Reykjavik City Walk

Today it’s so sunny! It’s almost too hot for wearing a scarf. 🙂 The perfect day for a walk through Reykjavik.

This is Domkirkjan, the city’s oldest church.

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Here we see the entrance to The Parliament Garden.

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This is Fríkirkjan, and Tjörnin.

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View from one side of Tjörnin. You see Landakotskirkja on the right.

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Since there are no flowers yet, I had to find something else with a bit of color.

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Sunshine on moss is always pretty.

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Very cute view of Hallgrímskirkja.

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A house close to Hallgrímskirkja.

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Hallgrímskirkja.

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Kirkja & Mariska

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The ugly lime-green house.

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The square close to our apartment.

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Esja, queen of Reykjavík’s mountains.

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Mariska & Esja attempt no. 1 (and final attempt).

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Advertenties

New job

Since the beginning of this year I have a full-time job at a destination management company in Reykjavik and I’m enjoying it. The company has some really interesting projects lined up. I’m very happy that I can work in Dutch. Of course not everything is going smoothly yet, and I still have to learn a lot of things. It’s quite different from running Actie Redactie. With mixed feeling I said goodbye to parts of Actie Redactie, like my website and business mail. One day before the mail service went offline I got a request to edit a new book for a publishing house. I had to decline this assignment, which felt a bit sad/weird/counterintuitive. But I know it’s the right decision and as I said I’m very happy with my new job!

Here is Reykjavik all is going well. Living together is quite awesome and we have a good routine going. Spring is not really in the air, since springtime doesn’t exist here … but to be fair temperatures are at least a couple of degrees above zero and we have had some beautiful sunny days. Daylight is increasing: today’s sunrise was at 8.20 and sunset is at 19.00! No flowers yet though, and the grass is having this foul rotten smell because it has been covered by snow for so long. Yep, we’re not there yet.

I’m looking forward to the Easter trip that’s planned to Hraunfossar, Barnafoss and Deildartunguhver. It’s going to be nice to explore an area I haven’t been to before.
Okay, that’s the news from my side. How’s everybody doing? 🙂

New things

A little over a month ago I moved in with my boyfriend. Now I live in a cozy attic apartment in downtown Reykjavik. The location is perfect, super close to the main shopping street filled with coffee shops. Also it’s close to Sólfar, or The Sun Voyager. All is going very well here and I enjoy living together a lot. This new situation has given me energy to take on some new activities.

When I moved to Iceland one of my goals was to swim a lot because the swimming pools in Iceland are very good and cheap compared to swimming pools in other countries. In the past two years I did swim from time to time, but since I moved I actually swim on a weekly basis. I bought an unlimited swimming card for half a year and since a month I swim from one to three times a week.

Also, I finally know what I need to enjoy cooking: a normal kitchen that I have all to myself (last time I had that was when I lived in my ‘spacebox/container’ on campus in Utrecht). I’ve been cooking a lot of new dishes with fresh ingredients and I enjoy making food from scratch. I’ve basically turned into a professional vegan lasagna chef. 😉 Also I enjoy making different curries and soups, shepherd’s pie, falafel, French toast, banana bread, chocolate muffins etc, etc.

The Sunday brunches are a third awesome change. Because my former flatmates and I don’t want to miss each other for too long we decided to eat brunch together every Sunday. Our brunches are pretty great: mushrooms, tomatoes, beans, toast, soy yogurt, fruit, croissants, orange juice, mimosas, fresh coffee and more!

Lastly I went to a writers’ club for the first time last Wednesday. This club welcomes writers from all nationalities and backgrounds. The meeting started with a writing session of ninety minutes. After that everyone could share their works. I love writing, and next to this blog I write quite a lot of stuff that is kept private. I hope this club helps me to get over my fear of sharing my fictional works with other people.

The darkness has definitely arrived. The daylight lamp is doing wonders so far, but I think I’m going to buy a wake-up light in addition to the daylight lamp. First a fake sunrise to get out of bed, and then fake sunlight and a cup of coffee to wake up for real (seems legit).

