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is in the air

It’s been a good year Margrét Edda Gnarr, IFBB World Champion Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson, third strongest man in the world Benedikt Erlingsson Ásgeir Trausti The Icelandic football team … and many more

Winter is coming:

Check out the WOW winter cities

Issue six 2013








Tax & Duty Free


Experience Iceland All of our shops and restaurants offer you Icelandic memories to take home.

2 ı WOW is in the air

Nearby Landmannalaugar

One of few airports in the world that is both tax Promotion and duty free — meaning up to 50% off city prices. Issue six


In this issue 6

One year of WOW magazine

A letter from the CEO

8 It’s official! WOW air now has its very own Air Operator’s Certifi cate. 10

This and that … mostly this


What’s going on? Concerts, events, openings and all that

18 Notes from the doctor Gunnar Hjálmarsson, aka Dr. Gunni, is Iceland’s music guru. 20 Merry Icelandic Christmas It’s all about traditions! 26 The Icelandic Yule Ale The beer revolution contin ues in Iceland.


his has certainly been a great year and I am happy to ann­ ounce that this issue marks the one year anniversary of WOW magazine. Being “Queen” of this maga­­zine is probably the best job in the world. I get to introduce the foreign guests of WOW air to my country as well as giving my fellow Icelanders a few hints for their travels. It’s definitely the best of both worlds. Seeing as it’s the end of the year, and the beginning of a new one, we felt it was appropriate to introduce our read­ ers to just a few of the many Icelanders who’ve been doing a great job this year. And let me tell you, the list was long! On the cover we have IFBB World Cham­ pion, Margrét Edda Gnarr (whom I got a little girl-crush on after her interview) and Iceland’s strongest man, Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson, a real life giant but one of the sweetest men I’ve met. There seems to be no shortage of talented, strong, athletic and innovative people on this small island and I am proud to call myself their fellow countryman. As the New Year approaches I want to thank all the readers, advertisers, journa­­ lists, photographers, proofreaders and designers that have helped me make WOW magazine a great read. I wish you all a happy and bountiful WOW year. Guðrún Vaka Helgadóttir, editor in chief

4 ı WOW is in the air


A ferocious family affair Learn more about the Icelandic Yule Lads, their hideous parents and their feral family pet.

32 A taste of the holiday season Ptarmigan: The way to the Icelanders heart during Christmas. 34 Thin is in All about the Icelandic leaf bread 46

Touring the world bite by bite Alex Nazaruk is on a mission to complete 52 food related jobs in just one year. One of them was here in Iceland.


A new fashion in farming Gunnar Þór Nilsen is creat ing an art farm but he needs a little help.


WOW Cyclothon The registration for WOW Cyclothon 2014 has already opened. These 10 girls are proof that you don’t need to be a trained athlete to take on this journey of a lifetime.

54 Vatnajökull Region The winter paradise in southeast Iceland.


It’s been a good year … 56 Meet the latest WOW star Margrét Edda Gnarr 62 Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson: The Icelandic mountain 66 Benedikt Erlingsson: The storyteller 68 Ásgeir Trausti: The singer and songwriter 70 Of Monsters and Men: The mega band 72 Darri Ingólfsson: The Hollywood actor 74 Hera Hilmardóttir: The London actress 76 Guðmundur Felix: Making medical history 78 The Icelandic football team: Moving up the list 80 Sigríður Rún: The designer 82 Guðmundur Arnar: The director 84 Icelandic food: Finding new markets



Issue six 2013


The man who put flair in the air Guðmundur Jörundsson has become one of Iceland’s leading fashion designers.


A person of WOW WOW air’s chief pilot, Ingólfur Einarsson, was an enigma to us; that was until we got him to sit down and answer some hardcore questions about himself.


Road tripping Þórður Snær Júlíusson, decided to take a road trip around North America with his friends a few years back.


The great America Hop onboard, we’re discovering America once and for all!

WOW winter cities 110 Lovely London 114 Warming up to Paris in winter 118 A wonderful winter in Berlin 122 Crazy for Copenhagen

126 Your WOW horoscope Check out what the stars have in store for you. 126 Are you bored? Get a pen and solve these sudokus. 130 The Traveling Inquisition We apprehended funnyman Daniel Moritz and had him answer a few questions.

96 Boston, we’re coming! 98 A city built on heart Boston has a magnificent history. 100 Kick start your summer Turn up the heat with these warm WOW destinations. 102 Heja Sverige! Scenic Stockholm. 106 WOW moments in Stockholm 108 Get ready for the slopes The Austrian Alps won’t bring you down.

Design and layout: Ivan burkni / arnardalur.sf Contributing editors: Tommi Valgeirs, Þorsteinn Haukur Harðarson, Dísa Bjarnadóttir, Kristín Ýr Gunnarsdóttir, Jón Kristinn Snæhólm, Paul Michael Herman, Lilja Björk Haraldsdóttir Proofreading: Paul Michael Herman

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Editor in chief: Guðrún Vaka Helgadóttir

Photographers: Rakel Ósk Sigurðardóttir, Ernir Eyjólfsson, Kristinn Magnússon and Hákon Davíð Björnsson


WOW Magazine staff





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Issue six


WOW what a year! 2013

has been a remarkable year for WOW air on all fronts. We more than quadrupled the number of WOW guests that flew with us since last year, WOW air has been the most punctual airline flying to and from Iceland in 2013, we continue to offer the best prices with an increasing number of destinations and of course we keep up our high spirits and broad smile! This year has also been a great year for tourism in Iceland as it will surpass the fishing and aluminum industry as the largest export income in Iceland for the first time. This is a remarkable turning point for our industry that few if any expected just a couple of years ago. Obviously all of us have a great responsibility to preserve and nurture Iceland’s unique nature as many of the most popular sights are getting increasingly crowded. Good news is that as the tourism industry grows more people understand the importance to invest in Iceland’s infrastruct­ ure and the protection of our most visited attractions while still keeping them accessible to locals and visitors alike. Fortunately, Iceland is one of the least populated countries in the World with only 3.15 people per km and there are still huge areas around Iceland that are largely undeveloped and completely unspoiled. I am convinced that even if we double or triple the current number of visitors we can still accommodate everyone in good harmony with nature as long as we collaborate and respect the elements, our heritage and local culture. All of us at WOW air look forward to continued growth in 2014 and want to thank you for your trust and encouragement by letting us continue to serve you. I also want to use this opportunity to thank WOW’s tremendous team, not least our crew that continues to do an amazing job on all fronts making WOW air a reality! 2

Thank you and I hope you enjoy a fantastic holiday season and a happy New Year.

Skúli Mogensen WOW air CEO and founder

6 ı WOW is in the air

Explore Iceland on your own terms My Way – perfect day tours for the independent traveller. My Way is your own audio day tour consisting of a suitable car for you and your friends together with an audio guide programmed into the GPS system. Sold in cooperation with Avis and Budget car rentals.

With so much to see and do, why not rent a car and hit the road in comfort and style with Budget?

To book your own day tour • Visit the My Way website • Contact Budget, tel. 562 6060. • Ask the hotel or next information centre to book it for you.

Tel. +354 562 6060




It’s official!






A little while back WOW air applied for their very own Air Operator’s Certifi­cate (AOC) and on 29 October 2013 it finally happened. WOW air was award­ed the Air Operator’s Certificate from the Icelandic Transport Authority, be­com­ing the first airline in Iceland to be awarded the certification in approximately 30 years. This means WOW air is now officially an airline operator! Photos: Sigurjon Ragnar,


OW air completed its virgin flight to Paris on 31 May 2012 and took over Iceland Express at the end of last year. The AOC is a highly important part of growing and strength­ ening WOW air, as the certification gives the com­ pany responsibility and control over all the airline’s operations and thereby independent of any other airline operators.

But what does it all mean?

Coming up!


Come next spring WOW air will offer flights to 17 destinations in Europe and North America. Yes, affordable flights to North America are in the cards for everyone with WOW air making its initial flight to Boston in spring 2014, marking the airline’s first venture to the US and adding a wider scope to its current list of destinations.

is the approval granted by a national aviation authority to an aircraft operator which allows it to use its aircraft for commercial purposes. The requirements to obtain an AOC vary from country to country, but in general the criteria relates to having experienced and fully trained per­­sonnel, airworthy aircraft and a quality system in place to ensure the safety of its employees and the general public.

8 ı WOW is in the air

day one,” said Skúli Mogensen, founder and CEO of WOW air. “The AOC is a turning point in the history of aviation in Iceland. I am very proud of this accomplishment which will prove to be a corner­ stone in the ongoing growth of the company.” Hermann Guðjónsson, General Director of The Icelandic Transport Authority, said, “The Transport Authority would like to express its joy over award­ ing a new Icelandic airline the license to operate. We wish them good fortune and we hope for good cooperation in the future.”

A turning point WOW air has grown rapidly in just over a year, from 90,000 guests in 2012 to 450,000 in 2013 and in 2014 it is estimated that 720,000 guests will travel with WOW air. To accommodate this increase WOW air will operate on five Airbus A320 aircrafts, compared to just two in 2012 and four in 2013. These aircraft are very fuel efficient and will be the newest in passenger flights to and from Iceland. “First and foremost I want to express my gratitude to the people that work for WOW air who have made the WOW brand come to life. I am also so grateful for how well we have been received from

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Mammút is back for more

I Lay Low goes personal


alking about the Weather’ is Lay Low’s fourth and latest album and, according to the singer herself, her biggest and most personal challenge to date. She directed most of her own recordings and plays most of the instruments apart from Bassi Ólafsson’s drums. “I wanted in some ways to show that women can do most of the things that are usually consid­ ered jobs for men in this industry,” she said, and stated that the album focuses on her childhood and battle with her own independence as a person as well as an artist. Sounds good!

Yummy Omnom “Chocolate can be something so much more than what pe­­ople think, and we really wanted to show people what you can do with chocolate beans if you use them just right,” says Kjartan Gíslason, one of the makers of the new Icelandic chocolate known simply as Omnom. Along with baker Karl Viggó Vigfússon and Óskar Þórðarsson, the three set out to make their dream piece that would have

just the taste they were look­­ ing for. In the end they are in­­credibly pleased with the re­­sults and find it likely that an­yone with a sweet tooth will think so too. Go on, have a bite!


10 ı WOW is in the air

Two songs ‘Salt’ and ‘Blóðberg’ have been getting radio play in Iceland and have been well received.

The remake is here


eeing Icelandic films being re­­ made in the U.S. is not something that happ­ens every day. When the Icelandic film ‘Á annan veg’ (Either Way) was first released here in Iceland it didn’t perform too well in ticket sales but its strong wordof-mouth buzz made it into one of the most talked about films made

in recent years. That little gem has now been remade under the (most unusual) title ‘Prince Avalanche’ and recently opened in Reykjavík. The remake stars Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch, who play an odd couple who spend the summer in solitude repainting traffic lines down the center of a country high­­way ravaged by

wild­­fire. As they sink into their dull job in the remarkable landscape, they learn more than they intended about each other and develop an unlikely friendship.

RIFF gets a glowing review in Germany

Comfort in the south nly 45 minutes away from Reykjavik, Ho­ tel Hekla is a lovely country jewel. It’s a 41 room hotel located in the fertile farm grounds of the Icelandic south coast. Whether on a business seminar or a romantic getaway, the hotel is fully equipped to satisfy your needs for comfort, with its spacious dining room, seating up to 100 people or conference room that seats up to 60 people. And let’s not forget the outdoor hot tub and the lounge with the fireplace, either one is per­ fect for viewing the Northern Lights in the winter.

t’s taken a while, but it’s out now! Mammút’s third album, ‘Komdu til mín svarta systir’ is in many ways different from the band’s previous work. Described by the fans to be a bit heavier, but also gentler, it is safe to say that a lot of passion went into this latest creation. Recorded last year, the band has finess­­­ed and worked on each song with great care and detail. Mam­ mút has received some great reviews in the past, even getting praised by Rolling Stone Magazine, Music Week and They have a lot to live up to, but they should manage.

As a bonus Hotel Hekla isn’t very far from major nature and historical sites of interest such as Þingvellir National Park and the Golden Circle not to mention the priceless view to Mount Hekla and Eyjafjallajökull. For activities that tempt you, arrangements can be made at the hotel. Check out their website, or contact at


he annual Reykja­vik Inter­­national Film Festival treats filmgoers and en­­­ thusi­asts alike to eleven days of cinematic treats from all over the world and focuses mostly on young talents. The festi­­­val’s ever-growing reputation has garnered it positive feedback year after year, and recently in the German newspaper Berl­ iner Zeitung. Reporter Philipp Bühler greatly complimented the Icelandic short films and documentaries that were shown this year, especially noting the miniscule budgets that many had to work with. On a similar note, Bühler also complimented Festi­val Director Hrönn Mari­ nós­­dóttir on a job well done considering the limited budget she herself had to work with this year. This year, the festival off­ ered showings of a 100 feature length films from 40 countries.

Christmas in Berlin:

The Icelandic way Film critics love our horses In


has not been the strongest year, profit-wise for Icelandic cine­ma, but we do have that one horse drama that people – espe­ cially foreign audiences and crit­ics – can’t stop talking about. Benedikt Erlingsson’s ‘Of Horses and Men’ didn’t open too well locally this summer but has since gained quite the following and is highly remarked as one of the most unusual, hypnotic films ever

to emerge from this island. After a number of festival showings in the past months it managed to grab the attention of some high profile film critics. The Guardian made a notable remark, saying that “Some of the scenes are staggeringly explicit and entire­ ly extraordinary: it is not every film that really does show you things that you have never seen before. And yet the film manages also to be tender, delicate and funny.” Hooray for the horses.

many famous people are regulars here

Ban Thai the finest Thai restaurant in Iceland

1/10 The Best Restaurants In Iceland

the best thai food 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013

Laugavegur 130, ofan við Hlemm

12 ı WOW is in the air

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collaboration with Visit Reykjavík and WOW air, the Icelandic embassy in Berlin held a presentation on the sub­ ject of Yuletide in Iceland. Over two hundred guests, including several dozen journalists and tour operators attended and were presented with everything that winter and Christmastime in Iceland has to offer, also go­ ing over some of the traditions many families have acquired around the holidays. Loads of Christmas refreshments were offered; visitors got a chance to feast on flatbread with smoked lamb, smoked salmon, ginger­ bread cookies and chocolate

from Nói Siríus. When Christ­ mas draws closer the embassy will hold readings of Gunnar Gunnarsson’s Advent, which has become a tradition in Ber­ lin, as well as a holiday concert, courtesy of opera singer Hlín Behrens Pétursdóttir. Sparks Design Gallery will also be pre­ senting the Icelandic shoe-tra­ dition on Facebook revolving our 13 Yule Lads (because one is not nearly enough). Lucky participants from Germany can win special holiday gifts. One lucky visitor was recently awarded a trip for two to Ice­ land from Berlin with WOW air.

Spirits are high


atla Vodka is a new Ice­ landic Vodka produced by 64° Reykjavík Distillery and introduced at the beginning of 2013. It is safe to say that it has gotten a warm welcome for it received two awards in international competitions in Strong Spirit categories; the Silver awards in the British “International Spirit Challenge”, and “Grand Gold Quality Award” in the Belgian “Monde Selection” competition. Both great accomplishments on their own, but recently Katla Vodka also received the “Red Dot Award” for product de­ sign. “We are immense­ ly proud for having been awarded these international awards. This confirms that we are producing a great product,” says Snorri Jónsson, managing di­

rector of 64° Reykjavík Distillery.” 64°Reykjavík Distillery, the first and only “micro-distillery” in Iceland, was founded in 2009 and produces quality liquors and spirits from fresh Icelandic ingredients. It´s safe to say that these awards show that their stringent quality policy is working. The key to quality vodka pro­ duction lies equally in quality ingredients and production meth­ ods says Snorri. “We always use the best available ingredients, in this case Icelandic spring water and quality grains. What completes the quality process is the distilling technique and the precision we give this process. By working in small batches we achieve the clear and soft quality of Katla Vodka,” he adds.

There’s a lot going on actually, especially in December. Don’t forget the numerous pubs that offer live music every weekend, the art galleries that always have a show going, the movie theaters (we have subtitles not Icelandic voiceovers) and the restaurants that offer great food day and night.

November 30 – February 9 2014

A personal hymn to the feminine Check out Ragnar Kjartansson’s nine-channel video installation entitled “The Visitors”, now at full display at Kling & Bang, Hverfisgata 42, an artist-run space in Reykjavik. Based on a musical performance staged in New York at Rokeby Farm, the use of durational perfor­ mance to explore the performer onstage is deeply personal in its portrayal of Kjartansson and his friends, who are among the group assembled along with other renowned mu­ sicians. The gathering at the grandiose and decaying Rokeby Farm creates a romantic setting for what the artist calls a “feminine nihilistic gospel song”. The Vis­ itors takes its title from ABBA’s final album, released in 1981 as personal strife plagued Kjartansson´s band. The performing musicians almost all come from the Reykjavík music scene. Along with Ragnar himself there are Davíð Þór Jónsson, Kjartan Sveinsson, Kristín Anna Valtýsdóttir (Kría Brekkan), Gyða Valtýsdóttir, Shahzad Ismaily, Þorvaldur Gröndal and Óla­ fur Jónsson, along with a choir of the inhabitants of the Rokeby Farm. The poems that the song is set to are by Ásdís Sif Gunnarsdóttir.

All December

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas Árbær Open Air Museum is ex­ tending its services during the winter season. There is now a guided tour every day at 13:00. In December the emphasis will be on Christmas preparation and celebration of days gone by. As well as learning about the Yule Lads (traditional Icelan­ dic Santa Clauses) guests will also get the chance to taste the traditional Icelandic Christ­ mas Bread (Laufabrauð) and Christmas ale. This is a visit that warms the heart.

