In Iceland most people spend New Year’s Eve with family or close friends. It’s generally considered important to be with your closest ones when the clock strikes 12, and only after that you go out for a party with a bigger crew.

With Eva María Þórarinsdóttir Lange, her girlfriend Birna Hrönn Björnsdóttir and their partner and friend, Hannes Pálsson, it used to be the same. But after Pink Iceland came into existence, and practically became their life, they found themselves in a complex situation.

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Queer activist and business woman Eva María Þórarinsdóttir Lange, founder and co-owner of Pink Iceland.

“Many of our guests wanted to come over for Christmas and New Year’s. We wanted to be able to give them that, but we didn’t want to sacrifice our own holidays. Birna and I always have a big New Year’s Eve party for our friends and family at home. We decided to open that up to our foreign guests so they can experience a real Icelandic New Years party.”

Eva María and Birna Hrönn live in the centre of Reykjavík. Their apartment has a great big balcony with a view and a big living room. Perfect for parties! “First we go to the classic bonfire, then we go to dinner at a downtown restaurant, followed by a walk up to Hallgrímskirkja for shooting fireworks. There, we have this beautiful moment, where each guest shoots his own personal message out into the world. Unlike Icelanders, most of our guests have never lit fireworks before so this is really a wonderful moment.”

“Birna and I always have a big New Year’s Eve party… We decided to open that up to our foreign guests.”

Then comes the party. “People just love coming to a real person’s home. We keep it real and we never put up a show or entertain our guests. It’s a real house party, where you can throw off your shoes and wear socks if you feel like, cuddle up in the sofa, chat away with an Icelander, eat “laufabrauð” [e. leaf bread, most often eaten around Christmas] and make toasts for the New Year. This kind of an atmosphere isn’t usually up for sale.”

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“It’s a real house party, where you can chat with an Icelander and make toasts for the New Year,” says Eva María.

They invite all their Icelandic friends and family members, and about 20 foreign guests.

“In every party we’ve held so far lasting friendships have been made. There has to be a good balance between locals and foreign guests. We trust our guests with all of our personal belongings. It’s all based on beautiful mutual respect, just like our business.”

GROWING UP IN ITALY

If you’ve ever met Eva María you probably connect her with happy times and a super-light, colourful spirit. Glimmer is even is her middle name, according to Facebook at least. Even so, when the holidays approach and you would expect her to happily pull out the Christmas decorations like the likes of her do, she turns inwards. She is not a Christmas child. Not since she was eight years old and moved to Naples with her mom, to live with her new Italian husband and his family.

We meet at a café in downtown Reykjavík, just a few steps away from her home in the centre. The plan is to talk about her Christmas rituals, and not before long the talk brings us to her childhood in Naples.

“Really, you grew up in Naples?!” I ask dreamily, remembering a day years ago, getting lost in the crooked streets of the ancient city in the south of Italy and loving it. “I love Naples,” I say, but she quickly pulls me back to her reality. “You do?” she says, and the tone of her voice tells me that here we have a story. Turns out she never wandered the streets of Naples alone. She was never allowed to.

Eva María (top row, third fromthe left) with classmates and teachers in Italy.

Eva María (top row, fourth from the left), around eight years old, pictured with classmates and teachers in Naples.

“I was overprotected in Naples, which is a big city, considered to be quite dangerous. In Iceland I was the kind of kid who liked playing outside, I didn’t play with dolls, just balls, bicycles and that kind of stuff. When we moved to Italy I was practically locked inside and I felt that freedom had been taken away from me. I tend to get this unsettling feeling in my stomach when Christmas approaches. It’s like some kind of a disruption in my system which I have a hard time controlling. I think it is because I never really liked Christmas in Italy. I always used to miss the Icelandic Christmas and I dreaded the Italian family Christmas parties. Family life was quite special there. Now I actually look forward to Christmas and it’s a heartwarming feeling to be a part of a tradition I’ve created with my family and friends.”

“I felt alone with those feelings and I tried to suppress them … Moving to Iceland helped me come to terms with being a lesbian.”

She was never able to conform to the role of the woman in society in Italy. “The woman is supposed to stay at home, cooking and cleaning. That is what my mother does and has been doing since 1989. Sure, in Iceland she was a housewife, but a kind of a “party” housewife. And by that I mean that our house in Iceland was like a train station, alive! That’s how I like to have my home. In Naples you are taught that women are second class people. So many little things used to bother me over there. When one of my friend’s father was having an affair, my friend said: “What do you expect? He is a man and he has his needs.”

When Eva María started being interested in girls, life became even more complicated. “I think I was 8 or 9 when I first told my mother that I thought I would never marry a man. She took it as a statement about not getting married at all. I was around 13 or 14 when I mentioned it again and she said: “Don’t be silly, you’re just going through a phase.” Still today it surprises me how little impact this upbringing had on me. The most logical path for me would have been to keep living there and marrying an Italian man, repressing who I was. But I refused to get into that mindset.”

STILL INSIDE THE ITALIAN CLOSET

Eva María moved from Italy and back to Iceland when she was only 15 years old. Last October she visited her home town again, accompanied by her partner Birna, Hannes, and his partner Villi. Ten years had passed since she last visited and Birna had never met most of her family members. It was only on the same day they came that her mother finally told her husband that Eva María is gay.

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Intimate moment Kissing at Verona.

“He took it okay, it didn’t seem like a big deal although it wasn’t discussed at all. I don’t know why my mom didn’t just tell him 20 years ago, I don’t know what she thought would happen.”

The four friends travelled around Italy. Almost every time they booked double rooms the hosts switched the names of the couples, listin Eva María as the wife of one man and Birna the wife of the other. When they went to parties, everyone thought they were two straight couples.

