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The Gray Rock, Gold Coffin Bay, And Ghosts

The Gray Rock, Gold Coffin Bay, And Ghosts

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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.



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Dirty Holidaze

Dirty Holidaze

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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

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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?

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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

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Pagan Christmas

Pagan Christmas

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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

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The Encyclopaedia of Icelandic Holidays

The Encyclopaedia of Icelandic Holidays

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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

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WAR ON CHRISTMAS: Finally, An Icelandic Front

WAR ON CHRISTMAS: Finally, An Icelandic Front

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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

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Wanted: The Icelandic Christmas Mood

Wanted: The Icelandic Christmas Mood

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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

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