December 5 and 8

Feel good Legendary pop star and brilliant vocalist Paul Oscar has been colla­­borating with harpist Monica Abendroth for over 10 years. And for good reason; together they make sweet music that makes you want to be a better person. In early December they’ll play two concerts in Háteigskirkja Church in Reykjavík. Snag those tickets while they’re available and we pro­­mise that you’ll feel oh so good afterwards.

December 14

The Icelandic Yule Want to learn more about the Icelandic Christmas traditions? Dr. Terry Gunnell, Head of Folkloristics at the University of Iceland will give an illustrated presentation in English reviewing the beliefs and traditions of Icelandic Christmas traditions in the past and present. The presentation starts at 12:00 pm and admission is free. The Yule Lads visit the National Museum on each of the 13 days before Christmas. They usually wear their old Icelandic costumes, and try to pilfer the goodies each likes best.

In December

Christmas in Paradise In downtown Reykjavík there is a movie theater that dares to be different, Bíó Paradís (Cinema Paradise). Get into the good old Christmas spirit with some classic holiday films (with English subti­ tles), such as Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968), Christmas Vacation (1989) and Gremlings (1984). When you are shopping for Christmas gifts on Laugarvegur, take a break and pop into Café Paradís where

14 ı WOW is in the air

you’ll find free wi-fi, happy hour everyday between 17:00- 19:30 and a cozy warm atmosphere.

Keeping Iceland warm since 1926

January 30 – February 2

Dark Music Days

D December 14

An orchestrated Christmas sound


he Icelandic Symphony Orchestra’s Christmas concerts have become an indispensable part of many Ice­ landic families’ holiday celebrations. This year, as before, the festive atmosphere will have free rein, with favorite Yuletide songs and classical ballet music at the center of the stage. The master of ceremo­ nies is the one-and-only Gói, whose brilliant performances for children and adults have become enormously popular. The concert will be interpreted in Icelandic sign language and starts at 2:00 pm.

escribed by the Times as “ever-di­ versifying... a hot ticket in a cultural hotspot,” Dark Music Days provides Iceland’s foremost platform for showcasing innovative and progressive contemporary music. Established by the Society of Icelandic Composers in 1980, the festival places emphasis on premiering new and often experimental pieces that reflect the ever-growing diversity and creativity of Icelandic music. The festival will be held in Iceland’s state-of-the-art concert hall, Harpa, for the third year running. Dark Music Days opens with a performance by the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra, a regular highlight since the festival’s establishment. This year for the first time, Dark Music Days will be collaborating with the Reykjavík Center

for Visual Music (RCVM) and Spanish Abstract Film Festival Punto y Raya to offer an exciting program combining contemporary music with audiovisual art. The opening ceremony of Reykjavík Visual Music - Punto y Raya Festival features two live cinematic pieces commis­ sioned especially for the festival, where composers Anna Thorvaldsdottir and Hugi Gudmundsson join forces with visual artists Sigurdur Gudjonsson and Bret Battey. In addition to the Symphony Orchestra, Dark Music Days presents a number of artists such as the Reykjavík Chamber Orchestra and the CAPUT Ensemble. Performances will include a saxophone concerto by composer Áskell Másson as well as a program dedicated to the works of Páll Ragnar Pálsson, a contemporary composer and formerly the guitarist of Icelan­ dic rock band Maus. Tickets will be available from December 15 at and

In January Warm up before the Oscar’s Bíó Paradise will be a pleasant relief during the dark January when they’ll screen a wide range of Euro­ pean candidates to the Oscar’s; a great warm-up for the season. Here are a few examples: Borgman (2013) A 2013 Dutch thriller film directed by Alex van Warmerdam. The film was nominated for the Palme d’Or at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival and has been selected as the Dutch entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 86th Academy Awards.

December 19-22

Mozart by Candlelight

What’s lovelier so close to Christmas than some beautiful music in a place where you can seek inward and nourish your spirit? Mozart by Candlelight is an hour long concert in various churches in and near Reykjavík where Mozart’s music is played by the chamber group Carmer­ arctica. Tickets are available at the entrance and the concerts start at 9:00 pm. December 19 – Hafnarfjarðarkirkja in Hafnarfjörður December 20 – Kópavogskirkja in Kópavogur December 21 – Garðakirkja in Garðabær December 22 – Reykjavík Cathedral

16 ı WOW is in the air

Child’s Pose (2013) Child’s Pose is a 2013 Romanian drama film directed by Călin Peter Netzer. The film premiered in competition at the 63rd Berlin International Film Festival where it won the Golden Bear. The film has been selected as the Romanian entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 86th Academy Awards. The Broken Circle Breakdown (2012) The Broken Circle Breakdown is a 2012 Belgian drama film directed by Felix Van Groeningen. It was nominated for the 2013 Lux Prize. The film has been selected as the Belgian entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 86th Academy Awards. Of Horses and Men (2013) Of Horses and Men (Icelandic: Hross í oss) is a 2013 Icelandic drama film writ­ ten and directed by Benedikt Erlingsson (see more on page 66). It has won awards for best director at the Tokyo International Film Festival and New Di­ rectors Award at the San Sebastian Film Festival. The film has been selected as the Icelandic entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 86th Academy Awards.

February 6-15

The Reykjavík Winterlights Festival In February, dark will turn to light on the dim sky of Reykja­ vík. The Reykjavík Winterlights Festival, an annual event since 2002 is something everyone can enjoy offering many spectacular events. The program reflects on the di­ versity of Reykjavík and will teach you a lot about culture in the city. This year it will be all about the interaction of light and darkness with some amazing art displays. One of many artists who will attend the festival is Tine Bech. One of her most notable artworks is the Big Swim that lit up the London Olympics in 2012. You can also see a number of good bands performing around the city during the festival. This is something you don’t want to miss!


at th e





Ju s


t or or


Dr. Gunni’s book, Blue Eyed Pop (Yes, named after the Sugarcub­es song) takes a detailed tour through the history of popular music in Iceland, beginning in the 19th century when the music scene was very undeveloped.

By Tommi Valgeirs Photos: Styrmir Kári

Anything but opera and

Celine Dion style mush! 18 ı WOW is in the air


ike he promised, Gunnar Hjálmarsson, known to most Icelanders as Dr. Gunni, has published his long-awaited English language version of his educational and detailed overview of the history of Icelandic popular music, now entitled Blue Eyed Pop. We were in­terested in the man behind the music and how music has made the man. “When I was a kid I remember contemplating my fut­ure - what I should do when I grow up,” says Gunni. “Being a

weather man, a cheese specialist or a massage therapist were the professions I thought I might like. Then in 1976 at the age of eleven I caught Beatle-mania and in ’79, I saw the early Icelandic punk band Fræbbblarnir and that was my eureka moment. It has been music music music ever since, eit­her playing it, listening to it or writing about it. I’ve even had pop music quiz shows on TV and stuff. I consider myself very lucky to have ears.” The good doctor says that Icelandic music today is really

high quality stuff, and comes in many shapes and styles. To his ears, there isn’t simply one special “Icelandic sound” that defines our culture, though some foreigners might disagree. “Every ambitious band has always wanted to esc­ ape the small market here and everyone has the dream of play­ ing to a wider audience abroad,” he says. “The people in the music scene in Reykjavík, where most of the action takes place, seem to be a well-meaning bunch, people help each other out and everybody plays with everybody. Also today people don’t categor­ ize themselves as much as they used to. There is much more open mindedness to all kinds of music and styles.”

Touring through Icelandic music history Dr. Gunni’s book, Blue Eyed Pop (Yes, named after the Sugarcub­ es song) takes a detailed tour through the history of popular music in Iceland, beginning in the 19th century when the music scene was very undeveloped.

“People back then managed to dance to perhaps one guy playing a squeaking fiddle. Things started to pick up around 1950 and today, Iceland has several big internati­ onal acts, a fabulous music festi­ val and a glittering music hall,” says the doctor, “ and Iceland with its small population has had a dis­­proportionately large impact on the pop music history.”


n Icelandic version of Gunni’s book has already been published; the first edition in 2001 and the second in 2012. “Since Icelandic music is quite popular with for­­eigners, I felt I had to make one in English.” When asked what are some of his all-time favorite artists Dr. Gunni says he really likes his teenage angst music. “Music that people love when they’re young is often the music that stays with them. For me, who was 15 in 1981, it was for example, cold wave rock­ ers Þeyr and Einar Örn’s manic jazz-punk band Purrkur Pillnikk. Sigur Rós is obviously a giant of a band here, and I still think Ágætis

byrjun is their best LP. The Sugar­ cubes and Björk are really good and I also really like sixties bands like Hljómar (AKA Thor’s Hamm­ er) and Dátar, and then hippie rock bands such as Trúbrot and Óðmenn. Iceland has had loads of good music and I am on a mission to get this stuff known outside our territorial limits, so to speak.” How­ever, if there is anything Gunni will absolutely not listen to it’s “Opera and Celine Dion style, mush. That’s something I haven’t got the broadmindedness to like yet.”

having lots of stuff. I kind of get depressed to seeing it around me and I’d rather spend my money on food and travelling,” he says. “So now I’m mostly into mp3’s and streaming music online on Spotify etc. I have such bad hearing after years of abuse that I don’t mind the lower sound quality. My new thing might be old 78 rpm records since I was given a lot of them that used to belong to my uncle in Akureyri. I’m searc­ hing for a turntable that can play all speeds. So my favorite formats are streaming and 78 rpm’s I guess!”

Vinyl or mp3? As usually accompanies die-hard music fans, Gunni has been an active collector of albums, despite not being much of a hoarder. “I’ve been deep into music since the late 70’s and at some points in time I had big collections of both vinyl and CDs. Then I just got bored with everything and in 1993 sold most of it for good money. Around 2000 I started collecting vinyl again, but since then sold most of it again! I really don’t like

‘Blue Eyed Pop - The History of Popular Music in Iceland’ is out now; a must-read for pop fans. Call it the doctor’s orders.





Blikavellir 3 // Keflavík Airport // Tel: 773 7070 // //

We also offer luggage storage at our office Issue six

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Merry Icelandic Christmas In Iceland, Christmas (Icelandic: Jól) starts at 6 pm sharp on Christmas Eve (Icelandic: Aðfangadagskvöld), December 24, when the church bells of the Lutheran Cathedral ring in Christmas. The bells are broadcasted nationally, and the festivities last until the Thirteenth Day of Christmas (English: Twelfth Night), on January 6. To many Icelanders the preparations for Christmas are just as important as the holidays themselves. by Jón Kristinn Snæhólm Photos: Birtíngur Photo Collection


his is the way it has been for centuries, and the weeks be­ fore Christmas have traditio­ nally been filled with Christ­ mas preparations. The weeks leading up to Christmas are called either Christmas Fast (Icelandic: Jóla­ fasta) or Advent (Icelandic: Aðventa), with the fourth Sunday before Christmas marking the official start of the Christmas season. For most Icelandic families it’s the time when preparations are at their peak.

Preparations There are numerous things that have to be done before the church bells toll on Christ­ mas Eve. Christmas cards have to be written, presents must be bought and wrapped, the home has to be given a thorough cleaning, new clothes must be bought for each mem­ ber of the family, and thirteen nights before Christmas children put their shoe in the win­ dow hoping they have behaved well enough for one the 13 Yule Lads to leave them a little something. And of course Christmas food must be thought of, as well as the Christmas baking and the Christmas decorations. Many Icelanders choose to send greetings to their friends and loved ones over the holi­ days via the mailing of Christmas cards. They will most often feature a generic Christ­­massy motif and some standard well wishes for a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, and many use the opportunity to send along pictures of the family.

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Most Icelanders think a thorough Christ­ mas cleaning is in order before December 24. Some people even clean every cupboard, dust and wash the furniture, curtains and table cloths, change the beddings and wash all floors, as well as every window. Only then can the Christmas decorations go up.

Christmas presents In Iceland Christmas and Christmas presents are inseparably linked and in the minds of many people the presents are the most important feature of the celebrations. In Dec­­ember, shops and shopping centers are filled with people buying presents and are often open until late in the evening, espec­­ ially on Thorláksmessa (English: The Mass of St. Thorlákur) on December 23. This is the biggest shopping day of the year as people run to the stores in a frenzy to buy the last Christmas presents. The traditional dish of the day is skate, because this was the last day of the Christmas fast and no one was supposed to eat meat. The fish is pickled and fermented and served with boiled potatoes. This tradition is still very popular in Ice­land despite its strong smell of ammonia which tends to get stuck in restaurants, habi­­ tats and clothes.


t is customary to exchange Christmas presents after dinner on Christmas Eve, and in many families one member reads the lab­els on the beautifully wrapped pres­ ents and hands it out to the happy receiver.

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It’s all about traditions A shoe in the window

Christmas food When Christmas Eve arrives, dinner is usu­ ally spent with the closest family members sharing traditional Icelandic Christmas dish­ es, most common being ptarmigan, smoked leg of Icelandic lamb or smoked rack of Ice­ landic pork with side dishes including pota­ toes, prepared in many different ways, peas and beans, red cabbage, gravy and jam. Most families also enjoy a special Christmas porridge or rice pudding before or after the main course in which there is hidden a magi­ cal almond. The one who finds it will receive a gift, most often of sweets and chocolates. Dozens and dozens of home baked cookies and leaf bread (Icelandic: Laufabrauð) also play a huge part in the Icelandic Christmas cuisine and for many the joy of baking and preparing of those treats is what Christmas is all about.

New clothes In Iceland it is considered of high importance that every member of the household be properly dressed at Christmas, and prefera­ bly in new clothes because the saying goes that those who do not receive a new gar­ ment before Christmas will be devoured by the big, black Yule Cat (Icelandic: Jólaköttur­ inn). This is a fate to be avoided at all costs!

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One of the best Christmas traditions, partic­ ularly for the children in Iceland, is the-shoein-the-window tradition. This gets underway 13 days before Christmas, when the Icelan­ dic Yule Lads, who live in the mountains, commence their journey into towns and hom­­es, one on each night. Before the children go to sleep, they leave one of their best shoes near an open window. In the morning – sure enough – the shoe will contain a small gift from the Yule Lad that arriv­­ed the previous night. These nice gifts are, however, reserved for well behaved kids only. The naughty ones get a foul potato. It is not unusual to hear parents threaten their children with potatoes during the advent season and this is a very effective parenting strategy for stressed out moms and dads.

Soon there was hardly an Icelandic home that didn’t have the Swedish Advent lights in at least one window and this tradition is still going strong.

The great flood of books In Iceland more books are sold per capita than in any other nation in the world, and the vast majority of them are sold during the lead-up to Christmas. This is known as the “Christmas Book Flood”. The tradition is that everyone must receive at least one book as a Christmas present to take to bed on Christ­ mas Eve after an eventful and a happy day. So, in the beginning of November, hundreds of titles are put on the market, and once the holidays are over, and the books have been read, everyone is a critic, giving their views and opinions, whether the book in question was a good one or not.

Before the children go to sleep, they leave one of their best shoes near an open window. In the morning – sure enough – the shoe will contain a small gift from the Yule Lad that arriv­­ed the previous night. The Christmas tree and advent lights Most Icelanders use real trees for Christmas. Some are grown in Iceland, while others are imported. The tradition is to decorate the tree one or two days before Christmas, and even on Christmas Eve day. The tree remains up for about two weeks, until the Thirteenth Day of Christmas.


y the end of November, Advent lights, a very popular Christmas decoration, are found in most Icelandic homes. There are two main types: the Advent wreath, which has four candles, one lit on each Sunday of Advent, and the triangular shaped, seven candle electric candlesticks, usually placed on windowsills to shine out into the winter darkness. This candlestick has often been mis­­taken for the Jewish candelabra and many foreigners that come here during the Christmas season wonder if Icelanders are Jewish at heart due to the popularity of these lights. The story behind them is actually much younger than Judaism. These lights were originally made in Sweden and were bought as Christmas presents in 1964 for a few relatives of an Icelandic businessman on business trip in Sweden. The gifts were so well received that he decided to buy a few more next Christmas and after that he started importing them in earnest.

Loved ones remembered On December 24 and often on New Year’s Eve day as well, many families will gather at the graves of their departed loved ones and place a lit candle on them or some kind of light and decorations to show that they are remembered and missed. The cemeteries look amazingly beautiful in the midwinter darkness all lit up, especially if there is snow. These decorations and lights remain on the graves until the end of the Christmas holidays.

Christmas entertainment Christmas Eve is the highlight of the holiday season, and on Christmas Day, Icelanders usually sleep late, later on going to Christ­ mas parties visiting families and friends. The Second Day of Christmas (English: Boxing Day, December 26) is a major holiday – cel­ ebrated among other things, with additional parties with families and friends. And of course the Icelandic Christmas cuisine is never far away! A great deal of organized entertainment takes place during Christmastime. A Christ­ mas Dance is a longstanding tradition where children are herded by their parents or

schools to gather, eat cakes and candy and dance around a decorated Christmas tree while singing Christmas songs. More often than not, one or more of the Yule Lads will appear and distribute little gifts amongst the children.

At midnight there is a spectacle of firework displays when almost every home in Iceland will light its own fireworks to welcome the New Year. New Year’s Eve New Year’s Eve (Icelandic: Gamlárskvöld) is the biggest party night of the whole year. Many people attend community bonfires that are lit in every town and exchange visits. At midnight there is a spectacle of firework displays when almost every home in Iceland will light its own fireworks to welcome the New Year. After midnight many Icelanders gather at parties or go clubbing where some drink the night away, often until the early hours of the morning! Understandably there

is not too much activity on New Year’s Day (Icelandic: Nýársdagur), but since it is also a holiday some people go to fancy gatherings or parties in the evening all dressed up and dance the night away.

