Iceland Mag

1 Reykjavik

Iceland Mag

Latest news

  • Birds

    Spring has formally arrived: The golden plover has returned from its winter migration

    By Staff

    The harbinger of spring According to Icelandic tradition the European golden plover is considered to announce the beginning of spring. Photo/GVA

    The first migratory European golden plovers of this spring have been spotted in Iceland, announcing the official beginning of spring. The Bird Watching Association of South West Iceland announced on its facebook page that the birds were spotted flying in from the sea at the small forest of Einarslundur near the village of Höfn in South East Iceland early this morning. The forest is a popular stopping point for migratory birds returning to Iceland after their winter stay at more southerly and warmer latitudes.

    Singing away the snow
    According to Icelandic tradition the arrival of the golden plover is considered to be the harbinger of spring and summer: When the bird arrives winter must be on its way. The plover is thus nicknamed "The Spring Herald". A popular 19th century poem states that the Plover arrives to "sing away the snow".

    The golden plover spends the winter in the British Isles and along the coasts of West Europe and North Africa. In the spring they migrate further north, with a large population spending the summer in Iceland. 

    Unusually warm winter
    The migratory plovers why returned this morning will join an unusually large group of plovers who spent the winter in Southern and South Western Iceland. The unseasonably warm weather this winter allowed these birds to skip the migration south this year.

  • Weather

    Öxnadalsheiði heath in North Iceland has been re-opened

    By Staff

    Road conditions in N. Iceland Öxnadalsheiði heath has been re-opened, but travellers are cautioned that conditions are difficult. Photo/IRCA

    The Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration has re-opened the Ring Road on Öxnadalsheiði heath in North Iceland. Motorists are asked to show caution, however, as driving conditions on the heath are still difficult due to blowing snow and strong winds. Visibility is reduced.

    Closed earlier today due to zero visibility, storm

    Öxnadalsheiði
    Öxnadalsheiði heath The ring road between Skagafjörður and Eyjafjörður fjords was closed earlier today. Photo/loftmyndir.is

    Earlier today the IRCA closed the heath due to extremely difficult conditions. Several cars had gotten stuck on the road, and had to be assisted by Search and Rescue teams. The IRCA decided to close the road entirely to avoid accidents.

    Despite the road being open motorists are still asked to show caution. The IRCA reports that the windspeed reaches 21 m/s (47 mph) on the heath, and is expected to pick up tonight.

    A statement from the IRCA reminds travellers that conditions on mountain roads and on heaths can be very different from those at lower altitudes and closer to the coast.

     

  • Weather

    Öxnadalsheiði heath in North Iceland closed due to storm, all domestic flights canceled

    By Staff

    Conditions on Öxnadalsheiði at noon The Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration has closed the heath due to high wind, blowing snow and dangerous driving conditions. Photo/IRCA

    The Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration has closed the Ring Road on Öxnadalsheiði heath in North Iceland. Driving conditions on the heath are extremely difficult due to strong winds and blowing snow. Visibility is nearly zero. All domestic flights have also been canceled.

    Some travellers refuse to respect the closing

     

    Öxnadalsheiði
    Öxnadalsheiði heath The ring road between Skagafjörður and Eyjafjörður fjords is closed. Photo/loftmyndir.is

    Several cars have become stuck on the heath, requiring assistance from Search and Rescue teams. The IRCA therefore urges travellers to respect the closing. 

    Read more: Travellers don't understand that signs reading "impassable" mean road is, in fact, impassable

    A spokesman for IRCA told the local news site Vísir that it was unclear when the heath could be re-opened to traffic, but pointed out that travellers who desperately need to get to or from Akureyri town can take the longer route around the Tröllaskagi peninsula, through Siglufjörður town in the north.

    Travellers are warned, however, that the storm can make driving along steep mountainsides dangerous, as individual gusts can easily reach hurricane force, causing drivers to lose control of their vehicles. 

    öxnadalsheiði impassable 24.3.17
    Road conditions in North Iceland The Ring Road on Öxnadalsheiði heath is impassable Photo/IRCA

     

  • Travel

    Seven fascinating facts about the downtown pond Tjörnin

    By Staff

    Tjörnin lake The downtown pond, which is lined with colorful houses, is also teeming with life. Photo/GVA

    Located in the heart of the city the downtown pond Tjörnin is one of the defining landmarks of downtown Reykjavík. It's bird life and the beautiful colorful homes lining its banks make it a wonderful destination for a lazy afteron stroll.

    1. Its really a pond rather than a lake
    Despite being sometimes referred to as the "downtown lake", Tjörnin hardly qualifies as a lake. While there is no precise scientific definition of what constitutes as a lake or a pond, Icelanders have always viewed Tjörnin as a pond rather than a lake: The name Tjörnin literally translates as "The Pond".

    However, it has also been described as a "shallow lake" in Icelandic books about Reykjavík. And it is very shallow: The average depth of Tjörnin is just 57 cm (1.9 feet). The deepest parts of the northern part of Tjörnin is just 80 cm (2.4 feet).  

