Iceland is the most sparsely populated country in Europe, with only around three inhabitants per square kilometre. The largest part of the country is uninhabitable, and the villages and towns are mostly scattered along the coastline, with the most densely populated areas in the south-western part of the island, in and around the capital. The country lies in the North Atlantic, around a three-hour flight away from London and a five to six hour flight from New York. Reykjavík is located on a long cape embraced by two little fjords and the city is surrounded by mountains. The highest one is Mt. Esja at 914m, one of the city's main landmarks and a hiking area for the inhabitants, as well as an inspiration for the city's poets who have written numerous poems about it. The Greater Reykjavík Area consists of Reykjavík and seven other smaller municipalities, and in many ways they work as one as many people look to Reykjavík, whether it is for work, commerce or business. Reykjavík is different from many other capital cities in the sense that it is spread out with mostly low-rise buildings. The Greater Reykjavík area is 237 km², and there are 430 inhabitants per square kilometre, which means that Reykjavík is one of the most sparsely populated cities in the world. Reykjavík is a harbour city and its old harbour has been going through renewal in recent years. The former fishermen's huts now house cafés, restaurants, shops and other services that appeal to locals and visitors alike. There are various sailing trips on offer from the old harbour, such as whale-watching tours, and the dock is used by local boats and foreign cruise ships alike. Each year, around the Icelandic Sailor's Day, the harbour area hosts the Festival of the Sea, and there are many opportunities in the area for events of all sorts, such as the literature walks offered by Reykjavík City Library, with a focus on poetry and prose about the sea and the harbour life. The city centre is a stone's throw away from the old harbour and is home to both the city's oldest buildings, and
old harbour The Old Harbour in Reykjavík was once the centre of transportation and shipping. In the autumn of 1874, the Scottish steamship Lára waited in the channel for goods and passengers to be ferried aboard. Most of the passengers were Icelanders on the way to North America in search of a better life. Among them were Ólafur “the fiddler” Jensson and his family; they are the main characters of Bödvar Gudmundsson's historical novel Híbýli vindanna from 1995 (Where the Winds Dwell).
From Where the Winds Dwell The Lára had arrived to pick up corned mutton in barrels along with live horses, mail and superfluous people. Earlier in the summer, part of the Danish navy ships had to lay anchor outside the harbour, because despite the thousand years that had passed since Norwegian refugees had settled in Iceland, the soon-to-be capital still lacked a serviceable pier for larger vessels. Both king and constitution therefore had to be brought to shore in a rowboat. Translated by Keneva Kunz
UNESCO City of Literature
Published on Jul 23, 2012