06 July 2006

Inside Iceland

These past few days, thanks to an outpouring of support and thoughtfulness from several unexpected sources (M, S, & K, I cannot thank you enough), I've been the guest in quite a few new houses here. For example, on Monday, friend K hauled me out of the house to meet her in-laws A & J. They live in one of the lovely houses in Vesturbær that was built in the 30s, and the two of them have been together since they met while Scouts in their teens. They were both sweet and accepting of the odd foreigner she'd dragged in, took me in kindly, and sat me down to a Chinese takeout meal.

Their house is fairly unassuming from the outside, but inside it's a treasure chest of Icelandic history. The entryway stair hall is painted with astounding graphic Art Deco patterns, and the rooms further inside are laden with antique furniture, paintings, sculpture, carpets, books, and family photos. As we dined, the stories of each piece in the room unfolded in a mixture of Icelandic and English- a table from a lawyer great-great grandfather, chairs imported from France, paintings from a stableful of Icelandic artists, and century-old chandeliers that were the earliest electrified lights in the country.

This family is apparently unique in Iceland for having so many family heirlooms, thanks to the prominent position of several ancestors in early Icelandic politics and society. Also, since they were important, there were plenty of photos of the grand old gentlemen themselves, featuring lots of whiskers, sashes, and important looking medals. Interspersed with these, the paintings were an odd collection of scenes from East Iceland where part of the family was from mixed with more modern Dufy-style pen and ink illustrations. There were also a few 19th century landscapes reminiscent of a painting I wrote a paper on in college. They didn't all quite go together, but each one had a story that meant something to the couple, and obviously brought them happiness to have around.

I also appreciated that in spite of the grandness of all these great items, everything was jumbled together in a cozy way, and used and appreciated in the same way as the cheap glasses from IKEA that are ubiquitous here. The house was comfortable, loved, and filled with the products of an interesting and interested life, and vases full of fresh flowers perfumed the air and mixed with the after-lunch coffee.

Ship sighting: I have spent quite a lot of time in my soon-to-be-former home these past few days, so I've watched a lot of boats come and go. Yesterday, two guys in an inflatable boat with an outboard motor drifted around in front of the house like friends on a fishing trip. They were dressed like some kind of rescue operation though, with bright orange safety vests and overalls, and they had no fishing poles. There didn't appear to be any urgency to whatever they were doing either- from my vantage point they were just kicking back and having a chat. Male bonding or something, I guess.

Today we've got a fishery-protection research boat coming, the Seeadler. It's apparently quite the thing in research vessels, so if you're hot for more info on what makes it cool, here's a datasheet with a nice side elevation drawing.

1 comment:

CueP said...

this is a lovely post. i felt as if i could walk through the rooms and halls to see and feel all the art memorabilia treasures of their family lifetimes. thanks again for a wonderful visit!