    2. But startet its life as a lagoon

    Reykjavík in 1801
    Reykjavík in 1801 Tjörnin at top, the Reykjavík harbour at the bottom. Reykjavík only had two streets, Hafnarstræti street (the row of houses at the bottom) and Aðalstræti street, leading from the harbour to the lake. Historic photo

    However, Tjörnin should probably be seen as a lagoon. Before the settlement of Iceland and the growth of Reykjavík the pond was much larger, extending further to the north.

    It is connected to the ocean via a river, Lækurinn, which currently runs in a sewer beneath Lækjargata street. At high tide the ocean would flow into Tjörnin, which makes it into a lagoon.

    Downtown Reykjavík is built on a narrow sand and gravel barrier which seperates the ocean and the pond. At the time of the settlement of Iceland the pond extended much further to the north, and the ocean much further south, while the river connecting Tjörnin and the ocean was more of a channel than a river, the direction of the current determined by the tides.

    Since then the river has been covered and downtown has expanded with landfills in both directions, chipping away at Tjörnin.  After the river Lækurinn was moved into a sewer Tjörnin also no longer feels the tides. 

    3. It's really a chain of ponds capped with wetlands

    The pond, Tjörnin
    The five ponds 1 Tjörnin proper, 2 Southern pond, 3 Þorfinnstjörn, 4 Vatnsmýrartjörn, 5 Hústjörn, 6 Vatnsmýrin wetland preserve. Photo/City of Reykjavík

    All in all Tjörnin is composed of five separate ponds and the wetland preserve Vatnsmýrin. The main body of water, which covers 8.7 hectares is cut in two by Skothúsvegur street in 1920. The northern part, usually referred to as Tjörnin is considered a distinct pond from Suðurtjörnin, "The Southern Pond", which is surrounded by a public park, Hljómskálagarðurinn. 

    A smaller pond, Þorfinnstjörn, the Pond of Þorfinnur, is located in Hljómskálagarður park. This pond is actually man-made, as the park used to be part of the Vatnsmýri wetlands to the south of Tjörnin.

    The entire park used to be wetlands with shallow ponds, but in the early 20th century the moor was filled up, creating a park and recreational area for the small town. In 1923 a small pond with a nesting island for ducks was added to the park.

    The three ponds and public park are separated from the remaining patch of the wetlands, Vatnsmýrin by one of the main traffic arteries of Reykjavík, Hringbrautin street. Two additional ponds are located in the wetland, Vatnsmýrartjörn and Hústjörn in front of the Nordic House culture center.

    4. Hot water is used to keep a small corner ice free in the winter

    The pond is a popular destination for local families both in winter and summer. In the summer people stroll around the pond and parents take their children to the pond to feed the ducks and geese bread.  

    MR, fótbolti, Tjörnin
    College football During winter students from the two downtown junior colleges, MR and Kvennaskólinn frequently play on the frozen ice. Photo/Pjetur

    During winter the pond freezes over, making it a popular spot for ice skating, the Reykjavík ice skating association having been founded on the pond in 1892. Students from the two downtown junior colleges also use the ice to play football.

    Read more: Heating soccer fields and growing cucumbers: 9 ways in which geothermal energy is used in Iceland

    However, no matter how cold it gets a small part of the lake in its NE-corner remains ice-free. This is because the city uses hot water to maintain the temperature of the water here above freezing, thus ensuring the birds have at least a small piece of open water.

    5. It's teeming with life

    Five duck species nest each year at the pond, in addition to at least two other irregular guests. The five permanent residents are mallards, which are the most populous, gadwall, greater scaup, tufted ducks and teal. Red-breasted mergansers and Eurasian wigeons have been regular guests, although they don't nest every year.

    Read more: Reykjavík's downtown Lake Tjörnin (The Pond) is teeming with life

    In addition to the ducks a significant population of greylag geese and eider nests at the pond. The ducks, geese and eider primarily nest in the small islands, while a large population of Artic tern nest in the Vatnsmýrin wetland preserve.

    Four species of wetland birds also nest in Vatnsmýrinin, the common snipe, ringed plovers, redshanks and Eurasian oystercatchers.

    The pond also has a large population of swans, but these are mostly birds who nest elsewhere, but spend the winter at the pond, taking advantage of the open water and the bread local children bring to feed the birds!  

    6. Ducks and geese were hunted by the lake until 1919

    Reykjavík in 1920
    Reykjavík in 1920 The pond had achieved its modern form in 1920. The river Lækurinn had been moved into a swer beneath Lækjargata street, the pond had been bridged and a part of the wetlands to its south turned into a park. Historic photo

    Throughout the centuries locals have hunted geese and ducks at the pond and in the nearby wetlands. In 1919, however, all hunting was banned. Since then the bird population has increased, with more species nesting at the pond.

    Instead of hunting the birds humans now spend considerable effort to protect them. The city exterminator removes the eggs of seagulls and destroys the nests of seagulls who attempt to settle at the pond, since seagulls pray on smaller birds and their nests.

