A Grapevine service announcement Take note: Holiday Opening Hours
Mag
Articles
On why there are so many cats in downtown Reykjavík

On why there are so many cats in downtown Reykjavík

Published July 3, 2009

Haruki Murakami attended The Reykjavík International Literary Festival. The following year, he published an article about his visit in the local newspaper Morgunblaðið. He writes about puffins, how few people make up the Icelandic population, the northern lights, the vastness of the country; i.e. all the usual things. But Murakami, being a writer, also observes the little things. Walking around Reykjavík’s city centre he cannot help but notice the staggering number of cats around. He also remarks on how well mannered they seem, coming when called and not being in the least afraid of strangers. And he is right, of course. 101 Reykjavík is crawling with cats. So we asked: why?
Cats vs. dogs
Everyone has heard of dog people and cat people. Supposedly, there is a debate. Supposedly, you need to pick a side and then stick to it. But what exactly are the traits of a dog person or a cat person? If you hear someone talk about how sneaky, self-centred and unreliable cats are, then that is probably a dog person (although a situation where one would need to rely upon a cat is far fetched). And if you hear another complaining about how dependent and subservient dogs are, that is most likely a cat person speaking. But is there a material difference between dog and cat persons? Well, dog persons, having to walk the dog frequently, are probably fonder of the outdoors than cat persons. And haven’t you heard the saying that getting a puppy is the closest thing to having a baby? And cats are more independent, and require less attention. Cats also require a lot less space than big dogs. Dogs are also probably more expensive to keep. Plus, if you have a dog you probably want to take it places (with it being so dependent and all) and as they are not allowed on buses, you rather need to have a car.
So, to sum it up: a cat person probably does not want to be very bound by his/her pet, does not like the outdoors too much, does not have a lot of money, probably doesn’t have a car and lives in a small apartment. Those familiar with the residents of 101 Reykjavík might recognise one or two of those traits.
The law-abiding citizens of the centre
Maybe the people of 101 are simply more law abiding than the rest, as keeping dogs is in fact illegal in the city of Reykjavík. Instead of applying for dog permits, people apply for exemption from the law. The good city of Reykjavík has just under 200.000 citizens, and according to Örn Sigurðsson, the head of the city’s Environmental and Transportation division, there are currently 1.964 exempt dogs living in Reykjavík, plus a few permits pending. The statistics on dogs per neighbourhood are sadly unavailable at present time, but delving into those numbers would surely be an interesting study.
Cats are also supposed to be registered and given a 1984-style microchip under the skin, but unfortunately no record is kept of the number of registrations. Örn remarked that although there are indeed lots of cats in the downtown area, very few of them are strays. “Stray cats tend to live in the Elliðarádalur valley or the cemeteries. It’s easier for them to find something to eat there.” So most of the cats Murakami saw were not stray cats, as he, having the keen eye of the writer, did not fail to notice. He writes: “All of them have collars around their neck where their names are written. There is no doubt as to where they live”.
When asked for his thoughts on why there were so many cats in the city centre, Örn answered: “I guess people in the centre just like cats more than dogs”.  
It’s as simple as that.



Mag
Articles
Dirty Holidaze

Dirty Holidaze

by

December is by far the darkest and spookiest month. It is also the booziest, by far. The overwhelming joy one often associates with the annual Christmas frenzy increases the longing for a nightcap, the fright that correlates with mass expenditures in gifts and other holiday nonsense calls for some alcohol, and when you intend to bid farewell to the passing year you’ll want a bottle of liquor by your side. It seems there’s no avoiding dipping your toes (or your entire foot) into the tantalizing Jacuzzi of holiday vice. For this reason, behold: Grapevine’s guide to your Icelandic holiday binge

Mag
Articles
So What’s This I Keep Hearing About Everything Being Terrible in Iceland?

So What’s This I Keep Hearing About Everything Being Terrible in Iceland?

by

In Mid-November Unnar Steinn Sigtryggsson, an Icelander who goes by the username “askur,” made a comment on popular internet community Reddit. He recounted the major news events of the last few weeks in Iceland. However, unlike most bullet point lists of Icelandic news stories, this one went viral. Has the news in Iceland been unusually full of kittens licking baby turtles? More like political scandals, strikes, vermin infestations, protests, police behaving badly, and economic mismanagement. To an audience used to hearing stories about how wonderfully Iceland had dealt with the 2008 financial crisis, this was indeed newsworthy. Hold on a

Mag
Articles
Pagan Christmas

Pagan Christmas

by

The idea of throwing a big celebration in honour of the birth of Christ is a relatively recent idea. Nobody knows exactly when he was born; guesses range from 7 to 2 BC and the date is a mystery. His date of birth was once estimated to be January 6, in an attempt to beat a competing holiday (the celebration of the virgin birth of Aion, the Hellenistic deity of eternity). In the process they borrowed the symbolism of the stables. Christianity is in the business of mergers and acquisitions. The date was later changed to December 25, partly because

Mag
Articles
The Encyclopaedia of Icelandic Holidays

The Encyclopaedia of Icelandic Holidays

by

Aðfangadagur (Ath-founga-dager) December 24, Aðfangadagur, is the day Icelanders celebrate Christmas (as opposed to December 25 in most countries). The first half of the day usually goes towards finishing off all of the last-minute preparations, making food, wrapping presents, bathing and putting on nice clothes. Children are often occupied by the television set, as most stations broadcast a non-stop programme of cartoons throughout the day. Six o’ clock marks the official start of Christmas in Iceland, marked by state radio broadcasting the traditional “ringing of the church bells.” This is when most households sit down to enjoy a pleasant holiday

Mag
Articles
WAR ON CHRISTMAS: Finally, An Icelandic Front

WAR ON CHRISTMAS: Finally, An Icelandic Front

by

Anyone who’s followed American politics, or switched to Fox News over the holidays, knows that a full blown war is raging at this very moment: The War On Christmas. On the battlefield, the godless forces of Politically Correct liberals—who want to take Christ out of Christmas and thus destroy the very fabric of American culture—fight the patriotic and pious people over at Fox. Of course nobody residing the reality-based community has ever encountered this “War on Christmas.” It exists only in the fevered imagination of loudmouths like Bill O’Reilly and Rush Limbaugh, who use it to fill airtime, drum up

Mag
Articles
Wanted: The Icelandic Christmas Mood

Wanted: The Icelandic Christmas Mood

by

When they stop stacking the Rjómi (heavy cream) neatly on the supermarket shelves, you know Christmas is just around the corner. The Rjómi hasn’t disappeared though. Entering the walk-in cooler (don’t forget your jacket!) you’ll see a huge container spilling over with cartons and cartons of Rjómi. Frankly, stacking it is a waste of time; soon you’ll notice the mountain getting smaller as every single person takes at least one, maybe two or maybe five. Our consumer needs are this predictable before, during and after Christmas, because almost every single Icelandic household has the exact same family traditions. This uniformity

Show Me More!