Conchita Wurst.

What kind of sick joke is this?

I’m a bit of a fan of the Eurovision Song Contest. Not because I know anything about music (I’d stand a better chance explaining quantum physics to a three-year old, than to take part in an intellectual conversation about music) but because it’s a celebration of the things all Europeans (or indeed all of mankind) have in common. Plus, it’s one hell of a show!
For an outsider, it might be strange to think that within such a small geographical place as Europe, there are huge gaps between nations when it comes to culture, economy and the general take on life. Add to that a long history of wars between neighbors, moving borders, political separation and racism, and you get a ticking time-bomb. Europe is, in that sense, not “A” place, but more like a boiling pot, or a junction of nations.

Tolerance was always the idea
Lys Assia won the first Eurovision Song Contest in 1956, with the song "Refrain" for the host country Switzerland.
Lys Assia won the first Eurovision Song Contest in 1956, with the song “Refrain” for the host country Switzerland.

In 1956, when Europe was being rebuilt after the second World War, the European Broadcasting Union had the first Eurovision Song Contest, to bring together the membership countries, with a light entertainment programme. Nations that had once fought each other, now had the chance to compete in a friendly manner, encouraging tolerance and friendship.
Since then, a lot has changed. The songs, naturally, and the stage performances are quite different, but Europe itself has also changed. Countries have been split up to new ones, in devastating wars that have claimed the lives of millions. And as some countries are no more, new countries have declared independence and some of them have gone on to take part in Eurovision.
So, what is so great about the competition? In my opinion, it stands for the union of nations (even if just for a few days), for the joy of life and celebration of diversity … but for a lot of people it’s probably just one more competition that allows them to root for their country.

The queer revolution

It is no secret that in the recent years, Eurovision has gained its most loyal fan-base within the queer community. A three-night event with glamour, lights, long dresses, dancing, drama and constant singing … who didn’t see that coming?

Marija Serifovic.
Marija Serifovic, was the winner of 2007 and is openly gay.

And for the last years, these fans have gotten more “for their money”, since openly queer performers, such as the Icelandic Paul Oscar (1997), the Israeli (don’t ask, I have no idea why they take part) Dana International (1998 and 2011) and the Serbian Marija Šerifović (2007) have taken to the stage, the latter two even taking home “the gold”.
It is my understanding that even though most Icelanders follow the competition closely, in many countries it goes largely unnoticed these days, except within the queer community.
This year then, it was perhaps not a surprise that Austria sent the drag-queen Conchita Wurst to Eurovision. What better, to get the queer vote, than a gorgeous queen?
Wurst, who went on to take first place with the song “Rise of the Phoenix”, did confuse some viewers though, because of her trademark full beard. It is supposed to represent the message that it shouldn’t matter where we are from, or what we look like, we are all equal.

Tom Neuwirth.
Tom Neuwirth – the man behind Conchita Wurst.

Tom Neuwirth, literaly the man behind Conchita Wurst, created her as a statement for tolerance and acceptance after being discriminated against in his teens. “It’s not about appearances; it’s about the human being,” it says on Wurst‘s website. “Everybody should live their lives however they want, as long as nobody else gets hurt or is restricted in their own way of life.”
And what a beautiful message that is. It rang true for Eurovision fans, and even though Wurst’s song and performance was up to par, it is generally believed that beyond that, tolerance won the competition this year.

Is the Rise of the Phoenix the fall of Europe?

Alas, not everyone thinks Wurst, or her message, has a place in today’s Europe. While many of my Facebook-friends told stories of how their children asked “why that lady had a beard”, and accepted the explanation that we were all different in one way or another, there are also those who think Wurst will singlehandedly degenerate Europe to the point we are lost.

Popular Russian rapper Timati  has called Wurst's win a "mental illness of contemporary society". He also thanked Putin for his efforts to ban gay pride parades in Moscow.
Popular Russian rapper Timati has called Wurst’s win a “mental illness of contemporary society”. He also thanked Putin for his efforts to ban gay pride parades in Moscow.

At this time, I feel it’s right to clear things up. As far as I can tell, Conchita is only a drag-persona, a sort of an alter-ego for Tom. If I’m right, it means that Tom is not a hermaphrodite, not a transwoman and not “half-this, half-that”. He‘s simply a young talented man, who performs in drag. Correct etiquette is to speak of Tom as “him” and of Conchita as “her”. It‘s really not that hard.
Since I didn’t know much about Tom or Conchita, I’ve been reading up on them and watching old interviews with Conchita. And what a delightful persona. She’s funny, she’s warm and she’s just about the right amount serious about herself and her career.
Why,  then,  would the comments to her videos be: “What kind of sick joke is this? That thing is truly offensive to common decency”, “Disturbing to know that this was once a normal man…” and, simply: “Go to hell.”
Maybe it’s because her message is a much-needed one? Maybe it’s because that outside the Eurovision fan-base, Europe is still recovering from the ideology of mid-20th century? Maybe, it’s because that even in the age of information and communication, ignorance and intolerance are still alive and kicking?

