Being on a hiking trip in the midst of nowhere in Iceland’s highlands, on a path that is flanked by glaciers, volcanoes, mountains, clouds of sulphur steam and as many water falls as it needs to quickly lose one’s excitement, it’s not the best moment to injure one’s knee. A day’s journey back to civilization was the only solution for my problem. As you can imagine it was rather frustrating to stay in Reykjavík for the last eight days of my trip, let alone I had to figure out how to spend all that time in a city that has only 150.000 inhabitants. That’s as much as half of the whole country’s population and given the fact, that this is actually the estimate for the whole capital’s region of which Reykjavík makes up only a small part, things seemed to get even worse.

However, I somehow fell in love with that charming, calm city where only the most central part – i.e. a single street and its surrounding – is interesting enough for touristy needs. Laugavegur or simply: “the long road” – makes up the city’s heart where everything of general interest is located. The rest of Reykjavík being rather ordinary compared to Berlin expectations is not exactly what one would recommend. Any way, Reykjavík 101 – that is, the postal district in the city center – is so incredibly dense with all kind of points of interest that it I had to curiously look around all the time and it was mere luck my neck didn’t fall into line with my knee. But in the end, after visiting all those galleries and tiny artsy-fartsy stores, having flocked through all the museums and most of the fashion stores (which took not that long, remember, it’s just a small town), I settled at Austurvöllur, and let myself tickle by the green grass and the warm Nordic sun. Was it because of all the young and laid-back people that were around or of the relaxed mood that filled this place: I was reminded of Görlitzer Park and the long and recreative evenings I shared with my closest friends and – somewhat – felt home here.

I became curious of this peculiar notion and then it occured to me that Reykjavík and Berlin had many other things in common: Be it the Tjörnin or “That Spot“, Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur or Burgermeister, the then taking place Gay Parade or Berlin’s 1st of May (Mayday), Laugavegur or Weserstraße, Kolaportið or the Turkish Market, Café Babalu or my beloved super-cozy Macondo at Boxhagener Platz – Reykjavík was the Nordic counterpart of Berlin. Concentrated, slowed down and – the way I see it – climatically more appealing, but astonishingly warm Berlin.

Reykjavík breathes the same mood as Berlin but despite of being just a small town it’s surprisingly vivid. Bars, cafés, clubs, project spaces and the like seem to spring up like mushrooms everywhere. A friend from there told me, that galleries and artists spaces would exist only for a year if that long until they’d fold and raise like a phoenix from the ashes somewhere else. One can feel the vibrant spirit in every corner of the streets, sticking to the corrugated iron facades and being blown over from the coffee houses that the city is famous for.

I always loved the Scandinavian capitals for being great sanctuaries when I was fed up with Berlin’s rapid moving life. Retreating to Stockholm spontaneously was an escape plan I always had recourse to because it comes with most of Berlin’s benefits minus the fuss and an extra portion of recovery but Reykjavík topped it all: No other city I know could ever be that fittingly compared with my beloved Berlin in the face of the charming capital near the Arctic Circle. And guess what: The next trip is already planned. But this time, Reykjavík wouldn’t take a back seat to my hiking trails.

Colourful roofs and simple facades make up the cityscape.

Well, there are similarities, but still.

Relaxing at Austurvöllur, right there in the city's heart.

Just a short ride out of town and there it lies: The rough beauty of Iceland's countryside.

It's all about the details.

Charming decay

They ride German vintage bikes in Reykjavík, too!

Somewhere on Laugavegur

Reykjavík's landmark: The Hallgrímskirkja

Reykjavík's landmark: The Hallgrímskirkja


Posted by:Matthias

Born and raised in Berlin, Matthias' true love lies in this city. It's a deep relationship: passionate about all the charming parts and in affectionate acceptance of what lies beyond the much lauded spots. Whenever he's not strolling through Kreuzberg or Marzahn, he plunges into art, often writing about it at Castor & Pollux.

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