Mag
Articles
The Gray Rock, Gold Coffin Bay, And Ghosts

The Gray Rock, Gold Coffin Bay, And Ghosts

Words by

Published June 26, 2012

Reykjavík’s newest neighbourhoods, Kjalarnes and Grafarholt-Úlfarsárdalur, probably have the strongest connection to elves and ghosts of the city’s ten districts. Grafarholt’s Grásteinn (“Gray Rock”) is without a doubt the most famous rock in Reykjavík. After the rock was moved in the ’70s during the construction of the road Vesturlandsvegur, thousands of salmon parr died at a nearby salmon farm. On top of that, several construction workers sustained injuries in all sorts of inexplicable accidents at the time. The rock was eventually registered at the Archaeological Heritage Agency as a home to an elf family in 1983, and therefore cannot be moved without special permission. This is Iceland’s only officially registered elf home.
Elves as well as ghosts have also been spotted in Kjalarnes. For instance Móri, one of Iceland’s most famous ghosts, has also been seen there. He is known for leaving big blue marks on a cow—marks that are said to be his finger marks.
Kjalarnes: the first settlers’ neighbourhood

Kjalarnes sits below Esja, a mountain that is fairly popular for hiking and is especially nice during the summertime. It is Reykjavík’s most spacious and sparsely populated neighbourhood.
The Kjalarnes area is rich with history. Notably, it features in Kjalnesinga saga, and is also said to be the location of the country’s first regional parliament, a precursor to the first national one, Alþingi. Kjalarnes may also be home to Iceland’s first church, supposedly built in the year 900.
Located about 30 kilometres north of the city centre, Kjalarnes was merged into the City of Reykjavík in June 1998, and is the only neighbourhood that has been adopted by the city. Today, the urban area Grundarhverfi (in development since 1974) has about 850 residents living in 200 homes.
Kjalarnes is also home to the most popular scuba diving spot in Reykjavík. It’s called Gullkistuvík (“The Gold Coffin Bay”). Yes, you can be excited. It is so named because there is supposedly a coffin full of gold inside a rock in the south end of the bay.
Grafarholt: the millennium neighbourhood
Grafarholt was developed much later, in the late ’90s, and was proclaimed by city officials to be the “millennium neighbourhood.” In the year 2000, a thousand years had passed since we officially abandoned the Ásatrú faith and, under considerable pressure, adopted Christianity. Furthermore, a thousand years had passed since the explorer Leifur Eiríksson reached the “New World” from Greenland. All of the street names were thus given names in honour of these milestones. Many have criticised them for being strange sounding neologisms.
As a teenager in the mid ‘90s, I used to plant trees in Grafarholt, a job offered by the City of Reykjavík. At that time, Grafarholt was part of the countryside. In 2002, a couple of years after my gardening training, I went for a walk in Grafarholt and I felt like I was entering the future: I was in the millennium neighbourhood with millennium houses, characterised by their flat roofs and huge windows. At the time it was a novel style in Reykjavík, but it has since become quite prevalent.
Grafarholt is named after the farm Gröf, which is as old as the first settlement in Iceland. One of the most famous residents of Gröf was the entrepreneur and poet Einar Benediktsson, who bought the farm around 1900. His aim was to make a salmon river in the area with a little help from machinery and manpower. While nothing came of this idea, Einar managed to accomplish a lot of outlandish things in his life, such as selling the Northern Lights to an Italian businessman. 
As late as 1950, it took a farmer around 45 minutes to drive from Grafarholt to Reykjavík. Today, the drive takes 15 minutes.
Úlfarsárdalur: the half-built neighbourhood

Before Úlfarsárdalur was built, the area had mostly been farmland. Then, during World War II, three barracks, Belvoir, Tientsin, and South Belvoir, were set up there. The largest of them, Belvoir, housed 1,100 people. The barracks have since been torn town and almost no evidence of their existence can be found.
The neighbourhood was born out of a design competition between six groups of designers, with the winning blueprint of the neighbourhood drawn up in 2001. It is considered part of Grafarholt, and like Grafarholt it was designed so that the buildings would fit in with the surrounding natural environment. The area was intended to attract people who enjoy outdoor activities just outside their doorstep. However, due to the economic crisis in 2008, the neighbourhood remains half-built to this day.