    Read more: Record number of Arctic Terns by the downtown lake provide protection for ducklings

    Unfortunately this does not stop seagulls who nest in the islands off the coast of Reykjavík from launching raids on the birds of Tjörnin. Fortunately the Arctic tern protects its nesting grounds with such fierceness that it keeps the seagulls away, thus providing the ducks with effective air defenses!

    7. Prior to refrigiration Tjörnin was used to harvest ice 

    Listasafn Íslands, National Gallery
    The National Gallery Originally built as an ice house in 1916. Photo/sara

    Prior to the widespread use of refrigeration the pond was used to harvest ice. In the early 20th century warehouses were built by the pond to house the ice, which was used by fishermen to keep their catch fresh.

    One of these, built in 1916 still stands on the eastern shore of the pond. This building, designed by Guðjón Samúelsson, the same architect who later designed Reykjavík's best known landmark Hallgrímskirkja church, currently houses the Icelandic National Art Museum.

  • Politics

    Iceland's anachronistic law banning insults of foreign heads of state comes under fire

    By Staff

    Supreme Court of Iceland The anachronistic law remains on the books and in use, even if the maximum 6 year prison sentence has never been used by the courts. Photo/GVA

    The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe argues that Icelandic legislation which bans insults of foreign heads of state as well as the flags or emblems and coats of arms of foreign nations or international bodies, like the UN, is in violation of the freedom of speech.

    Insult a foreign leader? 6 years in prison!
    In Iceland the maximum penalty for publicly insulting the supreme official or head of state of a foreign nation carries a penalty of up to six years in prison.

    A new OSCE report (pdf) points out that the Icelandic legislation goes further than that of any member nation of OSCE, which includes all European nations, the US and Canada, as well as the Central Asian republics. Only 24 member countries have special laws to protect against defaming the reputation and honor of foreign heads of state. These include countries with questionable human rights records like the Central Asian republics, but also countries like Denmark, Sweden, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands. However, the sanctions in Icelandic law are in a league of its own, the report argues. 

    A violation of the freedom of expression
    Criminal sanctions for offending foreign heads of state are a clear violation of the right to free speech, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe argues, pointing out that the European Court of Human Rights has ruled against such sanctions.

    "[The European Court of Human Rights] has ruled that special privileges accorded to foreign heads of state- to say nothing of extreme sanctions such as in the Icelandic case - do not strike a proper balance between the need to preserve positive international relations and the obligation to protect freedom of expression. "

    MPs of the opposition Left Green Movement recently introduced a bill to repeal the law.

    Read more:  Left-greens want to make it legal to insult foreign heads of state 

  • Food & Drink

    A tip on saving money on treats to bring home: Don't buy whimsical candy at a souvenir store!

    By Staff

    Same candy, triple the prices The name and the packaging has been changed and the price doubled or tripled. Photo/Vísir.

    Local candy is a great idea for a cheap souvenir to bring back to friends at home. Who could resist tasty liquorice chocolates called "puffin eggs"? How about "Lava sparks" or the humorously named "Horse Doo Doo"?

    Read more: A Rough Guide to Icelandic Sweets and Soda

    Well, before you stock up on these at the nearest souvenir shop you should keep in mind that you are paying a 200-300% premium for the funny name, and that you could buy exactly the same candy in different packaging at the next supermarket!

    puffin eggs candy
    "Puffin eggs" A small bag goes for 990 ISK Photo/Vísir

    A simple way to save money!

    The liquorice filled chocolates "Icelandic Puffin Eggs", which are sold at 990 ISK per 150 g bag at souvenir shops are the same candy as Djúpur. A bag of Djúpur is sold for 298 ISK at Bónus. The markup? A cool 232%. 

    The same goes for The Icelandic Horse Doo Doo, which are liquorice filled chocolates covered in pepper, which sell for 990 ISK at souvenir stores, is in fact the same as Sterkur Djúpur.

    A bag of Sterkur djúpur is 249 ISK at Bónus. A 298% markup.The Lava Sparks, which are spicy little brittle toffee bits, sell for 990 ISK at souvenir shops but 215 ISK at Bónus

    djúpur candy
    Djúpur The exact same candy in it's generic consumer packaging. The same sized bag goes for less than 300 ISK at Bónus. Photo/Vísir

    Of course the generic consumer packaging isn't as whimsical and the names aren't as fun, but then again. But if you are planning to eat the candy yourself, and are buying it for content, rather than the packaging, you should consider doing your candy shopping at the grocery store rather than the souvenir shop!

    Or go for Omnom bean-to-bar chocolates?
    There are, however, chocolates and sweets you definitely should consider buying at the souvenir shop. Among them are the hand-crafted and exquisitly beautiful Omnom chocolate bars. These little luxuries are only available at the Omnom factory store on Grandi, by the old harbour, at design and lifestyle stores as well as better souvenir shops, and certainly not sold at Bónus or other supermarkets. 

    Read more: Icelandic Omnom chocolate one of Vogue UK's little luxuries

     The beautifully designed packaging and superb chocolate more than justify spending a few krona more: A package of Omnom costs 1000 ISK at the Keflavík Duty Free store, which is basically the same you would pay for an overpriced bag of "puffin eggs" at a downtown souvenir store!

More News