A farewell to Christmas The Icelandic holiday season ends on Janu­ ary 6th with a special celebration of the Thir­ teenth Day of Christmas. This is when the hidden people of Iceland (elves), trolls and

Grýla and Leppalúði, the Yule Lad’s hideous parents come out and celebrate with the Icelanders, dancing and singing traditional songs around huge bonfires. Christmas is bid farewell in a very similar manner as the old year, with bonfires and fireworks, although on a somewhat smaller scale, all over the country. Dear WOW passengers! A Very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all.

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Infinity silver necklace with 7 Christian symbols



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Cross-ring from Vera Design. Seven crosses adorned with zirconium stones, perfect for that special someone

An exquisite Norwegian Labradorite necklace from Icelandic jewelry designer Hendrikka Waage

Christmas? All we want for

A lot of shiny things from Iceland, something warm, and perhaps some good Christmas spirits. Check out our cool picks for the holidays.

Infinity silver bracelet with 7 Christian symbols. Designed by Guðbjartur Þorleifsson in 1999 this timeless piece works for both men and women

A warm and elegant winter coat from GuSt, made from quality wool and leather GuSt store, Ingólfsstræti 2, Reykjavík

A stunning Labradorite stone bead bracelet from Hendrikka Waage

Light but warm sweater made from 100% Icelandic wool GuSt store, Ingólfsstræti 2, Reykjavík

Products from Vera Design are available in the following boutiques: Meba (Kringlan and Smáralind), Kastanía (Höfðatorg), GÞ skartgripir (Bankastræti), Gullauga (Ísafjörður), Georg V. Hannah (Reykjanesbær), Karl R. Guðmundsson (Selfoss), Gullsmiðurinn (Mjódd) and Raven (Laugavegur).

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For the advanced palate From Rioja Alta, this sophisticated wine made from handpicked grapes from selected vineyards. Matured for two years in a mixture of French and American oak and cellared for a year before release. This wine is intense ruby red, bright and deep in color with rich, deep aromas of bramble, red autumn fruit with a hint of balsamic and warm spices from fine oak. The palate is fine, complex and long, with balanced tannins and an excellent bright finish.

For the beer enthusiast Named after the Christmas Star, Stella Artois was first brewed as a Christmas beer - A golden lager with a brilliant amber color that has illuminated the Christmas celebrations ever since. A beautiful Stella Artois gift box is sure to be a hit with the beer enthusiasts. Price: 1,199 kr. Only available in the Icelandic duty free shop

For the elegant Trivento Golden Reserve Malbec is purple red with deep violet tones. It has a bouquet of berry fruits, plum jam, coffee and tobacco notes. The wine is elegant and powerful on the palate with velvety tannins. Enjoy with steaks, roasts, pasta dishes with robust sauces, and cheeses. Price: 2,099 kr. in the Icelandic duty free store

For the traditional Cognac Camus VSOP Elegance is a blend of eaux-de-vie from different terroirs of the Cognac region, crafted with great care by the Camus cellarmasters. The Cognac Camus VSOP has a contemporary, modern look and taste. On the nose: round notes of fruits, some almond aromas. On the palate: Fresh, light wood and a rather smooth finish. Price: 6,799 kr. in the Icelandic duty free store

For the dinner party Trivento Golden Reserve Chardonnay is light gold with greenish hues. It has an alluring bouquet full of rich tropical-fruit and floral aromas complemented by dried fruits and oak-endowed vanilla notes. Elegant and wellstructured on the palate, the wine delivers fruit-forward flavors of melon and apple with some vanilla followed by a crisp acidity that leads to a soft, voluptuous finish. Perfect as an aperitif, Trivento Golden Reserve Chardonnay also provides the ideal accompaniment for white meats, grilled fish, poultry, and a wide range of entr矇e salads. Price: 2,559 kr. in the Icelandic duty free store

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The beer revolution

continues in Iceland Since the ban on beer in Iceland that lasted from 1915 to March 1st 1989 (now cele­­ brat­­ed as “Beer Day”), has been removed, the country has developed numerous natively brewed beer brands and during the Christmas holidays, Icelanders become crazy about Icelandic Christmas beer (Jólabjór). And even though Denmark’s Tuborg Julebryg is the clear market leader, overall its Icelandic competitors have a much bigger share of the market.

by Jón Kristinn Snæhólm Birtíngur Photo Collection

There seems to be nothing stopp­ing the beer revolution in Iceland.


hough the Christmas brands appear early on draft in bars around Ice­ land, the much-loved and lim­ited-time holiday brews do not go on sale in local liquor stores until November 15th, and can only be sold until the Thirteenth day of Christmas, i.e. January 6th ... if stocks last that long. This year there will be 26 variet­ ies of domestic and international

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Christmas beer sold, up from the 21 kinds sold last year. Among the new varieties are four Icelandic beers, starting with Thule jólabjór, the release of which also cele­ brates the Thule brand’s 20th anniversary, and Borg Brewery’s smoked gingerbread beer, Stúfur Nr. 21, which is only 2.26% ABV; Gæðingur brewery, established in Skagafjordur in 2011, will release two new brands.

Last year, 105,000 liters of Christ­­mas beer were sold in just the first three days after hitting the mark­­et, with 575,000 liters sold dur­­ing the holiday season; quite an impressive quantity consider­­ ing the population of Iceland being little over 320,000! That did not include sales of standard beer, which is available year-round. Increasingly the brewers risk runn­­ ing out of their Christmas beers,

Icelandic Cuisine


Last year, 105,000 liters of Christ­­mas beer were sold in just the first three days after hitting the mark­­et. because they must be cautious with their production since any Christmas beer unsold after the sales window closes must be de­ stroyed. The main reason for this short lifetime is that the seasonal beer has no preservatives and will become foul after a little while.


he Icelandic Christmas beer hits the state-run ÁTVR alcoholic beverage stores across Iceland on November 15th each year, an event many people eagerly await. This eventful day has acquired the name “Christ­ mas Beer Day” in Iceland and is modeled on a Danish tradi­ tion. Although each brewery understanda­bly has its own twist on Christmas beer, it is often dark­­er in color than regular beer, has more body and taste, and is usually a bit stronger too. Cara­

melized malt is sometimes used in the production, which makes it sweeter and sometimes there is a hint of coffee or chocolate in the brew. So festive and Christmassy!


uring last year’s holidays, the best seller, Tuborg Christmas brew sold 270,000 liters; second most popu­lar was Viking jólabjór from Vífil­fell brewery with 141,000 liters, and in third place was Jóla Kaldi from the Árskógssandur brewery with 65,000 liters. All in all, the 575,000 liters of Icelandic Christmas beer that were sold, was a 13.25% hike from 2011! Now we’ll wait until after Christmas to see if the record will be broken this year too. There seems to be nothing stopp­ing the beer revolution in Iceland!

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The Icelandic Yule Lads The offspring of the ogres Grýla and Leppalúði were not quite the everyday polite sons one might imagine to encounter in downtown Reykjavík during the Christmas holidays, and nor did any of the thirteen Icelandic Yule Lads (Christmas Lads) bear any resemblance to the world-famous and likable Santa Claus, who is descended from St. Nicholas, patron saint of children and sailors. Being descendants of trolls our boys were indeed naughty thoroughgoing pranksters who came to households, towns and villages in Iceland to steal, tease and frighten people, especially the children. by Jón Kristinn Snæhólm Illustrations: Brian Pilkington


n modern times the Icelan­ dic Yule Lads have grown to acquire more international and humane behavior. Over the years they ceased to be a threat to children’s lives, though they have continued to be somewhat naughty a times. In the 20th century the Yule Lads adopted their American and European counterpart’s

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attire and attitude, i.e. wearing red garments on special occa­ sions and showing extraordinary kindness towards children. Today Icelandic children place a shoe in a window, preferably their bedroom window, the last 13 days before Christmas. Every night one Yule Lad comes to visit, leaving sweets, a small gift or a rotten potatoe, all depend­

ing how that particular child has behaved during the preceding day. Each morning anxious kids get up exceptionally early to see what the Yule Lad, who arrived sometime during the night, has brought them. Each Yule Lad still has a specific idiosyncrasy and will therefore behave in a particular manner.

Every night one Yule Lad comes to visit, leaving sweets, a small gift or a rotten potatoe, all depending how that particular child has behaved during the preceding day.

Pan Scraper (Pönnusleikir) because he used to try snatching bits of food from the frying pans, especially when it was burnt.

Sheep-Cote Clod

Spoon Licker

The first Yule Lad arrives from the mountains on December 12. His name is Sheep-Cote Clod or Stiff Legs (Stekkjastaur) and he tried to suckle the milk from the ewes in the farm­ er’s sheep sheds. This was however very difficult for him because of his stiff legs.

Spoon Licker (Þvörusleikir) comes down from the mountains the 15th of December. In the past he would sneak into houses and lick the wooden spoons or ladles used to stir the pots.

Gully Gawk On December 13 it is Gully Gawk’s (Gilja­­ gaur) turn. He was in the habit of sneaking into cowsheds and slurping the foam from the milk in the buckets.

sometimes kept under their beds or on the floor. Bowl Licker would hide under the bed, and if and when someone put his or her bowl on the floor he would grab it and lick the insides clean.

Door Slammer The seventh Yule Lad is Door Slammer (Hurðaskellir) who comes on December 18. He always made a lot of noise when he walked around, slamming doors or such so people would hardly get any rest. Rumor has it, that he still has this bad habit!

Skyr Gobbler Pot Licker Pot Licker/Pot Scraper (Pottasleikir) is expect­ed on December 16. He snatched away the pots that had not been washed and licked the food remains from the insides.

On December 19 Icelanders “welcome” Skyr Gobbler (Skyrgámur). His favorite was the Icelandic dairy product known as skyr, which is similar to yogurt. He used to steal into the pantry and gobble all the skyr out of the skyr tub.

Sausage Snatcher Stubby

Bowl Licker

The third Yule Lad arrives on December 14 and is called Stubby (Stúfur) because of his small size. He also goes under the name of

On December 17 Bowl Licker (Askasleikir) arrives. In the olden days Icelanders used to eat their meals from wooden bowls that they

The ninth is Sausage Snatcher (Bjúgnakrækir) who arrives on December 20. He absolutely loves sausages and tries to steal and devour them whenever he has the chance.

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A ferocious family affair

Grýla and Leppalúði were not directly linked to Christmas until the 17th century, when they had become the parents of the Yule Lads.

Window Peeper

Candle Beggar

December 21 is when Window Peeper (Gluggagægir) visits. This Yule Lad was not as greedy as most of his brothers, he just liked to peep through the windows to look for something interesting but sometimes he nicked the toys he saw.

Candle Beggar (Kertasníkir) ar­ rives on the 24th of December. In former times, candles were the brightest lights available to people. They were so precious that all children longed to have their very own candle for Christ­ mas. And poor Candle Beggar – he also longed for a candle although it wasn’t because of the light but the delicious tallow they were made from. Today some Icelandic children leave a candle for their friend by the shoe in the window so that he also can have a merry and bright Christmas.

Door Sniffer Door Sniffer (Gáttaþefur) arrives on December 22. Easily recognized by his huge nose he loves the smell of cookies and leaf bread (laufabrauð) and could smell them a mile away when they were being prepared for Christmas. And of course he always tried to steal a few.

The Yule Lads parents Without a doubt, the most hideous ogres that ever existed in Iceland are the Yule Lad’s par­­ents Grýla and Leppalúði. Not only are they descended from trolls, they also present an overwhelming threat to children, especially the ogress Grýla, said to have 15 tails! Grýla’s poem Grýla has a little boat she paddles along the sand but when she hears a naughty gloat she hurries towards the land.

G Meat Hook St. Thorlak’s Day, December 23, is the day of Meat Hook’s (Kjötkrókur) arrival. He was crazy about meat and he would lower a long stick through the chimney to snag a smoked leg of lamb hanging from the rafters or from the pot.

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rýla and Leppalúði were not directly linked to Christmas until the 17th century, when they had become the parents of the Yule Lads. Grýla is said to have a sharp sense of hearing and have the ability to detect children who are naughty and misbehaving all year around. During Christmastime she leaves her cave and comes from the mountains in order to hunt for naughty kids and collect her meal. Legend has it, that her favorite dish is a stew

of naughty children and that she has an insatiable appetite! To this day they are used to frighten children and those children know that Grýla likes nothing better than feasting on naughty kids. The Grýla legend has been frightening the people of Iceland for centu­ ries. Documentation about her goes all the way back to the 13th century, and the stories have successfully been used to scare children to go to sleep or to be at their best behavior because otherwise … This custom was put to a halt in 1746 when a public decree was passed prohibiting the practice to avoid traumatizing young children further.


he ogre Leppaludi, her husband, is said to live with her in their cave

along with the Yule Lads and the huge, black Yule Cat, an­ other child abuser and abduct­ or that goes after all those who get no new clothes for the holidays. Leppaludi is consider­ ed to be a lazy creature and kind of a dope but one who resiliently still hangs on. The legends of Grýla and Leppalúði have appeared in numerous stories, poems, songs and plays, and many Icelandic art­ ists have illustrated the huge amount of literature sprung from their alleged existence and the stories about them. Today, poor Grýla has been reduced to a grumpy, old, albeit grotesque, woman. Long gone are the days of glory when just her name sent child­ ren shivering under their beds. But forgotten – Grýla is not!



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Delicious mythology on your Christmas plate The Icelandic ptarmigan (Icelandic: rjúpa) is by many Icelanders considered one of the most essential dishes on the Christmas table. It is not uncommon to hear statements from an Icelandic “Christmas child” (people who become like excited children during the Christ­­­mas season) such as “There is no Christmas without the smell of a ptarmigan cook­­ing in the oven on Christmas Eve.” by Jón Kristinn Snæhólm Birtíngur Photo Collection and


n fact, when the hunting sea­­ son starts in the first days of winter, thousands of eager hunt­­ers gear up and embark on a hunting voyage in the treacherous Icelandic mountains hop­­ing to procure this popular bird to the their Christmas table. The Icelandic ptarmigan, or the rock ptarmigan (Lagopus muta), is a medium-sized game bird in the grouse family. It is 34-36 centimet­­ ers (13-14 in) long (tail 8 cm (3.1 in)) with a wingspan of 54-60 cm (21-24 in). The male’s “song” is a loud croaking often referred to by

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Icelanders as a “burp”. The bird is seasonally camouflaged; its feathers molt from white in winter to brown in spring and summer. The breeding male has grayish upper parts with white wings and under parts. In winter its plumage becomes completely white except for the black tail.

Camouflaged in order to stay alive The ptarmigan mates for life and in spring both the male and fe­­male build their nest on the ground. The female lays six or more eggs,

which both birds take turns incu­ bating. Foxes, eagles, fal­­cons and other carnivorous birds are a threat at such a time, and both parents are very protect­­ive of the chicks. Should the fe­­­male be killed while the chicks are still in her care, the male will sometimes take over and raise them himself! An amazing thing about these birds is the pure-white color of all their feathers in winter, making them almost invisible against the snow and harder to spot by their hungry enemies. As spring begins and the snow melts, large rocks, patches of bare soil, and dark clumps of vegetation appear and an all-white bird would be immediately visible to hungry preda­­tors so at the same time the color of the bird’s feathers also changes, turning into a combina­ tion of brown and white, helping to assure its safety. Another complete change of color is timed with the final melt­ ing of the snow. This is when the feathers turn a soft yellow, blend­ ing with the brush and grass. But that is only part of the story, for as fall season approaches there is one more color change to a combination of grey and brown, which remains until winter when it becomes white again.


he ptarmigan prefers high elevations and rather bar­ ren habitat. It feeds mostly on birch, various seeds, leaves, wild flowers and berries, such as blue­ berries and crowberries. Insects are eaten by the developing young.

A bird of culture The ptarmigan meat is a very popu­­­lar and a much loved part of festive Icelandic cuisine, especi­ ally during the Christmas holidays and on New Year’s Eve. The meat is fine and dark and by feeding mostly on vegetation from the highland moors it acquires a very strong and exquisite taste. To pre­­ pare the meat the birds are first hung outside for 1-2 weeks, feet down, to bring down the muscles and let the nutrients flow down through the body. To cook it, the bird is skinned, quickly fried in butt­er and then boiled for one to two hours. The broth is then used to make the gravy. A more mo­­dern preparation style, which is grow­­ing in popularity, is to simply fry the breasts on a pan using the rest of the bird to make broth for the sauce. The ptarmigan shares the plate with traditional holi­­­day side dishes such as sugar brown­­ ed potatoes, green peas and red cabbage, not to exclude the de­­­­­licious ptarmigan sauce (every family has its own secret recipe), but of course this dish is being con­­stantly refined with time.

Hunting Hunting ptarmigan, a tradition among Icelandic hunters both as a sport and for the purpose of putting food on the table through the centuries is by far Iceland’s most popular wing shooting.

Every year 5000-6000 people flock to the mountains of Iceland trying to catch this elusive bird. The hunt­­ing of rock ptarmigans was banned in Iceland in 2003 and 2004 due to its declining population but has been allowed since 2005, restricted to selected days, which are revised yearly. All trade of the species is illegal so people can only hunt for personal consumption or to give to relatives and friends. This season the hunt­ ing was restricted to six birds per hunter and only allowed during the last weekend in October, and three

weekends in November, 12 days in all. Of course there are always one or two bad apples among the hunt­ ers taking more than their share.

The myth The people who settled in Iceland had to be hardy and courageous and they had to be creative, if only to find ways to pass the time during the long, dark winter. Coop­­ed-up families were enter­ tained with storytelling, producing the very rich and varied literature of Iceland. From heroic myths to ponderous sagas, Icelandic

artists, poets and authors have pro­­duced an abundance of work that continues to entertain the world to this day. The dramatic tale of the ptarmi­ gan and the gyrfalcon is one such story. Once, legend has it, the plump, ground-dwelling ptarmig­­ an and the sleek gyrfalcon, were sisters. They lived side by side, playfully tangling at times. One day, the gyrfalcon accidently kill­­ ed her sister. When she rea­­­lized what she had done, an anguished cry filled her throat and sprang from her beak, echoing across

the land. The lonely cry of the gyr­­falcon can still be heard in the hills of Iceland. But to this day their lives are still intrinsically intert­­wined; some gyrfalcons dine solely on ptarmigans!

