Have Some Havarí: On Leaving Reykjavík For The Far East

Have Some Havarí: On Leaving Reykjavík For The Far East

Photos by
Art Bicnick

It would be easy to miss Havarí if you weren’t looking out for it. Along the Ring Road between Djúpivogur and Breiðdalvsík, a simple roadside sign points away from the water towards the cluster of buildings of the Karlsstaðir farm, nestled deep in the shadows of a cliff. But the property is much more than a farm. Opened more than two years ago by Svavar Pétur Eysteinsson and Berglind Häsler, Havarí has grown to encompass a bustling café, a guesthouse, a music venue, and a food production business.

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Leaving the city behind

But the Havarí name has been around longer than these two years. “It started out as a record store and a small café in Reykjavík,” Svavar explains. “We were there for two years, and then we got kicked out of our property because they were building a hotel. The usual stuff in Reykjavík.”

Not to be disheartened, Svavar and Berglind bore in mind their aspiration to begin producing food as they began scouting for a new location. “We were initially looking closer to Reykjavík,” says Svavar. “But then we decided to check out this property. And we totally fell in love with it.”

It’s easy to see why. Tucked away in the far east of the island, Karlsstaðir sits between dramatic mountains and a view across the fjörd to Djúpivogur. “You have everything you need here,” says Svavar. “You have the mountains and the sea, and everything in between.”

Today, Svavar and Berglind produce vegan sausages called Bulsur and turnip chips called Sveitasnakk in a facility housed in a converted horse stable. They’ve also turned Karlsstaðir’s old farmhouse into a guesthouse, and an old barn near the highway has become a café. Svavar is an active musician in the bands Prins Póló and Skakkamanage, so it was a natural step to host concerts in the old barn during the summer.

Slowing things down

Berglind says she thinks Havarí is part of a growing movement of people returning to rural areas from the city. “That’s how it’s been for thirty or forty years now,” she says, when asked about the trend towards urbanisation. “But I think it’s going the other way now. People are going back into the countryside. Just after we moved, some people I knew were moving to the country. In Djúpivogur, we have a lot of people who are moving back home.”

Havarí is connected in many ways to the neighbouring town of Djúpivogur, about a 45-minute drive west. Djúpivogur is the only Icelandic town that is part of CittaSlow, an international movement that aims to preserve more traditional ways of living. “We work by the philosophy of that movement,” Berglind explains. “It’s about welcoming people, and giving you the time to have a conversation, so that’s what we do. We try to enjoy every day.”

Of course, living in such a remote area doesn’t come without its challenges. “There are things that people take for granted, like internet and electricity,” Svavar says, adding they don’t have the necessary electricity to power some kitchen and food production equipment. However, the remoteness of Havarí is also part of its appeal. “I think tourists want to be a part of something that is not easy to access,” he says. “We embrace that, in a way—to be remote.”

For city folk hesitant to embrace the remoteness, Havarí is still in touching distance. The Bulsur and Sveitasnakk produced on the farm have proven popular, and can be found close to home on the shelves of many Reykjavík supermarkets.

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