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Published April 15, 2014

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Mexicans: They’re Everywhere!

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According to the Mexican Embassy in Denmark, there are currently 50 Mexicans living in Iceland. That’s enough people to fill a decent party. Maybe. Indeed, those 50 Mexicans only amount to roughly .00004% of Mexico’s population, and a mere .01% of the admittedly sparser Icelandic populace. However, considering how far removed Iceland is from Mexico—geographically and culturally—that number becomes a little more impressive. 50 Mexicans. In Iceland. Who are they? How did they get here? What inspired them to seek their fortune on a remote rock on the outskirts of the North Atlantic? And, most importantly, how are they adapting to life in a culture that is so different from the one they were born into? As a proud Mexican and avid Iceland enthusiast, these questions intrigued me enough to send me looking for some answers. Over the next few issues, I will be profiling a small part of Iceland’s Mexican population, documenting their hopes and dreams and the manifold challenges they face. Vopnafjörður: Arlette Moreno Vopnafjörður, Northeast Iceland, 621 km from Reykjavík. At 7am, the night still lingers, darkness still reigns. Arlette Moreno opens her eyes and slowly realises she can snooze another fifteen minutes before it’s time to start the day. From her bedroom window, she can see her garden and the majestic ocean view that lies beyond. It’s early March and the air is bitter cold, but at least it stopped snowing. For now. Vopnafjörður, which Arlette Moreno calls home—along with 668 other inhabitants—is a tiny village comfortably nestled in a fjord on the outskirts of Iceland. When she first conversed with her now-husband Svanur over the Internet, she told him that she was from a very small town in Mexico. He kept insisting he came from a much smaller place. But never could she have imagined… Arlette hails from Saltillo, the capital of the Mexican state of Coahuila, about 400 km south of Texas (pop. 823,000). Obviously, relocating to a tiny hamlet on the edge of the Arctic Circle took some serious adjustment. “Before I came to Iceland, I had never lived on a farm. And now, I’m here. My daughter and I are the only Latinas in town. Everything in our lives changed.” She continues, remarking that the experience of moving to Vopnafjörður was “not unlike joining a large family; one where everyone always says ‘hi’ and is happy to lend a hand. That sensation, of every person you meet knowing your name, it’s quite something.” She talks about her husband, Svanur, and reminisces about their courtship. “He visited me in Saltillo in 2008; that was the first time we met in person. He didn’t say much. Icelanders are very quiet. They don’t tend to express their feelings as much as we Mexicans do,” she says, smiling.  As the couple’s romance grew, Arlette decided to leave Mexico and move to Iceland, bringing along her daughter, who was ten years old at the time. “First I told my parents. Then I told my daughter’s dad, who

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Alvar Would Have Been Proud

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One of Reykjavík’s more impressive architectural achievements–the Alvar Aalto-designed Nordic House–became host to new restaurant this spring, named in honour of the Finnish architect himself. Aalto Bistro replaces the highly acclaimed Dill (now on Hverfisgata) as the Nordic House’s resident restaurant. Dill is of course Iceland’s premier representative of New Nordic cuisine, with all the use of local produce and foraging that entails. The menu at Aalto is in a similar vein, local produce cooked in a style that could be called Scandinavian-French fusion. The kitchen at Aalto Bistro is in the capable hands of renowned celebrity chef Sveinn Kjartansson, who has been showing Icelandic television viewers how to make the best of the island’s prime produce, namely its impressive seafood. This translates directly to Aalto Bistro’s lunch menu, with seafood in abundance, supplemented by a nice choice of open faced “smørrebrød”-style sandwiches. Vegan options are at hand, along with four new specials each day. During weekends, a short and concise dinner menu is also on offer My companion and I visited the Nordic House for a sunny Monday lunch, on one of the few days this summer when dining outside has been possible. We decided to choose from the menu itself, although the specials looked very nice to say the least. The main courses are all available as half portions, enabling one to try two dishes in one go. And that is what we did. My companion decided upon a fish pan with assorted seafood, fresh herbs and white wine sauce (1,950 ISK) along with a tuna melt (1,400 ISK). I chose the hot-smoked catfish on citrus salad with wild angelica mayonnaise (1,550 ISK), followed by the singular meat dish on the menu, Turkish köfta meatballs and Morroccan merguez sausages with garlic sauce, oven-grilled potatoes and root vegetables (1,750 ISK). With our meal we were served a complimentary freshly baked bread and whipped butter with fresh local herbs. Very nice.