More to do with Russia than Austria?

For anyone who followed the competition, the reactions to the Russian act were perhaps a bit of the same medicine for a different disease. The singers, young and talented twins, were booed at, and in fact whenever Russia was mentioned during the scoring, the audience booed.

"It's the end of Europe. They don't have men and women any more. They have 'it'," said Russian politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky about Wurst's victory, adding: "Fifty years ago the Soviet army occupied Austria. We made a mistake in freeing Austria. We should have stayed."
“It’s the end of Europe. They don’t have men and women any more. They have ‘it’,” said Russian politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky about Wurst’s victory, adding: “Fifty years ago the Soviet army occupied Austria. We made a mistake in freeing Austria. We should have stayed.”

It is generally believed that this reaction is to Russian head of state Putins’ anti-queer policy, rather than the recent invasion into Ukraine, a fellow European country once a part of the Soviet Union.
In a press conference after she won the competition, Wurst got the message out to Putin that “we are unstoppable”. It is also worth mentioning that during scoring, her song got five points from Russia. (Eurovision scoring is a topic of its own, but five points means Russia voted Austria in sixth place, with scoring being done 50% by televote and 50% via „professional“ jury).
Russian politicians and clerks have since opposed to the idea of a drag-queen victory, and gone so far as to encourage their countrymen to shave their beards off, so they won’t look like Conchita. To them, Wurst is the embodiment of evil. Probably because she represents, more than anything else, the freedom of choice.
To me, it’s utterly amazing that a single drag-queen (as wonderful as she may be) might actually have a greater impact on Russian politics than “all” (ahem) of the protest against Russia’s anti-gay laws, in relations to the recent Olympic Games.
To use a phrase I’m not too fond of, “one guy in a dress” might actually be the catalyst that moves Europe one step closer together. One step away from prejudice. And I’d even go so far as to say that is the very reason she won the Euriovison song contest – so that the queer minority of Europe, heck – ALL minorities of Europe, would gain a strong voice against the prejudice that has manifested itself in today’s Russian politics, but are also thriving in smaller quantities all over Europe.
And that is exactly why we need Conchita Wurst, and why she needs all of us to back her up. Even those of us who can’t sing to save their li

The Hamburger Factory
- gourmet burgers

Ok. You’re in Iceland. Most likely for the first time.

You will probably bathe in the Blue Lagoon and take a road trip to Gullfoss and
Geysir. That’s all well and good. But neither Geysir’s nor waterfalls are
something you eat. That’s why we have 15 brilliant and creative hamburgers at
The Hamburger Factory. And they are all perfectly square. Don’t miss out on
Iceland’s most beloved hamburgers.

The Hamburger Factory is Iceland’s most innovative gourmet burger chain.
Packed with burger-craving customers since it’s opening in 2010, among the
regulars is Iceland’s best known fisherman, Eric Clapton. In our restaurants we
welcome tourists with our newspaper like menu and smiley service. They are
packed with fun items and memorable connections to Icelandic pop culture.

Locations:

Omnom Chocolate
- award-winning chocolate maker

    Omnom Chocolate is an Icelandic craft chocolate company based in Reykjavík. We produce handcrafted chocolate from organic cacao beans sourced ethically and sustainably. We’ve developed direct relationships to create premium chocolate with fine flavor cacao beans.

    Our creative flavors are carefully crafted by meticulous chocolate makers. The cacao beans are roasted, winnowed, ground, and refined into melty-smooth chocolate.

    Omnom’s process is one of constant exploration, invention, and experimentation. If it doesn’t please us, if something isn’t absolutely delicious, there’s no reason to be doing it. So, we always start with our taste buds and follow our instincts. Our team searches for the finest ingredients in the world and new ways to improve chocolate. This obsession with knowing where our ingredients come from has led us around the corner to dairy farms in the Icelandic countryside and all the way to rainforest cacao farms of Nicaragua.

    In only a few short years, we’ve grown from our 50 sq. m. petrol station space and become an award-winning chocolate maker. Now, with our headquarters in 101 Reykjavík, our chocolate is sent out around Iceland and all over the world.

    At the end of the day, our goal is to make chocolate.

     

    Alfred’s Apartments
    - gay owned an operated

      Alfred’s Apartments and Alfred’s Studios is a gay operated and owned accommodation in the heart of Reykjavik.

