The first openly gay man to become a minister in an Icelandic government has taken office. He doesn’t think his sexual orientation should be news, but he also thinks it’s a good thing if his appointment as minister can help queer people realize that it’s no hindrance to be queer.

Guðmundur Ingi Guðbrandsson is the Minister for the Environment and Natural Resources in the new government of Iceland.

Guðmundur Ingi Guðbrandsson is the Minister for the Environment and Natural Resources in the new government of Iceland. His appointment has caused a bit of a stir for several reasons. To begin with he is not a member of parliament, as all the other ministers are, secondly he has been the CEO of Landvernd, the Icelandic Environment Association, for years and last but not least he is the first openly gay man to be a minister in Iceland. We were curious about this groundbreaker of Icelandic politics and he kindly answered some questions about his new role.

The new government of Iceland took office on December 1st and obviously there is a lot to do and learn for a first time minister. Guðmundur Ingi postponed the interview several times due to other obligations but finally he found the time to answer our questions over the phone. The first question was simply how he felt about his new job.
“I feel fine,” he says with a small laugh. “I’m looking forward to doing my work here and the atmosphere is good.”

You are the first openly gay man to take office as a minister in an Icelandic government, how does it feel to be turning a page in the political history of Iceland?
“I have to say that I don’t think my sexual orientation is an issue, that has got nothing to do with my job, obviously, but on the other hand I think that if my appointment as a minister can help any queer people realize that it’s no hindrance to be queer it’s a good thing. Personally I don’t think that me being gay should even hit the news and I really hope that we will reach that stage where nobody cares about your sexual orientation in the near future.”

“I have to say that I don’t think my sexual orientation is an issue, that has got nothing to do with my job, obviously, but on the other hand I think that if my appointment as a minister can help any queer people realize that it’s no hindrance to be queer it’s a good thing.”

But do you think it’s important that queer people are visible in government, parliament and other high offices?
“Yes I think it is important that we have representations of every social group in high offices. Not just queer people but from every corner of society.”

You and Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, former PM, are the only openly gay people ever to become ministers. There have been a few queer people in parliament through the years but on the whole that group has not been very well presented on this level, do you have an explanation for that?

“While I was growing up I was taught about the importance of treating nature with respect and to take care not to spoil it, as it was the most important thing that we had,” says Guðmundur, who has always been passionate about protecting the environment.

“There have been a few queer people in parliament. But it’s true that me and Jóhanna are the only queer people ever to serve as ministers. Why that is I don’t know, but I think it’s changing bit by bit. One step at a time.”

Your nomination as Minister for the Environment and Natural Resources came as a surprise to many, both because you are not a member of parliament and because you have been the CEO of Landvernd, the Icelandic Environment Association, which has openly criticised the environmental policy of former governments, does it not feel strange to suddenly be sitting at the other side of the table?
“I don’t think you can say that being in government is being on the other side of the table, per se. It’s true that we at Landvernd have been critical of the policy former governments have run in environmental matters but in my opinion the appointment of me as minister of the environment is a way to broaden the horizon and work better with the associations fighting for the environment and make a policy that takes their views into account.”

Guðmundur Ingi holds a BSc degree in Biology from the University of Iceland and a master’s degree in Environmental Management from Yale University. He used to work for the University of Iceland carrying out research in ecology and environmental sciences, and he also worked for the Soil Conservation Service of Iceland in the fields of global studies and research. Has he always been passionate about protecting the environment?
“Yes, as long as I can remember anyway,” he says and laughs. “I’m a country boy, born and raised on a farm in Brúarlandi á Mýrum, close to Borgarnes, and while I was growing up I was taught about the importance of treating nature with respect and to take care not to spoil it, as it was the most important thing that we had. In high school I took a course in environmental studies and that further kindled this flame so when it was time to choose what I wanted to study in university there were no questions in my mind. I choose Biology for my BS studies and then I went to take my masters degree in Environmental Management at Yale to broaden the field. I never even thought about studying something else and I have certainly never regretted that choice.”

“My absolute priorities in this office are two; first to declare the highland of Iceland a national park … The other priority is to put into action the steps needed to fulfill the government’s goal of a carbon-neutral Iceland not later than 2040.”

It’s obvious from Guðmundur’s profile page on Facebook that he is a very popular guy as all kinds of people with all kinds of political background are enthusiastic about his appointment as minister of the environment. Is he quite comfortable working with people with opposite political opinions, as his fellow ministers from The Independence Party are? Is he not worried that there is too wide a gap between his opinions and their’s?

“No, I’m not worried. There is a difference of opinions, obviously, but I think this is a chance to work on a broader level than before and synchronise the efforts of all the people who want to protect the environment. It’s one of the most crucial issues of our times, and I think most people in Iceland realise that regardless of their political opinions. So I’m quite optimistic about the team work in this government.”

Your job as the CEO of Landvernd has caused some discussion that you might be disqualified to serve as minister of the environment, as it could cause a clash of interests, what do you have to say about those allegations?
“Not much. There is a certain legal procedure to determine if people are disqualified for office and I don’t think I have a reason to be worried. I don’t see this as a clash of interests, on the contrary, I would think that my background made me more qualified to do this job.”

On a personal note, are you married or in a relationship?
“Neither. I’m free as a bird,” Guðmundur says and laughs again. But he is not willing to dwell on the subject so we switch gear again.

“Yes I think it is important that we have representations of every social group in high offices. Not just queer people but from every corner of society.”

What will be your first job as a minister?
“Oh, I thought you were going to ask me what I would do to change my relationship status,” he says with a wink in his voice. “But on a more serious note, I have obviously started performing as a minister, holding speeches here and there and some such things, but my absolute priorities in this office are two; first to declare the highland of Iceland a national park, it is considered one of the last great wilderness areas in Europe and it is our absolute duty to preserve that. I’m very passionate about that project. The other priority is to put into action the steps needed to fulfill the government’s goal of a carbon-neutral Iceland not later than 2040. That is the most pressing issue I will work on as a minister of the environment and I’m optimistic that we will reach that goal.”

The time is up, I can hear Guðmundur’s office filling with people and he gets a bit distracted. So the only thing left to do is thanking him for giving us the time to answer thee questions and wish him all the best in his new job.

Guðmundur with former President of Iceland Vigdís Finnbogadótir and friend Guðmundur Hörður.

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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