It’s important to keep the dialogue open

Kristján Andri Stefánsson is Iceland’s new Ambassador in France and is already in Paris with his partner Davíð Samúelsson, well-known to many for promoting South-Iceland to our visitors and introducing the Faroe Islands to Icelanders. Together with his partner, Kristján will thus be the first gay Ambassador to be posted abroad by the Icelandic foreign service.

Ambassador Kristján Andri Stefánsson was recently appointed Ambassador of Iceland to France as well as Permanent Representative to the OECD, UNESCO and the Council of Europe. In addition to France, he will be accredited to Algeria, Andorra, Djibouti, Italy, Lebanon, Morocco, Monaco, Spain and Tunisia. Born in Reykjavik on 23 June 1967, he holds a cand.juris degree (combined BA and Master’s degree in law) from the University of Iceland. After having served in different capacities at the Prime Minister’s Office he joined the Foreign Service in 2004. He was appointed Ambassador in 2005 and posted to Brussels where he served as Member of the EFTA Surveillance Authority College. On return to Reykjavík in 2010, he initially served at the Directorate for Economic Affairs & External Trade, i.a. responsible for the Icesave file, before assuming the position of Director-General of Legal & Executive Affairs in 2014. He also served as Deputy Permanent Secretary of State from 2015 until his current appointment. The ambassador is married to Mr. Davíð Samúelsson.

Kristján Andri Stefánsson was recently appointed Ambassador of Iceland to France as well as Permanent Representative to the OECD, UNESCO and the Council of Europe. He will also be accredited to Algeria, Andorra, Djibouti, Italy, Lebanon, Morocco, Monaco, Spain and Tunisia. Born in Reykjavik on 23 June 1967, he holds a cand.juris degree (combined BA and Master’s degree in law) from the University of Iceland. Here he is pictured at this year’s Reykjavík Pride Parade. Photo/Sigríður Pálmadóttir

How does he feel about the new job?
“Arriving in Paris following the Icelandic team’s performance in the Euro Cup this summer is a sheer privilege. Building on the traditionally excellent relations existing between Iceland and France, I think the positive vibe brought on by our team’s performance – synching with their loyal supporters with the distinctive “huh” following every match – and the extensive media coverage entailed, may have brought relations between our people and their interest in one another to another level.

Apart from its impact on travel and tourism, France is already an enormously important market for Icelandic trade, not only fish and fish products, but also new technology and know-how. The cultural ties are also strong and active on many levels.

So, all in all, conditions are excellent for active and vibrant relations between Iceland and France and I look forward to follow-up on the positive wave brought on by the Icelandic team and their supporters in France.”

Have you spent a lot of time in Paris and does the city of lights have a specific meaning for you?

“The city of lights hardly needs an introduction. It’s the most popular destination in the world! For me, Paris has been a source of enchantment since I first came there, and I think it must be impossible for any visitor not to feel inspired by its dynamics at some level.

“We both feel very intrigued and enthusiastic to take on this new position. I have no reason to be concerned that we will not be well received in France … France is after all the cradle of human rights …”

When Davíð and I lived in Brussels, Paris was often the preferred destination for a weekend getaway – and when we got married, there was no question where we would be headed for our honeymoon. There’s no place more romantic than Paris!

And, of course, Paris continues to be a charmer. Despite the horrendous attacks suffered there and elsewhere in France recently, it’s important that we stay strong and hold on to the fundamental values shared by human civilization in our times. In that sense I’m already a Parisian: Je suis Charlie!”

Are you worried about meeting prejudice in France? It’s only recently that the law of equal rights to marry was passed there. Are the French open-minded in these matters, in your opinion?

Gylfi Sigurðsson and Aron Einar Gunnarsson.

The Icelandic national men’s team performance in the Euro Cup had a positive impact on Iceland’s image in France. Photo: A screenshot of players Gylfi Sigurðsson and team captain Aron Einar Gunnarsson celebrating in the game against Croatia.

