Mayor’s Address: WELCOME TO REYKJAVÍK

1.7.2011
Words by Jón Gnarr
Dear reader,

Welcome to Iceland. Whether you’re here for fun and travel or for business, I hope you’ll enjoy a good time here and will get to know some locals. I would also like to make a special request that you spend a lot of money throughout the duration of your stay. Do not save on dining and drinking. Allow yourself some luxury. You deserve it, and it is good for the economy. I ask that you do not visit the retail outlets run by the Salvation Army (Garðastræti 6, 101 Reykjavík) or the Red Cross (Laugavegur 12, 101 Reykjavík). Even though they are fun shops, they are rather inexpensive. You should rather visit more expensive shops.

A lot of tourists that visit the country wonder why it is called Iceland, because—despite what the name might indicate—it isn’t at all cold here. The average temperature in Reykjavík is 1°C. Nowhere in the world has better summers than Iceland. It might snow in the month of June, however. That is called ‘a spring snowfall’. July is the hottest month. When it comes around you better have a t-shirt handy, because the temperature can reach up to 20°C. Weather.com often states a temperature followed with a “feels like” temperature. When the heat in Reykjavík reaches 20°C, they will often say it “feels like” 15°C. That is probably due to something known as ‘the wind chill factor’. No Icelander understands this. If we had this “feels like” feature in our weather reporting, we would say that it “feels like” 40°C whenever the temperature reached 20°C, without exception. This demonstrates the importance of ‘mentality’ and ‘attitude’.

But how can it be that such a warm country came to possess such a frigid name? Yes, the explanation is simple: MISUNDERSTANDING. Ingólfur Arnarson, the first man that found Reykjavík, wasn’t on his way here at all. He was en route to the United States of America, to buy grapes and other fast food that grew wild there in those days. He was very interested in food. And also homicide. On his way he noticed a cloud of smoke ascending to the heavens from an unknown country. His curious nature got the best of him, and he changed his course and set sail to Reykjavík (Reykjavík literally means “smoky bay”!).

As he disembarked his ship, he saw that the smoke was in fact steam rising from Reykjavík’s many swimming pools. He was therefore quick in tearing off the suit of armour that he had worn in case he’d encounter some Native Americans while picking grapes, and jumping into some swim trunks. After swimming a good 500 metres he sat in the hot tub and relaxed. After a fun chat with the locals he had forgotten all about America. Who needs to travel all the way to America to pick grapes when there’s a shop on Laugavegur called Vínberið (Vínberið literally means: “the grape”)? Ingólfur decided to settle here. He rented a small apartment along with his wife, Hallveig Fróðadóttir, who many claim was the daughter of Frodo from ‘Lord Of The Rings’. Nothing has been proven about that, however.  

One day Ingólfur and Hallveig were taking a stroll around town. They were walking their dog, who was called Plútó and was a Great Dane. It was a sizzling hot summer’s day. It was long before the t-shirt was invented. They were both dressed in full suits of armour, with swords and shields and helmets and everything. They stopped by at Ísbúð Vesturbæjar in Hagamelur to get some ice cream and cool down. The story goes that Ingólfur asked the clerk whether she knew what the country was called.

She thought it was called Thule. Ingólfur felt that was a stupid name.

“No country can be called Thule”, he said.

Outside the ice cream shop, a crowd had gathered. They had heard that foreign visitors were in town. A lot of those people were elves. Ingólfur then approached the crowd, raised his ice cream cone aloft and shouted:

“Henceforth this country will be called Iceland, because one can get the world’s best ice cream here!”.

Today we have a statue of Ingólfur. The statue depicts Ingólfur dying of heat, leaning on his dog.

Don’t be a stranger, be like Ingólfur!

Best regards,

Jón Gnarr

Mayor of Reykjavík

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Here's Jón Gnarr's 'Welcome to Reykjavík' from last year.

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