And: I’ll be home for Christmas again this year, thanks to my friends and family! In about a month I’ll be in the Netherlands for ten days! 🙂

Bureaucracy

WARNING: THIS BLOG IS WRITTEN TO VENT

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As written in earlier blogs my flatmates and I had to leave our apartment after our landlord kicked us out. At the moment my two former flatmates are sharing a really nice flat, and I moved in with my boyfriend. Even though we all found a good place, this blog is written to vent and to tell a bit about bureaucracy in Iceland. (The events described below are not 100% accurate because I didn’t write everything down my flatmates did in the past months.)

After our landlord kicked us out, I felt very resolute about that we would not let him have his way that easy, so on the 30th of March I sent an email to the Ministry of Welfare to explain the situation. 8 days later the Ministry replied that they had entered into a contract with the Consumers’ Organization in Iceland regarding questions relating to the Rent Act, and that therefore they had forwarded my email to this organization. My flatmate also tried to get information and help. That’s why she contacted the Renter’s Organization on the 30th of March, and they took at least two weeks to answer her.

In the meantime we had done some research and prepared everything so we could file a formal complaint. We printed the emails to and from the landlord, we collected all the pictures and videos of the water damage and added all other relevant documents we had. We also put everything on a USB stick. We downloaded the complaint document from the website of the Ministry of Welfare and handed everything in on the 7th of April.

On the 8th of April we got a reply from the Consumers’ Organization. They told us the City of Reykjavik should appoint us a Building Officer. So we had to contact the City of Reykjavik for further help. They also mentioned that it was impossible for the landlord to kick us out and that we shouldn’t worry about that. I immediately sent an email to the City of Reykjavik to request the Building Officer.

On the same day the Ministry of Welfare let us know that they had received our complaint form, but that complaints cannot be filed to the Ministry of Welfare. They told us about a Housing Complaint Committee, which is housed in the same building.

On the 13th of April we got a reply back from the Housing Complaint Committee in which they told us that we can’t file complaints in English, and that we would have to translate the document and file it again in Icelandic. The translation took some time and we filed the complaint for the second time at the end of April.

I hadn’t gotten any response from the City of Reykjavik to my request for a Building Officer (sent on the 8th of April). On the 22nd of April I made another request. I also asked for help in case this wasn’t the right place to look for one (even though the Ministry of Welfare had told me I should contact the City of Reykjavik).

On the 24th of April the City of Reykjavik replied that they had forwarded my mail from the 8th of April to the Office of Property Management and Economic Development. They just hadn’t told me that …

On the 28th of April I received an email from the Property Management and Economic Development Department. They informed me that the services of a Building Officer would cost 24.300 kronur (more than 170 euros). My flatmates and I had to think about if we wanted to make use of a Building Officer for that amount of money, so I let them know that we would consider it and needed some time to think.

All we could do now was wait until the Housing Complaint Committee made a decision about our case.

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On the 26th of June we got the decision, and guess what? They said we were right on every point, meaning: 1) The landlord wasn’t allowed to kick us out before our contract ended (20th of October ̶ he wanted us out at the first of September), 2) He had to pay us rent back because of the leakage and water damage ̶ the amount he had to pay back was to be determined by a Building Officer.

At that time I felt like this:

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And listened to this song a lot:

Of course the next step was letting the landlord know about our victory.

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Weirdly enough he never replied to my email. On the 9th of July I contacted the Ministry of Welfare again to ask what to do if the landlord wouldn’t cooperate with the decision of the Housing Complaint Committee. They again forwarded my e-mail to the Consumers’ Organization. To this email I never got a reply.

So it was time to get that Building Officer for real. On the 14th of July my flatmates and I talked about it, and in the evening I made a request for one. I had to make the request to three different people, because two were out of office. The third one replied that I should send an email to a company called Frumherji. So on the 15th of July I sent that company an email explaining the situation and why we needed a Building Officer. They quickly replied that they don’t have the authority to judge in our case. They recommended we contacted the Housing Complaint Committee and talked to a lawyer to enforce the decision of the Committee.

I was getting confused. Therefore my flatmate called the Renter’s Association. They said that the decision of the Housing Complaint Committee is never binding. This would mean that we had to leave on the first of September anyway, and wouldn’t get rent reduction. The only way to enforce the decision was by taking it to court.