“We both feel very intrigued and enthusiastic to take on this new position. I have no reason to be concerned that we will not be well received in France. Quite the contrary. France is after all the cradle of human rights and the basic values French society is based on (liberty, equality, fraternity) are as important as ever. Even if social acceptance may have reached a higher level in Iceland before the right to marriage was gradually granted to all, the French followed suit some years ago and I hope there is no prevailing stigma concerning the relevant legislation even if it was actively debated when it was adopted.

In fact, as I will also be accredited to Spain and Italy, I’m pleased to note that the right to marry was granted to all in Spain many years ago, and Italy has recently adopted a legislation on registered partnership. Every step in the right direction is a step to be reckoned with.”

Did not hesitate to bring his partner into the picture

At your last posting abroad, you were based in Brussels. Were you also accompanied by your partner there? How were you received?

“Interestingly enough, I met Davíð relatively shortly after I moved to Brussels. I may be a late bloomer but once we were committed, I did not hesitate to bring him into the picture. I was pleased to find that we were well received everywhere, at the workplace, by the colleagues, in the social circles, not to mention among my friends and family. I was more surprised to find my social circles growing at a faster pace than I had experienced before and many of the friends that we have made together are those that we socialize most with today. All attributable to my extrovert partner, of course!

On this note, perhaps we should also keep in mind that there are many gay couples in the foreign service of other states, and some of them, like the US and Canada, actively promote gay rights. Hence their embassies’ participation in the Pride Parade in Reykjavík the last few years. To some extent, the good example set by others, may thus have paved the way for us and the positive experience we have enjoyed.”

"Every step in the right direction is a step to be reckoned with,” says Iceland's new ambassador in France.

“Every step in the right direction is a step to be reckoned with,” says Iceland’s new Ambassador in France.

Does the foreign service promote LGBTI+ rights? Do they filter into Iceland’s foreign policy making in any way?

“They do indeed. Human rights and respect for them are among the basic guiding principles of Iceland’s foreign policy. Iceland’s main priority interests in human rights issues continues to be equality in a broad sense, including gender equality, LGBTI+ rights and fighting discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation. In the international arena, the focus of the foreign service and funding contributions to development issues will continue to take account of these key factors of Icelandic foreign policy.

At the United Nations and other international organizations, where the member states have committed to uphold and protect human rights for all, we work with the Nordic countries and other like-minded nations to promote these issues and press for improvements. Also on the bilateral level, we do not hesitate to put LGBTI+ rights on the agenda whenever that is called for.

“… attitudes towards gays and lesbians have been totally transformed … On the other hand, there is still work to be done. Many groups of the LGBTI+ community have not gained full legal rights …”

Visible support is also an important element of pursuing this policy. I was happy to note that representatives of the Icelandic foreign service took active part in the pride parades in three major cities this summer, New York, Washington and Stockholm, in cooperation with the other Nordic countries. Perhaps we can do something similar in Paris, Madrid or even Rome!”

What do Icelanders have to contribute in this matter?

“I think we have an interesting story to tell and that there’s a lot to be learned from the gay rights campaign in Iceland. It really is a fascinating chronicle of struggle and victory almost unique in the world. In only thirty years, attitudes towards gays and lesbians have been totally transformed. Since the establishment of Samtökin ’78 lesbians and gay men have now gained full legal rights that are equal to all, e.g. with regard to cohabitation and marriage, adoption and family planning, and protection against discrimination.

Amb. Kristján Andri Stefánsson presents his credentials to Director-General Irina Bokova as Permanent Representative of Iceland to UNESCO). Credits : © UNESCO/Ignacio Marin

Ambassador Kristján Andri Stefánsson presents his credentials to Director-General Irina Bokova as Permanent Representative of Iceland to UNESCO. Photo/UNESCO/Ignacio Marin

I think this positive attitude is clearly reflected in the Reykjavik Pride Parade drawing tens of thousands of people to the streets every year. This year, it is thought that around 90 thousand people turned up to follow the parade. That is close to a third of the entire population of the Icelandic nation showing support for human rights and equality for all.