      Alfred’s Apartments offers spacious apartments at a good price located just around the corner from Laugavegur shopping street. You can choose the apartment starting from a Small Studio for 2 persons to a large One-bedroom Apartment with balcony for 5 persons.

      Their staff will ensure your comfort during the stay and provide the most updated information about the city, gay and night life in Reykjavik.

      Each apartment has a private bathroom with a shower, fully equipped kitchen and free Wi-Fi. Guests can buy groceries at the local grocery store 50 meters from the apartments. Because of their very central location, numerous shops, restaurants and cafés are available in the surrounding area. The Church of Hallgrimur is located 350 m from the apartments, a tourist agency is just 50 m away and the nearest gay bar is less than 5 minutes walking distance.

      Laekur hostel
      In the hostel we have dorms for 4-8 persons with shared kitchen and bathroom facilities. The rooms are furnished with free internet, lockers, and a USB charger by each bed. The beds have linen provided and you can rent a towel in the cafe on the ground floor for 5 EUR.

      All the dorms are mixed with both genders. You can also book a whole room with 4-8 bunker beds.

      Blue Lagoon
      - a world of wonder

      Named by National Geographic as one of the 25 Wonders of the World, the Blue Lagoon is a shimmering expanse of warmth, relaxation, and rejuvenation. Its unique geothermal seawater comes from 2000 meters within the earth where sea and fresh water converge in a tectonic frontier of porous lava and searing heat. Propelled by extreme pressure, the water ascends to the earth’s surface, emerging enriched with silica, algae, and minerals: the elements that endow Blue Lagoon geothermal seawater with its radiant, healing properties.

      From its humble beginnings in the shadows of a geothermal power plant, Blue Lagoon has evolved into a world of wonder, now encompassing a hotel, a restaurant, a luxury lounge, a renowned line of skin care, a research center, in-water massage, and a wealth of spa and refreshment facilities.

      Achieving harmony with the volcanic landscape of Iceland’s Reykjanes lava plain, the lagoon and its surrounding architecture embody the unification of the man-made and the natural, and adhere to the highest principles of sustainability.

      Blue Lagoon. A wonder of the world. A world of wonder.

      Whales of Iceland
      - larger than life

      Whales of Iceland is the largest whale exhibition in Europe (and perhaps even the world), where guests can learn about the giants of the sea in a calm and modern environment. The permanent exhibition features whales like guests have never seen them before. It is truly a giant experience.

      Landsbankinn
      - leading financial institution

      Landsbankinn is a leading Icelandic financial institution. It offers a full range of financial services and is the market leader in the Icelandic financial service sector with the largest branch network.

      The present bank was established on 7 October 2008 but the history of its predecessor dates back to 1886. The bank is owned by the National Treasury of Iceland, which holds 98.2% of its share capital, and other shareholders who own 1.8%.

      Landsbankinn’s strategy is to provide comprehensive financial services that meet customer’s needs. It emphasizes providing exemplary service to customers, developing e-banking for their convenience, increasing the efficiency of support functions, modernizing its technology and ensuring effective utilization of its balance sheet.

      The bank’s vision is to be exemplary and its role is to be a trusted financial partner.

      Special emphasis is placed on promoting a performance-oriented culture in the bank. To follow up on the implementation of this strategy, the bank has defined key goals which are measured regularly to determine progress. These goals include, for example, customer satisfaction and loyalty, profitability, cost efficiency and the correlation between risk appetite and employee satisfaction.

      Landsbankinn wishes to lead the development of a sustainable society in Iceland by integrating economic, social and environmental concerns in its operations. The Bank aims to ensure that both its owners and society at large benefit from its activities.

      It intends to achieve this aim by building solid infrastructure and a strong team of 1.100 employees, by listening to its customers and by respecting and encouraging its employees to actively participate in their community. Landsbankinn was a founding member of Festa, a Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility, and is a member of the UN Global Compact.

      Landsbankinn has been a proud sponsor of the Reykjavik Pride since it was first celebrated in Iceland.

      Dohop
      - get inspired

      Dohop allows people to find the cheapest flights available with just one click. Founded in Reykjavik in 2004, it is the only Icelandic company of its kind and quickly became the go-to tool for finding cheap flights among the locals. Dohop finds the best deals among hundreds of different airlines and online travel agencies, to make sure that the user is getting the cheapest price. Dohop also offers hotel and car rental search engines, so users can make all of their travel bookings from a single website.

      Dohop‘s specialty is finding so-called “self-connect” flight options, which can save travelers money by booking a ticket through two or more different airlines. The ability to look for these self-connect option is what sets Dohop apart from its competition, as it can save people hundreds of dollars on certain routes.

