From Iceland — News In Brief: February

News In Brief: February

Published January 17, 2014

Larissa Kyzer

Whale Tail -  a68341c76bf94a3d.jpgWith the month-long winter holiday of Þorri arriving at the end of January, many food producers sought to mix up their traditional Þorramatur (Þorri food) provisions, which Icelanders are expected to eat 200 tonnes of this year. While creative, it remains to be seen if the newly-marketed pickled ram’s penis will be as successful as the staple of pickled ram’s testicles. Another daring, if ill-advised, Þorri experiment was briefly shut down before the Ministry for the Environment gave its stamp of approval: the Icelandic brewery Steðji has teamed up with whaling company Hvalur to produce a new Þorri “Whale Beer,” which contains trace amounts of whalebone meal.

Diverse DietBut it’s not all balls and pickled penises up here. In fact, Oxfam’s new Global Food Table showed, to our great surprise, that Icelanders have the most nutritionally diverse diets in the world. If we take this to be true, it probably explains why the number of overweight Icelanders is not increasing, rather that the average BMI of adult Icelanders has been in stasis since 2007. As Stefán Hrafn Jónsson, a sociologist at the Directorate of Health delicately put it, “Yes, Icelanders have stopped getting fatter.”

EU FlagWhatever the rest of us have been eating this month, sports announcer Björn Bragi Arnarson was content to eat his foot. While providing RÚV’s colour commentary on the Iceland-Austria match during the European handball championships, Björn remarked that the Icelandic team, then up 17-9, was “like the German Nazis in 1938. We’re slaughtering the Austrians.” Shortly after his shockingly insensitive blunder, Björn and RÚV both issued apologies to the incensed Austrian Handball Association, the latter of which later issued a joint statement with the European and Icelandic Handball Federation denouncing the comments. The chastised Björn kept his job, providing the commentary for the Iceland-Macedonia game shortly after.

GeysirWhile Minister of the Interior Hanna Birna remains under fire for her role in the Tony Omos case (see page 8), Minister of Foreign Affairs Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson was called on by pro-EU group Já Ísland to apologise for his comment which echoed a statement made by the UK’s Daily Mail last year—namely that “the European Union puts more money into promotion than Coca-Cola.” This controversy comes as a new poll shows that nearly a third of Icelanders (32.3%) now favour accession into the European Union. Nevertheless, it remains unclear if Iceland will continue EU negotiation talks, as a Parliamentary referendum on the issue seems to have stalled again.

In the coming months, tourists can expect their visit to be a little pricier. Not only have the landowners of the popular tourist site Geysir decided to start charging entrance fees this summer, but individual ticket prices to Reykjavík’s swimming pools went up by 9% in the New Year, bringing the cost of a single adult ticket to 600 ISK. Both fees will apply to Icelanders and tourists alike—“Footsteps are just as heavy, whether they are an Icelander’s or a German’s” spokesperson Garðar Eiríksson remarked, explaining the need for better site maintenance at Geysir—but the increase at the pools has being dubbed a “tourist’s fee,” since it is expected that locals purchase multi-ticket passes to the pools instead of single tickets.

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