On the other hand, there is still work to be done. Many groups of the LGBTI+ community have not gained full legal rights that are equal to all and we still have to fight against prejudice.

Professor Baldur Þórhallsson has developed an interesting theory that divides this progress from intolerance to full acceptance into six stages, going from total silence to full equal rights for all. What is interesting according to this theory is how many different elements of society were engaged in this process and how the interplay between them gradually secured this result.

I think there are many lessons to be learned from this process, one of them being how important it is to keep an open dialogue with government and politicians that are favorable to this cause. Having worked closely with politicians for almost my entire professional life, the impact of strong politicians and what they can accomplish, should not be ignored.”

At the forefront when it comes to securing equal rights

Is it a general opinion abroad that Icelanders are doing well in matters of LGBTI+ rights?

“With Iceland having followed progressive trends in the neighbouring states, we are definitely perceived as being in the forefront when it comes to social acceptance and securing equal rights for all. Working with the Nordic and other like-minded nations on these issues provides a good platform for moving progressive ideas across borders. The positive image we enjoy in this respect on the international level, provides us with a potential that may remain to be fully realized.

When it comes to influencing policy making at the international level, research shows that countries are most likely to succeed in areas where they have excelled or stand out at home. With regard to Iceland, the success of geothermal exploitation and gender equality is well-known world-wide, to

The Reykjavik Pride Parade draws tens of thousands of people to the streets every year. Photo/Sigurþór Gunnlaugsson.

The Reykjavik Pride Parade draws tens of thousands of people to the streets every year. Photo/Sigurþór Gunnlaugsson.

name but two very different areas where we have valuable expertise to share and use it systematically to promote international cooperation. I wonder whether same could not apply to enhance LGBTI+ rights on an international level.”

What will be the first tasks that the new ambassador in France has to deal with?

“I will have a team of both young and more experienced professionals at the Embassy in Paris, that I very much look forward to start working with. In a sense the post in Paris is every diplomat’s dream having both the bilateral relations to work on and to represent the government at the international organizations based in France, namely the OECD, UNESCO and the Council of Europe. I expect to spend the first few weeks introducing myself at these organizations and getting familiar with the issues they’re dealing with.

“… we have valuable expertise to share and use it systematically to promote international cooperation. I wonder whether same could not apply to enhance LGBTI+ rights on an international level.”

Once I’m operational in France, I will also start presenting myself in the diplomatic circles there and within the French administration along with exploring ways to support and promote Icelandic businesses and strengthen the well established cultural ties between the two countries.

As I said at the beginning of this interview, I’m in the privileged position to arrive in France while the positive vibe left by the Icelandic football team is still fresh and vivid in people’s minds. My job is to capitalize on this positive attention brought on by the Icelandic team and make sure that we continue to be their favorite team to play with.”

After having served in different capacities at the Prime Minister’s Office he joined the Foreign Service in 2004. In 2005 he was appointed Ambassador to Brussels where he served as Member of the EFTA Surveillance Authority College. On return to Reykjavík in 2010, he initially served at the Directorate for Economic Affairs & External Trade before assuming the position of Director-General of Legal & Executive Affairs in 2014. He also served as Deputy Permanent Secretary of State from 2015 until his current appointment. Kristján Andri Sefánsson and his husband Davíð Samúelsson (on the left) who is well-known to many for promoting South-Iceland to our visitors and introducing the Faroe Islands to Icelanders.

After having served in different capacities at the Prime Minister’s Office Kristján Andri Stefánsson joined the Foreign Service in 2004. In 2005 he was appointed Ambassador and posted to Brussels where he served as Member of the EFTA Surveillance Authority College. On return to Reykjavík in 2010, he initially served at the Directorate for Economic Affairs & External Trade before assuming the position of Director-General of Legal & Executive Affairs in 2014. He also served as Deputy Permanent Secretary of State from 2015 until his current appointment. Here he is pictured with his partner Davíð Samúelsson.

Photos (main, middle and bottom): James Pouliot

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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