Explore Iceland With Iris Bergmann


culturallyours podcast explore Iceland with a local

Explore Iceland With Iris Bergmann

Show Details

In this episode, we explore Iceland and the city of Reykjavik with a local Icelander Iris Bergmann. Iris lives in Reykjavik with her family and as a long time resident she knows some of the most epic areas to visit to experience the grandeur of Iceland. She also shares some off-the-beaten path adventures around Iceland that can help you explore this amazing country. From restaurants to outdoor spaces, Iris takes us on a beautiful adventure – right from the comfort of our homes. She also shares some beautiful images of all the places she talks about via our blog.

Show Notes

Karthika explores the incredibly beautiful country of Iceland and the city of Reykjavik with a local Icelander Iris Bergmann. Iris lives in Reykjavik with her family and she shares her love for her city – unique experiences in and around the city. She shares some off-the-beaten path adventures around Iceland that can help us explore this amazing country that famous for dramatic landscapes, geothermal features, black sand beaches and waterfalls. From restaurants to outdoor spaces, Iris takes us on a beautiful adventure – right from the comfort of our homes. Karthika and Iris also talk about the future of travel as seen from the eyes of a local living in a touristy location.

The Transcript

Karthika: Welcome Iris. Thank you so much for joining me on CulturallyOurs. I cannot tell you how excited I am to have you on the podcast. And I cannot wait to chat with you. Get to know you a little bit better and get to know your corner of the world a little bit better.

Iris: Thank you so much. Karthika I’m so thrilled to be on your podcast. I’m very excited to chat with you.

Karthika: Excellent. I know we are going to have a great conversation. So before we begin, could you tell us a little bit about who you are, where you’re from, just to help set the stage for this conversation?

Iris: So, of course. So I’m Icelandic, born and raised in Iceland. And I have lived here most of my life except I’ve moved to Spain when I was  quite young. Around 18 years old  to learn Spanish and about the culture there. And then I met my first husband and I had my life there for many years. I have three half Spanish children and then I moved back to Iceland and met my second husband and we have one boy who is now almost 10 years old. My husband has also two daughters. So I have two stepdaughters in my life.

Karthika: Quite a busy household.

Iris: My oldest children, they are grownups and they are now living independently.

Karthika: Okay. And where in Iceland are you living right now?

Iris: I’m living in Reykjavik which is the capitol. It’s a really nice city to live in.

Karthika: Now, before we go any further, you have, tell me, have you guys gotten Northern lights already?

Iris: Oh Yes. The other day we had actually very strong activity. We measure it by states from 1 to 10 and the other day we had about six which is the most I have seen here. I just went outside with my phone and took a quick video.

Karthika: Oh wow. I typically don’t do bucket lists but this is by far one of the things I really want to experience sometime during my life span.

Iris: Yes. I agree. Everyone should have that on the bucket list because it’s just so beautiful. It’s out of this world.

Karthika: Yeah, for sure. Talk to me a little bit about your hometown, about Reykjavik and why are you guys living? What is it about Reykjavik that appeals to you as, as a family, as an individual? I would love to know.

Iris: Yeah, It is the Capitol. So most of the people in Iceland live in Reykjavik. I also work an eight to four job here. It is the main job market in Iceland so it would be difficult to go somewhere else. Except if you have a work that is technically you could stay at home. I could work from home now in this situation in the pandemic. But Reykjavik is small. It’s a kind of a cozy city. It’s not that big. It’s only like, I don’t know, 150,000 people live in Reykjavik. But we have many urban areas. I don’t live in the city. I live a little bit outside of downtown, so it’s a cozy little city.

Karthika: Now since you kind of talked a little bit about the pandemic, talk to me about how your community, how your local area, and maybe even how Iceland has handled the pandemic so far and how are plans to reopen, how has that been?

Iris: Iceland has, I mean the government, they have handled things really very well,  for my part, at least. We didn’t have this full lockdown, so we had to some school closed, but it was like home schooling and online learning. My son went for two days a week in the starting of the pandemic. So he went two days a week in school and only for two hours, but now when it started again in August, it’s all days. So we are back to almost normal, but we had companies closing like hairdressers, beauty salons, restaurants, and group. But now they’ve increased the total amount of people who can come together, they’ve reopened the theaters, they’ve reopened the bars and restaurants. We are now in the third wave and we have to be aware and vigilant.

