26 June 2007

urban renewal

Laugavegur is a street of constant change. There's a whole building halfway down that's in the process of disappearing. Chunk after chunk is being carted away to who-knows-where, making way for something that's probably the usual barren New Building they do so well here, with the same generic doorhandles, and same generic metal balconies.

Things in other parts are better off though, with all kinds of new and interesting shops constantly opening in the cute old buildings along the street, leaving an empty space repopulated almost instantly. Iceland's gone so spiffy that Reykjavík was even featured on a page the New York Times magazine. We've assembled enough Designers with Long Foreign Names to make note with the style crowd, apparently. We've even got stores where you can buy very very expensive soaps in whimsical boxes. Movin' on up, we are.

With only a small shopping/café area, Reykjavík is a town that keeps pretty busy. Shops will close, only to be replaced weeks or even days later by a new place. Some expand to the next storefront, others will move across the street and have their old location snapped up and immediately transformed. Weekly evaluations are required to keep track of what changes are brewing on Laugavegur, and any little modification anywhere is the stuff of note.

In the midst of all this riotous change though, there is one place that remains comfortingly, mysteriously the same. Just past where Skólavörðustígur breaks off and marches up the hill, there's a little storefront on Laugavegur. Two or three steps rise to a door opening into a shop that's only slightly wider than it, adorned with a red sign. The Reykjavik Bagel House. It's been shuttered and dusty since I arrived, seemingly impervious to the flurry that goes on at all sides around it.

Is it just because Iceland has not taken to bagels? What has caused this one storefront to be so forgotten by the maelstrom of urban renewal? They tried bagels down the street a few blocks, which closed for a bit and then refashioned itself as a pizza place, one food Icelanders never seem to tire of. Whatever the reason, I now watch this lonely bagel place every time I pass, wondering when it too will cave in and become something new and trendy. I'm still hoping for bagels again, because now after all this bageltalk, I'm really yearning for one, all properly done up with the tomato slices, the sprouts, the salmon. Make it a garlic one please!


PAUL said...

amusing :-) two thoughts....

1. I grew up on a border town in Texas, and we ate tortillas daily. I used to find it amusing to think that between the bagels in the Northeast and tortillas in my hometown lays a belt of cornbread in the South. :-)

2. Davis Square is undergoing a similar renewal at a staggering rate. I hope someone is recording it, because it's not me!

Anonymous said...

I too have noticed the forlorn bagel house. My guess is that it's been bought by some contractor that's busy lobbying the City Council to change the zoning laws so a ten times larger building can be put up in it's place.


this is me said...

Hi..I have been in Iceland for two months now and have fallen in love with the place. The people, environment all around with the sceneries, the cool weather has makes me realise how beautiful Reykjavik is. I have also been reading ur blogs since that time and I find them really interesting and informative. It opens to me a new perspective of Iceland..and I hope you carry on writing...so that I can keep on reading..ankit

ECS said...

paul: the cornbread belt extends to New England too! It was definitely a childhood tradition of my youth, best (perhaps essential) served with New England quahog chowder.

Now I'm missing the Boston world. I haven't seen Davis Square in almost two years!

Pétur: You're probably right, unfortunately. I wonder about the scale of the Reykjavík skyline in the next years. There seems to be way too many huge building cranes going up of late.

this is me: You're seeing Iceland in what I think is a pretty good summer! Last year and the year before I don't remember such consistently amazing weather. Glad you're enjoying it!