Mag
Articles
Listicle: A Survival Guide For The Darkest Months

Listicle: A Survival Guide For The Darkest Months

by and

In Reykjavík and beyond, there are some activities that are available only in the winter season. January can be made into a lively month, with a few ideas and a bit of willpower—never before has the frozen city pond looked as inviting, or a glögg by the open fireplace seemed so tempting. The hardest part is often deciding to do something and getting going, so push yourself to get out of the house and you’ll rarely regret it. Instead of dozing the morning away, you can flick on a SAD lamp, down some lýsi, pull on some colourful clothes, and

Mag
Articles
SAD Times: The Effects Of Winter—And How To Fight Back

SAD Times: The Effects Of Winter—And How To Fight Back

by

When I meet working psychologist and PhD student Erla Björnsdóttir, it’s already dark outside. Reykjavík’s streets are becoming treacherous as compacted snow freezes into sheets of slippery ice, and the streetlights have been lit for a couple of hours already, throughout the late afternoon. People clutch their hot drinks in the coffeehouse, and a barman lights candles on the tables. The atmosphere is tangibly hushed as the winter season hangs over the city. Around 101’s many downtown bars and cafes, sleep issues become a common topic of conversation at this time of year. Whilst some locals carry on as normal,

Mag
Articles
A Tale Of Ice And Fire (But Mostly Wind… And Not Much Sun)

A Tale Of Ice And Fire (But Mostly Wind… And Not Much Sun)

by

Icelanders are obsessed with the weather. That shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who’s ever been here: the weather is no joke. If you don‘t keep a close eye on forecasts and weather-related news, you might miss out on the few good days of summer, end up stuck somewhere in a snowstorm or—on rare occasions—drive right into the latest eruption’s ash cloud. In that spirit, we present some peaks and ebbs of 2014, as it pertained to our friendly in-house meteorological expert. Now, it would be a bit extreme to say that this was a good year for Iceland

Mag
Articles
WHERE WERE WE? WHERE ARE WE? WHERE ARE WE HEADED?

WHERE WERE WE? WHERE ARE WE? WHERE ARE WE HEADED?

by

To mark the beginning of a new year, we posed two questions to dozens of Icelanders, old and new. Representatives of every single political party, ministers, mayors and machinists alike (as per usual, the governing parties mostly ignored our queries). We asked them to tell us—in their own unique ways, from their own unique perspectives—what summed up the year 2014, and what they expected of the coming one. We asked them to answer the following: “Where are we now, at the end of 2014. Looking back, how did that journey begin, and where did it leave us?” “Furthermore: Where are

Mag
Articles
Eight Inside Tips to Surviving the Icelandic Winter

Eight Inside Tips to Surviving the Icelandic Winter

by

DARK ICELAND can be a total fucker to deal with, all Northern Lights and magical elves aside. So guess what: our man Ragnar put together a bit of a “listicle” to help y’all cope. Now, go forth and cope! Try the secret menu at Bangkok Ask for the “Thai Style” menu at Thai restaurant Bangkok in Kópavogur. Asian take-out in Iceland can be a pretty dismal affair, but it’s not entirely the fault of the restaurants—as Icelanders can’t seem to see past their love of soggy deep-fried shrimp with sweet-and-sour sauce. But if you know the magic word, they’ll serve

Mag
Articles
Year In News: 2014

Year In News: 2014

by

The year 2014 was chock-full of controversies, blunders, humour, and, of course, cat stories. So brew yourself a cuppa and make yourself comfortable—we have a lot to go through. JANUARY The year came out of the gate running, with television personality-cum-sports announcer Björn Bragi Arnarson remarking that Iceland’s dominant performance in a handball game against Austria was “like the German Nazis in 1938. We’re slaughtering the Austrians!” All the while, Icelandic brewery Steðji put slaughtered whales to good use, crafting the novel Þorri “Whale Beer,” which contains trace amounts of whalebone meal. And, in an attempt to harness the 40%

Show Me More!