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Hæ hæ Grapevine!
I just saw your video about that house that was moved to Hringbraut, and felt like I should react. Indeed I really don’t think this should be treated as another cute and quirky Icelandic thing, but as a serious issue. It’s far from being the first time this has happened – it’s actually becoming more and more common. Between November and March it happened to at least two houses on Hverfisgata, and one on Grettisgata. I’ve heard of more recently – another one on Vesturgata also had been moved.
The reason why this is happening is because of some kind of a loophole in the law. Those houses are actually protected because they’re old, but moving them is a way to cheat by getting them out of downtown and put them in Arbær or Grandi or whatever. By doing so, there’s now room for more hotels or ugly new apartments that stay empty most of the time, because they’re being rented only to tourists (see for instance the new tourist apartments at Hverfisgata 57 & 59). An old corrugated iron house on the road has the same implications to the face of downtown, and the everyday life, as what happened to Hjartagarðurinn [a much-loved public square that was destroyed to build a hotel – ed].
I really think that instead of a small and funny article with a video, this should be treated as a full on printed article exploring the matter in detail (I remember the ‘Hotel Reykjavik’ issue a couple of years ago… well things are still getting worse).
I know we can count on you guys.
Wow, yeah – transplanting old houses seems bad. People talk a lot about the “hollowing out” of Reykjavík, with long-time renters being displaced en masse, but they don’t usually mean it this literally. It sure sets a bad precedent – imagine the colourful houses of Grettisgata and Njálsgata being shipped out on a convoy of trucks…
We agree that the downtown property market needs to be better managed. After all, if there were only bland hotels in the soon-to-be-formerly-charming downtown area, would people even still want to come here? If all those Tripadvisor reviews start to turn sour (“this place used to be so nice…”), this deluge of visitors could dry up as quickly as it began.
As one of the million or so visitors to Iceland last year, I’ve been reading your articles about the economic, environmental and cultural effects tourism with great interest.
It seems to me that it would be helpful to know how many days visitors spent in Iceland – I suspect many were like my niece, Maddie, who stopped in Reykjavik for a night en route from Seattle to London – and how they spent their time in Iceland. Just as most visitors to San Francisco tour Alcatraz, Fisherman’s Wharf, the Golden Gate Bridge and Chinatown, I reckon your typical visitor sees little more than Reykjavik between Harpa and Hallgrimskirkja, the Golden Circle and the Blue Lagoon. A shame, since there’s so much more.
We spent two weeks in Iceland in August, and aside from two rainy days, the weather was fair and mild. Besides the attractions mentioned above, we visited the Westfjords; the North, including Akureyri; and the South Coast as far east as Jokulsarlon. We climbed waterfalls; watched fishermen land huge catches of cod in Patreksfjordur; marveled at stinky, steaming geysers in Reykholt; and came face-to-face with Icelandic horses and sheep near Blonduos. In all, traveled 2,500 km. Back in Reykjavik, we enjoyed the Jazz Festival and Culture Night, capped by a splendid fireworks show (Thanks to the Grapevine for alerting us to these events). We also enjoyed Reykjavik 871 +/-2, the National Museum and the fascinating Arbaejarsafn and swung by the impressive Rock Museum near the international airport.
What’s the point of all this? There’s more to Iceland than Reykjavik and Laugavegur. Encourage tourists to get out of the city. If some of those one million visitors would just venture off the beaten path – and they don’t have to off-road in the Highlands to do so – they’d experience more of Iceland’s natural beauty and friendly people. And it would ease some of the congestion in the capital.
Oakland, California, USA
That sounds like a pretty great trip. And, wow, also a possible solution for the tourist overcrowding of 101! We totally agree that the small towns and coastline, and wilderness are all amazing—just less heavily marketed. Some of those regional guesthouses could really benefit from more full rooms, whilst simultaneously easing the burden on downtown Reykjavík. So! Nice. We fixed it. Sorting out Iceland’s problems seems easy when you’re in the Grapevine’s letters page, huh? Next let’s do healthcare.