet them back and a party was thrown in their honour.

The Icelandic Handball Team:
  • Alexander Petersson
  • Arnór Atlason
  • Ásgeir Örn Hallgrímsson
  • Bjarni Fritzson
  • Björgvin Páll Gústavsson
  • Guðjón Valur Sigurðsson
  • Hreiðar Guðmundsson
  • Ingimundur Ingimundarson
  • Logi Geirsson
  • Ólafur Stefánsson
  • Róbert Gunnarsson
  • Sigfús Sigurðsson
  • Snorri Steinn Guðjónsson
  • Sturla Ásgeirsson
  • Sverre Jakobsson

Another achievement was the completion of the Reykjavík marathon by Romana Eder, a 103 year old Austrian woman, , who completed the full marathon in just over 4 hours!

This took place last saturday, August 23rd. Over 10.000 people were registered for one of the runs: marathon, half-marathon, 10kms, 3kms fun-run, or the lazy-town run (for kids).

The marathon is taking place the same day than the Menningarnott, "culture night". One of the most celebrated event of the year. Free concerts, free museums, exhibitions and art everywhere and of course the fireworks show in the harbour.

Weather outside: Partly Sunny, 12°C

Friday, August 15, 2008

Iceland like a tourist...

I have a friend who lives in Germany visiting me therefore I decided to go for a ride in the south of the country and do a lot of the touristic sites. I have done them several times and usually off season. This was an opportunity to see the sites as most tourists would see them.

We started by going to Sólheimajökull, a tongue of the glacier Mýrdalsjökull, accessible from road N°1. I last visited this place in 2004 and I was amazed to see how further inland the ice is. You have to walk a few hundred meters extra before reaching the edge of the glacier. Global warming!!!

Next stop, the famous waterfall of Skógafoss. This was the first time I saw people camping in front of the waterfall. This is the beginning/end of a trail going/coming to/from Þórsmörk. I stopped there in May and there was only a car or two, but this time there were about 20 cars and a lot of people were either in front of the waterfall or walking up the stair leading to the top.

Third stop on our program: Seljalandsfoss. This waterfall is really "appreciated" by tourists due to the fact that you can walk behind it. It was amazing to see the 20-30 cars and 4 buses parked in front of the waterfall. Taking a "landscape" picture was a bit of a challenge as people where everywhere.

The two last sites on the program were Gullfoss and Geysir. As they are part of the Golden Circle these two sites are constantly "crowded" so no surprise here. This was my third visit of Geysir this year.

We finished our day by stopping at the caldera of Kerið, not much people here but it was already 7pm.

This touristic day was 12hrs long and included 450kms of good and bad roads, 6 touristic sites, 2 french hitchhikers, one BBQ in the sun.

Weather outside: Mostly Sunny, 12°C

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Annar ísbjörn...

2 in less than 2 weeks... What am I speaking about? I'm speaking about polar bear. Once again the bear was spotted in the same region of Iceland: Skagafjörður.

The killing of the first bear on June 3rd made the headlines on the papers the following day and the question was asked about the necessity of killing the bear. On this question, the Icelanders who have answered are really divided.

A little over 55% were against the shooting of the animal whereas almost 45% were for it. This first killing must have trigger something because the second bear was supposed to be saved.

This was the plan (from
This time the polar bear will be saved if possible. Polar bear sightings are rare in Iceland, but over a period of two weeks Iceland has had two. According to local newspapers “it has been planned to sedate it and move it to Greenland or Denmark”. The Danish zoo worker, Carsten Gröndhal, has been sent to Iceland and is preparing the save with local help. Carsten is the head vet at the Copenhagen Zoo.

According to sources the idea is to “shoot” the bear within the next 24 hours and move him to his natural location or the Copenhagen Zoo. Habitats of the farm Hraun, near were the bear was spotted have been asked to stay in and people have been urged not to come close.

According to local newspapers the bear is living a live of luxury eating eggs and birds at a local bird area and looks relaxed.

The Icelandic billionaire Björgulfur Thor Björgulfsson has offered through his company, Novator, to pay for the saving the bear and transport to a save environment.

Unfortunately this was not a "A-Team" plan and Hannibal Smith would not have been able to say: "I love it when a plan comes together"... While trying to capture the wild animal, this one tried to escape and was shot down before he could reach the sea.

Weather outside: Sunny, 12°C

Wednesday, June 4, 2008


A polar bear (ísbjörn) was sighted yesterday morning on Þverárfjall by Sauðárkrókur in the North of the country. This is extremely rare: the polar bear gets stranded on an iceberg that some currents would bring close to Iceland.

