How to romance a viking.

Posted on 11. Feb, 2015 by in Icelandic culture, Icelandic customs, Icelandic history

351827018_326ac36741_o

Kerið couple by big-ashb at Flickr.com.

You know what day is just around the corner, so let’s get prepared with some relevant vocabulary!

The important days

Valentínusardagur = Valentine’s Day. The tradition caught on in Iceland perhaps a little earlier than the rest of the Nordics, but since the country was occupied by the USA since the WW2 it may not be too surprising. People do take note of the day and couples sometimes plan something romantic for it, but other than that it does not seem to be such a big deal. Maybe it’s because Iceland already has other, more Icelandic days that have a romantic tone to them, one for men and one for women. These would be:

Bóndadagur = Farmer’s/Master’s Day, which dates back to the 1600’s and is still celebrated to this day as a day when women treat their husbands and boyfriends to something extra nice. It’s usually on the first day of the month Þorri. There were also other traditions tied to this day, such as the master of the house going outside in the morning wearing nothing but a shirt, putting one leg in trousers but letting the other drag on the ground and so hopping around his house on one foot.

Konudagur = Woman’s Day, dates back to at least the 1800’s, likewise still celebrated every year. This was a day when it was the wife’s turn to be celebrated, and it takes place on the first Sunday of the month Góa. You can read about Þorri, Góa and the rest of the old Nordic calendar here.

15125730431_6aba1acb5b_k

On the Skógar-Þórsmörk trail by Richard P J Lambert at Flickr.com.

Darling (when describing the darling to a third person)

Icelandic is a funny language in that there are words for the SO that would never be used at them, only when talking about them to someone else.

Eiginmaður/eiginkona = Husband/wife. Often shortened to maður and kona, and in these short forms even couples that are only dating may sometimes use them.

Kærasti, -nn = Darling, loved one, male form. Is usually translated simply as boyfriend.

Kærasta, -n = Darling, loved one, female form. Typically translated as girlfriend. Both of these words hint that you’re dating but not yet married, although overlap happens a lot and I’ve heard people use these words about their spouses as well on occasion. You would not use either of them to address your SO, that’d sound a bit like “oh lover of mine”.

Ástvinur = Lit. transl. “love friend”, means darling/beloved.

2650810731_7b2be9abe8_o

Geyser with lovers by Mei Burgin at Flickr.com.

Darling, when addressing them

Sæti/sæta = Sweetie, cutie. First one’s for the men, the second one’s for the women.

Elskan, elskan mín, also ástin/ástin mín = My love, my darling. Mín-ending adds some weight to the word, but it can also be used to berate someone and can even sound patronizing. If someone addresses me as Hulda mín only the tone of the voice will tell whether or not I’m actually in deep trouble…

By the way, despite the feminine pronoun at the end these can be used for men too. The words elskan and ástin are feminine, which is why they get the feminine pronoun, but the usage is not only limited to women.

Krútt/krúttið mitt = Sweetie/cutie. A rare gender neutral endearment that’s perfectly fine to use for whoever.

Dúlla/dúllan mín = Sweetie as a possible non-romantic option, girls often refer to their friends like this. You can add some extra oomph to any of these by using “æ” in front of an endearment by the way, thus “Æ, dúllan mín!” (= Oh, sweetie!) Elsku is another option: “Elsku dúllan mín!” (= My dear sweetie!)

4802879970_9896dba3ec_b

Just Married by Helgi Halldórsson at Flickr.com.

All you need is love

Ást = love. However, I love you in Icelandic is Ég elska þig and here lies a danger: never use a noun as a verb, because if you try to say ég ást þig you’re actually saying “I (you) ate you”. It makes little sense but sounds a bit more cannibalistic than romantic. :D

Pykja vænt um = To love someone, although it can be used for non-romantic love as well. Important: þykja demands a þágufall in front and um wants a þolfall after it, therefore Mér þykir vænt um þig. (= I love you.)

Að unna = To love. Archaic, rarely in use nowadays. Can mean parental, spousal and romantic love (for Icelanders of old these were three different things).

Að elska = To love, tends to mean a very deep kind of love, either romantic or parental.

 

hulda078Hulda recommends

Naturally there needs to be some relevant music too, so here’s a few of my all-time favourite Icelandic love songs.

Þrek og tár, performed by Erla Þorsteinsdóttir and Haukur Morthens. Lyrics are included in the description field. (link)

Vísur Vatnsenda-Rósu, performed by Björk. Possibly the most famous love-poem of Iceland. (link)

Stóðum tvö í túni, a Medieval love poem that deserves two versions: here performed by Sverrir Guðjónsson and here by Ryan Koons – with a langspíl (= an Icelandic zither).

Þú ert minn súkkulaðiís, by Svanhildur Jakobsdóttir. You’re my chocolate ice cream! :D (link)

Allt fyrir ástina by none other than Páll Óskar himself. (link)

Extreme Iceland experience.

