“Hidden place” is a song by Björk from her fifth album Vespertine from 2001. According to the artist, the song is about “how two people can create a paradise just by uniting. You’ve got an emotional location that’s mutual. And it’s unbreakable. And obviously it’s make-believe. So, you could argue that it doesn’t exist because it’s invisible, but of course it does.”
The song has inspired many people, among them Sara Szabo, a Hungarian Iceland-maniac, who happens to be one of my favourite graphic designers. After a week-long trip to Iceland she decided to draw a comic book based on Björk’s song to express what she felt while wandering around in the beautiful nature.
Living in Iceland means you can always brag about living in the coolest country on Earth. May it be small, Iceland is among the leaders of the badass-list in many aspects.
1. The average Icelander consumes 8.3 kilograms of coffee beans per year, which makes them the world’s fourth largest coffee consumers per capita. Yeah man, I love this country. (I’m having a double espresso right now)
2. According to a seemingly serious academic study reported in the Guardian in 2006, Icelanders are the happiest people on earth.
3. Iceland is the country with the sixth highest GDP per capita in the world.
4. It has the highest birth rate in Europe (Iceland has one of the highest fertility rates in Europe, which means 2.1 children per woman) and the highest percentage of women working outside the home.
5. Icelanders buy the most books and read the most.
6. It’s the only NATO-country with no armed forces (they were banned 700 years ago).
8. The life expectancy both for women and men is above average. (84 and 82 years)
9. It has the highest ratio of mobile telephones to population.
10. Iceland owns the fastest-expanding banking system in the world and rocketing export business as well.
11. Iceland elected the world’s first female president, Vigdis Finnbogadottir, a single mother, 28 years ago.
12. Iceland has Björk, Ásgeir, the Samaris, an amazing national orchestra and so many more cool musicians that it’s impossible to list them all.
13. It had the first female Prime Minister Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir and the world’s first openly lesbian head of government on 1 February 2009.
14. Reykjavík is the world’s northernmost capital of a sovereign state.
15. Iceland has the world’s cleanest electricity.
16. The Icelandic educational system is ranked 5th highest in the world according to IMD (IMD 2012)
17. In the World Economic Forum´s Global Gender Gap Report for 2012, Iceland is ranked number one. Iceland has one the highest rate of women’s participation in the labour market among the OECD countries, or 76,3%. Women are 47,7% of the Icelandic labour force (Statistics Iceland)
18. The use of the Internet in Iceland is among the top countries in the world in terms of Internet deployment and use
19. Iceland has the highest number of Chlamydia cases per capita among women aged 18 to 25 in Europe. (Ok this is not so badass)
20. Iceland has the highest divorce rate in the world. (This neither)
21. Iceland is home to the world’s largest per capita population of weed smokers, according to a new drug report of 2014.
22. It is the highest antidepressant-consuming country in the world. At almost twice the OECD average, its antidepressant consumption is 106 doses a day for every 1,000 people.
Kviðmágur – this bawdy word refers to the relations between two men who have been with the same woman. The literal translation is “underbelly brother-in-laws”.
After a road trip around the country, Rovina Cai, an Australian illustrator decided to document her adventures in the form of these wonderful illustrations. Spiced up with fantastical elements, the pictures look like scenes from old Icelandic sagas. The illustrations were bound into a tattered-style sketchbook.
“I love making illustrations that evoke a sense of intrigue; images that make you linger, hungry to know the story behind it. My work is often inspired by the past; from myths and fairy tales to gothic novels, these stories resonate with me because they bring a little bit of magic and wonder to the present day.” – she writes on her webpage.
I’ve lived in Iceland for years, and at the beginning had the insane idea of learning the language by myself. Of course it didn’t work out, so I decided to apply to the practical Icelandic course taught at the University of Iceland to pick up the desired language skills in a more formal environment (well, at least it’s more formal than my bedroom).
I’ve studied many languages, ancient and modern as well, and never had big difficulties with acquiring them. But my friends, I need to admit, Icelandic is the most time-consuming and soul-sucking language that I have ever had to deal with. Seriously, I’ve been struggling so much. It’s absolutely not fun. I tried my best and made all the effort I could. If we count the hours I spent sitting in front of different language books in different positions in different places, we would get a really high number of hours. Days. Months.
Let me tell you why I think Icelandic is the evil of modern languages.
First of all, the geographical isolation of Iceland (being an island) means that speakers of Icelandic used to have less direct contact with speakers of other languages, and therefore there were fewer competing influences from other languages. The population of Iceland is mostly made up of people who are Icelandic, and the number of Icelandic-speaking people living outside of Iceland is quite small. This means they have created their own words for everything. The only language it was influenced by in the last couple of hundred years is probably Danish, which has to do with the fact that the Danish conquered Iceland.
Also by now the language has picked up some English words, but they formed a committee (like the French) to preserve the language so they invent new Icelandic words for new things. For example, instead of using the word ‘television’, they use ‘sjónvarp’, which means ‘vision projection’. Clever, huh? But it doesn’t make the life of a language learner easier.
Do you remember the name of the volcano which caused a big trouble in air travel across western and northern Europe in April 2011 giving the reporters a hard time with trying to pronounce its name correctly? Of course you remember.
Icelandic pronounciation in general is difficult as hell. There are many different sounds that might be difficult to pronounce correctly for a non-native speaker:
The rolled R can give trouble for those whose mother tongue is English or French. I’m lucky in this case, Hungarians can roll that R all day long.
This sound þ (thorn) should pose no problem to an English speaker. It is, after all, a letter that used to belong to the Old English alphabet as well and is still widely used in words such as “Thursday” and “thick” to name two examples. This one can be very challenging to people whose mother tongue do not have the sound. (Like me.)
The sound eth (ð) an another one that’s both common in English and crucial in Icelandic, ð exists in the pronunciation of such English words as “the”, “this” and “that”.
Then there is my favourite the ‘ll’ that really needs a huge amount of input to master. I can’t pronounce this sound without spitting on my face or on those whom I’m talking to.
Then there is that weird soft L sound. I always have a hard time when I need to ask for ´mjólk´ in my coffee.
And on the top of these there is a scary monster sitting on an iron throne (no, it’s not someone from Game of Thrones) with the blood of language learners dripping from his axe. He is the Icelandic Grammar. I could talk about our relationship for hours, but not now. Not until I find a way to tame this beast.