Icelandic tales from The Garden of Eden

The Garden of Eden. What memories does this name conjure up for you Dear Reader? Bible studies perhaps? Adam and Eve? Tales of forbidden fruit?
But if you are from Iceland, and of a certain age, the name will likely strike a chord much closer to heart and home – no doubt awakening happy memories of a much loved and highly successful commercial greenhouse establishment called ‘Eden’.
‘Eden’ (1953 – 2011) was conveniently located just off Iceland’s ring road #1,  in the hot spring community of Hveragerði – and, waaaay back in the day – opposite the Tivoli fair ground.
Being only 45 minutes from Reykjavik, it was a perfectly timed ‘comfort stop’ for travellers on the famed Golden Circle tour and an easy there-and-back Sunday drive for families enjoying a day out from Reykjavik. The pull was the greenhouse, the café, locally made ice-cream, Iceland’s largest post card collection and … Bóbó the monkey.
Bóbó was not actually a real life monkey, but rather one of those irritating puppety things in a glass box that loudly jumps into life as you try to sneak pass it – heckling and jeering at you as you go by. The point being of course that it gets your child’s attention and in turn, your hard earned cash. So not only did visiting parents have to fork out for ice-cream, they also had to budget for Bóbó the much adored giver of useless plastic gifts too. And whilst I personally might have disliked Bóbó for his shameless commercial intentions, it seems that I stand in the minority as Bóbó has a Facebook page with 6,534 likes – which is about 6,500 more than me.
However the page has not been active since August 2012. Not surprising really, as from here the story takes a dark twist…

I clearly remember the day that everything changed for Bóbo and Eden.
It was a lovely summer evening and my husband Ægir and I were in our hot tub enjoying a beer. Late evening sounds and seductive, smokey wood smells from a neighbours’ fire-pit filled the air. It was high summer and was still light. A magical time on the Icelandic calendar.
‘Fancy another beer?’ ‘Don’t mind if I do?!’
Suddenly our daughter Jamie comes crashing on the scene having just finished her evening shift at the local gas station – clearly upset and excited. So much so that it was difficult to understand what she was trying to tell us. Something about Eden being on fire..? Well, that would explain the seductive smokey wood smell then, though I must admit that my nose did fail to pick up any scent of burning puppety thing aka Bóbó.
It was true. Eden burnt to the ground that night. Gone but not forgotten and today a fabulous series of outdoor works of art by talented local artist Örvar Árdal Árnason grace the ruins – I strongly suggest that any traveller in the area pull off the road and take a walk around as these outdoor artworks are really very good!

‘Eden’, and its founder Bragi Einarsson, are still sorely missed by many, but the name Eden still lives on in Iceland – though in a folkloric vein. For the Garden of Eden is also the birthplace of Iceland’s hidden people. It is common knowledge that Iceland houses a healthy population of folkloric beings – amongst them trolls, elves, dwarves and hidden people. Hidden people (or huldu folk in Icelandic), are known to be very beautiful, elegant beings. They can be kind, but mischievous, and you certainly don’t mess with them or disrespect them.
According to legend the hidden people of Iceland owe their existence to a run in between God and Eve. On the evening in question, Eve was washing her children when God dropped by on an unannounced visit. Eve greeted him at the door and bade him welcome. Once settled God enquired about Eve’s children and asked if he could see them. Eve, not wanting to show God the dirty children, showed him only the clean ones – upon which God asked if she was showing him all of the children, unfortunately Eve lied and said yes. God of course knew this, and became angry, saying that those that were hidden from his eyes would be hidden from the eyes of mankind for all time..
And that, Dear Reader was the birth of Iceland’s huldu folk.

Two tales in one post today! Thanks for reading.

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