From Iceland — The Islanders: Bergvin Oddsson

The Islanders: Bergvin Oddsson

The Islanders: Bergvin Oddsson

Published June 6, 2022

Alice Poggio
Photo by
Joana Fontinha

Bergvin Oddsson rides his tandem bike through the colourful streets of Heimaey, set against the backdrop of green and misty Vestmannaeyjar. Everyone knows him here and as he rides by, people on the streets greet him affectionately. A restaurant owner, bartender, football player, politician, comedian and writer, Beggi is nothing short of an overachiever.

When he ran a hostel, guests occasionally came to him with their complaints. If there was a problem with the lights, he would confidently say, “Seems fine to me”. Confused, they’d insist, “There aren’t any lightbulbs!” to which he’d reply, “I don’t see anything wrong”. As the silence grew denser and Beggi struggled to contain his booming laughter any longer, he’d release his amusement, and reassure the confused tourists that he would fix it. Beggi has been completely blind since the age of 15.

Hear all, know all

“Everyone is differently blind, people can go into a house 100 times and still not know where the toilet is, I can find it after having been there once,” he says.

Beggi smoothly navigates the tables and chairs of his restaurant, 900 Grillhúsið. He goes behind the bar and effortlessly mixes cocktails. “You want to know how I do this?” He asks. “Everything is like a puzzle, with one piece of information at a time, I can recreate whole buildings in my mind,” Beggi explains. He has spent hours familiarising himself with every dent, every step, every broom closet in his restaurant, which has turned him into an omniscient employer.

Nothing evades him; he can tell if the staff threw away leftovers in the wrong bin, if they are drinking out of plastic or glass, or if they are eating something in the kitchen. He can hear if a guest five tables away needs a beer, and immediately starts to pour it from the draft. Sixteen is apparently the magic number when pouring a pint, but whether it’s Mississippi-less seconds or not, he won’t tell—it’s his secret.

A personal time machine

The only place where he cannot create images and buildings out of thin air is in his dreams. Those are stuck in time. His brain only uses the ‘footage’ from before he was blind, making for a personal time warp he can visit whenever he fancies.

“70% of my dreams take place in Vestmannaeyjar, where I grew up. All my friends still look 14, everything and everyone is how they were 20 years ago. It’s strange but fun,” he says. “Even when I dream about my time in Reykjavík, it’s set in Vestmannaeyjar.”
Given how beautiful Heimaey is, maybe it’s better this way.

The Islanders is our new series where we interview interesting people in Iceland about their unique lives. Know someone we should speak to? Email grapevine@grapevine.is

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