This season the hunting was restricted to six birds per hunter and only allowed dur­­ ing the last weekend in October, and three weekends in November, 12 days in all.

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The Icelandic

laufabrauð by Jón Kristinn Snæhólm Photos: Birtíngur Photo Collection

The Icelandic laufabrauð (English: Leaf bread) is a traditional kind of Icelandic bread that is solely eaten during the Christmas season. The tradition of making laufabrauð has its roots in northern Iceland, but has spread all over the country and is a national Christmas tradition. It possibly has a much older origin, but references to it appear in written sources from 1736 as the Icelander’s “candy”. It is often called “snowflake bread” in English because of its beautifully cut-out patterns.


laufabrauð is a very thin flat cake, with a diameter of about 15-20 centimet­ ers (6-8 in). They are most often made of wheat flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, warm milk and melt­ ed butter or margarine, and fried briefly in melted fat or oil un­til light, golden brown. They have complicated designs carved into them using special tools, like the laufa­brauðsjárn (English: leaf bread iron) or a pocketknife. The de­­signs tend to look like small leaves, hence “leaf bread”. Today ready-made laufabrauð can be bought in bakeries and

Many families have their own personal tra­ ditions when it comes to this Christmas dish. Some families gather in the beginning of December, often on the first Sunday of Advent, and make a full day of flattening, cutting and frying leaf bread.

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super­­markets and ready-made dough is also available. Many fami­ lies have their own personal tradi­ tions when it comes to this Christ­ mas dish. Some families gather in the beginning of December, often on the first Sunday of Advent, and make a full day of flattening, cutting and frying leaf bread. At the end of the day, after shedding sweat and maybe the occasional tear, the cakes are divided evenly between all and stored in cookie tins until Christmas, when the bread is served with a smoked leg of lamb, and sometimes ptarmi­ gans and smoked rack of pork.

Re­­cipes, designs and leaf bread irons are passed down through generations.

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the Blue lagoon From KeF Airport to Blue lagoon

From Blue lagoon to KeF Airport

09:15, 12:45, 16:15 & 17:15.

12:15 & 14:15.

From Reykjavík to Blue lagoon

From Blue lagoon to Reykjavík

09:00, 10:00, 11:00, 12:00, 13:00, 14:00, 15:00, 16:00, 17:00 & 18:00.

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The Steak House by the harbor

A warmhearted restaurant If you like steak this is it! Steikhúsið, which simply means “The Steak House”, is a trendy new restaurant in the middle of Reykjavik. The vibrant, beating heart of the premises is the Spanish Mibrasa coal oven where guests can watch the deft hands of the cook, artfully preparing the sizzling steaks. The beautiful coal oven, visible to guests above a bar table is used for grilling and baking. The distinct flavor from the coals gives the food a richer taste and enhances the tenderness of the meat, and speaking of tender­ ness, if the texture of supple, butter soft meat is to your liking, be sure to taste the “28 days” tendered meat specially cured by the chef. The excellent selections and innovative side dishes are all tanta­lizing and be sure not to miss the grilled Icelandic fish, a tasty delicacy worthy of your indulgence. Although the focus is primarily on steaks the vegetar­ ian choice is excellent. A myriad of flavorful starters served with freshly baked bread will set the mood for your meal. The exciting list of side dishes gives every­ one the opportunity to design their favorite meal or why not be daring and try something new? How about deep fried tempura vegetables or sweet potato French fries? If selecting becomes too much

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Steikhúsið Tryggvagata 4-6 I 101 Reykjavík Tel: 561 11 11 I of a dilemma there is always the set menus. These vary with the seasons and offer the fresh­ est and most popular dishes availa­ble at any given time. The owners take pride in catering to the whole family so as you would

expect the children’s menu is excellent.

Rough and ready style interior The raw decoration and furniture made partly out of recycled ma­

terials create an ambiance of old fashioned charm and history. The restaurant is situa­ted just above the old harbor by the whale watching center of Reykja­vík and therefore the interior, re­­miniscent of old harbor pubs, is fitting and apt. Also it reflects on the history of the house which was built to house a blacksmith’s smithy and metal works. But the main focus here is really on steaks so back to basics, this restaurant is situ­ ated firmly in the modern world. The drinks menu arrives on the table in the form of an iPad making it easy to browse, create a wide selecti­on and change it when something new and exciting catches the sommelier’s attention. After a good meal in the warm atmosphere of The Steak House, a stroll along the harbor or through the lively neighborhood, of restaurants, cafés, artisan stor­­­es and workshops will give a fitt­ing ending to a fun and enjoy­ able evening.

Let´s go to the …

Lebowski Bar

The Reykjavik venue that rocks! From the entrepreneurs that brought you Café Oliver and Vega­mot, comes Lebowski Bar. You can take a quick guess where the name and inspiration comes from and even if you didn´t like the infamous 1998 movie we are cert­ain you will love this bar. Just walking into this retro American bar puts a smile on your face and the mood is very 1960’s. You can hang out at the old fashioned porch and imagine you are in a real action movie. They don´t make bars like that anymore … oh wait they do, this one! Four big screens adorn the walls, so it’s also a great place to hang out when there are big events and sport­ ing high­lights to be seen. And there’s also an “outside” area deco­­rated in a zappy Miami­-

sunshine yellow that will cheer even the dullest of days.

Dine and jive Lebowski Bar really captures the diner style with cosy booths and a fabulous jukebox containing over 1,600 songs guaranteed to get those hips swaying. If that´s not enough there’s a DJ on every night of the week so you won´t feel the pressure of select­ing all the music by your­ self. The menus are the biggest in Iceland … no literally! Their

phy­­sical dimensions are huge! Doesn´t everyone say that size really does matter? Try their amazing burgers, there’s cheese, bacon, a béarn­aise sauce option and succulent beef tenderloin. If that’s not enough, choose from one of the 12 kinds of milkshakes to go with it.

“Careful man, there’s a beverage here!”  Jeffrey ‘the Dude’ Lebowski, the protagonist of the Coen brother’s comedy, is renowned for his penchant for ‘White Russ­ ians’ – vodka based cocktails featuring coffee liqueurs and cream or milk. The Lebowski Bar has taken this now-iconic drink to a new level, offering an astounding 18 varieties of White Russian, along with an extensive bar list.

Bowling at the bar The real icing on the Le­bowski cake, however, is the bar’s gen­u­­ine bowling lane – it’s a

classic. How many bars have a bowling lane? In Iceland, not many, unless you count the bars at actual bowling alleys that cer­ tainly don’t have the cool vibe of Le­bowski Bar. DJs and a bass player add to the music mix at weekends and there’s room to dance. Check it out dudes, you’re guaranteed a good time. WOW Challenge: Dress up as a real rockabilly chick or dude before you go to the Le­bowski Bar. You’ll fit right in.

The Lebowski Bar Laugavegur 20a +354 552 2300 FIND IT ON FACEBOOK and Twitter Twitter: @LebowskiBar Instagram: #LebowskiBar Open 11:00 – 01:00 Sun-Thurs and 11:00 – 04:00 Fri/Sat

Lebowski Bar is my favorite place to hang out at. I love grabbing a good beer, a burger & topping it with a delicious milkshake. Lebowski Bar plays oldies music which mak­­ es the vibe like none other in Reykjavik. They also have happy hour from 4-7pm and who doesn’t love that! Bottom line, Lebowski Bar is a great main­ stream bar where you can meet fellow travel­ ers and have a drink with locals. Practice the word ‘SKÁL’ (Cheers) ~ Inga,@TinyIceland ( Promotion

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big screens and TVs. In­­side the pub there is room for up to 150 people, and an outdoor terrace can accommodate plenty more on those balmy Ice­­landic evenings! Whether it is foot­­ball (Premier and Champions League), rugby or golf, there are always special offers when live events are being broad­ cast. Live music every night adds to the atmosphere and for anyone feeling lucky, there is the Wheel of Fortune. Regulars like nothing more than to spin the wheel and chance a “Sorry” or prefer­­ably win what used to be call­­ed a Yard of Ale. These days, it’s ine­vitably known as a meter of beer, but the winners don’t seem to mind!

The English Pub

Save water, drink beer! For years, Iceland has enjoyed a diverse selection of restaurants and often sophisticated bars. However, one tiny grumble occasionally surfaced from the country’s Anglophiles – simply that there was no proper “pub”. And so the English Pub was born. From modest beginnings it has built a hearty reputation, seeking out, with the advice and guidance of its dedicated cus­ tomers, the finest ale available to mankind. Today it offers its enthusiastic clientele the chance to sample 50 beers from around the world, as well as a staggering 15 Icelandic brands.

Whisky galore Not content to rest on its laurels, the English Pub has ventured north of its virtual border and also offers the finest selection of whis­ kies anywhere in the country. The choice of some 60 malts include many of Scotland’s finest, ensuring that numerous Ice­­landers and worldly travelers make the pilgrim­

age to the pub’s humble door. Located at the very heart of down­­town Reykjavik, the walls of the English Pub are adorned with hundreds of photographs – like an album of the city’s history just waiting to be explored over a quiet beer.

A sporting chance Live sporting coverage is amply catered for, with a choice of three

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The English Pub Austurstræti 12 101 Reykjavik Tel: +354 578 0400 Mobile: +354 697 9003


Very nice Vegamót

The all-in -one restaurant This elegant but casual two floor restaurant is located in the heart of Reykja­vík on Vega­­ mótastígur, close to Lauga­­­­vegur. The restau­ rant has been popular for many years, perhaps because of its wonderful quality of being an all-in-one, restaurant, café, bar and nightclub. You‘ll never want to leave! Here the decor is rich on the Mediterranean side and yet elegant with a jazzy ambiance. In the summertime tables are moved outside to the shelt­ered terrace, probably one of the hottest places in Iceland during those short summer months. This place is famous for their ‘fresh fish of the day’, served all day from

lunch hours. It has very reasonable prices for quality, portions and presenta­tion and guests can choose from a wide variety of decadent dess­erts – if they make it that far. Try their excellent selection of good beers. Every day there is a special offer on bottled beers worth a taste. Vegamót Vegamótastíg 4 I 101 Reykjavík Tel: 511 3040 I

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Coffee house, restaurant & night club Hressingarskálinn is a warm place with plenty of seating and a great location in down­town Reykjavik. It’s one of the few places that open at 9 AM to serve breakfast for hungry travelers or locals. Hressingarskálinn is a big part of Reykjavík’s history; the house was built in 1802 and the restaurant was established in 1932. The house has hosted Hressingarskálinn since 1932. Sitting down for a coffee has a magnetic effect on Iceland’s most talented artists and writers. Smokers can have a seat on a heated patio with service all day. Over the summer, this place really comes alive. The yard is completely sheltered from the wind, allowing you to enjoy food and beverages in the bright

The menu consists of great selections and offers everything from breakfast to a fantastic dinner. Hressingarskálinn offers Icelandic food for curious visitors. You can always try the tradition­ al Icelandic meat soup. If not, there’s lamb or the fish stew – You won’t be disappointed. Hressingarskálinn is stylish and old at the same time, a history well preserved. Check out Hress­ ingarskálinn for great prices and awesome fun!

sunlight. Thursday to Sunday is usually packed with people from all over the world. It’s a great place to meet strangers for some interesting story sharing. Live bands play on Fridays and Sat­urdays, guaranteeing a crowd before all the popular DJ’s hit the floor with party tunes from 01:0004:30 AM.

“The menu consists of great selections and offers everything from breakfast to a fantastic dinner.” Promotion

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Sakebarinn Sushi & Sticks

The one and only choice for Sushi & Sticks …so you can check it off your bucket list Located in a loft on Laugavegur, the main shopping street, in one of Iceland’s old­ est buildings (1886) is a great new restaurant with a great view and an amazing at­ mosphere called Sakebarinn. In its beautiful location, surrounded by windows that look down on Austurstræti, (an extension of Laugavegur leading to the Old Town) and up Skólavörðustígur (known for its cafés, local boutiques and art shops with native works), Sakebarinn lies in the very heart of downtown Reykjavík. In the winter you can see the Northern Lights from the balcony and in the summer, the amazing summer sunsets over the harbor. The owners of Sakebarinn have a keen interest for the arts and crafts and a wealth of creative as­ sets to play with. Although Sake­­ barinn has a strong foundation in pure Japanese cuisine the current style of the restaurant proves that the owners are not afraid to break some of the rules. To them sushi is meant to be an art form. Along with its handcrafted sushi, Sakebarinn also offers a sel­­ection of sticks and other meat cours­­es, featuring whale and horse and anything that’s fresh and interest­

ing that day. Why live on an island in the middle of the Atlantic if you’re not going take advantage of the natural fauna? Along with the local seafood, Sakebarinn also carries some more exotic things like octopus, just to keep it interesting, and with a little some­­thing for everyone. There’s love on every plate – You will feel it with each taste. It’s no accident that the place is named Sakebarinn. It does fea­ ture the country’s largest sel­­ection of sake and a shot before a meal

can truly enhance the feel of real Japanese dining. It comes in a surprising range of flavors too, everything from really girly fruit sake to the fire spewing alcohol content of some of the more butch types; potato sake, warm and cold sake and Japanese plum wine. And then of course are the bottles that didn’t make it on to the menu because no one could read the labels and therefore no one knows what they are. Mys­ tery sake! Sakebarinn is a place born to showcase the talents

the staff have collected over the years work­­ing at their first Sushi restau­­rant called Sushibarinn, which is located on the first floor in the same house. A year and a wild ride later, this sushi family has in­­corporated a bunch of new and talented people with some great new recipes and skills they didn’t know they had and didn’t even know existed. The walls are hand painted by them, the wine selected by them, the menu is designed by them and the place is loved by them. They also love to present food so their clients become part of their love for sushi. The look on your face is what they are aiming for, the look of enjoyment.

Sakebarinn Laugavegur 2, 101 Reykjavík (entrance to the second floor from Skólavörðustígur) Opening hours: Mon-Sun 5:00 PM – 00:00 Tel: +354 777 3311

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Choose your wine

The disappearing café

Tíu dropar / Le Chateaux Des Dix Chuttes Tíu dropar (Ten Drops) is a café located in the cellar of Lauga­veg­ur 27. This is one of the oldest cafés in Iceland and for the last 30 years to this very day they serve freshly baked pancakes and waffles á la the grandmothers of Iceland, with lots of whipped cream and Icelandic jam.

Ten Drops is also known for its homemade cakes, baked from scratch according to old recipes, and of course, their hot cocoa, known by many of their guests as ‘The Only Real Hot Cocoa on Earth’. If you’re not in the mood for old fashioned Icelandic good­ies you can choose from an assortment of light dishes, tea,

wines and beer. We recommend the French meat soup, a popular dish and another old favorite.

into a French wine room known as Le Chateaux Des Dix Chuttes or the Castle of the Ten Drops. This is a lovely place to sit and enjoy good wines along with cheese, ham or other light dishes for as little as 500 ISK a plate, and don´t worry, the coffee, co­coa and pancakes are still there! Lovely French music sets the mood and the ambiance is perfect for a deep conversation. Guests wanting to break out in song can have their turn after 22:00 on the weekends, as long as they can find someone to play the antique piano given to the café’s owner, David Bensow, by a regular.

Guests can have their say on the wine list of Le Cha­te­aux Des Dix Chuttes and David will make special orders to fulfill their wish­es. In fact, he welcomes any sug­gestions making the wine list one of the more, well-endowed in Reykjavík. He´s especially interested in serving good Port to his clientele.

Intimate climate The little wine room and café seat only 40 guests and the mood is set in the early evening. It’s safe to say this is just the kind of place that was missing from the brimming Icelandic bar and café scene - a perfect sett­ing for a small group of friends to reminisce over the good old days or for a first date. Be sure to taste David´s “wine of the week” or let his fair beer prices amaze you. Check out the ten drops twitt­er feed and find both café and wine room on Facebook. Tíu dropar / Le Chateaux Des Dix Chuttes Laugavegur 27 I 101 Reykjavík I Tel: 00 354 551 9380

Where did the café go? Don´t be surprised if you can´t find the café after 18:00. Some­­ thing happens around that time that trans­­forms this little cellar


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The Seafood Grill

The real taste of the land In 2010 Head Chef Gústav Axel Gunnlaugsson was awarded the title “Chef of the year”. The following year he spent traveling around Iceland looking for the real taste of the land and along the way found a few things that now are key items in the interior of the restaurant. While on the road Gústav also drew up a menu like no other with his delectable interpretation of Iceland’s collective grill taste. Forget the fermented and sour food of days gone by – this is the taste that Icelanders really love! The Seafood Grill, located on Skólavörðu­stíg­ur, midway between Hall­­gríms­­kirkja church and the main shopping street, Laugavegur, has an excellent outdoor area with a view of the church. As the name implies Icelandic seafood has a key role on the menu, which is simple and straight forward with an enticing and affordable lunch menu and a fun sample menu called “Grill party”, a multi course grill feast put together by the chef – guaranteed to make your mouth water.

