Cool as Iceland: Festival celebrates the chill Nordic nation

First reader: Iceland’s First Lady, Eliza Reid, will discuss the island country’s rich culture of storytelling as part of the Taste of Iceland festival happening in Williamsburg Sept. 28–Oct. 1.

Next stop, Reykjavik!

The island nation of Iceland will sail into Williamsburg next week, showing off its cuisine, art, design, and culture at the four-day Taste of Iceland festival, starting Sept. 28. Leading the charge is the country’s First Lady, Eliza Reid, who will lead a talk about the Nordic nation’s literary scene at bookstore Spoonbill and Sugartown on Sept. 30. Iceland boasts a rich storytelling tradition, and its beautiful scenery offers the perfect inspiration for young writers, said the Canadian-born wife of Iceland’s President Guðni Jóhannesson.

“Iceland is a really interesting and inspirational place for people who enjoy writing and the written word to visit,” said Reid, who is an author and writer herself. “The natural environment and landscapes, they are very inspirational, hot springs and waterfalls, but it’s also a strong literary heritage in the country.”

That heritage began hundreds of years ago, when the small island lagged behind mainland Europe, and the Icelanders had little but stories of hope and progress, said Reid.

“Iceland, as I like to say, is the Land of the Sagas — stories. While in Europe, on mainland Europe, people had renaissances of architecture, art, the Icelandic population was very poor, threat of disease and famine,” she said. “What kept people going, and the culture so rich, was talking about these stories and the sagas. You don’t need any materials to tell a good story.”

But now Icelandic culture thrives in many categories, and the festival has something for everyone, said Reid. Visitors can sample Icelandic dishes at Greenpoint eatery Norman, view a collection of short Icelandic films at Nitehawk Cinema on Sept. 28, and hear a free concert of Icelandic bands Fufanu and Mammut at the Knitting Factory on Sept. 30, among other events.

And Brooklynites who enjoy this taste of Iceland should hop on a plane to explore the very hipster-like area of Grandi, said Reid, which has a similar feel to Williamsburg.

“I’d almost say the entire capital city would have a bit of a Brooklyn feel to it, lots of great cafes, great coffee, used bookstores, little houses with brightly painted aluminum siding on them. There’s little shops and design shops and art galleries everywhere,” said the First Lady. “The Grandi area, which is an area down by the harbor, [has been] redeveloped a lot now: artisanal cheese shops, local restaurants, bean-to-bar chocolate makers, breweries, it’s all been in the last five years.”

“The Write Stuff: How Iceland Inspires Lovers of the Written Word” at Spoonbill and Sugartown (99 Montrose Ave. between Manhattan Avenue and Leonard Street in Williamsburg, www.icelandnaturally.com). Sept. 30 at 2 pm. Free. Taste of Iceland Sept. 28–Oct. 1.

Reach reporter Julianne Cuba at (718) 260–4577 or by e-mail at jcuba@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @julcuba.
Chase waterfalls: Iceland’s rugged scenery provides inspiration to artists of all kinds, said the country’s First Lady.
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