Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Flatlands, 2011

Long time no see, avid JOHNSPACE readers (ha ha, I'm making jokes already). A lot has happened since I last blogged and annoyingly you've caught me on another bad evening. Oh fun. Anywho, I figured I'd break my blogging silence and show you some photos of Iceland I got back from the developer after a few months of the negatives presumably sitting on their desk, and they eventually thought "gee, I guess we'd better develop and scan this for our only film customer". Nonetheless it's back in my grubby hands and I've got a short post of photographs to show you of my travels.

Firstly, let's get the title sorted with. I've called this short photoset 'Flatlands', which may seem odd if you know what Iceland is: a country full of mountains, glaciers and volcanoes. And yeah, it is odd. But I wanted to aim for something that didn't just state the obvious; something to use over 'land of hot and cold' or something cliché like that. So how to be different? Well, why not give it a misnomer that has some sort of meaning and things should be more interesting - hence 'Flatlands'. Yeah, it's a crappy reason for a title, but I like to think of it as 'social flatlands' or 'flatlands of civilisation', because socially Iceland is a barren rock. It does have a culture, of course, and enough nightclubs in Reykjavik to keep the country's population of 300,000 busy on a friday night - but in terms of the sprawl and the interconnected civilisation I know well, Iceland is lacking. Nearly half of its population lives in the capital, Reykjavik, or its suburbs. Other than that, it's hard for towns to really get their size up due to a barren, almost outback-like landscape and a small population that isn't too bothered in growing. It's this sort of whimsical happiness, combined with a historical cultural pessimism, that makes Iceland such a strange place. But I'm not complaining; with exports like Sigur Rós, Björk and clothing brand Vík Prjónsdottír, it's hard not to like the Icelanders.*

Anyway, on to my photos from my trip there. We stayed in a hotel in Reykjavik but I won't show you any pictures of the capital other than this one - because, to be honest, it was crappy; or at least the area we were in. A Hotel Björk, ironically. Reykjavik, though practical and the centre of all Icelandic civilisation, is essentially a bunch of houses, some nice shops and restaurants, and some offices. There's not much more to it, though we did visit Reykjavik Art Museum, which was... interesting. Modern art; I'll say no more.

The real Iceland, the bit you have to see if you're going there, the bit I loved, was the geography. There are countless national parks full of geysers, glaciers and volcanoes, but if you're stationed in the capital the best thing to do is travel along Route 1 and into Þingvellur National Park. Route 1, an unending and well-kept road that extends out of Reykjavik across the south of the country, was expectedly dull. But hey, there's always Icelandic radio to cheer you up on a long car journey (insert sarcasm here). Route 1 took us through the 'towns' of Hveragerði, Selfoss, Hella and Hvolsvöllur. I say 'towns' because, though marked on the map as major settlements, they were barely villages. Selfoss was the largest of the four and even that wasn't much; enough to have a Bónus supermarket and a few cheap cafés. But it gets worse; don't expect to find anything in the coastal town of Stokkseyri other than a closed-down ghost museum. Huh.

Þingvellur offered a lot of interesting sights, but if you travel out a bit more you can get to Geysir - the original geyser. Old Faithful's got nuthin on Geyir, unless you're measuring size or power, in which case Old Faithful trumps the Icelandic offering. Even still, Geysir is where we get the word 'geyser' from.

Also out somewhere east of Þingvellur are a few huge waterfalls: Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss (above). I'm usually not swayed by the spectacle of huge amounts of water dropping into some pool naturally, but Skógafoss got my attention. It's just so... pretty. Awesome in the original sense of the word. Huge, natural, wet.

Anyway, waterfall obsessions aside, I took a few other photos of the small farmhouses and barns scattered around Route 1 - one small clump of houses (no, it wasn't a village, not even by Icelandic standards) had a tiny white chapel. On the door was the key in an envelope, with a sign saying 'lock the door on your way out'. It was these details I loved the most.

Well, this post was shit. I was trying so hard to steer it away from being a journal entry that I ended up leaving out all the interesting 'where my curiosity took me' stuff. Ah well, at least I got the photos up on the blog. I can't guarantee when I'll post again, let's hope it's this month.

~ John

* ps. yeah, I love the language. Can you tell?


abrickwall said...

If you lock the door on the way out, where would you put the key?

John said...

The envelope was on the outside of the door. Just put the key back in there. Not very safe, but tbh it's in the middle of an Icelandic plain mainly inhabited by sheep and silence.

Lucy said...

I'm going to iceland soon! Should i take lipsalve because last i went to a really cold place my lips got all craked and gross, so should i take some? Mmmmmmmmmm *smack smack licky smack*?