Posted on 05. Feb, 2015 by in Uncategorized

7361211486_29489fa5d6_k

Langjökull glacier summit by Daniel ………… at Flickr.com.

Though the winter is still here some people are already hard at work preparing for the oncoming summer and the Iceland-journeyers it will bring along. If you’re planning a trip here this year and want to see something you could never see anywhere else in the world I’ve got some tips for you on things you should definitely not miss – but start planning now, because although I’m no völva (= an Icelandic seeress/prophetess) I foresee they’ll be very, extremely popular!

7176048761_a2c709d7d0_k

Langjökull Glacier summit looking south by Daniel ………… at Flickr.com.

Ice Tunnel under Langjökull Glacier (link)

The big news of today over here is that the tunnel is almost ready. You probably knew that going on the glaciers is an option here, given that you’ve got an experienced guide with you (the glaciers can and have often been deadly to tourists wandering on them alone). Now, however, you can also go under one of them! The work at cutting a tunnel into the ice is nearing completion in the oncoming weeks and as it is it’s the longest ice tunnel of all Europe.

Í raun er íshellirinn, sem er að verða tilbúinn, hringlaga göng sem ná um 200 metra inn í jökulinn á 30 metra dýpi. „En þegar þú labbar hringinn eru þetta tæpir 400 metrar og lengra þegar krókar og kimar eru meðtaldir,“ segir Sigurður.

= In reality the ice cave, that’s about to be finished, is a round tunnel/walkway that reaches 200m into the glacier at 30m depth. “But when you walk the whole ring it’s about 400m, and even longer when hooks and caves/recesses are added up”, says Sigurður.

Lonely Planet took notice of the idea while work was still underway (link), but as you can see the tunnel has since grown for about 100m in total length.

14645117661_89a9f092e9_k

Vatnshellir tour guide by James Brooks at Flickr.com

Vatnshellir Lava Tunnel at Snæfellsnes (link)

Just in case ice is not your thing Iceland also offers the other extreme option, lava tunnels. :D The cave and tunnel system is a tube that’s formed in lava, reaching to 2oom distance and 35m depth under the ground. Again, not a place where you’re allowed to go alone, remember to book a guided tour. The tours are fairly cheap and the guides are quite knowledgeable about the area, how the tunnel came to be and how to stay safe while inside it, so it’ll be well worth the money.

This tunnel is not for the claustrophobic, nor for people with difficulties moving around I’m afraid. There’ll be many staircases to take you deep under the ground and it’s good to be prepared for some exercise in cold surroundings. That said, it’s not a hard route to go, taking children with you is totally fine and you’ll be provided with a helmet and a torch by the company that arranges the tours.

14831358668_4ca8ef5a56_k

Thrihnukagigur by Dan (catching up) at Flickr.com

Crater of a Dormant Volcano (link)

Þríhnúkagígur is actually not that far from Capital City area (link)! This tour goes inside a huge cave in a volcano that technically speaking is still active, and according to the two people that I know who have visited it the place is absolutely breathtaking.

This is another place where you’ll have to be of a moderate level of fitness, since getting to the place means hiking the last part of the trip and there’s some way to walk once you reach your destination inside the crater, after a stomach-turning descend in an open cable lift into 120m depth. The weather around the area will be very different from what it is in Reykjavík even though it’s fairly near, and the crater itself will be quite cold and humid so like the web page says, don’t attempt it in jeans and sneakers.

The web page has a video of how the cave looks like, but I found two others that are equally worth a look here and here. I was so not kidding about the descent being stomach-turning…

Is everything too cold for your liking? Well, there’s one definitely warm option:

16071736827_88ae33203d_k

_MG_7980 by Magga Dora (MD) at her Holuhraun album on Flickr.com

Fly over Holuhraun (link)(link)

The volcanic eruption that began months ago is still going strong. There’s no telling how long it will last although the actual, real völva who predicted the year 2015 at the start of the year did say it might come to an end before summer, but hey, it’s a winning situation both ways. If the eruption does end the area might be opened for viewing, at least the parts that are safe to enter. If not, the volcano flights will definitely continue! Just a heads-up though: the völva also said there would be a new volcanic eruption somewhere east of Hekla, so who knows just how many volcano viewing options there’ll be.

(In case you’re also interested in what more the völva had to say her prophesy can be read in its entirety here, with Larissa explaining the tradition behind her work in great detail.)

An Icelander walked past a bar.

Posted on 29. Jan, 2015 by in Icelandic culture, Icelandic customs

2073685927_73b11df038_o

Laughter by Atli Harðarson at Flickr.com

It happened years ago on an evening in May. I had just met my SO and we were sitting together in a garden swing talking of this and that, and eventually started telling each other jokes. This was the first one he told me.

(To understand the following you’ll have to know that reipi means rope, and að ýta means to push. You can listen to the pronunciation of reipi here and ýta here. Declension key: Ég ýti = I push.)

