Slowly, it seemed, we were catching up. On musicians and Iceland. After meeting Reykjavik! our spirits were lifted up again, and Reykjavik in itself did not seem as bleak as before. The shining sun may have had something to do with that. Our German contact Dominic had put us in contact with Icelandic electro poppers FM Belfast, who kindly agreed to do an interview at their home.
Judging from their sound, I had expected some hangovered and moustachioed hipsters sipping coffee in one of Reykjavik’s cafes, but we found ourselves chatting to Árni and Lóa, who both look more like laid back school teachers then anything else, in their back garden. Both were sorting FM Belfast merchandise for their upcoming shows. In the very same back yard, Arni had just filmed a documentary called “Backyard”, about a concert held on the grass between the house and the back yard shack, were most of his friends had performed – friends who are also some of Iceland’s most influential musicians, like Reykjavik!, Borkó and Múm.
After our chat, Arni showed us his equipment and the live-set up of FM Belfast including a couple of Midi-controlled lamps fixed to microphone stands, and also the first glimpse at the official trailer for “Backyard”, the aforementioned documentary.
“But that’s ok if they come to the show – then they’ll be surprised that there’s no connection to glaciers or elves. That’s fine, if they have that image before. Our sound doesn’t fulfill that image.”
After we departed from the FM Belfast headquarters we again settled on Austurvöllur square. It was sunny, and us tourists needed a coffee and to be impressed by local sights, again. The square is about a hundred metres in diameter, and within that area you have three cafes, a statue and a lawn. Plus all supermodels in the western hemisphere that are currently not shooting or running on a catwalk. Also you can find Georg Holm of Sigur Ros, two German ash-inhaling-idiots and about two hundred other tourists. The sun was shining, and due to the fact that the square is shielded from the wind on three sides the temperature was quite pleasant, enabling couples and single women to linger on the grass in t-shirts, mini-skirts and bare feet. The obligate SUV’s and chrome-shining motorbikes were slowly rattling along the one street that runs parallel to the square.
And I started to see the appeal the city has to people (and especially male singles) from all over the world. It’s not the interest in architecture, the world-class-music or the incredible landscape, it’s the possibility to get pissed together with a whole football-team of Icelandic supermodels, and no one cares. Instead, they’ll probably take you home if they can still stand.
Our tranquility and fantasising (at least on my part) was disturbed by a text from Helgi Jonsson, who invited us to his small studio in the quiet suburban neighbourhood of Seltjarnarnes. After taking the bus to the studio, which is in the garage of his parent’s house and very muggy, Helgi decided to take us on a small tour of the neighbourhood, which culminated in both visitors surviving an attack of some Arctic Terns that were defending their nest near the shore.
Read our Interview with Helgi Jonsson
South Central Reykjavik
After this eventful afternoon, we settled in for a quiet evening in town, eating pizza and giving any debauchery a miss. Not that there is any possibility for debauchery on a Tuesday evening in Reykjavik. Just as we were eating our pizza, Kai received a call from Kamilla, who not only is our neighbour in Vesturbær, she also works for IMX, or Icelandic Music Export, who helped us a lot in getting to Iceland and securing some financing. Kamilla invited us to authentic Icelandic ice cream. Authentic Icelandic ice cream is creamy white and sweet and comes out of a machine, and has nothing to do with the Italian tradition of giving flavours to ice cream. Authentic Icelandic ice cream is served with a variety of sauces, toppings and decorations. Authentic Icelandic ice cream is served from behind the counter of a small shop to a long queue of customers, a shop just around the corner from our apartment, hidden amidst housing estates and supermarkets. My personal version of authentic Icelandic ice cream came with a lake of chocolate sauce, and made me think of holidays with my parents when I was eight years old.
After the stop at the ijsbudin, Kamilla took us on a tour of Reykjavik’s only trouble hot spot, the neighbourhood of Breiðholt. Breiðholt is located on a hill, about two kilometres from 101, and has the feel of similar neighbourhoods all over Europe, all housing-estates and football fields with flood lights and very high fences and school buildings with barred windows, like Ballymun in Dublin or Mühlheim in Cologne. But minus burnt out-cars and heroin addicts in tracksuits. We did see a drunken man though, carefully carrying a half-filled pint glass of beer over a zebra crossing.
After the bleak impressions of Breiðholt, which on the other hand has nice views all over Reykjavik, Kamilla took us to the place she plans to retire to when she’s old and rich: the lakeside of Elliðavatn, which surprisingly is only a ten-minute-drive away from Breiðholt. Here we saw some grass-roofed buildings inhabited by photographers working for Morgunblaðið, Icelands biggest daily newspaper, our first Icelandic horses and we got a glimpse of the vastness of the Icelandic landscape, a strange feeling of openness when we spotted the far-away mountains behind the moss-coated lava fields that mark the border of lake Elliðavatn. On the way back everyone in Camilla’s car started yawning, and we were happy when “our” grey and dull apartment block came in sight again. After a tea, we admitted defeat and collapsed into bed around 11 PM.
Travel: Seltjarnarnes & Breiðholt
Both neighbourhoods are nothing the average tourist would normally visit.
Seltjarnarnes however sports a nice track that you can follow along the coastline, a little pond called Bakkatjorn and a population of fierce Arctic Terns. There is also a golf course.
Breiðholt has the biggest high density housing development in Iceland, a couple of fenced-in playing fields and not much else. Hold on. It actually has very nice views over the rest of Reykjavik, due to its elevated position.