Iceland sends Swiss soldier to EuroGames

Ten Icelandic athletes are set to compete at the EuroGames in Stockholm in August. On the team is Swiss ex-soldier Stephan Jón Hufschmid who’s determined to set a personal goal.

“Yes, I’ve set my mind on it, that’s something I always do,” says Stephan, who will be competing in swimming, that is in the 100 meter breaststroke and in the 50, 100 and 200 freestyle stroke – to be exact.

Stephan Jón Hufschmid is one of seven on Styrmir's swimming team. He's lived in Iceland since . He now speaks the language fluently and says that even though Icelanders make fun of his punctuality, his Swiss friends shake their heads and tell him he’s lost all his organisational skills.
Stephan Jón Hufschmid is one of seven on Styrmir’s swimming team. He’s lived in Iceland since 2009. He now speaks the language fluently and says that even though Icelanders make fun of his punctuality, his Swiss friends shake their heads and tell him he’s lost all his organisational skills.

For the past year Stephan has been training hard with Styrmir, Iceland’s queer sports club for the EuroGames, which are considered one of the largest LGBTQI sport, cultural and political events in the world. This year around 5.000 pariticipants are scheduled to compete and over 200.000 guests are expected to show up for the tournament which will take place in Sweden between 5th to 9th of August. The Icelandic delegation consists of ten athletes who will be competing in 3 disciplines: running, dancing and swimming. This is the second time Iceland takes part and according to Stephan training has generally been going very well.

“Unfortunately there was an accident. One of our swimmers, Julio, was also going to compete in diving, so he had to practice with a gymnastic group as well. And then after one jump he landed very badly so he broke both his legs,” he says. ”Thankfully he can walk now, but not compete. Apart from that, everything has gone very well thanks to a great coach, Hólmgeir Reynisson, a good programe and bunch of very determined athletes,” he adds with a smile.

But why did join Styrmir’s swimming team in the first place?

“What I like about swimming is how you’re on your own,” Stephan explains. “You can’t blame anyone else if you don’t succeed. Not your team members, not a lousy judge, no one. Only yourself.” Sounds harsh, hard-core and very mature.

But that’s how Stephan sees things and maybe it shouldn’t come as a surprise considering his background. Stephan is originally from Switzerland but has been an Icelandic citizen since 2009. He first came to Iceland in 1996, as an ICYE volunteer, to work on a farm in Hvalfjörður, (which is a deep fjord just north of Reykjavík city).

“I was on a farm for a whole year, just milking cows,” he laughingly describes. He actually did such a good job, that he was offered to come back the following year, which he did. “After that I left for home, but the bond I had made with Iceland kept pulling and finally I came back in 2000, this time for good.”

“Unfortunately there was an accident. One of our swimmers…landed very badly so he broke both his legs.”

Before moving to Iceland, Stephan was a member of the Swiss army. “I finished 17 weeks of military school and then did three weeks of army practice every other year. Total time around 225 days,” he recalls and says he wasn’t very fond of the military school. “The school was run with tyranny and some of the things we were asked to do were ridiculous, like crawling through muddy puddles in freezing weather. When I started army practice things had started to change a bit, because of results of recent public voting, where almost 30% of the people wanted to shut down the army. The army had started to focus on working as a whole, where everyone had a mutual goal.”

Training in the army.
Stephan (back row, fifth from left) training in military school.

Despite how harsh things were in the army, Stephan says he sees his time there as a good time. However, coming out was not an option. “There would have been severe bullying. I remember one friend of mine, who was a bit slower than the rest, a little different maybe, and that was enough. He was bullied all the time. I don’t even want to imagine how it would have been, coming out as gay.”

In 2008 Stephan joined Styrmir, which back then only had a soccer team, and he says it helped him a in regards to coming out. “It really opened a new door into social group of LGBT people, which I hadn’t had before. I’m not a big fan of the nightlife you see. I’d rather hang out with friends at home and play cards or board games,” he explains. “Sports and outdoor activities are more of my thing, so when I heard of the soccer team, I saw an opportunity to meet guys who might be like-minded and who were also gay.”

In 2009 he went with the team to compete in the OutGames in Copenhagen, which is similar to EuroGames, only worldwide. In 2010 he went to Cologne to compete in the Gaygames, in 2012 he competed in Stockholm with his team and then in 2013 he went with Styrmir to Seattle IGLA (International Gay and Lesbian Aquatics) where he competed in his first international swimming tournament.
Stephan, on the right, with his friends in Styrmir, at the Seattle IGLA (International Gay and Lesbian Aquatics) in 2013. In 2009 he went with Styrmir to compete in the OutGames in Copenhagen, which is similar to EuroGames, only worldwide. In 2010 he competed with Styrmir in the GayGames at Cologne and in 2012 he competed in Stockholm.

Although Styrmir was a stepping stone in Stephan’s coming out story, it wasn’t the first time he came out. “When I was around 18-19 I tried coming out to my friends and family in Switzerland. It was during the time when AIDS had recently come up and my family didn’t take this very well,” Stephan explains. He pauses for a bit. “Today I can say that I understand their reaction, but back then I just kind of sneaked back into the closet.”

Stephan says he also feels more at ease with his sexuality in Iceland than in Switzerland. “Homosexuality is more hidden in Switzerland. It’s not out in the open, you don’t really hear about gay politicians, for example.” And there are no such things as Out and proud or Refusing to be invisible. As a result Stephan feels he also has to lay a bit low there. “Although my family and friends back home have accepted that I’m gay, people’s attitude is to ignore it rather than embrace it.”

Therefor Stephan feels that  events such as EuroGames and LGBTQI sport teams are necessary. “Mainly I think they’re important in group sports, such as soccer, but also in swimming. I think prejudice still exists in these kind of sports, although it doesn’t seem to be that common in Iceland and almost non-existent amongst women.”

When asked about how the Icelandic delegation feels about going to Stockholm, Stephan says that they’re a little bit nervous about doing well, but mostly excited. And although swimmer Julio is not allowed to compete due to injuries Stephan says he won’t be left behind. ”Oh no. He’ll be cheering for us on the sideline.”

Main photo: Stephan in the army. Background picture shows Styrmir’s soccer team.

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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