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My flatmate and I talked to a lawyer on the 28th of July. We wanted to know her opinion about the matter. She recommended us not to sue the landlord, because it would be too expensive. She gave us some very helpful advice though. She recommended us to stay till the end of our contract, because his eviction note was illegal. She also recommended us to not pay the last two months of rent, because the landlord would probably not give us our deposit back. Lastly she said we really had to get a Building Officer to look at the apartment, and that we had to send a bill to the landlord based on what the Building Officer would say.

On the 4th of August we finally had a Building Officer look at the apartment. When he saw the state of the walls in my room he said he would follow the decision of the Housing Complaint Committee. He would get back to us with the amount of rent the landlord had to pay back to us. On that day we also informed the landlord that we would not leave on the first of September.

(On the 5th of August the scaffolding was finally taken down. The apartment had been in scaffolding for 2,5 months.)

From the first of September we stopped paying rent, following the advice of the lawyer. The landlord noticed this around the 8th or 9th of that month and started sending us messages in which he stated that we had to pay rent to prevent a lawyer fee. We were all like:

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On the 10th of September we got the result from the Building Officer. The landlord had to pay more than a thousand euros back to us. We let the landlord know but of course we didn’t get any reply.

After this we only got one threatening message from the lawyer of the landlord, in which he said that we had to pay rent, because otherwise the amount would be taken from our deposit (which was exactly our point). He also said that we had to make a formal claim if we wanted the landlord to pay us.

That’s the story. At this point we haven’t made the formal claim yet. We just moved out of the apartment and my flatmate is planning to still do it in a couple of weeks. We know, however, that the only way to force him to pay us would be taking the case to court, which is just too expensive for us.

So, what did all this get us? It’s good to know that institutions acknowledge that we have been mistreated, but in the end it’s just a shitload of work with little result. Now I’m just happy that we all found a nice new place to live, and that we don’t have to deal with it anymore.

Arnarstapi

Last week I went on a tour around Snæfellsnes with Iceland Horizon. One of the stops we made was Arnarstapi. A long time ago Arnarstapi was a flourishing little town, mostly because it was an important trading port and because it functioned as a commercial centre.

These days it’s mostly thriving because of tourism. Arnarstapi attracts lots of tourists because of the natural beauty of the place and the proximity to Snæfellsjökull. Along the coast you find the most amazing basalt columns, beautiful cliffs and different seabird colonies.

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Snæfellsjökull

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My favorite card and board games – Part II

In the post My favorite card and board games – Part I you could read the numbers 10 to 6 of my top 10. This is my top 5.

5) Avalon/Resistance
Avalon and Resistance are two variations of the same game, only the setting is different. These games are played with a group (the more the merrier in my opinion). The identities of everyone in the group are kept secret. From the group three people are chosen to go on missions for a good cause, but there are spies (or minions of Mordred) who want to fail these missions. It is of the utmost importance to keep the spies out of the missions. But who is to be trusted?

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Why I like it: Avalon/Resistance is a variation of deception games that I talked about in the previous blog post, like Saboteur and Blood Bound. It takes some time to figure out who the bad guys are, and a lot of times you don’t even find out at all!

4) Deus
Deus is the perfect game for people who like Settlers of Catan and 7 Wonders. In this game the players each build their own civilization on the board. To build your civilization you have to build temples, production buildings, scientific buildings, ships et cetera. For this you need resources and money. One important way of getting these is by sacrificing cards to the gods.

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Why I like it: I’m someone who likes both Settlers of Catan and 7 Wonders. I like games in which you focus on your own projects, building your own little world, and Deus is one of those. Warfare is one aspect of the game, but it’s not the most important. The board, cards and different pieces look very nice as well.

3) Flash Point
In Flash Point (‘Pandemic with fire’ as some call it) you play as a team of fire fighters. In this cooperative game every fire fighter has his own special ability. A building is on fire, and you have to go in to put the fires out, prevent explosions and rescue the people (and animals) that are still inside.

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Why I like it: This is a fun cooperative game. I like working together towards a clear goal. The different role cards are balanced and complement each other. The heroic theme of the game helps as well.

2) 7 Wonders
In 7 Wonders you play as the leader of one of the seven great cities of the Ancient World. You build your city throughout three ages. In each age players get to choose cards that enable them to develop their city. Will your city flourish based on science, warfare, culture, wealth or perhaps a combination of these?