In the southern part of Italy being gay is not accepted. The rest of Eva’s Italian family still even doesn’t know that she is a lesbian. It seems strange that someone who is as outspoken and important in the queer rights scene here in Iceland is still living a double life.

“It’s ridiculous, I know. But this is very important to my mom and I feel like I have to respect that. So, in reality I am still living a double life, one here and another there. Of course I would prefer to tell my Italian family. I feel like I have nothing to lose. If they would all stop talking to me I would simply feel sorry for them.

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Friends Birna, Eva’s girlfriend, and their friends Hannes and Villi, traveling in Italy.

When Birna and I were at the Vatican, and a group of nuns came walking by, we spontaneously kissed right in front of them. We enjoyed seeing the look on their faces. We don’t mind shaking things up. But it’s for my mother’s sake that I don’t tell my Italian family about being a lesbian. It’s important for her. She still lives there and I don’t.”

HOME SWEET HOME

There’s always a bright side to every story. Growing up in Italy, Eva María learned to appreciate her home country, which she always associated with freedom. She had also learned to trust in herself and to believe in her gut feelings. She felt that she was supposed to move back to Iceland, and at 15 she left Naples to move back. So, as a complexed teenager, she sat down in an Icelandic classroom, for the first time in a very long time. Her goal was to finish the final exams of primary school which would give her access to an Icelandic high school.

Outgoing "In Iceland I was the kind of kid who liked playing outside." Eva María pictured around the age of 5.

Outgoing “In Iceland I was the kind of kid who liked playing outside.” Eva María pictured around the age of 5.

“Moving to Iceland helped me come to terms with being a lesbian. Still, I didn’t know anyone else who was. At that time there was no platform on the internet that I knew of where you could find people like yourself or at least know they existed. I felt alone with those feelings and I tried to suppress them. I had boyfriends to try to prove it to myself that I wasn’t a lesbian.”

She focused on passing her exams. She had to pass math, Icelandic, English and Danish, so her experience from the Italian education was not much of a help. “I had never been in school in Iceland before for more than a few months at a time, so I was a kind of a challenge for the school system. They had never had a student that age, who had hardly learned any English. I hadn’t learned Icelandic either nor Danish. Two schools even denied taking me in, but Hlíðaskóli luckily accepted me. I went all-in and aced the exams.”

“We’ve heard that some people … say that we are simply capitalists … but our job is our life and we do it with queer passion straight from the heart.”

In high school she turned inwards. “No one remembers me from MH [abbreviation for Menntaskólinn í Hamrahlíð, or Hamrahlid College in Reykjavík]. I kept a low profile. Luckily I had a group of friends I had met in Hlíðaskóli [a primary school in Reykjavík]. They saved my social life.”

WORKING WITH THE HEART

As time passed, little by little Eva María emerged from her shell and started building the life of the human right’s activist and business woman she is today. In 2007 she met Birna. “What was important for me personally, when Birna and I got to know each other, was to have a home of our own. I never felt at home in Italy, I simply lived there and I was never really happy.”

A few years after they met, in 2011, they founded Pink Iceland, “Iceland’s first and foremost gay and lesbian owned and operated travel and event expert” as their web page claims. Eva María was working in the tourism industry at the time and had noticed that none of the companies there were focusing on queer travellers.

Pink Iceland specializes in weddings in Iceland and offers wedding planning all year round. Photo/ www.arcticweddingsiceland.com

Wedding planners Pink Iceland specializes in weddings in Iceland. Photo/www.arcticweddingsiceland.com

Eva María describes Pink Iceland as being born out of passion. “We were running a queer bar and a café then, I had a full-time job and Birna was studying full-time. We were busy, but our hearts were taking us in that direction and we followed. Pink Iceland is like our baby and I’ll admit that I get touchy when we get criticised. We’ve heard that some people from the queer community say that we are simply capitalists, tapping into queer money. Sure, we are running a business, but our job is our life and we do it with queer passion straight from the heart.”

They run Pink Iceland with their friend, Hannes. “We have a similar view on how to do business. We believe we are creating a new way of doing business. We are 100 percent honest about our services. We never use the “free booking” trick. There is no such thing as free in business. We have an honesty policy. We make it clear what our service is about and the guest knows that we have to take our share. People aren’t used to honesty anymore.”

An important side of what they offer is 24/7 access to a real human being. Personal service is what it’s all about. “We do our best to meet all of our guests, which is a crucial part of our service. Sometimes they’ve been following us on Instagram for a few years and when we finally meet they hug us as if we were old friends.”

FILTERING OUT THE MEAN PEOPLE

Pink Iceland is growing fast and only this year three people have been added to the group of staff. Now six people work at the office down town Reykjavík and many more when you count the photographers, videographers, celebrants, singers, hair & makeup stylists, cooks, bakers, drivers and other contractors Pink Iceland depends on.

The demand for their services is high and many business savvy friends of the three owners have pointed out that the agency could grow much bigger without the queer focus. However, the fact of the matter is that about half of their customers are straight.

Eva María says the queer stamp works as a filter against mean people, as people exist who do not want to do business with a gay owned company that caters mainly to queer clientele. “We are not interested in their business. We serve all, as long as they are not mean. We only work with nice people. We’ve done business with people with a bad attitude but that only happens once. The same goes for the people who use our services. After all, we believe that is the only right way. Our long-term goal is that Pink Iceland becomes a way of living, of thinking and doing business. That people will say: “We did it the Pink Iceland way.” That’s our dream.”

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Masquerading with Páll Óskar Pink Iceland will be hosting its glamorous Pink Masquerade Party on February 13th 2016, as part of The Reykjavík Rainbow festival (February 11-14th 2016).

Main photo: The Pink Team Eva María, Hannes and Birna.

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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