Fish Company

Around Iceland in one evening

Sjávargrillið / The Seafood Grill Skólavörðurstígur 14 101 Reykjavík Tel: 571 1100

Fish Company has a very cozy 70’s ambiance and is probably one of the coziest cellar restaurants you’ll ever find. Aptly located, it stands where the remnants of an older harbor were found during an exca­ vation. The remnants have since been incorporated into “The Tides”, an artwork by Hjörleifur Stefánsson that sets the area in a unique atmosphere. In its beautiful surroundings Fish Company takes its guests on an adventurous journey with a fusion menu based on herbs and spices selected from all over the world. Try the “Around Iceland” tasting menu, a great in­­troduction to local produce from the fields to the sea, sending your taste buds on a trip around the country while dining in downtown Reykjavík. Some say the real star of Fish Company is the fresh Icelandic sea­ food but for other delicious options, there’s a variety of lamb, beef, pork and vegetarian dishes. An eclectic wine list echoes the menu guaranteeing an unforgettable culinary adventure. Promotion

Fiskfélagið / Fish Company Vesturgata 2a, Grófartorg 101 Reykjavík Tel: 552 5300


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Reminder: If you thought you were in for a quiet night guess again, The Danish Pub features live music every night with special appearances and unad­ vertised happenings on Wednes­ days, Fridays and Saturdays. Put your musical knowledge to the test at the Wednesday night popquiz; the prizes will surprise you.

The Danish Pub

When in Iceland, go Danish! You know that Iceland used to be a Danish colony, right? Even though independ­ence from the Danish Crown was necessary, Icelanders still celebrate every­ thing Danish, so don´t expect to meet a big Danish crowd at The Danish Pub, they are all Icelanders just act­ing like they’re Danish. Really! This bar has made a name for it­ self in the Reykjavik social scene and is known locally as Den Dan­ ske Kro (we all just want a reason to speak Danish in public). This popular downtown venue serves

a remarkable selection of beers including the famous Danish white beers, the darker more malt brews and of course the traditional and almost obligatory Tuborg and Carlsberg. If you come during the Christmas season you can taste some of the renowned Christmas brews, very popular in demand. Just ask for Julebryg (“you-lebree”).

Do as the Danes do The owners of the Danish Pub strive to create the true Danish atmos­phere known among the Danes (and Danish-prone Ice­­ landers) as “hyggeligt”. If you truly are Danish this can be your “home away from home”. And in

Best local pub in Reykjavík this spirit, check out the “house” within the pub – an off-the­-wall design in its most literal sense! Get carefree or “ligeglad” (leeglaath), shoot some darts, try the custom­ary Gammel Dansk bitt­ers or catch some live football. Watch the world go by on the outside terrace and have a taste of the traditional smørre­brød (fantas­ tic open sandwiches). You can pre-order these delicious snacks for larger groups.

Wherever you‘re from you’ll want to have a great time while vis­iting Reykjavík. The people of Reykja­ vík do anyway, so they flock to The Danish Pub for a beer “en øl” during the Happy Hour every day from 16-19. The place is crowded and you’re guaranteed to meet some fun, “lee glaath” people.

Does this sound too tranquil?

WOW Challenge: Imagine there’s a potato in your throat and receive every drink with the words: “Tag skaadoo haw”. They’ll all think you´re from Copenhagen. Honest!

The Danish Pub is nothing if not a place to party. The at­­mos­­ phere is easy going and you can choose from a variety of shots and even cocktails if you’re not in the mood for a beer (Does that ever happen?).

Den Danske Kro Ingólfsstræti 3 I 101 Reykjavík Tel: +354 552 0070 Opening hours: 14:00 – 01:00 Sun-Thurs 14:00 – 05:00 Fri-Sat


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Tapas Barinn

A tasty ray of sunshine in downtown Reykjavík

Imagine yourself in the hot sun of Anda­lucia, stepping into the cool interior of a typical bodega or wine bar. The whitewashed walls, simple wooden tables and a smiling patron with his friendly staff greet you. You might not realize that you are, in fact, in downtown Reykjavík. Tapas Barinn is a place bursting with delic­i­ous smells and flavors of traditional tapas. Along the walls are racks of fine wines and right in front of you the tasty dish­­es are being served to the diverse and very loyal clientele.

Temptations for the taste buds Tapas are small portions of food, hot and cold and because people are not focused upon eating an entire meal the serv­ ing of tapas encourages con­ versation to flow more easily. Like the Spanish, Icelanders go to bars to meet friends, chat, ­argue, joke and flirt. Tapas Bar­­ inn is the ideal venue for this social activity, with their great food and service in a relaxed at­­mosphere. You are sure to be in for a happy evening.

The seduction of seafood When you enter Tapas Barinn you will immed­iately be seduc­ed by the aromas of garlic, olive oil, shellfish, succulent meats and cheese. The well balanced menu contains over 50 dishes to suit all tastes. Any of these dishes can be ordered individ­u­ ally or as part of a main course. If making a choice is too difficult just let the master chef pick his favorites for you. At Tapas Barinn you will get a stylish fusion of first-class ser­ vice, fresh fish and seafood and Icelandic lamb. This combin­a­tion has made Tapas Barinn one of Iceland’s most popular restau­­ rants. But don’t take our word for it, check it out for yourself and be convinced.


Tapas Barinn Vesturgata 3b, 101 Reykjavík Tel: 551 2344

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dish Bo y






Th e

o Fo

l R e s ta


Touring the world bite by bite by Guðrún Vaka Helgadóttir Photos: Ao Thor

Meet Alex Nazaruk, aka Foodish Boy, is a 25 year old Yorkshire man with a degree in music from Jesus College Oxford who’s now on a culinary journey around the world. For one year Alex will travel the globe working one food related job a week in various cities. One of his first food jobs was in Reykjavík early last summer where he worked alongside Chef Gunnar Karl Gíslason at Dill Restaurant, a leading establishment for Nordic cuisine. We had the pleasure of meeting Alex and learning more about his journey and what he thought of the Icelandic culinary scene. Big plans, small budget Alex told us about how the trav­ ell­­ing bug got into his system. “I always had a desire to travel. My parents were both profes­ sional dancers, my dad was a Ukrainian Cossack dancer and my mother was classically trained, and they travelled the world for the best part of 10 years before I was born. My sister, left school at 16, studied at dance collage and has now worked in India, Morocco and across Scandinavia and Russia. So I’ve always been surrounded by travelers, and yet I’ve never done any real travelling. Just two weeks away and then back home; so I really wanted to travel and I started saving and thinking about what would be my perfect travel experience. And I thought, “Well, I love gastro­nomy so wouldn’t it be great if I could combine food and travel together?” “I was lucky because at that time I went to the “Do Lectures”, a lecture series in Wales all about doing things and inspiring people. So I started thinking,

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related jobs under his belt in five continents. “After Iceland, comes New York to serve hot dogs and make candy, and then on to Cali­­­­fornia to farm. In Mexico I will be working at Pujol, one of the world’s 50 best rest­­aurants. Once the 14 kitchen shifts are over I will travel to Tequila to distill tequila before cooking on the Orient Express to Machu Picchu; coffee farming in Brazil, assado in Argentina, and wine making in Chile, then to Austra­­lia and New Zealand, Japan, China, Southeast Asia and India. So a real tour of everything. I’m leaving seven weeks at the end of the journey completely unplanned and then it’s up to what my budget allows me to do. Popular food desti­ nations such as France, Italy and Spain are a must but I am hoping to visit my grandparent’s village in rural Ukraine too; a homecoming before coming home so to speak,” Alex laughs! “After the end of the year I’ll have to go to all the places I

couldn’t visit such as Africa and the Middle East.” So despite all the incredible places there are still a few to tick off. But with only 52 weeks and a shoestring budget I can’t hope to go everywhere. I worked hard to save for this and I’m putting my entire life savings towards the experience.”

“I’m putting my entire life savings towards the experience.” Alex also explains why he de­­ cided not to seek sponsorship for his travels. “I wanted this to be my trip; I wanted to choose the places and people I worked with. I didn’t want to have to write about a certain company because I was spons­or­ed by them. I wanted to have the free­­dom to actually travel and explore. Obviously it would be great to have a larger budget but I really want this to be my year. I’ve managed so far to be

what would be a good chal­ lenge? What would be incredi­ bly ambitious? I thought, ‘Well I could try to work a different food job every week’ but at the same time I thought this was a crazy idea; it would never work. This idea terrified me, it still does, but in the spirit of the Do Lectures I thought, ‘Right, I’ll give it a go.’ It took two years in the planning, and I quit my job about four months prior to start

“I love gastronomy so wouldn’t it be great if I could combine food and travel together?” focusing solidly on the logistics. I sent hundreds of e-mails, calls, tweets, Facebook messages, you name it … I’ve harassed everyone I know with, ‘Can you put me in touch with so-and-so; can you recommend anyone?’ I’ve waited a long time for this to happen and now the dream has become a reality,” says Alex. If all goes to plan, at the end of his journey Alex will have 52 food Chef Gunnar Karl (left) and Alex at Dill Restaurant.

incredibly lucky because people have either been putting me up or feeding me so it’s been very low cost. The flights are the main cost and then I will use some of my money to try restau­ rants I’m not working at.” How do you like Iceland? Alex came to Iceland on a Sun­­ day evening and took two days to explore the south side of the country. “Me and two others I met through couch-surfing rent­ ed a car and drove all around the south coast to Jökulsárlón Glacier La­­goon. We camped overnight and had our first real experience of the Icelandic weather and the rain. I’ve kind of had a di­­vided week, rain in one half and sun in the other. It’s just like the T-shirt says ‘If you don’t like the weather in Iceland just wait five minutes.’ I took some of the dried fish with me on the trip and it was fantastic; it kept me going throughout the day. When I got back I learned that you should have it with a bit of butter

“It’s mind blowing the things Gunnar does with these ingredients.” on it and I tried that; it was a completely different experience; it was amazing. I had some of the traditional skyr on the trip as well, which was great because it was so heavy and full of protein - I felt full for the rest of the eve­ ning. Now that I’ve been here for a few days, and I know more about the country and the food, I feel like each day is getting better. Today I’ve eaten the best so far and I’m sure tonight I’ll see the best of the service.” This trip is not only about exploring food and the culinary scenes around the world; Alex also looks at the culture of each place. “Food has always been the focus of my trip, but because the food is so embodied into society it has been a gateway into new cultures. In Iceland the local cuisine reveals a lot about

the environment. When I drove through the Icelandic landscape, I could see what grows wild; see the farming and observe how it relates to the culture and to the food. I got a taste of the whole country so to speak.” Why did you choose Iceland as one of your destinations? “It’s only recently in England that we’ve had an increased awareness of the New Nordic manifesto, with Noma coming to the forefront as one of the best restaurants in the world. I really wanted to do something in that field because it is so influential around the world. Iceland is such a fantastic country and the food is so amazing and so diverse, it seems a shame how often it is overlooked, compared to other Nordic destinations. I think people in the UK tend to think of Iceland as a place where people eat rotten shark or puffins. Gordon Ramsay did a TV feature where he came to Iceland, caught a puffin from

a cliff and then ate the heart raw. So now people have that perception of Iceland. It was so great to then find a restaurant like Dill and see the ways they use the ingredients here and the level of sophistication. I’ve been looking round the city and I still haven’t found any puffin, although I did taste whale for the first time today.” And that’s not the only food related experience Alex has had here, “I went down to the harbor and had some lobster soup from the Sea Baron. It was amazing, really great. And I got to meet the Baron himself. The lobster was recommended to me by a Frenchman and when a Frenchman says a lobster soup is good you know it’s got to be good. I also had some whale steak on a skewer which was delicious. This morning I went to this coffee shop called Reykjavík Roasters near Hallgrímskirkja church, and tasted their fantastic coffee. National barista champi­ on Tumi Ferrer also gave me a coffee lesson. I got some advice from the people I’ve been stay­ ing with and found a fantastic supermarket called Melabúðin. It was like Aladdin’s cave full of lo­ cal goodies. I got some Icelandic cod, which we get in the UK but it’s nowhere near like you get

Issue six

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The Foodish Boy

here. It was absolutely fantastic. I cooked that for dinner, but I get the feeling that Icelanders have to shop around to find good ingredients; you don’t have the deli-culture like we have in England. But when I finally found this supermarket I was just like, “WOW! This is what I’ve been looking for.” You definitely have to know where to look to find quality produce here.” What did you expect before coming to Iceland? “I expected Reykjavík to be an incredible cultural city and I was right. The city just has a fantastic feel about it. Going out for a few drinks in the evening, you really soak up the terrific local atmosphere … What I didn’t expect to find as I drove through the countryside, was how the stunning scenery changes so rapidly. In just the space of half an hour I saw scenery with beaches, volcanoes, glaciers, all so close to each other and all so different!”

Dill Restaurant

“I always had the impression of kitchens that people were running around, shouting and screaming, swearing at one another, smashing things …” 48 ı WOW is in the air

“As part of my trip I wanted to go to as many diverse places as possible, which is why I am trav­ elling across 5 continents going everywhere from China to USA. I wanted to try and have as many aspects of what is currently im­ portant in the food industry and especially in the UK. The new Nordic cuisine is a real buzz­ word and is so popular but we don’t actually have much of it in

England, because obviously you can’t forage for Nordic ingredi­ ents in the UK. This emphasis on local ingredients is one aspect that I felt was really important on my trip. As well as a focus on local ingredients, Chef Gunnar uses historical and traditional dishes to inspire the culinary creative process, putting his own mark on them with modern fine dining techniques. It’s that combination of tradition and innovation I was looking for.” When we met Alex he was on his way to do his first dinner service at Dill. “I’m a little bit ner­ vous because the lunch menu is fairly casual but in the evening they offer a fine dining taster menu. But it will be fantastic to be part of the action. Chef Gun­ nar is an incredibly passionate and focused man. I would love to know what’s going through his mind when he’s thinking about food. You can almost hear the wheels turning. I would love to have all that knowledge.


oing down to the basement where they keep all the food, is completely alien to me. There are so many foods I’ve never seen before and I keep asking “What’s this? What’s this?” And it’s not just the ingredients - it’s the way they’re prepared. Gunnar famously smokes arctic char using sheep poo, and he proudly uses the phrase “eat shit”, which I think he mentions when he gives

lectures. So you learn about all these different ways of prepar­ ing, curing and cooking with various ingredients. A good example is cucumbers, a very basic ingredient that we use ev­ ery day. At Dill they extract the core and then roast them until they’re completely black, then they crumble it up and use the ash. It’s mind blowing the things Gunnar does with these ingredi­ ents. He really has an incredible imagination and sense of how to combine ingredients, making the most of them, some ingredient pairings that I’ve never seen together before.”


lowly but surely Chef Gunnar has been teach­ ing Alex the ropes. “I think that tonight will be the big learning curve for me. The dinner service is where I’ll get the real experience. It’s so complex and there are so many aspects to it. It’s a challenge to take it all in. I’m almost struggling with the preparations because everything is so fine and immaculate; you re­ ally have to be a perfectionist. I’m making sure everything is cut in the right way; that nothing looks out of place because Gunn­ ar wouldn’t serve it if it wasn’t per­fect. So I’m kind of dreading later,” he jokes. What was the biggest surprise about coming here, to Dill? “The biggest surprise is how calm and focused the staff is. I always had the impression

of kitchens that people were running around, shouting and screaming, swearing at one another, smashing things … Here it seems that everything is very smoothly run, calm, and focused. You can learn more in this kind of environment. I guess the open kitchen helps keep things calm, plus, it’s great to be able to look at the diners, and see them enjoying what you have just lovingly prepared. “I first saw the restaurant online but seeing pictures of places, it’s never quite the same as being there. Although Dill is a little out of the center I don’t think there’s a better view from an Icelandic dining room. And this center, the Nordic House, it’s just incredible … it is just something really special. Perhaps cooking in a cultural center allows for the surrounding art to rub off on us. All these foodie jobs and one must wonder whether Alex is

training to be a professional chef but no, he confesses that Dill’s kitchen is the first professional kitchen he’s ever been in. “It’s an incredible learning curve for me. But I think it’s a great place to start because it’s a small team, a small kitchen, and this is a place where I can get to know the people I’m working with and the dishes. They have a fixed menu so it’s like “you’re serving these dishes and this is what you have to learn to prepare” and I think that’s ideal for me having never worked in a kitch­ en before. I’m not training to be a chef as such. I always cooked at home, and I’ve cooked from an early age; I would always cook for parties and Sunday dinner and such, but never pro­ fessionally. I’m just a boy living my dream to explore and learn more about my passions – the true definition of an amateur.”

Do you think you’ll start studying once you get home? “I think I’ll probably have to write a book about this expe­ rience first. I’m just five weeks into this trip and I’ve already learned so much and have so many stories to tell. I’m sure that by the end of the year, after working 52 different jobs, in some of the best and most diverse establishments, I’ll gain a unique overview of the culinary world. I’m covering so many aspects, I’m cooking, I’m photographing, I’m farming. And not just food, I’ll be working on coffee farms, distilling Tequila and brewing beer. I really will experience the full spectrum of a global culinary scene - an all-engulfing overview of the food and drink of the world.” Don’t you get an information overload? “At times, but I do my best

to keep a diary and will take extensive notes throughout this journey. Once my notepad is full I ship it back to England where it awaits my return. I’ve got my book that I will fill very quickly and then I’ll send it home.”


lex is now halfway through his culinary journey; coming up are Mexico city, Rio De Janeiro, Buenos Aires, Sydn­ ey, Tokyo, Beijing, Bangkok and Delhi to name a few. Fortuna­tely he’s taken the guesswork and suspense out of it for us mere office bound mortals and blogs about each and every job and place on his homepage www. If his blogging is anything to go by we can’t wait to see the book. Want to follow up on Alex in realtime? Find him on Facebook: “The Foodish Boy” or follow him on Twitter, @foodishboy.

