Mayor’s Address: WELCOME TO REYKJAVÍK

Mayor’s Address: WELCOME TO REYKJAVÍK

Jón Gnarr, mayor of Reykjavík
Words by

Published July 1, 2011

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

Here’s Jón Gnarr’s ‘Welcome to Reykjavík’ from last year.



Mag
Articles
Two Days Of Criminal Activity

Two Days Of Criminal Activity

by

People thought we were nuts at the time, when in reality we were suffering from good old Icelandic gung-ho enthusiasm. This year, we ought to know better. Three of us—Yrsa Sigurðardóttir, Ragnar Jónasson and I—got together last year to organise a small crime fiction festival in Reykjavík. After all, how hard could it be? We had all been to a few of these, and it didn’t look like it could be all that much of a headache. It had seemed odd to us that Iceland didn’t have its own crime fiction festival. After all, there are plenty of them elsewhere.

Mag
Articles
A New Wave Of Protests

A New Wave Of Protests

by

Tension has been rising in Iceland of late. An estimated 4,500 people attended a general protest against the government on November 4, almost completely filling Austurvöllur by Alþingi. This marks it as one of the biggest demonstrations this year. The event was initially inspired by a Facebook rant from singer-songwriter Svavar Knútur, wherein he bemoaned the current coalition government’s favouritism of the rich and powerful. Instigator Svavar Knútur began the demonstration by addressing the crowd. In his speech—which has been widely shared across social media since the event—he likened the rally to the first of three warnings his father used to

Mag
Articles
Arrest, Injury, Aftermath

Arrest, Injury, Aftermath

by

Standing by the door of a two-storey building in the Höfði industrial district and not finding a doorbell, I call Chaplas Menke, who says he’ll come down to let me in. My interview subject made local headlines this September, after being reportedly brutalised by the police. Since then, the story has gone quiet. A short while later, he invites me to his abode. He is of average height, dark-skinned, with sunken eyes and a svelte frame. He has a thick accent and speaks hesitatingly, picking his words carefully. I ask him how he’s doing, and he modestly says okay as

Mag
Articles
News In Brief: November

News In Brief: November

by

Icelanders have once again grown fed up with their elected representatives, staging a massive protest demonstration in front of Alþingi last Monday. Thousands stood at Austurvöllur, Reykjavík’s hip spot for protest meetings, to denounce a veritable cornucopia of bad policy decisions (police estimated 4,500 attendees at the protest, while some attendees estimated that they were in fact closer to 7,000). This particular time around, the political party actually leading the country–in this case, the Progressives–have most recently polled at just under 9%. Remember, folks: the last time a ruling coalition stepped down, it was because one party didn’t want to

Mag
Articles
Who’s Afraid Of November 9?

Who’s Afraid Of November 9?

by

After DV revealed that the police had just acquired some 150 submachine guns from Norway, Chief Superintendent Jón Bjartmarz—who refused to answer any of the newspaper’s questions—explained on RÚV’s Kastljós that they have possessed machine guns “ever since after the Gúttó-fight.” “The Gúttó-fight” was a violent clash between police and workers, who were protesting announced wage reductions, back in 1932. The reference is as significant as they get. An Icelandic State Police authority, as opposed to a municipal one, was established in the aftermath of that fight, to ensure that authorities would henceforth have the upper hand against demonstrators. This

Mag
Articles
Pippa’s Wish

Pippa’s Wish

by

A particularly heart-warming story made the rounds recently when a crowdfunding campaign called “Pippa’s Wish” hit its required target, after a month online. The GoFundMe campaign was started by family friend Tamara Antonelli Comerford to take Pippa—a disabled seven-year-old Sigur Rós fan from Missouri, who suffered a stroke at birth that left her with Cerebral Palsy, among other medical conditions—on the family holiday of a lifetime. During an extended convalescence after an operation to reshape her pelvis and straighten her legs, Pippa was in severe pain, but responded with fascination to the soothing beauty of Sigur Rós’ tour documentary ‘Heima’,

Show Me More!