5951756535_859d936e7f_b

Ropes by Boudewijn Berends at Flickr.com

A group of American tourists was driving around Iceland. The roads were slippery and at one point they drove off the road and their car got stuck.

Two Icelanders came along and saw the group in trouble, but their school days had been a long time ago and as they had had little chances of speaking English they had almost forgotten the language. Nevertheless they decided to try to explain the tourists that they would attach a rope to tow the car with theirs and then one of them would also push the tourists’ car, so they went over and the other one told them:

“First we’re going to reipi you and then I’m going to ýti you.”

You may want to read that line out loud to figure out where the joke is. Remember that when a word begins with a y it silences the i-ending in spoken language. :D

The joke stuck with me for many reasons. I love puns and jokes where people make fun of themselves, so an Icelander telling an Icelander-joke totally hit the spot. Thirdly… I love horror movies and the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre just happens to have Gunnar Hansen (link), an Icelandic actor, starring as Leatherface! Well, admittedly also because I was making heart eyes at the one telling me the joke, but let’s not get too mushy here.

4190343987_40e3257bf0_b

Recreating 101 Reykjavik by jayneandd at Flickr.com

Do we even laugh over here?

Brandari, djók, grín, all three can translate as “joke”. Having said that it’s usually quite hard to know when you’re hearing one because the local sense of humour is very different from anything I’m accustomed to! It’s often self-deprecating, but in a way that leaves you guessing whether the person might actually be serious. No topic is considered too offensive or bizarre – in fact the stranger the situation the funnier the joke. Icelanders use many puns and insider-knowledge, so many jokes may slip past an outsider’s radar either because you didn’t realize the pun was there or did not know the specifics behind the joke. When obviously joking the Icelanders tend toward gallows humour – here’s a few lines that have apparently all been printed in the minningargreinar, obituaries:

Hann var sannur Íslendingur og dó á 17. júní. (= He was a true Icelander and died on the 17th June/national day of Iceland.)

Þeir sem guðirnir elska deyja ungir. Þessi orð koma mér í huga þegar ég minnist afa. Hann var 93 ára þegar hann lést. (= Those that are loved by the gods die young. These words come to my mind when I remember my grandpa. He was 93 when he passed away.)

Hann giftist eftirlifandi eiginkonu sinni og átu þau tvö börn. (= He married his remaining wife and they ate two children.)(This one’s actually a really unfortunate printing error: þau áttu = they had, þau átu = they ate.)(Not too sure about “remaining” either… the SO confirms it sounds odd to him too.)

379540399_0cbe14cce5_b

The Keeper by Antti T. Nissinen at Flickr.com

Laughter as a weapon

You don’t have to actually die to get a joke about you. Here’s one of the type where you have to know something very specific about Iceland to get the joke. Árni Johnsen is a politician from Sjálfstæðisflokkurinn (= Independence party), the very party that caused the 2010 collapse of the economy and the depression that followed it. Árni is also known for having served time for using a government account to pay for his personal property.

Hann Árni Johnsen frá Vestmannaeyjum dó og fór til himna. Lykla Pétur stoppaði hann og sagði: “Nei nei hér kemstu ekki inn.” “Jú Jú víst kemst ég inn.” “Það er best að ég nái í Guð og láti hann tala við þig.”

Og Lykla Pétur fór og þegar hann og Guð koma þá er Árni farinn og gullnahliðið líka.

(= Árni Johnsen from Vestmannaeyjar died and went to heaven. St. Peter stopped him and said: “Oh no you’re not getting in here.” “Oh yes of course I’m getting in there.” “It’s best I’ll go get God and have him talk with you.”

St. Peter went away but when he came back with God, Árni was already gone and so were the pearly gates.)

520103048_8eeace5cf9_b

Danger! Ha! I laugh in the face of danger! Ha, ha, ha, ha! by Hans Splinter at Flickr.com

Sense of humour is often a tool for surviving harsh conditions, and for Icelanders this may be exactly so. Perhaps life on this island has been so difficult for so long that unless you learn to laugh about it you don’t stand a chance? Maybe that’s why the Icelandic flavour of comedy feels a little strange at first; it was born to battle these surroundings, darkness, cold, occasional poisonous ash falls, glacier floods, famine and so forth, Icelanders don’t laugh at people, things or situations as much as they laugh despite of everything. I’ll end this post with a poem that has somehow managed to fit a lot of Icelandic-ness into one tight, compact package:

Bros okkur sýnir að hjartað er heima,
hlæðu og láttu þig stressinu gleyma,
lifðu í gleði og lát þig svo dreyma,
lystisemdir sem órofa blað
og hamingju nýturðu á hverjum stað.

~Einar Sigfússon

Our smile shows that the heart’s at home / Laugh and let yourself forget the stress / Live with good cheer and allow yourself to dream / Pleasures as a continuous page / And enjoy happiness everywhere.