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Issue six

ı 49


ming big ea

fa r m a r


Can you farm art? Near Mols, on a small peninsula on the east coast of Jutland, Denmark, there stands an empty farm, its large barns and outhouses vacant and lifeless. But this can’t be said of the person showing me around; he is anything but. With his long hair and beard, Icelandic native Gunnar Þór Nilsen, looks like Santa Clause’s sexier and much younger brother. If his dream will come to fruition, this farm, or bondegård as the Danish call it, will be soon filled with artists from all over the world, working on the farm and doing their artwork. By Hannibal Ólafsson Photos: Gísli Dúa Hjörleifsson


uickly it becomes apparent that this is a visionary, bursting with enthusiasm and energy when he describes the ideas and vision, for the place. “It’s important to have a good kitchen; the kitchen is al­­­ways the heart of any house. My mother taught me that,” says Gunnar. The only catch is he has to raise

50 ı WOW is in the air

the funds; 96,000 dollars to be exact, to buy this farm and make his dream a reality. And he’s on his way; through the webpage, he has already raised 415 dollars! But how did Gunnar come up with this idea in the first place? “I’ve wanted to do something along these lines for awhile,” he says while walking, talking

and drinking coffee at the same time. “The idea is for the farm to be completely sustainable with time. We will provide housing and workspace and instead the artists will pay their fare by fixing up the place and growing vege­­ tables and so forth. The idea is that everybody leaves behind some kind of work, which with time will grow into a collection. I want this to be a place where people come and create some­ thing positive together. And I believe it is easily possible, it’s just a matter of getting more people on board, one at a time. And the small matter of raising 95,585 more dollars,” he says and laughs with his contagious laughter.


unnar tells me that he doesn’t like to “do noth­ ing”, and I believe him. I almost regret having asked him what his background is because

years. He sure does not like to do nothing. “When I was a kid I spent all my summers on a farm in the north of Iceland. I loved every minute of it, chasing the lambs, fixing fences, whatever needed to be done. And that has always been a part of me and has foll­­owed into my artistic work. I have done a private exhibition consisting only of tussocks, little grass cushions that you often find in the Icelandic countryside, and made a book about fisher­ men. I guess I am two persons; one is an artist and the other a laborer or farmer. This project is about combining the two in a way.”


of the length of the list. His CV must be a mile long. In just the last couple of years he has worked on Hollywood movies in Iceland (after filming Noah in Iceland, Russell Crowe sent him a wax riding coat he used in the film 3:10 to Yuma), he’s been a fisherman in Nor­­­­­­way, a photographer (he re­­­­­­ceived his master’s degree in photogra­ phy with Jakob and Wei­­­­land in Denmark), and, oh yes, he also had a book publish­ing company. And that is just in the past few

e walk around the premises and Gunnar shows me the bigg­est building which will function as the artist’s workspace if enough people chip in. “I really love the light in here and I hope this will all be buzzing with people before too long. It’s a shame to see it all empty like this.” On the drive back he invites me to the next of his, allegedly leg­­end­­­ary, grill parties where he roasts a whole pig! “Last time we had about 50 people; these are some of my favorite times, a garden filled with people and a big pig roasting on an open fire,” and then comes that contagious laugh again. I hope Gunnar Þór’s dream will come true; he’s con­­­vinced me at least. When we say goodbye I promised him my support and now he is 40 doll­­ ars closer to his dream with only 95,545 dollars to go.






Anybody can chip in for this project. Go to and help Gunnar make his big Art Farm dream a reality.

Booking office and Tourist Information Laugavegur 54Issue six

ı 51




cl oth


Not just for super


The annual WOW Cyclothon is a 1332 km relay race, circling Iceland where one cyclist passes the baton to the next in teams of 6-10 people and all for a good cause. The WOW Cyclothon is also meant to encourage outdoor activities and subsequently healthy living. Proving that you do not have to be an experienced cyclist or a super fit athlete, the team of 10 WOW girls went the distance smiling all the way.

Photos: From private collection

Off go the training wheels They all knew how to ride a bike, but that was pretty much it. They did however have one secret weapon in the form of one María Ögn Guðmundsdóttir, who’s won Icelandic cycling competitions and been named female cyclist of the year. “María got us interested and motivated. She even offered to take on Hvalfjörður and go all the way to Borgarnes for the team. The rest of us might as well just have gotten rid of our training wheels

compared to her,” says Svanhvít Friðriksdóttir, WOW air’s director of communications and one of the WOW girls’ team members. When they got to Borgarnes it was time for the less experienc­ ed girls to take the handles. “By then all the other teams had sped by and we decided it was time to try the racer. Of course none of us had ever tried a racer before; we didn’t know how to change gears, the first of us to try couldn’t reach the pedals; the next one used the same gear

for over half an hour. You could say that we learned how to change gears around Varmahlíð and how to use the brakes near Mývatn,” Svanhvít jokes. The WOW girls all agreed that competing in the WOW Cyclo­­ thon really brought the group together. “Fortunately no quarr­ els came up during our trial but what made this trip most difficult for us was the fact that there was always some of us who had to stay back to take care of the office so we never had a full team during the race. After Borgarnes there were six of us left who took turns cycling and riding in the RV all the way to Egilsstaðir, more than half of the journey. Counting the drivers, that’s just as many as they have in the professional teams so it was a big strain for us and we didn’t get a lot of sleep. How­ever, back at the office the atmos­phere was charged with excitement; everyone was follow­ing our progress on the map. Their support kept us going, plus all the pledges. Our team came in second in the pledge competition,” the girls say.

Tales from the Ring Road When exhausted and sleep de­prived women come togeth­

The WOW girls team holding their secret weapon. Photo: Gunnar Leifur Jónasson.

52 ı WOW is in the air

er you can expect a few funny incidents and the girls aren’t shy to share. “Near Mývatn one of us had to ask a tourist if this was the way to Egilsstaðir, who looked at her with amazed expression and asked “Where are you from?” “Eehhh Iceland” she replied, realizing that her accent had revealed her true na­ tionality,” the girls say laughing. “When we were in Víkurskarð the girl who was cycling met a Scottish cyclist who was touring the country. He kept trying to ask her out obviously impressed with what he saw. This just goes to show that the WOW Cyclo­ thon can definitely be recom­ mended to single people.” One of the most memorable experiences the girls had during the race happened near Lake Mývatn. “One of us had been cy­ cling for about 20 minutes and was in a zone so she decided to keep going. The RV needed fuel so we pulled up at a gas station but she went on ahead. We were in a hurry to catch up with her again but no matter how much fuel we pumped into the RV the fuel light didn’t turn off. After much ado one of us finally noticed that we had pumped diesel into the water tank. The fact that the lid on the tank had

the word “water” written on it in several languages had totally escaped everybody. This result­ ed in some panic but in the end we just pumped the right tank full of diesel too and decided to hurry up. In our haste we accidentally ran into a little half wall that dented the door on the side of the vehicle. We decided to worry about that later and kept going but as we looked in the rearview mirror we saw one of our teammates come running. Somewhere during all the com­ motion she had ran into the gas station to go to the bathroom and we almost left her behind. “Meanwhile our teammate on the bicycle had kept on going but when she didn’t see the RV for such a long time she decided to stop. She was getting more than a little worried plus she was getting cold as she didn’t have many layers on. She was faced with a decision; cycle up the big hill to Möðrudalsöræfi or wait a little longer in the cold. Fortunately a Swedish family happened to stop for her.” The Swedish family father didn’t want to risk anything so he made her get in the car with his child­ren, gave her some refresh­ ments and started packing up her bicycle. Just when he was about to hit the road again the busted up RV arrived with the rest of her team. It was a joyous reunion for all with a few tears to boot. “Then came the Möðrudals­­ öræfi, a barren desert-like reg­ion, and somehow we hadn’t noticed that it makes up for almost a quarter of this country. It was dark and it was raining in this desolate wilderness but in spite of it all we were filled with a renewed power and got great speeds there. This part of the

strange. For a long while she saw the guy just standing there but when she was just a few meters away the man disappear­ ed in the blink of an eye and was nowhere to be seen. She got the feeling she’d just seen a ghost but decided not to dwell on it.” The next morning, as the teammates chatted in the RV

just the basic needs. We thought we would all get to know each other better, get to know every­ thing about each other’s families and interests but instead our conversations revolved around food, sleep and what we did on the toilet. The sleep deprivation was absolutely the hardest; you become like “dumb and dumb­ er” under these circumstances. We probably should have come up with better sleeping plans,” the girls say. Would they do it again? “Yes but with a few alterations. For starters we would train more be­­fore the competition and have better equipment. But the absolute requirement for this to

almost all of them had a similar story of being watched or fol­ lowed while out on the road. “It’s maybe just as well that we didn’t discuss this during the night. We might have been too frightened to go out again. We later found out that in the old days many travelers died of exposure in this area,” said the girls.

happen is that we have a team of ten that will stay on the road the entire time. Dividing up the team is just too much of a strain for everybody.” Despite coming in last, the WOW girls have a smile on their face. “Our goal was a simple one: to reach the finish line be­ fore the 72 hours were up. And we did it, finishing the whole circle in 59 hours. We are very proud of that. Our motto was to smile all the way round to the finish line. You could say that we defeated the Ring Road with joy. We were pleasantly surprised with how much support we got and how many pledges we raised. At the award ceremony we were voted “The Brightest Hope”, a title that really touched our hearts.” The WOW girls say they would recommend the Cyclothon to other inexperienced groups of friends and co-workers. “You don’t have to go to win, just do it for the joy and for a good cause. This is the experience of a lifetime.”

In hindsight

The registration for WOW 2014 has already opened. Gather your friends or co-workers and regi­ster for WOW Cyclothon 2014 at country is pretty gloomy, espe­ cially during a rainy night. As one of us was on the road she saw a man in dark clothes stand­ ing by the road. No cars had been seen on the road for hours so she thought this was kind of

The girls all agree that this was an experience that they will never forget although their team was pretty budget. “We had one bicycle, some of us shared the padded bike pants and we only had one iPod – but we got through it. Cycling in the mid­­­night sun in Iceland is unlike anything else. It’s amazing to ex­ perience this country on a bicy­ cle.” When asked what was the hardest part of the journey they declined to name a location, insisting it was the lack of sleep. “We expected physical exhaus­ tion but we didn’t even get sore muscles. Instead our whole consciousness dropped down to

Issue six

ı 53







ci e

Vatn a

n o

l kul Regi jö

ö k u ll


Winter paradise In the Vatnajökull Region you’ll find the real reason why Iceland got its name. The area is dominated by Vatnajökull Glacier which is the largest glacier in the world outside the Arctic Region. You will also find some of Iceland’s most popular tourist attractions such as the spectacular Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon, Skaftafell, the jewel of Vatnajökull National Park (largest national park in Europe) and Iceland’s highest peak, Hvannadalshnúkur. The Vatnajökull Region is filled with contrasts in the nature, marked by black beaches and white glaciers. Serenity, energy and forces of nature combine to make a visit to the Vatnajökull Region a never-to-be-forgotten experience and a photographers dream. Photos: Óskar Arason and Þröstur Ágústsson


here is rich wildlife in the Vatnajökull Region with thousands of mig­­ rating birds passing through and herds of rein­­deers, a common sight. If you’re lucky you might spot a seal at Jökulsárlón or an arctic fox runn­­­­ing through the terrain. You will also find dozens of companies that offer all sorts of activities year round, diverse accommodation and great restaurants with local food. The Vatnajökull Region is in the southeast of Iceland and covers over 200 km of the Ring Road from Lómagnúpur in the west to Hvalnes in the east. Stretching across the south it serves as a gateway to the Vatnajökull glacier. There is one town in the area, Höfn, with a population of 1700.

Activity, accommodation and restaurants In the Vatnajökull Region you can experience magnificent tours on the glacier with qualified local guides who know the area well. You can choose between glacier walks, ice cave tours and ice climbing at Vatnajökull Glacier. The area also offers geothermal baths at Hoffell, northern lights tours, reindeer excursions, the

54 ı WOW is in the air

Þór­­bergssetur Cultural Museum and much more. There are various possibilities in accommodation; whether you want to sleep in a sleeping bag accommodation, hotel or anything in between, you will find a warm welcome by knowledgeable hosts. There are several restaurants in the area and most of them offer local cuisine made in the Vatna­ jökull Region. Be sure to ask for the local beer Vatnajökull, made from icebergs from Jökulsárlón and arctic thyme. A lobster meal is recommended since Höfn is the lobster capital of Iceland.

Accessible the whole year The Vatnajökull Region is well accessible the whole year due to good weather conditions and frequent transportation. There is a daily flight from Reykjavík to the Höfn airport during the summer and five days a week during other seasons. Buses between Reykja­ vík and Höfn are scheduled daily during the summer and three days a week in other seasons. Three car rental companies are operat­ ing in Höfn. For more information check out

Issue six

覺 55

A WOW star is born

56 覺 WOW is in the air

Margrét A golden year for


by Guðrún Vaka Helgadóttir Photos: Kristinn Magnússon Hair, make-up and stylist: Helga Kristjánsdóttir Clothes: Karen Millen and from Margrét Edda’s private collection

Margrét Edda Gnarr, a 24 year old bona fide Viking girl is our latest WOW star. She has a black belt in taekwondo, is daughter of our legendary mayor, Jón Gnarr and oh, yes, she recently became IFBB Women’s World Champion resulting in her pro status at the IFBB PRO LEAGUE. We met up with this superwoman a little while ago to find out more.


orn and raised in Reykjavík, ex­cluding about 2 years stint in Sweden when she was very young, Margrét Edda has always been the sporty type. “My fav­orite subject in school was sports and I started ballet lessons when I was four. From there I kind of migrated over to gymnastics but you could say that I was somewhat of an unruly child and didn’t have the required discipline in me so I quit and started taking taekwondo lessons when I was seven along with my siblings. That is where I learned about discipline. After only a year I wanted to make a change again and started to learn figure skating and I actually kept to that for 6 years. I was pretty good at it too and started competing almost immediately. But then I hurt my ankles, this sport puts a lot of strain on the ankles; you’re constantly jumping, pirouetting, landing and such. I was in a lot of pain so I had to quit practicing for about 6 months. Shortly after I started practicing again my friend told me she wanted to try a combat sport. Because I had tried taekwon­ do I recommended it to her and ended up tagging along to her first practice. Since then I’ve been hooked on taekwondo. I had only been going to practice for a month when I competed in my first tournament where

I won a gold medal for Olympic sparring. I quickly became a member of the youth na­­­tional team and have done very well in competitions both domestically and abroad. And today I am on the national taekwondo team,” says Margrét who got her black belt last year.

Making appointments with dad We can’t just do an interview with Margrét and not ask her about her father Jón Gnarr, a household name for most Icelanders, an extremely popular comedian and one of the most controversial mayors Reykjavík has ever had. What was it like growing up with a comedian? “I don’t think I was raised any differently than other kids. He’s just a regular dad although he is extremely funny so there was a lot of humor in our house. I didn’t always find him funny though. When I was a teenager I though he was rather em­­barrassing especially when he tried to joke with my girlfriends and when I was even younger I really didn’t understand all of his jokes. Like his sketch show Fóstbræður [Blood brothers], I was about eight years old when the series started and there was a lot there I didn’t understand at the time. I sort of just laughed along with everybody else. But today, I love watching those shows.”

Issue six

ı 57

A WOW star is born Fitting in

“When I was a teenager I though he was rather embarrassing.”


argrét even informs us that she had a little part in one of the first sketch­­­es. “My dad was portraying an alchoholic whose wife was in an anony­­ mous TV-interview. You couldn’t see her face and the voice had been changed. Long story short the interview goes bust, the hus­­ band barges in and in the end a little girl, me, walks in front of the camera and says “Daddy drunk” but the voice is still being changed and the little girl has a very deep voice. When they shot the scene I had no idea they were going to change my voice, I told everybody at school that I would be on TV but the morning after I felt so ashamed and needed to tell everybody that this wasn’t my real voice. I was in tears because of this,” Margrét explains. We asked Margrét about her thoughts re­­garding her father’s political career, does she agree with his agenda? “Yes, I’ve always agreed with what he’s doing and I think he’s an excellent mayor. He’s been standing up for gay rights and women’s rights. I like that he is a different kind of mayor and I feel the difference in the city as well, especial­ ly during the summertime. He’s created a better atmosphere, closing of certain streets and things like that, and I think that’s a great thing. The downside is his long working hours. Sometimes there are late dinner part­ ies and on those nights he gets home very late totally drained. Plus he has ADD so it’s even harder to communicate with him when he’s tired. But all things considered I think he is a terrific mayor,” says Margrét but admits she’s a little relieved that her father has de­­cided not to run for mayor again. “His job takes a lot of time away from his family so we haven’t seen a lot of him during this time, and he also has to travel a lot for his job. “When he found out he was going to be mayor he told us kids that we should absolut­­ ely come visit him at his new office but some­­how, everytime I was in the neighbor­ hood and tried to call him up he was just too busy. In the end his wife decided to book an appointment for all of us at the same time, just to get it over with. It was kind of funny to have to do that with your father.”