The police was asked to kill to wild animal as shows the picture (Páll Kristinsson). A polar bear is surely not in the best of moods after having spend several days on tiny block of ice in the middle of the ocean... So no risk were taken and the animal was shot down.

The question of the day, spurning dagsins, in Fréttablaðið is: "Was it necessary to shoot down the polar bear?"
We will have to wait until tomorrow to get the final answer of the survey but already 57.3% have answered NO.

If you wonder what was the question from the previous day? "Have you eaten whale meat?" 68% Yes and 32% No.

Weather outside: mostly sunny, 10°C

Friday, May 30, 2008


I have been titling my last few blogs with just a figure. So was is 6.1? 6.1 is the magnitude of the earthquake that shook the southwest of the country yesterday afternoon at 15:45. The epicentre was closed to Selfoss.

I already spoke about the numerous daily tremors and quakes in a previous blog. I haven't really felt any but this one now... It's a different story. The interactive picture showing earthquakes on Veð is like a Christmas tree.

Every little single dot is a tremor/quake and this is in less than 24hrs!!! The little green stars represent quakes with magnitudes of over 3 on the Richter scale. Quakes between 6 and 6.9 are considered as "Strong - Can be destructive in areas up to about 160 kilometres (100 mi) across in populated areas -with frequency of 120 per year in the world"

There hasn't been any casualty, just damage to buildings and infrastructures. Schools are closed today in Hveragerði and Selfoss, which are the closest towns to the epicentre. A long crack has now appeared on road N°1.

Weather outside: Mostly Cloudy, 9°C.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


25°C (77°F)... This was the temperature forecasted for Egilsstaðir yesterday. Egilsstaðir is located in the East of the country and tends to have higher temperatures over the summer.

Egilsstaðir did not get the 25°C forecasted but just a "mere" 22°C (71.6°F)... and we had 10/11°C (50/52°F) in Reykjavík.

The next few days are still nice in the East and still rather fresh in the West with almost always 5/6°C difference between Egilsstaðir (top) and Reykjavík (bottom).

With such difference in temperature between East and West, there is no point getting a summer house in Spain, Croatia, or any other Mediterranean country... Just head to Egilsstaðir!!!

weather outside: Mostly cloudy, 11°C

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


42%. This is the percentage of French living in Iceland who forgot to fill in their tax returns!!! Way to go lads...

Wednesday, May 7, 2008


Youtube is full of useless videos but sometimes you find something interesting. Yesterday I found a series of videos to learn Icelandic. How practical!

Here is what I suppose ought to be the first lesson: Icelandic greetings.

Weather outside: Rain, 10°C

Monday, April 28, 2008

Gleðilegt sumar...

Gleðilegt sumar, happy summer...

Last Thursday was "sumardagurinn fyrsti", literally, the first day of summer! Icelanders do not consider June 21st, the summer solstice, as the first day of the summer.

Sumardagurinn fyrsti is celebrated on the first day of the month of Harpa from the old Icelandic calendar. Harpa is the first of the six "Náttleysi" (night less) months... It is not "night less" yet but we are getting there. Sunrise is around 05:10 and sunset if around 21:45 so we are not speaking of midnight sun yet!

Now temperature wise, there is nothing summery about them... a mere 10°C if you are lucky. This year, spring is really late to arrive. We are celebrating the first day of summer but spring has yet to come!!!...

Weather outside: Cloudy, 6°C

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Aurorae borealis...

YES!!!... I finally did it!!!...

At last, I was able to take some pictures of northern lights (aurora borealis).
It took some time but I'm quite happy about my first series of shots. I do still need to play around with the camera's settings (ISO, F-steps, shutter speed).

The shot on the right is from the little church in Búðir, snæfellsnes.

Búðir is already mystical during daylight so with northern lights waving above our heads the place just became magical.

If you want to see more shots taken that night, you can see them on my web page:

Weather outside: cloudy, 4°C

Monday, February 25, 2008

Islande, 12 points...

Last Saturday evening was an important evening for Icelanders: they had to vote for the band representing Iceland in the Eurovision song contest.

Eurovision in Iceland is something sacrosanct. If you were to walk in Reykjavík on Eurovision night, you would have the feeling that you've entered a ghost town.

After Saturday's votes, this is what you have avoided: Merzedes Club, a group of half dressed men with a cumulative IQ slightly superior to the one of a goldfish... But I might be wrong and maybe it might turn out that they all spent 10 years in a Conservatory of Music.

Instead, we are sending the Euroband with the song "This is my life" to Serbia:

Other Eurovision related news: Ireland is sending Dusting the turkey, a puppet from the RTÉ show The Den. Here is an interview with Dustin before Saturday's show.