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Why I like it: I mentioned it before, I like games in which players are focused on their own building and developing projects. 7 Wonders is therefore the perfect game for me. There is no downtime in this game because all players play simultaneously, which is a big plus too. Warfare is an element of the game, but most exchanges are peaceful.

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1) Pandemic
What a surprise, Pandemic is my number one! Yes, this game has been my favorite for a long time. In Pandemic the world is rapidly getting infected by virulent diseases. You’re part of a team of specialists whose mission it is to save humanity from certain death!

Pandemic has several expansions and I have On the Brink and In the Lab. Both expansions are exciting!

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Why I like it: First of all I like it because it’s a cooperative game. As with Flash Point, the different roles complement each other. You really need each other’s special abilities in order to win the game. Everybody has to pay attention to what’s happening, because things might spiral out of control quickly. Pandemic is quite difficult, so each time it offers a true challenge. The different role cards, event cards and viruses provide almost endless variations.

(It’s also possible to play as the virus in a game called Pandemic Contagion. Even though it’s a fun game it’s not part of this top 10.)

Hmm, all this writing about Pandemic makes me want to play it again!

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My favorite card and board games – Part I

I’ve been going to board game clubs all my life. When I was a teenager I mostly attended to socialize. A fun group of people met every month in the club house of a community garden in Haarlem. Sometimes I didn’t even play games and only talked. For a long time I wasn’t that interested in board games to be honest. This changed on New Year’s Eve 2012-2013 with the introduction to Pandemic. I was never introduced to the concept of cooperative games before. But with this genre my interest in board games got a boost. In Reykjavik I attend board game evenings every Wednesday. What follows is my top 10 of the games we play.

10) Colonial
My number 10 is Colonial. Colonial is a board game about the colonial times, from the Renaissance to the Industrial Revolution. You play as a ruler of a European state (for instance the Netherlands). You send your people around the world to explore new grounds, find good trade opportunities, acquire and maintain monopolies, and occasionally start a war with competitors.

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Why I like it: Even though the gameplay seems difficult at first, it is quite easy to keep track of. You can follow different strategies which make it interesting. I personally like it best if I can focus on my own exploring and expanding projects. The theme can be a bit painful though, as you can monopolize slaves as one of the resources too …

9) Munchkin
Munckin has been around for quite some time, first published in 2001. It’s basically just a simple and fun card game. In this game you walk through dungeons and kick in doors. Behind the doors you will find either monsters or treasure. If there’s a monster you have to defeat it or try to run away. Other players may come to your aid … but the chances that they will backstab you are equally high.

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Why I like it: Munchkin is just a silly game. I love the funny and cute style of the game.

8) You’re Bluffing!
You’re Bluffing! is my number 8, in the Netherlands better known as Koehandel. This is a typical bidding and bluffing game. In this game you auction animals and try to get the best price for them. The goal is to get as many sets of four animals as possible. The most exciting part is the trading with other players, because this happens with blind bidding and this is where the bluffing part comes in.

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Why I like it: As mentioned above, I especially like the blind bidding part. It’s important to bid just enough money, but also make sure you don’t lose too much.

7) Blood Bound
In Blood Bound two clans of vampires battle each other. All identities are secret and the goal of the game is to find and kill the Elder (highest rank) of the opposing clan. During the game you slowly find out who belongs to what clan. When the Elder is found, lower ranks can defend him to keep him alive as long as possible.

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Why I like it: This game reminds me a bit of Capture the Flag, but it’s a simpler version and you don’t have to run around to play it. I like mystery games like this, in which it takes some time to find out who is who.

6) Saboteur
In this game you play as a group of gnomes who are building tunnels to find gold. However, in this group there are a couple of saboteur gnomes. Their goal is to prevent the other gnomes from reaching the gold. They will build tunnels with dead-ends and force the other gnomes to start all over again! Luckily there are some cards that stop the saboteurs from building tunnels. But are you sure who the bad guys are?

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Why I like it:  I think it’s a lot of fun finding out who the saboteur gnomes are, waiting for people to show their true colors. I also think it’s a fun challenge to hide it when I’m a saboteur, it’s definitely a good way to practice deception skills.

Stay tuned for the next blog, in which I will cover the top 5.