58 ı WOW is in the air

Margrét says taekwondo will always be a part of her life but in 2008 she felt the press­ ure was a bit high with talk of the Olympic Games. “I felt all the talk about the Olympics was just too much for me and when I feel too much pressure I stop enjoying what I’m doing. Little by little I started to distance my­ self from the competing branch of the sport.” In 2010 Margrét also went through a very hard period in her personal life. “Many turn to food when they feel bad but me, I lose my apetite. At that time I was just eating oatmeal for breakfast and after that maybe an apple if I felt like it, and sometimes that’s all I ate for the whole day. My usual weight is 58-60 kg but at the end of this period I was about 47 kg. My bones were pertruding through my skin and I was really sick, malnourished and beginning to get arrhythmia,” says Margrét and makes it clear that she knew exactly what she was doing. “A similar thing happened when I was a teenager. After my parents divorce I turned to food and at four­ teen, I got up to 70 kg. Before I had always been so athletic and into sports. I was also being bullied at school; it got so bad that I didn’t even want to go anymore. Then I start­ ed practicing taekwondo and it became a way to escape it all. The taekwondo classes became my sanctuary; no one judged me there and I felt accepted. I immersed myself in my training. I went to every available class, from young beginners to experienced adults, and because I was young and hadn’t gott­­en any real belts but had showed good

technique I got away with it. Before I knew it I had lost all the extra weight and receiv­­ ed praise and attention from everyone, in­­­cluding the kids at my school who all of a sudd­­en wanted to talk to me. When I noticed this, I started being super aware of what I ate and began starving myself. “I was sixteen at the time and I didn’t know what an eating disorder was, I had no idea what was wrong with me. I felt tired all the time and could hardly finish the warm up

at practice because I had no energy,” says Margrét. She’s one of the lucky ones as her trainer noticed and through his intervention Margrét finally got help. “Eating, or not eat­ ing, was an area of my life I felt was mine to control. I’ve struggled with this through the years but in spring 2011 I kind of found my bottom. I was living alone so no one could interfere with my eating habits. I had started isolating myself from my family and I was getting really sick. When I met with my family I could see the shock on their faces and I realized that they had never seen me like this. A few days later my sister, who is three years younger than me, told me that she cried after seeing me this way. Everyone was so worried but they didn’t know what to do because this is a disease one has to want to recover from. But this was a wake up call for me. My sister looks up to me, I couldn’t stand letting her see me like that. I was also getting really scared because of the arrhy­­th­ mia. I knew the mortality rate for anorexics is the highest of all mental diseases and it starts with arrhythmia.

“I didn’t know what an eating disorder was, I had no idea what was wrong with me.”

“I knew what was happening and how bad it had gotten so I decided to seek help and I have received help from various directions. I don’t believe there’s any one thing that works for everyone so I’ve always sought out everything that might help me in this bat­ tle. I tried a 12 step program and that helped me a lot, just talking about this problem with strangers, admitting it and being honest and sincere. As a result I have started to face a lot of things from the past and it has made me a stronger person mentally. I still get these thoughts though and this is a disease that is hard to get completely rid of, espe­ cially if it gets very advanced. You get what is called a self-imaged disorder, it means I don’t see myself as I really am. When I get these thoughts I voice them, to my fiancé for instance. He’s really helped me a lot and I let him know when I get these ideas in my head. When I start isolating myself from my people I am on a dangerous path.”

Training again In 2008 Margrét became interested in fitn­ess but felt she wasn’t strong enough men­­tally to start competing. “I knew it would

just make things worse but in 2011, after I got help, I felt ready. I started training and learning about where the energy comes from and what certain types of food do for the body. I feel like I really learned a lot and inste­­ad of just staying away from calories, carbohydrat­­­es and fat I learned to pick and choose the right sources of energy. Take fat for in­­stance, I had always been shying away from it but good fat does wonders for the body and keeps it balanced. It also helps you burn your own bodyfat and can be used when you are cutting down before tourna­ ment. And speaking of cutting down, you also have to learn to go through that period and be­­ing able to bulk up again when the tournam­­ent is over. It was very hard for me at first and I realized you need a lot of men­ tal strength for this sport,” explaines Margrét. “I take it one step at a time. With each tournament I have been getting more and more shredded but in the beginning I didn’t dare take my fat percentage down too far. I try to do this healthily and soundly. I don’t believe that you should feel bad while cutt­­ ing down. I’ve heard so many people talk about that but in my opinion it means you’re doing something wrong. In the beginning I had a trainer that I didn’t fully trust and his diet and exercise regime made me feel bad both mentally and physically. In the end I got a new trainer who shared my views on this. I have never been as shredded as I was at the IFBB Women’s World Championships last September and to think I got my fat per­ centage so low without straining too much mentally is absolutely amazing. This is what I want from this sport and my trainer was with me 100%.”

“I realized you need a lot of mental strength for this sport.”

Working out or just working? Getting a bikini fitness body and maintaining it must be a full time work for Margrét. “I train six times a week, sometimes just four times. That’s enough for me. It’s good to let the body get some rest. I do a very intense session for 1-1 ½ hours and that’s it. And I don’t do cardio on an empty stomach when I’m cutting down; that’s just torture to me. Even if some studies show they work, it’s very important to me to feel good so if I do an early morning cardio I always eat a little first. I think it’s more important to give each

“Being able to help others reach their goals gives me immense satisfaction.” session 100%, having enough energy to fin­ ish it rather than slugging around and feeling awful. That’s just silly.” Training and fitness are Margrét’s life now and she has her own business offering online personal training. What is that? “It’s basically a cheaper way to have a personal trainer for people who already know the excercises. I do a lot of my work online; every­­body gets their own profile page where they can get training programs, information regarding a healthy diet and training tips. I make everyone send me progress photos before they start and regularly they send new ones with their measurements. I love following their progress. I try to meet up with them as much as I can but many of my clients live outside the city. Still I do my best to stay in touch and just yesterday I met up with one client to teach her some very in­­tense exercises. I make myself available to them as much as I can.”


argrét obviously knows what she’s doing now so we wonder what ot­ her jobs she’s had over the years. “I’ve been all over the place, always trying to find myself. Many of my jobs have been a result of my training. I started teaching taekwondo when I was 15 for instance and I

also taught little groups of kindergardeners in my gymnastics club. What really doesn’t suit me, are office jobs. Sitting all day, ans­­ wering the phone, working the reception … those kinds of jobs really get me down. I once worked at a help desk for a phone company and that was one of the most ment­­ally straining jobs I ever had. All day I listened to complaints for things I might not be able to fix and had no responsibility for. I was willing to help alright but there’s only so much I could do and people always wanted more. I felt absolutely drained after a days work. Sometimes the callers were so angry; once one of my colleagues even got a death threat. It seemed like people thought we could push some magic fix-it-all button and everything would be alright which was not the case,” says Margrét who despite the strain lasted a whole year in this job. “I think personal training is the right job for me. Aside from the online training I have also been a personal trainer and I feel that being able to help others reach their goals gives me immense satisfaction; when the day is over I feel good. These past weeks I’ve been helping women who are about to compete in fitness with their poses, building up their mental strength for the competition, helping them get the right mindset for the stage and

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A WOW star is born such. I’ve really enjoyed it and this is the sort of work I want to pursue. I like having a job I enjoy and when I enjoy something I give it my 100%.

A great year 2013 has been a great year for Margrét. “I thought I couldn’t do better than last year but this year has been an absolutely golden year for me. At the beginning of the year I started training full force with the national taekwondo team and they encouraged me to compete. I have always been a competi­­tive person but when I competed in taekwondo in the past I didn’t have the right mindset; I al­ ways got too stressed out. This year I really started focusing on the mental aspect of it and decided not to put all that pressure on myself like I used to. This year I competed in four tournaments, won two gold medals, two silver medals, was selected “Best Contest­ ant” twice and of course there’s the Icelan­ dic championship title,” says Margrét with a smile. Her last tournament was the Nordic Taekwondo Championship in Finland where she got to fight for the gold medal against an Olympic veteran. Although she didn’t win that fight she says was a good one, giving her a lot of experience and a silver medal, of course.

“After competing in the Nordic Taekwondo Championship I got a new fitness coach, Jó­­ hann Norðfjörð, an international IFBB jud­­ge whom I met at the World Championship last year. I was very happy when he agreed to be my coach. Having faith and trust in my coach is really important to me and I could trust in him 100% from the start. He’s been very careful not to put too much pressure on me, reminding me that just competing in the World Championship is victory on its own.


o last September I went to Kiev, Ukraine, to compete in the IFBB World Champion­­­ship. When I found out I was one of 15 con­­­testants left Jóhann reminded me again that just stand­­ing on that stage was a trem­­­endous accom­ plishment for me. He already knew I was going to go further in the competitions but he didn’t want to get my hopes up at all. When there were only six of us left I was so excited but tried not to put any pressure on myself. I just kept on reminding myself of Jóhann’s words. This way of thinking helped me feel better on the stage and to have a great presence once I was there. I only thought of being as sincere as I could pos­ sibly be. It took me a little while to realize that they were calling my name when they announced the winner, and everything that followed that moment is still a blur to me” says Margrét.

“It took me a little while to realize that they were calling my name.”

In the long run Getting a professional certificate at the IFBB PRO LEAGUE is not easy. One has to win gold at one of two tournaments that are held each year for non-profess­ ionals. One of those is the World Championship. “Since I started competing in bikini fitness, it’s always been my dream to get a pro­fessional certificate. When I won the World Championship I didn’t realize that this dream could become a reality until I was approa­ ched by a man right after the award ceremony asking me to compete at a professional tournament next year. As soon as I got home I applied for the professional certi­ ficate and a week later I got a

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confirmation from the president of IFBB that my application had been accepted. I’m told it bodes well to get a confirmation so soon. Being a professional means you get bigger sponsors and better endorsement deals and I am so thankful for all those who have gotten me this far,” says Margrét. Does this mean no more taekwondo for Margrét? “I don’t know what will happen re­ garding the competitive side of my taekwon­ do training but I do know that I will always practice taekwondo; it will always be a part of my life. What I’ve learned in taekwondo, are lessons that serve me well in my per­ sonal life, such as respect for others. I don’t care what belt you have, how much money you’ve got, how old or young you are, I show everyone respect. What I value in others is kindness and that they show respect tow­­ ards everyone. The most unattractive quality I see is people disrespecting others based on age or status.”

“I don’t know what will happen regarding the competitive side of my taekwondo training but I do know that I will always practice taekwondo; it will always be a part of my life.”


ext up for our superwoman is plann­­ing the start of a professional career in bikini fitness. “I will begin by applying to compete at one of the big­ gest professional tournaments, the Arnold Classic in Columbus, Ohio. I will be in good company, with the brightest stars in the fitness world such as Nathala Melo, Amanda Latona, Ashley Katwasser and many more. These are girls who are on the covers of some of the biggest fitness magazines in the world. I do need to get invited first but I am confident that I will. “Aside from that I try not to think too far ahead. If I start thinking too much about the future, thinking of all the things that could happen over the next few years that I want to happen right away, I’ll just get stressed out. I just feel like taking on the whole world right now! But what works best for me is focusing on one task at a time putting 100% effort into it. I know that is what will get me through it in the long run,” Margrét con­clud­es. We here at WOW magazine are certainly excited to follow up on Margrét’s endeavours and look forward to bringing our rea­ders news of this bright young WOW star in our next issues.

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it’s been a good year Margrét Edda Gnarr, IFBB World Champion


Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson, third strongest man in the world

Benedikt Erlingsson year Ásgeir Trausti ion good en a IFBB World ChampThe Icelandic football team rr, , it’s be … and many more a Gna rnsson ld t Edd Margré

is in the air issue six

Winter is coming:

Issue sIx 2013

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On the cover Our cover models, Margrét Edda Gnarr and Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson, had a great time during their shoot. So great actually that after we picked the photo on the cover we felt bad that all the other great shots would go to waste. Here are some of our favorites from the shoot.

Bjö wor Júlíus in the Hafþór st man stronge son t Erlings Benedik Trausti Ásgeir l team footbal andic more The Iceland many …


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Photos: Hákon Davíð Björnsson Hair, make-up and stylist: Helga Kristjánsdóttir


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t o god

mountain The Icelandic

This year has been a really good one for strongman Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson. He’s been doing well in strongmen competitions and got a role in the TV series Game of Thrones. We talked to him about his recent success. by Þorsteinn Haukur Harðarson Photos: Hákon Davíð Björnsson


t all started about four years ago, in 2009, when a friend of mine was compet­ing in the Westfjord Viking Strong­­man Com­ petition. I knew that I was stronger than him and I’d always want­­ed to try it out. I decided to participate only a couple of days before the tournament began. On the first day, in my first event, I set a new Icelandic record in carrying slabs. That’s how it start­ed and after that there was no turning back,” says Hafþór Júlíus. “You might say,” says Hafþór when asked if his talent as a strongman comes naturally, “I hadn’t been training to be a strongman but I’ve been working out ever since I was a young boy. I’ve always played sports, I played basketball for many years and I was quite good. I also always wanted to look good and keep in shape. Today I’m about 170 kg but when I was heaviest I was around 200 kg.” Hafþór has always been strongly built, “My grandfather lived on a farm in the countryside and during the summ­er I always spent a lot of time there, working hard. So you could say that I’ve always been strong. My dad and my grandfather are also quite tall and strongly built so it’s also in the genes.”

Strong goals Hafþór used to play basketball and was considered a very talented player. “My bas­ ketball career was quite successful. I started out young and I managed to play games for the Icelandic national team. The dream was to become a professional basketball player overseas but after a bad ankle injury I had to retire.” Luckily, the ankle injury does not prevent Hafþór from lifting weights. “The ankle injury does not affect me in lifting weights and on a day to day basis it really

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doesn’t bother me at all, but as soon as I try to play basketball it immediately hurts again. I guess it’s because of all the jumping. I doubt whether I’ll return to basketball but I have many other things going on in my life now and I’ve set some new goals.” Being relatively new in this sport we wond­­ er where Hafþór stands against the best strongmen in the world. “For the last two years I came in third in the competition for the World’s Strongest Man so I would say for sure that I’m one of the best in the world. I think it’s only a matter of time before I win the competition and my goal is to do that next year. If I win that tournament it will do a lot of good for my career and of course my aim is to win it more than once. Many spec­ ulators have said that I have a good chance to become an ultimate winner over the next few years,” says Hafþór but he doesn’t want be compared to Iceland’s most famous strongman ever, Jón Páll Sigmarsson. “No one will ever be like Jón Páll, he was a total legend,” Hafþór states.


ver the years, Iceland has had many good strongmen such as Jón Páll and Magn­­ús Ver but why does such a small na­­tion have so many strong men? “There is some­­thing about us. We’ve always had a lot of strongly built men. I guess it’s because of our Vik­ing heritage. We are Vikings.”

Reaching the stars Hafþór travels a lot around the world com­­ peting in various competitions. I asked him if it wasn’t expensive for him. “When you’re a professional strongman you don’t have to pay for it yourself. You’re provided

with flights, hotels and food. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be able to do this.” But does a professional strongman make a lot of money? “If you get good results, like end in the top three places, you do alright. Then you can also get sponsors. I’ve done alright for myself, for example this year I haven’t had to work in addition to my training and compet­ ing.” Hafþór says that when a competitor gets to a professional level, they get quite popular. “When you’ve reached that level you get invited to many competitions and many shows, so many that you sometimes have to turn down invitations.” He also says that in some countries strongmen are treated like rock stars. “In some countries people will stop you and want to have a photo with you or get your autograph. So sometimes it’s good to come to Iceland and get a little break.”


efore going professional, Hafþór had a day job in a bank. “Yes, I had a day job work­ing as a security guard in a bank. That was a fun job; a lot of fun people worked there. And luckily no one ever tried to rob the bank,” Hafþór says smiling. Next I asked him how long a man’s career in this sport can last. “If you’re lucky you can have a long career. I think the oldest professional con­testant today is 46 years old. I’m 25 so I have a lot of good years left but I highly doubt that I will continue until I’m in my forties. When I’m thirty it could be fun to try something new, but I still have a chance to win the strongest man in the world a couple of times.”

A day in the life … How is a normal day for Hafþór? “I wake up around eight o’clock and have breakfast. I

“On the first day, in my first event, I set a new Icelandic record.”

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was just someone pulling a prank. When the producers came to Iceland to film parts of the show, they contacted me again and said they wanted to meet me. Then it started to get serious and I had a meeting with the director. They thought that I was perfect for the part because although I’m big and strong I’m also quick which they liked very much. So I was cast in the role of The Mountain. The shooting went great and they really liked me. I never thought that I would be acting but after this experience I would really consider doing more of it. It was really fun and they took good care of me.” Hafþór will appear in three episodes and jokes that maybe the show will gain him more acting opportunities. “Maybe Schwarzenegger and Stallone will ask me to be in their next movie.”

t o god

A usually have oats with some fruits and pro­ tein or eight eggs. Then I run some errands and eat again about 2-3 hours later. I usually go to practice around 2 o’clock. I also like to go swimming and try to do that often.” But does a healthy man like Hafþór ever eat junk food or sweets? “I’m not a fanatic when it comes to unhealthy food. For example I went to the movies the other day and had popcorn and a soda. I can actually eat what­­ever I want in my sport but trying to be rather healthy is a personal choice. It makes me feel better.” Hafþór has a little daughter that he spends a lot of time with when he’s not competing. “She’s four years old and will be 5 in January. I try to spend as much time as I can with her; she’s the best thing in my life. When I’m in Iceland I don’t have a day job so I can spend more time with her.” Hafþór doesn’t think that his daughter will follow in his footsteps and start lifting weights. “No I don’t think so. She’s more into dancing and singing.”

Mountain or footballer? Last summer Hafþór went to Croatia to play the role of Gregor Clegane, aka. The Moun­­­­ tain, in popular TV series Game of Thrones. “It started when they contacted me through a Facebook message. I’m a big fan of the show but I ignored the message be­­cause I didn’t believe that they would con­­tact someone through Facebook. I was sure it

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Best year yet This year has been a really good year for Hafþór and when asked what he ascribed it to he said, “I’m not really sure. I guess that in a way it’s because I’m getting more known and that means you get more opportunities. I’ve always tried to seize the opportunities I get.” Is this his best year yet? “Yes, for sure; I’ve never had so many competitions and this is the first year I’ve been doing this professionally, being able to just concentrate on the sport.”



efore interviewing Hafþór I heard a funny story about him that I decided to ask about. “Once I was asked to attend a birthday party for a young birthday boy who really wanted Hulk to come to his party. I was body painted like Hulk but when I showed up the poor boy got really scared and started crying. The other kids really liked it but the birthday boy didn’t want any­ thing to do with me.”

cting is not the only field where Haf­­þór has opportunities. Earlier this year a coach for American NFL team Indianapolis Colts talked about getting Haf­­þór to join the team. We asked Hafþór if he was signing up. “It was just a rumor that started when the coach of the Indiana Colts asked the team’s fans on Twitter if he should sign the Icelandic giant. The Icelandic media heard about it and everyone thought that I was about to sign a contract for the team but actually I never heard from them. I can’t deny that if he would have contacted me it would have been really tempting to try it,” Hafþór admits.

