Icelandic Association of Chicago Volume No. 12 Issue No. 3 December 2010
From the President´s Desk
Farewell 2010 – Welcome 2011
Before we know it, 2011 will be here. In 2010 the economy is still in slow mode, especially back in the “old country” where many people are struggling. There are signs of improvement in Iceland but many Icelanders have left for greener pastures, Norway being a popular destination.
The latest news from Iceland is the national election of 25 citizens to serve as members on a Constitutional Assembly. These are regular folks whose task is to make suggestions to the parliament, Alþingi, on changes and/or additions to the current constitution. They are supposed to have completed their work by the 15th of April, 2011. Alþingi is not obliged to follow the assembly´s suggestions but will, at least, have to review -- for consideration -- what they come up with. Good move Iceland.
For our Association, 2011 starts by taking down the Christmas Tree at the Museum of Science and Industry, January 15th at 1PM. Everyone is welcome.
We will celebrate the Þorrablót at Swithiod House on February 19th, the same venue as last year.
I hope you are looking forward to a great 2011 and I wish you Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas and Gleðilegt Ár.
Einar Steinsson President
From the Editor
We have a lot to report at the end of 2010. First of all, please join us by congratulating Larry and Joni Shaw for becoming Honorary Lifetime Members of the IAC Chicago. They have contributed endless passion and hours of volunteer work to the association. Einar, our president will be presenting them with their awards this month.
Several members came to the annual Christmas Tree Decoration at the Museum of Science and Industry in October, followed by an open board meeting. We discussed our annual þórrablót. Lena has put all the important information for us together in this newsletter (see below). We also discussed membership and the member form, and here is how you can pay for your membership, þórrablót and if you´d like to make a donation:
We love to hear stories from our members. This time we are pleased to share Andrew and Sue´s Iceland travel story. Sue won a ticket to Iceland at this year's þórrablót raffle and Andrew joined her as they ended up having the time of their life on this trip. Please see the story below and read about their wonderful adventure to the homeland.
You will also find some interesting, additional information regarding the Snorri Program and something about Icelandic children´s literature in this newsletter.
This isn´t necessarily news, but I finally got around to reading Tricking of Freya by Christina Sunley. A story about a young girl, Freya, from Connecticut whose mother brings her back to her family´s town Gimli in Canada every summer where Freya discovers a great deal about her Icelandic family history. It´s a dark tale about family and secrets interconnected between continents. I enjoyed it very much. Not just because it´s an interesting story, but also identifying with the draw people have to their own history and one´s identity which is often intertwined with that nordic island.
The Þorrablót will be at the Svithiod House (www.svithiod.org), located at 5518 W. Lawrence Avenue, close to I-90/94 and accessible by public transportation. Parking is plentiful and the building is easily accessible at street level. The ballroom seats 80 guests for dinner, which we know will sell out. The format will be similar to past successful years – we’ll open the house at 6 pm and start with a welcome punch and gravlax and for the brave of heart, Brennivin and rotten shark, followed by a buffet style dinner with delicious Þorrafood, flown in from Iceland, and some traditional and less traditional dishes prepared by members.
We’ll have our famous and ever popular raffle where one can, for example, win a ticket from Icelandair to the Old Country plus many more prizes from Iceland. The great musician Sveinbjörn Grétarsson or better known as Bjössi in Greifarnir (a popular band in Iceland) will entertain us throughout the evening and make sure everyone hits the dance floor.We’re delighted to have Bjössi back and heard it through the grapewine he’s been practicing a brand new Þorra-song, dedicated to Chicago. :-)Of course, the Þorra Choir will sing, as will everyone else. We have sent an invitation to our Ambassador Hjálmar W Hannesson and his wife, Anna Birgis, to be our guests of honor.
(remember to fill out and include the census form)
Please note we will not sell tickets at the door.
Price of tickets:
70 and older: $40
12-18 and Students: $40
11 and younger: Free
We’re excited about our Þorrablót and look forward to a memorable Icelandic night with all of you good folks.
We received an e-mail from an Icelandic children´s author Guðrún Kristín Magnúsdóttir. She has written a series of books for children and youth over the years published under
Freyjukettir (Norræn menning). Her work can mostly be found under the European amazon.co.uk, amazon.deat print cost only, her work is non profit.
The Snorri Project
– ADVENTURE OF A LIFETIME –
Since 1999 The Snorri Program has offered 171 young individuals to participate in a 6-week diverse program in Iceland: 2 weeks in Reykjavík studying Icelandic, 3 weeks with relatives and 1 week exploring Icelandic nature.
Why? To strengthen the bonds between Iceland and North America
Who? Available for ages 18-28 of Icelandic descent
When? June11 - July 22, 2011 (approximate dates)
Deadline: January 14, 2011
12-16 will be selected by the Snorri Foundation
Since September 2003 the Snorri Foundation has accepted 88 individuals to participate in a 2-week cultural program; an ‘in-depth’ program that you will get so much more out of than you’d get as an ordinary tourist. Relatives, history, culture, nature and everything in between!
Who? Anyone over 30 who’s interested in Iceland
When? August 18 - 31, 2011
Deadline: January 31, 2011
15-20 individuals will get an opportunity to participate
Website for both programs; fees*, application form & information
Please note*: Both programs are non-profit. Grants are offered to all younger participants.
