More of Auld Reykjavík (KH)


katharinahauptmann02_dlLast summer I wrote an article about Reykjavík in the beginning of the last century including photos and an old travel video.

Reading an article on the Icelandic website I came upon some more material I feel obliged to share. By the way, Lémurinn (‘the lemur’) is an Icelandic website featuring tidbits about all sorts of topics, full of delightful articles and photo albums. Much to my (and your) regret is only in Icelandic.

Firstly, I would like to draw your attention to a travel video documenting the journey of the SS Reliance of the Hamburg-American Line. The travelers come ashore in Iceland in the summer of 1935. When watching the clip, skip to mark 2:24. “Iceland, Island of Contrasts” it says in the short film showing among others scenes from the streets of Reykjavík such as a fish market, the salting of cod, people walking around the streets doing their daily chores. One even catches a glimpse of today’s tourist hot spot Þingvellir National Park .

Another highlight of is a photographic account of  German tourists visiting Iceland in 1925. We in Iceland know that Germans are still crazy about Iceland and these days they visit the country in their thousands.

The pictures were taken by photographer Richard Fleischhut who came ashore in Reykjavík as one of 400 German tourists onboard pleasure boat SS München on July 1, 1925. In 1925 tourists visiting Iceland were somewhat of an attraction, so the passengers of the SS München surely turned heads back then. Apparently they did some sightseeing in the capital including a visit to the Einar Jónsson sculpture museum, which looks almost just like today, the hot springs in Laugardalur and a performance of a choir dressed in the traditional national costumes.

The pictures also show famous tourist attraction  Þingvellir National Park and a display of Glíma, traditional Icelandic wrestling. Lucky travelers! Today, tourists can at most enjoy the display of wrestling-like behavior in Reykjavík’s nightlife.

Nine years later, in 1934, a Dutch traveler named Willem van de Pol came to Iceland documenting his journey with a bunch of fantastic photos of Iceland in the 30s.

Mr van de Pol managed to capture beautiful head shots of the people and of typical scenes from the daily lives of Icelanders.

Let’s go even further back in time, how about the very beginning of the 20th century?  Some of the oldest photographic accounts of Iceland to be found on this great website were shot between 1900 and 1910 by Danish land surveyors.

I love looking at those pictures. For instance, it is astonishing to recognize certain buildings on the pictures realizing how the cityscape of Reykjavík has changed or not changed.

What is also quite interesting is reading the comments of those websites. Usually I would recommend to stay away from comment sections, but in this case it is absolutely amazing to read the comments as so many Icelanders comment and write something like “the girl on the third picture is my grandmother” and so on. Small world.

These graphic accounts are so precious and give a fascinating insight into the life of Icelanders in the beginning of the 20th century. I, at least, am totally captivated and simply cannot get enough of them.

Thank you, Lemúrinn!

Katharina Hauptmann -

Views expressed here are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Iceland Review.