Karthika: Now, do you guys need face masks? Are those things like mandated social distancing?

Iris: Only now in the third way, when you go to the doctors or where you can be in a distance of a one meter, you have to have a mask, but I have only twice had to use it because I had to go to the doctors. So it’s not obligation. And never had been.

Karthika: That’s very interesting. Now, you talked a little bit about the popularity of Reykjavik the capital and Iceland in itself is such a popular tourist destination. Since travel has changed so much,  give me a sense of how that’s impacting,  Iceland, the tourism industry, and maybe even your like day to day, do you see a lot of tourists around, or are things kind of going back to normal that you anticipate a lot of people coming back?

Iris: We definitely have been very badly. Some countries have shut borders. People who come here for a visit have to take a test twice. So if you come here and you take the test on the airport, they test on the airport and then five days later, you have to take the second test. So that alone just cut the number of people because people cannot come for the weekend anymore. So like three day long weekend so they have to stay inside during the time they’re waiting for the second test. So that just stopped the tourist businesses and people are losing jobs. We now have around 25,000 people, who have lost their jobs. And mainly in the tourist businesses. On weekends I often go to the city, the downtown area to photograph. So I photograph tourists walking around. I love it. But now on Sundays or Saturdays, I don’t see any crowds. It’s just like empty streets which is so sad.

Karthika: It’s interesting how different communities and different countries are like experienced it, dealt with it, and now are kind of coping up with the after. And it doesn’t seem like anything is majorly going to shift anytime soon. So this is sort of in the long haul, but it’s, it’s definitely sad to, especially with the travel industry.

Iris: Exactly. The hotels are empty. I mean, we have so many hotels. People have their apartments rented out like Airbnb and, and all. Yeah. I mean, we are a small Island, so many like small businesses around the Island when you drive the, we call it the Ringwood road. So all the businesses outside of Reykjavik, that’s just,  it just crashed. It’s so sad.

Karthika: Well, eventually things hopefully open up, so on that sort of positive spin,  if I, or somebody else out there is looking to plan a trip to Iceland, to Reykjavik, being a local, give us a sense of sort of where should we go, maybe where you would take us,  like itinerary of sorts.

Iris: Okay. Me personally, I love the Ring Road, which you can drive around Iceland and I’ve done it in two days with only two stops. But that’s crazy. I would never recommend doing that for two days. So I would recommend people if you’re coming here at least stay for a week and take the ring road, it takes you around the coast. So you see most parts that you see on social media. Stop and go out when you see something, you can find a spot where you can park and go out to explore. I am not a planner. I never plan ahead. I always just get in the car and drive away and stop where I see something beautiful. You know? So I just go with the flow.

Karthika: There’s something definitely very appealing about that mindset, because that just leaves you open to anything and everything. If it’s not on the agenda, who cares?

Iris: You see a road there. Ask where does this road take? We have so many spectacular views in Iceland it’s a dramatic landscape and geysers, hot Springs, black sand beaches.  We have it all, next to the Ring road. So don’t make plans, just go with the flow and, and see everything you can.

Karthika: I like that. Make sure you’re there for a week, 10 days and have no other plans.

Iris:  And I also would recommend people to go to West side. If you look at the map of Iceland, you can see like there’s a hand like shape with a spread fingers on the top along the West of. So that part is almost never on people’s agenda, because it’s difficult to go there. You have to go there in summertime, but it’s so incredibly beautiful there. And you would see just views that you don’t see anywhere in the world. Yeah. Most people skip that part.

Karthika: Yeah. I’m looking at the map and it’s like the, the typical map has the ring road in yellow, and this definitely does not have like any main highway or road going through it. But you are saying it is worth it.

Iris: Oh yes, definitely. It’s just different kinds of views and my grandmother is born and raised in one of those places there, you know? One small town and every five years we go there gathering all the family of my grandmother. We drive for nine hours and we camp, and have fun for one weekend. We are like 150 people.