Surviving a huge sandstorm and other adventures in Iceland
by Andrew Scholberg
Secretary of the Icelandic Association of Chicago
It was a shock when my wife, Sue, won the drawing for a round-trip ticket to Iceland at last February’s Þorrablot. Neither of us had been to Iceland before. What a fantastic prize. We spent a week in Iceland in late September.
On Saturday, our first day in Reykjavik, we walked around town and came across the Viking settlement exhibit near downtown. We went inside to view the excavation. The rain was no problem because Sue and I wore our rain jackets. While walking past a store window we saw a painting of a puffin by Vaddy, similar to the puffin painting Sue won at the 2009 Þorrablot.
Later in the afternoon Sue and I attended our first Catholic Mass in Icelandic at the Reykjavik cathedral. Only about 40 people attended it. Sue and I stayed at the Radisson Blu Saga Hotel, which has a wonderful spa that includes a hot tub, steam room, and sauna. The young Icelanders in the hot tub generously shared their bottle of Brennavin (also known as “Black Death”) and also handed me a beer.
On Sunday, we went to the cultural museum that displays the saga manuscripts. After touring the modern art museum we visited the national museum, which exhibits the sacred vestments worn by my direct ancestor Jon Arason, Iceland’s last Catholic bishop who was beheaded in 1550 for his faith. Later in the day I had an excellent time at the outdoor swimming pool about two blocks from the Blu Saga Hotel. I soaked in the hot tubs, which Icelanders call “hot pots,” and relaxed in the steam room. It was refreshing to cool off in the wind and rain, and then to go back into a hot pot or re-visit the steam room. I also took the opportunity to practice my French with some children from France who were playing in the pool.
Fortunately the weather cleared up on Monday because that’s when we took the Golden Circle tour by bus, which included stops at a major geothermal power station, the spectacular Gullfoss waterfall, an impressive geyser named Strokur (which blows every three minutes), and the rugged and historic Þingvellir National Park. Þingvellir is the five-mile-wide rift valley where the European and North American tectonic plates are pulling apart. It overlooks a gorgeous lake. It was at Þingvellir that that the early Icelanders met in front of the Lögberg (Law Rock) to resolve their lawsuits and determine public policies, including the mass conversion of Iceland to Christianity in the year 1000 A.D. Sue and I could hardly believe how beautiful Iceland is. We were utterly amazed.
Tuesday we rented a 5-speed VW Polo and drove to Akureyri, near the arctic circle. We made good time, although we had to come to a complete stop to let some sheep cross Highway 1 (Iceland’s main highway). We had a late lunch at Lena Hallgrimsdottir’s restaurant and met her mother. Because the weather was fine, Lena’s father was out golfing that day, practicing his swing at the highest 18-hole golf course in the world by latitude. We stayed near Akureyri at the historic Hrafnagil farm that dates back to the Viking Age.
Wednesday we drove to Dettifoss (Europe’s largest waterfall) and Iceland's “Grand Canyon” located in the northeast part of the country. It was a clear day, and the fall colors were beautiful. But as we drove farther east toward the falls and the canyon, the landscape changed into a barren, desolate moonscape where you couldn’t even see a blade of grass. It was actually on this moonscape where the Apollo astronauts practiced their moon walk. To get to the gigantic waterfall we had to cross a one-lane suspension bridge and drive on a rough dirt road for 29 kilometers, but it was worth it. The falls and canyon took our breath away. Just as we were driving away form the falls, a huge sandstorm hit us. We never expected this. We were literally in the middle of nowhere, and we were running low on gas. The sandstorm impaired our visibility and almost forced us to stop at times. But we made it out of the storm and got to a gas station on fumes. Later we saw the boiling mud and some weird lava formations around Myvatn, one of the most beautiful lakes I’ve ever seen. Sue and I both had a good soak in the warm waters of the outdoor “Blue Lagoon of the north” — the geothermally heated Nature Baths near Myvatn. Sue’s teeth were chattering until she got into the warm water up to her neck. We had the whole Lagoon to ourselves for a while. Only one other couple showed up while we were there. On the way back to our farm accommodations I took some pictures of Goðafoss -- an amazing place. Goðafoss, of course, is the beautiful waterfall where, in the year 1000 A.D., a great Icelandic chieftain threw his gods over the falls to make a clean break with paganism and officially embrace Christianity.
Thursday we drove up the west coast of Eyjafjörður (“Island Fjord”), visited Akureyri’s botanic garden, and explored the area south of Akureyri. We also visited the Akureyri library where our son Joseph had worked when he participated in the Snorri Program for young adults. (Snorri was the first European baby born in North America, as described in the medieval Vinland Saga.) We met Joseph’s boss, who remembered him as a good worker. We had hoped to visit the relatives Joseph had stayed with in Akureyri but were unsuccessful in contacting them.
Friday we drove back to the Blu Saga Hotel in Reykjavik and visited the fabled warm waters of the Blue Lagoon of the south. That night at the Humarhúsið(“The Lobster House”) I told the waitress that I’m just about the only person in America who can say Eyjafjallajökull, the impossible-to-pronounce volcano that shut down airports throughout Europe earlier this year. After asking me to repeat it, she agreed that my pronunciation was correct. Sue and I flew home on Saturday we were already planning our next trip to Iceland. She, too, can now say Eyjafjallajökull, which means “Island Mountain Glacier.” Do we recommend Iceland as a tourist destination? Yes!