A Grapevine service announcement Pay attention: Holuhraun, still spewing lava. Bárðarbunga, still sinking.

Where to Find Necro-Pants

Published August 15, 2008

If you’re like me, a new arrival to Reykjavík, the free walking tour that leaves from the tourist info centre on Aðalstræti is worth the time. It helped me get my bearings around town and was loaded with important cultural and historical facts, for example, I now know that Iceland was once famous for breeding the world’s best hunting hawks.
    At two-plus hours, the walk around town at times felt a bit long. It promised to cover all the main sights of Reykjavík, which it did, but it could easily have accomplished this in an hour.  However, tour guide Jónas Freydal’s blunt, savvy and often subversive observations about sex and politics in Iceland made for a tour that was as entertaining as it was informative.
    Freydal was quick to mention that the tour has no sponsor (i.e. there would be no two-for-one coupons to substandard restaurants or shameless promotions of chintzy gift shops,) which was a refreshing new take on the word free. Instead, he gave away valuable local secrets such as where to get cheap souvenirs and the best place to buy used wool sweaters.  He also pointed out local shops and encouraged us to stay away from tourist traps.  
    This made the experience feel more like a local friend showing us around rather than a tour guide.  Highlights included a look at the oldest house in Reykjavík, a stop at a graveyard—now covered in pavement in the city centre, and a nice view of Tjörnin pond.
    While the sights were a great way to be introduced to the city, Jonas’s personal touches made the tour unique.  He compared the more dreary sections of the city’s architecture to “a bad day in Eastern Europe,” told us where to find “necro-pants” (trousers made from stripping the skin of a man’s lower half including testicles, in order to obtain his luck,) and a added taste of his own personal theology.
    If you like free things and you want to be let in on little of the city’s more interesting secrets, then this tour is for you.    



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Opinion
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So What’s This Support For Scottish Independence I Keep Hearing About?

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A number of prominent Icelanders cheered on the Scottish independence movement during the run-up to the September 18 referendum deciding whether Scotland should leave the United Kingdom. Among notable Icelanders who expressed support for the Yes movement were comedian and former Reykjavík mayor Jón Gnarr, the band Sigur Rós, and a smattering of politicians, including both the President and the Prime Minister. None of them caused deep ripples, unlike when, on the eve of the election, Scottish independence received the endorsement of the most famous Icelander of them all: Eyjafjallajökull. How can a volcano support anything? Did it ash out

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‘You’ve Got To Be Firm With These People’

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Against Container-Prejudices Eygló Harðardóttir, Welfare Minister on behalf of the Progressive party, wrote a blog post last week, titled ‘Container-prejudices’. Whereas the title might seem to involve an elaborate new metaphor, leading an optimist reader to hope that the Minister might finally publicly counter the xenophobic agenda of other party members, that is not the case. The title is quite literal: the post is about alleged prejudices against containers as a housing solution. Containers are already used as homeless shelters in Reykjavík and more will soon be placed at Landspítali, the National University Hospital of Iceland’s premises, accommodating new offices

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Hello! I Must Be Going!

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To forge a synthesis: Last week, as evident in what follows, citizens of the volcano-plagued republic seem to have mainly wondered which things should be allowed entrance into their country and which should rather be kept out: should meat-products from elsewhere be allowed? How about people from elsewhere? How about only the best people from elsewhere? If locally produced people are supposed to stay, then who is supposed to accommodate them? How can the country attract all the best people and still get rid of all the ‘good people’? Should books stay or go? Last but not least: is there

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Opinion
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Letter To UNESCO

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Dear UNESCO, It was a great honour when Reykjavik became a UNESCO City of Literature in 2011 and we Icelanders are very proud to be counted as one amongst seven amazing cities carrying this title. Realising this is not a temporary title, but a title for keeps which carries a certain recognition and prestige, we have become apprehensive about it and would therefore like to bring a few points to your attention. In a new budget proposal, the present Icelandic government has proposed to raise the sales tax (VAT) on books from 7% up to 12%. The immediate and obvious

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Opinion
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Everything Counts

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Statistics Iceland (SI) raised a few eyebrows when the institution announced that it would as of September include estimates of various illegal activities when calculating Iceland’s GDP and balance of payments. Drug trafficking, smuggling and prostitution are now included among the more “traditional” industries in the state’s official GPD calculations, a move that SI claims will increase Iceland’s GDP by 0.47%. Understandably, the institution’s announcement generated a loud “whaaat!?!?” across social media, as people attempted to make sense of this unexpected addition to the Icelandic economy. It just made no sense! Why would the statistics bureau be interested in boosting

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Opinion
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So What’s This Faroese Ship I Keep Hearing About?

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The Faroese trawler ‘Næraberg’ was fishing for mackerel in Greenlandic waters when its engine suffered a malfunction. As the Icelandic Coast Guard was best situated to help, it sent a plane out to the trawler with spare engine parts, which it dropped in a parachute. The Faroese crew retrieved them in a dinghy and went to work repairing the engine. Another lovely story of cooperation in the North Atlantic Ocean, where hard men with soft hearts help each other survive. After the attempted repairs, the engine could only produce a fraction of normal power. The ship set course for Iceland.

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