Karthika: Oh my gosh. It’s so much fun. That’s like a small mini village in itself.

Iris: Yeah. And we have the school for ourselves. If people are having small babies, they can stay in the school instead of a tent. It’s so nice. I love this about Iceland and the gatherings, we have family gatherings from place your grandparents were born

Karthika: And, you’re saying that’s very typical for most like Icelandic families to have these large gatherings.

Iris: Yes.  like some have it every year, some have it like every five years or 10 years.

Karthika: So like a family reunion.

Iris: Yeah. And we have like name tags and all.

Karthika: Yeah. That’s incredible. I love that sense of community and family seems like it’s very strong in Iceland.

Iris: Yes. I mean, this is a small country, so everybody knows everyone. When I go to downtown, I maybe I see 10 people who I know. I know it doesn’t happen in big cities.

Karthika: Yeah, for sure. I think in big cities or even like, I guess just people in general, sometimes we are so closed off and we want to protect ourselves. I mean, we don’t want to engage with strangers, and this is like a little bit of fear of putting ourselves out there, but when you are in the community and when you’re in a place where everybody knows everybody, there’s just some else. It’s like this sense of safety.

Iris: Yeah, exactly. You go to the store  the supermarket and everything, you go to the mall you always know somebody, right.

Karthika: Right. Now, one thing that I’m sort of seeing, and perhaps you are seeing as well in the travel space is this whole need to go more grassroots. To be off the beaten path and many hyper localized experiences. So these next series of questions, I want the Iris answer. I want your perspective. And I more importantly, I want to know why you feel a certain way, why you have a favorite, so whatever you want to share. So what is your favorite restaurant? And I guess more importantly, why,

Iris: My favorite restaurant is Sychraven. It’s not typical restaurant. You have the world best lobster soup there. It’s small and maybe only few people can sit there at the time but it’s local, it’s downtown and,  near the hear of the city right by the harbor. It is just different and so very good. And then I have a special place in my heart for some junk food and the world’s best hotdogs,  The tourists know what I’m talking about. It’s the cheapest and the best. I always have one when I go downtown it’s, an Icelandic specialty and very good. It was like my first date with my husband. He asked me, where’d you want to go?  And that’s where I wanted to go.  It may have been there for around 80 years or so. It is very much a local thing.

Karthika: Very family run, I would imagine. What’s your favorite activity to do in Iceland or in Reykjavik?

Iris: Mine is driving. I love just to take the car and drive around. I’m kind of a road tripper. So I just maybe take a day trip on weekends, I don’t know, just go somewhere, some town nearby. We have a summer house. So we go there on weekends.  I love it. It’s like a sanctuary, it’s a like to you go there on Friday night and stay there till Sunday. And it’s like, kind of a  getaway, like wind down your stress. Also I love walking town taking photographs so awesome.

Karthika: My husband is very much a road tripper. I’m imagining you very similar to that. Literally on Friday night he will say lets go for a long drive. And a long drive for him is at least five or six hours. We just load up the car and we’ll just grab some snacks. And now my kids are a little older, so it’s easier, but we would just have everything ready even when they were young. And we would just drive. He just loves being on the road.

Iris: Yeah. I love it. It’s just a thing to just want to outside.

Karthika: Now Iceland is very famous for all the things that you’ve said, The glaciers, the dramatic landscapes. Are there any sort of outdoor spaces that are maybe more locals hangout that, not something that you would find on a guidebook per se, that you absolutely love?

Iris: Yes. I mean, locals love hiking, going to the local mountains here and hike. Sometimes people will want to go to movies or the theater. But I like going outside. We have a mountain that is just 10 minutes from me and I can walk from home to that mountain.

Karthika: And are there like some activities, like maybe bike tours or cooking classes or something like painting. Something that is quite the thing to do, but again, like I said, maybe it’s not super popular because everybody’s just trying to hit all the main key points. Something that is definitely what exploring Iceland from a local’s perspective would be the thing to do.

Iris: I would definitely say, our historical open air museum because, not many people go there. I mean, I think tourists don’t even know about it. It’s like a museum that’s showcases what living condition in the earlier times of Reykjavik was like. It’s an open museum with a lot of old houses, like they used to be in the city, and, how, where people work and how life was in the 1700/1800s. Yeah. So it’s a museum. I know you have to pay in and it’s a little bit outside of downtown, but it’s just beautiful. It’s beautiful place to go and  walk around and look at how things were in Reykjavik in the early times.

