Every year, countries across Europe hold national pre-selections to determine who will represent them in the Eurovision Song Contest—a spectacular annual music competition, broadcast all across Europe, that is a sort of entertaining blend between The X Factor and the Olympics. Though always optimistic, Iceland has yet to win the competition in its thirty years of participation, although the country boasts two stellar second-place finishes, one in 1998 and the other in 2009.
Over the years, Iceland’s pre-selection show, Söngvakeppnin Sjónvarpsins, has accrued a small international cult following, drawing fans and journalists from across Europe to Iceland once a year to interview contestants, socialize, and enjoy the music. Roger Fry, a professional translator and news editor from the UK, who currently resides in Norway, has attended the Söngvakeppnin final for the past few years. During every visit, he purposes to catch up with old friends, see something new, and cheer on his favorite contestants, in what has become one of his most beloved travel traditions.
Catching Up with Friends
For Roger, venturing to Iceland is always a great way to take a break from the hustle and bustle of life in Norway.
“[This is] my fourth time attending the Söngvakeppnin final, so that seems to have become a habit hard to break,” he explains of his most recent trip. “It’s always such a fun event, gathering whole families and groups of friends. For me it’s certainly more about the atmosphere and meeting up with friends than the music, although there’s always a couple of songs I really love. It’s just a shame there isn’t more ‘regular’ Icelandic music there. That would be fantastic!” Past Eurovision entries from Iceland have ranged from catchy pop songs to powerful, melodious ballads, and the competition frequently attracts repeat contestants, as it did this year.
In 2016, Iceland will be represented by Gréta Salóme Stefánsdóttir—who also performed for Iceland back in 2012—with the song “Hear Them Calling.ˮ When asked about Iceland’s chances of winning this time around, Roger, who often attends Eurovision in May, offered his initial reaction:
“I am quite useless at predicting Eurovision results, but I have my doubts…The song itself is nice enough, but maybe lacking the X factor. I’m not sure if it will have a huge appeal outside the Nordics. Now, watch it win!”
Both Foreign and Familiar
While some people come to Iceland to explore its majestic landscapes, Roger prefers sticking close to the city, partaking in Reykjavík nightlife.
“I'm almost ashamed to say that I have only ever spent time in Reykjavik,” he explains. “My excuse is that I don’t want to see everything ‘this time’ so that I have something to come back for. But I’ve said that a few times now…I’m generally a bad tourist wherever I go, avoiding anything resembling a tourist attraction and focusing on discovering the best cafés and restaurants and people watching. Having said that, I think my favorite thing in Iceland is the sky. There always seems to be so much of it sweeping majestically above me.”
To Roger, Iceland is a land both foreign and familiar. Every time he visits, he feels strangely at home due to the island nation’s strong Scandinavian roots.
“Maybe it’s the Nordic link and familiarity, but I don’t think I’ve been surprised at all [by Icelandic culture],” he reports. “I must have known what to expect: friendly, quiet, unassuming Nordic-ness! You know, things work out, and even in the midst of a blizzard people just get on with things. No fuss. I think that’s what I most like about the Nordics: there’s not much time for melodrama!”
The one thing he reports initially caught him slightly off guard is the intensity of the Icelandic party scene.
“Maybe the only slight surprise is just how full the pubs and clubs still are at 3am, 4am, 5am…but Reykjavík has the party reputation, so that’s not really a surprise either!”
A frequent visitor to Iceland who is well-acquainted with everything Reykjavík has to offer, Roger has a simple piece of advice for those pondering a potential trip to Iceland: “Book your flight today!”