This is Dustin's song: Irelande Douze Pointe

Weather outside: Sunny, -3°C

Friday, January 25, 2008

Coalition of the willing...

Whenever Iceland is featured on TV, the following day you are sure to get some email about it. This time was not different. They spoke about Iceland on The Daily Show. "Correspondent" Jason Jones states that the US are not winning the war in Irak because Iceland left the coalition of the willing. These 2 videos were shown on January 22nd and 23rd.

I searched a little bit and found that Jason Jones was here around mid-October to produce his "on location report".

10/18/2007 | 12:03

The Daily Show Urges Iceland to Dispatch Its Soldier to Iraq

Jason Jones, a correspondent of the US comedy news program The Daily Show, has urged the Icelandic government to reconsider its decision to withdraw "Icelandic troops" from Iraq.

Ingibjörg Sólrún Gísladóttir, Iceland’s foreign minister, decided to withdraw an Icelandic Crisis Response Unit (ICRU) member from a NATO training program for the Iraqi army in Baghdad last month. The ICRU-member, who holds the rank of major, was the only Icelander working for NATO in the country.

Jones, who has been here since Monday producing a story for The Daily Show about the foreign minister’s decision, held a press meeting at the Hilton Reykjavík Nordica yesterday. Dressed in a red robe and with a stars-and-stripes hat on his head, the comedian told attending journalists that Osama bin Laden hated Björk, according to Morgunblaðið.

Earlier he interviewed Herdís Sigurgrímsdóttir, the withdrawn ICRU-member whose name ironically means “a war diva”, and Stefán Pálsson, leader of the activist group Campaign against Militarism.

weather outside: snow showers, -1°C

Thursday, January 24, 2008

35 years ago...

35 years ago, in the early hours of January 23rd, 1973, an eruptive fissure appeared on the island of Hemaey. The eruption was to last for 155 days.

One of the most famous pictures taken during the eruption is the one representing the church covered with ashes and the volcano behind.

Heimaey being an important fishing port, it was a priority to stop the flow of lava that was risking of blocking the entrance of the harbour. Powerful pumps were flown in from the USA. Each pump had an output of 1000l per second.

Nowadays it is possible to climb Eldfell, the volcano created by the eruption. You can still feel the heat under your feet even 35 years after the event.

About 400 houses were covered by lava and ash. When you walk around the lava field you can see plates reminding you that a building used to be standing under your feet.

A project called Pompei Norðursins (Pompei of the North) started a few years back. The main goal of the project to remove the tons of ashes covering 7 to 10 houses of Suðurvegur, a street of the old town.

Weather outside: snow, -3°C

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

French films...

The 8th edition of the French films festival is starting this week (January 11th). 11 films will be shown in Háskólabíó and will open with the animation film "Persepolis".

Last year premiere was the very interesting "Paris, je t'aime", which is made of 18 short films and directed by over 20 film directors. My favorite short film was the one directed by the Coen brothers (Tuileries segment) featuring the actor Steve Buscemi in a hilarious quid pro quo in the Metro station of Les Tuileries.

A part from Persepolis, the films programmed this year are:

Very cold weather is announced for the week-end: a very good reason to go to cinema. Nonetheless, cold weather often means clear skies, and clear skies in means stunning sceneries. Below is a picture of Esjan taken yesterday from work around 2:30pm. The picture was taken with a phone so the quality is not there!

Weather outside: mostly cloudy, 0°C

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Da Vinci Code...

It looks like 2008 is going to be a funny year....

Yesterday we were told that a group of scientists believe the Holy Grail may be hidden in Iceland!!! Icelandic architect Þórarinn Þórarinsson and Italian cryptographer Giancarlo Gianazza seems to believe that the artifact is hidden somewhere in the Hrunamannahreppur region and therefore have asked the local authority to dig around Skipholtskrókar (in green on the map).

How does someone come up with this idea??? Well, Mr Gianazza "found" important clues in poems by Dante and artwork by Leonardo da Vinci... Sounds familiar??? Sure does, it's written Robert Langdon all over the place.

One of the far-fetched clues are the fact that you can overlap da Vinci's Last Supper with an aerial photograph of the region. What are the odds?

With such conclusive evidences, they have been granted the permission to dig a two meters deep and five meters wide ditch with a condition: they have to close the ditch after the research is done. They will be looking for a five meters large secret underground dome that would be the resting place of the Holy Grail.

Now going back to new year's eve, it was not the noisiest celebration I have witnessed here. Because of the strong winds, people must have decided to blow up their fireworks the following day (as we did) but just to give you an idea here is a small video of the evening:

Weather outside: Rain, 7°C