      More recently, Dohop has developed a unique product called Dohop Go!, which allows users to check for the cheapest available flights from their home airport. This tool is perfect for those who are looking for travel inspiration but are not willing to overpay for their flight ticket. Dohop Go! is now available in the Dohop Flights App, both for Android and iOS, along with its traditional flight, hotel, and car search engines. “

      Macland
      - for all your Apple needs

      From starting out as a proper startup with only a good idea and the need to change things, to becoming an established company with 6 employees. Starting from scratch and expanding organically has allowed us to love our expansion and take our customers on the ride with us.

      Macland is located at Laugavegur 23 (101, Downtown Reykjavik)
      For all your Apple needs. We are here.

      Aurora Reykjavik
      - northern lights center

        Aurora Reykjavik is a Northern Lights Center situated in downtown Reykjavík at the Old Harbor next to Icelandair Hotel Marina and Vikin Maritime Museum.

        Aurora Reykjavík is Iceland’s first educational and recreational Northern Lights Center where multimedia is used to explain when, why and how the Northern Lights work, with the highlights being large HD projection of the Aurora’s. We also share myths and legends about what our ancestor thought about those mystical lights.

        The Northern Lights Center is for all ages. Children are our favorite guests and we created the exhibition in a way that children can have a look freely and parents don’t have to worry about things being broken.

        Aurora Reykjavik offers a great selection of souvenirs that are designed and made by Icelanders along with nice little coffee corner, where you can enjoy free coffee and tea while browsing through the souvenirs or just planning your next step.

        Contact Aurora

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        Ísey skyr
        - once tasted never forgotten

        Our Story
        Once upon a time, 1,100 years ago in fact, Nordic settlers began arriving in Iceland. They brought with them the skills and knowledge for producing skyr. As time passed, the know-how and recipe for this nutritious food slowly faded out elsewhere in the Nordic region. Luckily, the Icelandic skyr-making tradition continued.

        For centuries, Icelandic skyr formed a cornerstone of the national diet, helping to keep people strong in living conditions that were often harsh. On family farms countrywide, it was the women who nurtured this dairy and passing on both the recipe and the original Icelandic skyr cultures from mother to daughter.

        Ísey skyr builds on this remarkable legacy. It was some of those very same women, the recipients of their mothers’ expertise, who, around 90 years ago, taught Icelandic dairy scientists the art of skyr-making. The production process is more high-tech these days, and the quality standards more rigorous. However, the basic recipe and the use of original cultures to ferment the skimmed milk remain the same. Protein rich, fat-free, creamy and delicious – Ísey skyr is as relevant to consumers now as it was all those centuries ago.
        This is our secret and you are in on it

        You can read more about Ísey skyr on our website.

        Núðluskálin
        - noodle bar

        Núðluskálin is a small gay owned and operated fusion noodle bar.

        All of our courses are individually made from fresh ingredients and therefore highly customisable.
        We offer fully Vegan versions of all courses.
        Though originally a take-away we now seat over 30 people.

        Núðluskálin is located right in the heart of Reykjavík on Skólavörðustígur 8 (street leading up to the big Church) near the junction with Laugavegur (main street).

        Seatours
        - adventure cruise

        Ferry Baldur – the gate to the West fjords
        and VikingSushi Adventure – Bird & Nature watching Tour for everyone all year around

        The “VikingSushi Adventure” is the right boat tour for travelers who are adventurous and want to experience something new – close up to the nature seafood simply doesn’t come fresher than this! The archipelago area of the Breidafjordur Bay always surprises her visitors during winter or summer with spectacular sights. Where else you get to try delicious fresh scallops and sea urchin roe straight from the ocean served with soy sauce, wasabi and ginger.

        600x400-seatours-tasting

        This old volcanic area, characterized by the typical basalt formations of the islands, is the home of countless birds. Here you will also find the strongest currents in Iceland. The VikingSushi Tour takes roughly two hours and our captain is also the tour guide.

        600x400-seatours

        The VikingSushi Tour is a true adventure through incredible nature which should not be missed by any traveler to West Iceland.

        Birds, possible to spot:
        -puffins (from the middle of April until the middle of August)
        -eider ducks
        -shags
        -kittiwakes
        -fulmars
        -white-tailed eagle

        The car ferry Baldur is the bridge to the West fjords via the island Flatey
        Ferry Baldur crosses Breidafjordur Bay daily from Stykkisholmur on the Snæfellsnes peninsula to Brjanslaekur in the north. A ferry ride considerably shortens the route between the south and mid-west of the country and the West Fjords region. It also gives you the opportunity to experience a floating restaurant.

        Take a stopover at the charming island Flatey when you are crossing the bay or go to a day tour to Flatey and back to Stykkishólmur. At Flatey are no cars allowed and between the houses of the 18th century you get the feeling of a journey back in time.

        Contact Us


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