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Family Found Wandering On Glacier

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A tourist operator stumbled across a family wandering around on Langjökull glacier yesterday. Langjökull is quite dangerous for those unfamiliar with the area and has whirlpools reaching 100-200 metres down into the glacier.  “I asked [the father] what he was doing,” the director of ICE Explorer, Arngrímur Hermannsson, told RÚV. “He answered: Am I maybe doing something I shouldn’t be doing?” The family of five, two adults and three children, had driven onto the glacier in a rented car and on roads typically used by tour companies driving eight-wheelers equipped for extreme weather. “This is the best way to get on Langjökull glacier and as a result people try to drive up in rental cars and do it all themselves,” said Arngrímur. “My jaw absolutely dropped when I saw that they’d driven their rental car all the way up there. That he’d managed to get that far. We have said in the past that we need to put up signs warning people against trying to travel onto the glacier without proper equipment. I told him that he was lucky to have avoided the glacial mud. A car got stuck in that the day before and that it had been raining the past 3 days, so the glacier was very slippery and dangerous. He told me he was going to hurry up and leave while he could.” Many parts of Iceland are dangerous and it is best to exercise caution while travelling by yourself. Tourists and natives alike regularly get lost or caught in bad weather. To ensure you get the most out of your trip to Iceland and avoid unnecessary jeopardy check out Safe Travel.

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Earthquakes Continue To Rattle Bárðarbunga

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Intense earthquake activity continues around Bárðarbunga volcano and Vatnajökull glacier, reports RÚV. Just passed midnight an earthquake measuring 5.3 on the Richter scale hit Bárðarbunga and an earthquake measuring 4.5 hit Askja caldera, the largest quake in Askja since 1992. An additional two strong earthquakes hit Bárðarbunga around 3 am. Seismic activity has been intensifying further in the past few days due to pressure changes resulting from the movement of magma, which is now making its way to the Askja caldera. Almost 500 earthquakes were measured last night overall. According to the Met Office, going forward there are three possible outcomes. The first is that the migration of magma could stop, attended by a gradual reduction in seismic activity. The second is that the dike could reach the surface of the crust, starting an eruption. In this scenario, it is most likely that the eruption would be near the northern tip of the dike. This would most likely produce an effusive lava eruption with limited explosive, ash-producing activity. The third possibility is that the dike could reach the surface where a significant part, or all, of the fissure is beneath the glacier. This would most likely produce a flood in Jökulsá á Fjöllum and perhaps explosive, ash-producing activity. That being said they would not rule out the unlikely possibility that an eruption inside the Bárðarbunga volcano could happen.

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Jón Gnarr To Appeal Name Change Case

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Former Mayor of Reykjavík Jón Gnarr plans to appeal a decision by the National Registry which prevents him from changing his legal name to Jón Gnarr. Vísir reports that Jón recently filed a formal request with the National Registry to change his name from Jón Gnarr Kristinsson to just Jón Gnarr, as he has been known for decades. The Registry rejected the request, saying in part that “it is illegal to take up a new surname in Iceland.” Jón says that this is not true in practice, pointing out that foreigners who receive Icelandic citizenship are allowed to keep their non-Icelandic surnames (as this reporter can attest). “It is the opinion of my lawyer that to give some people permission to change their surnames but not others is a violation of the Icelandic Constitution” where equality before the law is concerned, Jón says. “I intend to continue to fight for my rights, and will next appeal my case to the Ministry of the Interior. To be continued …” As reported, Jón has had considerable trouble having his legally registered name changed to the name he is known by to people around the world. “In Iceland, you can be named Jesus,” he posted on his Facebook last July. “The Name Committee can’t stop that. It doesn’t matter if you spell it with an ú or a u. You can also be named Muhamed or Muhammed. The naming laws pertain mostly to only a fraction of Icelanders. What kind of law discriminates against people in this way? Why, for example, may [Independence Party MP] Elín Hirst have the surname Hirst but I can’t have Gnarr? Is Hirst cooler? More Icelandic? Are all animals equal, but some are more equal than others? In Jesus’ name, answer me!”

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Group To Teach Icelanders How To Boycott Goods From Israel

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A group of Icelanders hopes to educate the general public on how to avoid buying products from Israel. DV reports that the group, called BDS Ísland, hopes to bring to light which Icelandic companies are importing and selling Israeli goods. The “BDS” in the group’s name stands for “Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions”. The movement is an extension of the Facebook group “We don’t buy products from Israel”, wherein Icelanders post Israeli goods that they find on store shelves here in Iceland. Sema Erla Serdar, the chairperson of BDS Ísland, hopes to assemble and organise this information, and then make it more accessible to the public. “We’ve been compiling a lot of Israeli brands,” she told reporters. “There are some big name products, like Soda Stream, Moroccan Oil, lots of Dead Sea cosmetics and the Viber smartphone app, and so of course a lot of food products. For example, dates, avocados, garlic and herbs from [the store] Náttúra.” Sema adds that those wishing to boycott Israeli products can do so most easily by looking for bar codes that begin with the numbers 729, indicating that the country of origin is Israel. However, she says, this code is not present on all Israeli products, hence the necessity of a list.

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