… Oh right. Before my Internet service went AWOL I had a post all written up [especially for Teri, who isn’t studying cultural anthropology but probably should be] giving more intriguing details of Icelanders’ relationship with the sea. To wit:
They say that Eskimos have an inordinate number of words for ‘snow’ and similarly the Icelandic language has many words for and references to the sea. Sjór, haf, ægir, mar, sær… all mean ‘ocean’ in Icelandic. Similarly, many people’s names are drawn from the sea [so to speak]: Sævar, Hafþór, Ægir, Margeir… [plus some more that I can’t remember, for men] and Unnur, Rán, Sæunn, Hafdís, Særún, Sædís… [plus some more, for women], not to mention both Alda [yes, as in Kalda] and Bára, which both mean ‘wave’.
In the west end of Reykjavík, near the harbour [and also near where I live], is an area with a lot of stately old homes. The streets there all bear names reminiscent of the sea: Öldugata, Bárugata, Ægisgata, Ránargata, Stýrimannastígur. This is the area known as ‘Skipstjórahverfið’ or the ‘captain’s neighbourhood’ because it is where the first sea captains built their homes.
Early last century, Iceland obtained its first ocean liners [than incidentally were all named after Icelandic waterfalls: Gullfoss, Dettifoss, Goðafoss, Tröllafoss, Fjallfoss… foss meaning ‘waterfall’ in Icelandic…] and to be a captain of such a liner was a highly prestigious position, one of the highest positions you could have in Iceland at the time. Captains travelled to faraway places and had access to a wealth of goods that the regular proletariat could only dream about. They also earned well. And built houses for themselves of a stature that at the time had rarely been seen in this country.
My great-grandfather was one of those. He built a house on Öldugata, which literally translated means ‘wave street’ [or ‘Alda’s street’, as the case may be, because if you remember your Icelandic lesson ‘Öldu’ is ‘Alda’ when conjugated into a different case]. He also named his daughter Alda – my grandmother, after whom I am named. I am lucky enough to have inherited some things from my grandmother that he brought her from various capitals of the world.
When I moved back to Iceland twelve years ago, I bought a flat on Bárugata [also ‘wave street’], which happened to overlook the next street, which was Öldugata. I lived on the top floor of a four-storey building, with a stupendous view of the sea, mountains, Snæfellsjökull glacier, and the endless sky with its magnificent sunsets in the west. I loved that flat, I loved being home, and I loved living on ‘wave street’. And when it came time to move, there was no question that we would stay in the area – the part of Reykjavík that probably has the closest proximity – and the strongest relationship – with the sea.
AGAIN IT IS RAINING…
And the forecast is for more rain still. Which is unfortunate since tomorrow is National Day with all its wild and crazy celebrations. Who will be Maid of the Mountains this year? How many helium balloons will unwittingly be released into the sky by toddlers with a loose grip? And how many adolescents will be picked up for drunken carousing? Ah, the joys. Temps currently 9°C, sunrise was at 02.56 and sunset is due for 24.02