Karthika: And I’m sure it gives such great insight into just like Icelandic culture the people. And a lot of times as tourists, we maybe don’t want to spend that time. Like I said, sometimes we are just taking off things on this list that I’ve been there, done this, taken that Instagram selfie, and we’re going to move on, but things like these the museum that you’re talking about is just so critical in just helping understand what the country’s all about.

Iris: Exactly how people live. I mean, I love museums and I try to go to museums when I’m somewhere else, you know? Just kind of knowing how people lived before us and how hard maybe people had and how they manage, how they survived in the cold and how all those houses that didn’t have any items, and people lived in isolation. And it was freezing cold here on these times, you know? So this museum, for me, it’s like a hidden gem and I love it.

Karthika: Now you know, it sounds like from everything that you’ve told me, you are quite the adventure you love getting out there, you love exploring. So have you, kind of found maybe some new hidden gem, something you didn’t know about maybe, or maybe you tried kind of visited long time ago that you’ve sort of rediscovered these past few months.

Iris: I walk around town a lot, but I seem, to always go to the same places but, as we don’t have any tourists,  I walk different streets and I’m just now amazed by all the graffiti we have in the city, you know?  So I’m seeing a lot of  beautiful art that I’ve never seen before. I’m seeing houses that I’ve never seen,  streets I’ve never walked before. Maybe since I was little. Also there’s a town half an hour from Reykjavik that I used to go when I was little and haven’t been there for a long time. So I went there for  just one of those road trips. And it was just amazing. There was a framers market and it has grown so much since I’ve been there. You know, there are so many things you can buy there that you didn’t before. I go on weekends or take the car for a quick trip.

Karthika: Now, this next question, I know, everybody has different perspectives, so there’s no right or wrong answer. So just whatever you’re comfortable sharing. And I’m curious about your personal views, because I think a lot of times when we listen to different perspectives, we educate ourselves as well. So where do you think travel is headed in the future?

Iris: Hopefully we find the vaccine soon so all countries can kickstart and reopen borders and  but I don’t think that traveling will go like it was before COVID until like two or three years from now. This has been a setback on all levels economically, economically, health, business so hopefully in a few years we can get back to things being normal.  Many companies like airlines have gone under. Even Icelandic Air was struggling and with local investment, has stabilized. But the same thing is happening all over the world.

Karthika: I read an article that a lot of the airlines, I’m talking about US airlines,  and perhaps that’s even true for international airlines, but a lot of airlines are  pushing their planes to the desert because they’re not flying all the time. So rather than having them sit in the hangar and getting basically degrade, they are putting them in these dry environments so that they can stop the erosion, stop the process because they anticipate it a while before they can get all the planes in the air.  And it just hits you that it at so many levels, every industry that you can think of, whether it’s directly related to travel or indirectly related travel has been impacted in some way or the other.

Iris: Exactly. And we are also been going to be a little bit concerned when we start to travel again. We are going to be washing our hands more and using sanitizer and masks more.

Karthika: I agree. From Chicago, it takes about 22 hours to get to Bombay. I have to think really hard as to whether I want to expose, not just myself, but my kids to that. But then again I have family, so I want to go back. I want to be with my family. So it’s very hard call for sure.

Karthika: Now, if, and when things open up, what are your travel plans? Would you like to go next?

Iris: Oh my God, I can’t wait for it. My next travel will be a road trip from Spain to Italy. It’s a driving route from Spain to Italy along the Mediterranean coast, then staying in Italy for like three weeks to explore. This was on my agenda with for the summer but now I have pushed it back to when things open up.

Karthika: Well, thank you so much, Iris. This has been absolutely amazing. Thank

Iris: Thank you so much for having me.

Karthika: Absolutely. I appreciate you sharing your perspective and your beautiful country with us. I cannot wait when I get there. And I’m going to take you up on the offer to drive me around.

Iris: You are so welcome and my doors are open.


Leave your comments below