Monday, July 26, 2004


On a Saturday or Sunday in Reykjavík, down by the harbor in an old customs warehouse, is Kolaportið, the “world’s northernmost flea market’. There is something to be said for examining a culture from its dregs, and this weekly gathering does not disappoint. It isn’t terribly big (like Iceland) and certainly not pretentious in any way (also like Iceland). The first thing you notice is a lot of reading material. Most of it is Icelandic, although a fair smattering of English and other Nordic languages is in evidence. This is a country where people like to read. Pop culture isn’t ignored, there are plenty of videos, CDs and computer games. I had a great talk (and audio demonstrations) with a vendor about the “Keflavík Sound.” Second hand clothes were in evidence, with several booths having fashion dresses and accessories: stuff that looked like a lot of fun.

Did I mention the food? There was an area with vendors selling varieties of dried fish (don't knock it till you've tried it—it is about the most nutritious snack food you will ever eat.) There was also frozen lamb and fresh fish, Sort of like Seattle’s Pike Place market, albeit on a tiny scale. There was also a food court where you could buy sugary pastries and light sandwiches. A nice touch about the food court was the live entertainment; a folk singer, playing traditional and international songs. Corny, sure, but really sweet. The performer just stood in the middle of the tables, and people of all ages enjoyed the music, even singing along on many songs. It was as if I had gone back in time, to rural American market day. It is this sense of community that has been lost in urban (and suburban) America and it is something that we could really use.

As I was enjoying the atmosphere, I thought it might be a good idea to capture on film the splendor of my environs. I didn’t have my tripod, so I set my trusty camera upon a conveniently placed trash bin. I focused, framed, and shot and I was about to put my camera away I was suddenly surrounded by three preteen girls on roller blades. “Camera?” the boldest asked, and pointed at it and then herself. Hmm. Should I give my $500 camera with a $300 lens to a rollerblading 11-year-old in a strange country? I must have had Loki whispering in my ear as I gave it to her and her friends to examine. I had the fish-eye lens on and they thought that was great fun. I feebly attempted conversation, but they didn’t speak English or didn’t care to. As quickly as they had come, they were gone, their photographic interests satisfied, they were off to another adventure. When I developed the picture later, they were in the center of the frame, the roller-princesses of Kolaportið.

By Professor Batty


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