“I’ve always tried to seize the opportunities I get.”

asked Hafþór how he was going to top this year in 2014. “My goal is to win the World’s Strongest Man Competition. That would be a good way to improve from this year. I’m still young and I can get a lot better.” But where does Hafþór see himself in ten years? “That’s a really tough question. Ten years is a long time so it’s hard to say. Maybe I’ll be living the good life as a Hollywood actor, who knows,” Hafþór concludes with a laugh. I think every Icelander can agree that we would like to see Hafþór reach his goal next year. We wish him a strong and happy new year.




Are you here for the nature and northern lights?

Is the weather funking it up? Then visit us and experience our multimedia exhibition It's only a ten-minute walk from the city center

Grandagarður 2 - 101 Reykjavík Open every day from 10:00 - 22:00 Maritime museum CCP

Hotel Marina

The Northern Light Center

The old harbour Harpan Music hall Reykjavík Art museum Kolaportið fleemarket

A good year … … for Benedikt Erlingsson

2013 has been quite an eventful year for Benedikt Erlingsson. Even though he has been one of Iceland’s best known actors and theater directors for many years, this year marked his directorial debut in cinema with Of Horses and Men (Hross í oss), a film proudly featuring both the Icelandic nature, the unique Icelandic horse and the interaction between man and horse. As Benedikt puts it, “It shows both the human element in the horses and the animalistic element in humans.” by Dísa Bjarnadóttir Photos: Eggert Jóhannesson and courtesy of Benedikt Erlingsson


ince its preview the film has gath­ered well deserved atten­ tion and praise worldwide. In the San Sebastian Film Festival in the Basque country it received a standing ovation. At that same festival, Benedikt received the Best New Director Award. Benedikt also received the Best Director Award at the Tokyo International Film Festival and the film has been selected to be Iceland’s submission for the 2014 Aca­ demy Awards. Film critics have sung praise for the film, for example Jay Weissberg for Variety who wrote that “flabbergasting images and delightfully dry sense of humor make Of Horses and Men a debut worthy of celebration.” Beside trying to keep up with the suc­ cess of his film by attending film festivals, Benedikt is also directing a play in the National Theater of Iceland and managing a family with his wife Charlotte Böving, who also happens to play the lead role in his film along with actor Ingvar Sigurðsson. Benedikt gracefully agreed to squeeze in some time to chat after a rehearsal at the theater and we sat down together in the cozy kitchen of his home. “Charlotte is the glue in this film; she and Ingvar. The film needed a strong female lead and I easily found the queen that I needed for the role, right here in my own living room.” We can’t resist asking what it was like di­­recting his own wife, but hold back from menti­oning the love-making scene. Benedikt is not shy: “She is very professional, both of

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us have been in show business for a long time, or are you wondering about the scene where I lead her to be mounted by Ingvar?” After their horses have mated earlier in the film, with Ingvar sitting on top of a mare be­ ing mounted by a stallion, they relieve some sexual tension of their own, in the bottom of a valley with their neighbors looking on from the top of the hillsides. Charlotte chimes in, “We were mostly concerned about our fourteen year old daughter when it came to that scene, but we explained to her that it’s all just cinema.”


enedikt lovingly asks his wife if she has something else to add. Char­ lotte says, “Just the thing about the helmets.” “Yes, see the film is a period piece,” says Benedikt, “it’s supposed to take place somewhere between 1985 and 95; riding helmets weren’t as common then as they are now, and they are riding stallions of course. Charlotte had fallen off a horse before we started shooting and even though she had a helmet, got a concussion. So, we were just relieved that she made it home to the children alive,” Benedikt says in his usual joking manner. And indeed the film is filled with his subtle humor. It is as he puts it “a vignette” which tells stories of a few people who live in a small community in Iceland. All the characters in the film live in a small farming community and are horse breeders.

Horses therefore play a big role in the film and are even credited in the opening cred­ its, alongside the main actors. Have you wanted to tell the stories about horses for a long time? “My love of horses started when I was ten, even though I grew up in the city. My par­­ents sent me to a wonderful couple in Möðrudalur á Fjöllum when I was thirteen and my love continued to grow. It was dur­ ing this time when I was a teenager, spend­ ing my summers in the countryside that the seed which eventually became this film started to grow in me. In a way you could almost say it was like bearing a child, a seed was planted when I was young and making the film was the birth. All the stories told in the film are based on one’s I’ve been told, stories that go from one person to the next, like the old Icelandic sagas and folktales that were passed from person to person un­ til finally someone wrote them down, years later. This film is like a story about an exotic tribe, told by one of the tribal members.”

Setting the scenes There are some remarkable scenes in Bene­­dikt’s film that must have been hard to shoot, and a challenge to get this perform­ ance from the horses. We can’t help but wonder how he did it? “With a fantastic cinematographer like Bergsteinn Björgúlfs­

“We were mostly concerned about our fourteen year old daughter when it came to that scene.”

son anything is possible, but it took a lot of planning. I was surrounded by some of the best horse breeders in the country, that’s a golden rule: surround yourself with people who know more than you! The scene where the stallion mounts the mare for instance, we had to make sure that the mare was at the exact right time in her breeding cycle, and we had to work some techniques to get him ready as well. In fact they were so willing that they had one more for fun after we got the shot.” And there were more difficult scenes to shoot. “When the tractor rolls down the hill, we had just one bullet in the gun, so to speak; same with the scene where the group of horses come running down the mountain and also the scene with the lost tourist in the snowstorm. But we had a small ceremony where Páll from Húsafell came with his stone harp and I asked the land protectors (Landvættir), Jesus, St. Sesselja and all the saints surrounding us to guide and protect us. I believe my late mother [to whom the film is dedicated] was also there as a protective spirit, and then I had Friðrik Þór Friðriksson as a producer. He is like Pro­­fessor Dumbledore; he has a lot of magic working with him.” Benedikt had some competition for crews when he shot his film, with at least three big budget Hollywood films being filmed in Ice­ land at that time. “Yes, that was a challenge; while we had perhaps one percent of the budget of a big Hollywood film. But what we had with us was the native people, the peo­ ple of Borgarfjörður. My line producer spent summers there as a boy and I’ve spent quite a bit of time there performing, so we had the force with us.” And with the force on his side and his film, which Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian said was “tender, delicate and funny” Benedikt gets ready for more festivals, and if we can predict; more awards!

The latest news The weekend after this interview, Benedikt attended a film festival in Amiens, France, where his film won a special award and his wife, Charlotte, was awarded for best actress.

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A good year … ... for Ásgeir Trausti

It’s safe to say that young and talented Ásgeir Trausti has taken the Icelandic music market by a storm. He got off to one of the best starts a young Icelandic musician has ever had, and almost overnight he was transformed from a young guy that nobody really knew to the young artist everybody was talking about. by Þorsteinn Haukur Harðarson Photos: Kristinn Magnússon


it’s like Sumargestur, Dýrð í dauðaþögn and Leyndarmál were played on every radio station and all of a sudden a new superstar was born. After catching the spotlight in 2012 he released his debut album, Dýrð í dauðadögn, and it sold over 25,000 copies domestically, outselling both Björk and Sigur Rós, two of the most famous Icelandic musicians world­ wide. Ásgeir was also a clear winner at the Icelandic music awards 2013 and crowned his perfect debut into to the music business when he won four awards, including best album, best new artist and the most popular performer. Since last spring Ásgeir has been perform­ ing around the world. He opened for American musician John Grant on his UK tour as well as for Icelandic mega band, Of Monsters and men, on their tour around Europe. He’s also performed at various music festivals, the biggest of which was the Danish Roskilde music festival. His first Engl­ ish language single, King and Cross, was released in August and got good reviews. The song became quite popular in Holland reaching the top of the iTunes alternative chart list there. Ásgeir also appeared in Holland’s biggest TV show, DWDD. In October he performed in Denmark and New York and his English album called In the Silence, was released. The album got good reviews from the likes of The Guardian, The

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Independent, The Uncut and Clash. The Independent’s review said of Ásgeir’s music: “With the original lyrics, mostly written by his father and translated into English by John Grant, it’s clear how clos­­ely they suit Asgeir’s angelic vocal tones. His acoustic fingerpick­ ing recalls José González, while Gudmundur Kristinn Jóns­­­son’s product­ion envelops Asgeir’s frag­ile gifts in delicately wrought arrangements.”


n the end of November and the beginning of December Ásgeir played five concerts in Germany and one in Belgium. For the remaining part of December he´ll tour around the UK and appear in six concerts including: Leeds, Bristol, London, Brighton, Glasgow and Manchester. And he’s just getting started. In 2014 he will start the year by playing alongside other musicians in Tokyo, Japan. He starts touring again in March and will perform in Copenhagen and Aarhus in Denmark and from there he will travel to Poland and play in Warsaw, Poznana and Katowice. It’s also expected that more dates and venues will be announced in the near future. Ásgeir was featured in WOW magazine earlier this year where he talked about his success. When we asked him about the popularity of his Icelandic album he was

really modest and said that in the beginning he only dreamt of selling 200 copies. He often plays with his eyes closed. Is he a shy guy then? “I’m not sure. Before I go on stage I get into this different zone. I can’t really describe it. My half-brother Steini has also talked about this; he gets this same feeling. You become somewhat shy and feel almost a little silly. Maybe it’s stage fright. It’s not like a fear of something going wrong. I need this “zone”. A little stress is essential. If I didn’t have that I think my performance would become weird. Stress, in moderation, is a good thing,” Ásgeir told us earlier this year. When he was asked if he had a motto in life, he answered, “Don’t over think things. That has been very true in my life.” Ásgeir Trausti is without a doubt, one of the most talented young musicians Iceland has got at the moment. At only 21 years old, you can say for sure that his future in music is looking very bright.

“He opened for American musician John Grant on his UK tour as well as for Icelandic mega band, Of Monsters and men.”

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A good year … Of Monsters and Men

When it comes to having had a successful year in music, Of Monsters and Men have to be somewhere pretty close to the top of the list. Their rise to stardom has been fairly rapid since they first started playing together and won a ‘Battle of the Bands’ competition called Músíktilraunir (Music-experiments) in 2010. Shortly thereafter they signed with an experienced music agent from the US and since then their rise to stardom has broken the speed of light. By Dísa Bjarnadóttir Photos: Rakel Ósk Sigurðardóttir and Birtíngur Photo Collection


ince winning the Battle of the Bands, they’ve performed for thousands of people in con­ certs all over the world. They’ve appeared at music festivals such as Bonnaroo, Glastonbury and Lollapalooza and in late 2012 they performed on The To­ night Show with Jay Leno, a show watched by millions around the world. Their music has been featured in TV shows, movies and advertisements, including recently, one for Coca Cola. Their album My Head is an Animal was released in 2011 and during the first week 55 thousand copies were sold in the US. With this mega successful first week, the al­ bum placed sixth on the US Billboard Chart breaking the Icelandic record previously held by the singer Björk, whose album Volta

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had been number nine on the Billboard in its first week. By the beginning of 2013, sales of the album were close to seven hundred thous­and.


n May 2013 they appeared on Saturday Night Live where they played Little Talks and Mountain Sound. Later that year My Head is an Animal was nominated for the Billboard Music Awards as the best Top Rock Album. In the late summer of 2013 about twenty thousand Icelanders flocked to Garðabær, where the band performed a free outdoor concert, to wrap up their world tour. Even though they’ve become international super­

stars, band members Nanna, Ragnar, Brynjar, Kristján and Arnar are still humble and down to earth and have said that now they’ll be tak­­ing a little time off to spend with their lov­­ed ones, and perhaps write a few new songs. Like the rest of their world-wide fans, we’re sure excited to hear what comes from them next.

Their music has been featured in TV shows, movies and advertisements, including recently, one for Coca Cola.

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A good year … … for Darri Ingólfsson

Darri Ingólfsson is an Icelandic actor who’s been living in L.A. for the last four and a half years. He studied acting in London before he decided to give America a chance. Since graduation, Darri has worked on different pro­jects in the theater, in TV commercials, Hollywood mo­vies, independent films and TV shows. by Lilja Björk Haraldsdóttir


ou may have seen him in the Icelandic TV series Manna­ veið­­ar, or the Icelandic movie Boðberi, where he had the leading role, or more likely in the last season of American thriller series Dexter, where he played the heartless su­ per-villain, Oliver Saxon. Darri tells us he really likes living in L.A.; that the city accommodates his needs quite well with all its different aspects and how each part of it kind of has its own persona­ lity. All the diversity and the many possibili­­ ties is the reason he fell in love with it. Asked to name a few of his favorite places Darri says he enjoys various districts and activities, everything from walking around downtown, people watching in Venice, hiking in the canyons, motorcycling up the coast, discovering new restaurants and bars and talking to random people on the street, to catching a midday movie at the Vista. “There is no reason to be bored in this bustling city,” says Darri.

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This year has been extra crazy for Darri, both personally and professionally, allowing him to meet so many different and amaz­ ing people on his journey and getting him into a number of unexpected yet pleasant situations. And of course Dexter was a huge part of his professional journey during a very busy year. “Landing a role in a primetime TV series I had admired and respected through­ out the years brought up many emotions. On one hand, it’s “just” another job that you have to dig into, do research on and face new challenges but on another hand it’s a great honor to get to work with so many talented and wonderful people,” says Darri. “It is a time I’ll always remember.”

fluence the direction of his life. His motto is “Be true to yourself and trust the rest.” Act­ ing-wise he has a couple of projects ahead; starring in the Icelandic thriller Borgríki II – Blóð Hraustra Manna as Hannes and a US thriller/drama called Disappear Here where he has the leading role. Both movies will be released in 2014 along with more TV appearances. We at WOW maga­zine can’t wait to see what this rising star brings us in the future!


arri lives his life on a day-to-day basis, realizing more and more that it’s best to tack­le each day as it comes although he tries to in­

“Landing a role in a primetime TV series I had admired and re­ spected throughout the years brought up many emotions.”

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A good year … ... for Hera Hilmarsdóttir

Hera Hilmarsdóttir is a young Icelandic actress making her way up in London. Hera, who has been acting most of her life, made her first major appearance in Iceland in the film Veðramót (The Quiet Storm, 2007) by Guðný Halldórsdóttir, about a young girl who breaks away from home to lead a new life as one of the personnel at a juvenile delinquents institution. After graduating from London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art in 2011 she has landed a number of roles both in Iceland and England. by Lilja Björk Haraldsdóttir Photos: Íris Björk


era now lives and works in Lon­don and recent projects include TV series World With­out End, Oscar winning film Anna Karenina, British TV-series Leaving, American drama film The Fifth Estate and British-American drama-se­ ries Da Vinci´s Demons. Being able to live off of your art at a young age isn’t common but Hera is determined and decided to stay in London to see where it leads her. A wise choice we think. Life in London as an up-and-coming act­ ress can be challenging but … “it’s a great city with a lot to offer thanks to the immense diversity in culture and the people here. There is always a lot going on in this ever chang­­ing yet conservative city, be it in theater, films or art shows of any kind,” says Hera. Talking about her favorite places, she men­­tions a well hidden local café near her house, “too well hidden maybe, as the own­ ers now appears to have sold it. The Broad­ way market on Saturdays is a classic and the Columbia Road flower market on Sundays. Southbank by the river often serves my need for open space and a more fulfilling view of the sky than is usually found in the narrow streets of the city. And Hampstead Heath, great for getting lost, preferably in good company and especially after a good swim in the ponds,” Hera informs.

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This year has been remarkably busy for this up and coming actress and it all started with preparation for the Icelandic film Vonar­ stræti (A Life in a Fish Bowl) shot both in Iceland and Sardinia and directed by Baldvin Z. Hera gives her praise to Baldvin and tells us that it’s a rare opportunity to work with directors who put as much emphasis on actor preparation as he did in this project. After shooting Vonarstræti, Hera went straight into preparation and shoots for the second series of Da Vinci’s Demons where she plays Leonardo Da Vinci’s friend and muse Vanessa. Filming takes place in Wales where the production company has a studio and beautiful castles and scenery on hand, so much of her time since April has been spent in this scenic environment. In between film­­ing she took the time to work on the film Sumar­ börn (Summer Children) which is set in Iceland and directed by Guðrún Ragnarsdóttir.

look carefully to find new places and people that appeal to you. But they are there so just keep looking if you haven’t found them yet,” she says. This winter Hera will finish shoot­ ing Da Vinci´s Demons just in time to cele­ brate Christ­­mas. Upcoming projects include a British comedy feature film set in London, the premiere of Vonarstræti and Sumarbörn along with other things. She’ll continue to explore London with its unique underground gatherings, hopefully stopping by Chickpizz at times. Although Hera is making her life in London she says “It’s important to hold onto your roots even when you’re moving with the current out there in the big world.” We at WOW magazine wish Hera good luck and look forward to see more of her on the TV and the big screen!


hen the opportunity for some free time arises Hera likes to explore the city and to search for peculiar places and gath­ erings. A way to expand her horizons, try new things and drop her ego, in a way. “Lon­ don is a city where you sometimes have to

“it’s a great city with a lot to offer thanks to the immense diversity in culture and the people here.”

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A good year … ... for Guðmundur Felix

While most people cross their arms or play with their smartphones while waiting, Guðmundur Felix Grétarsson works on his French while look­­­ ing forward to the day when he‘ll be hugg­­ing his daught­­ers; and that excit­­ement keeps building in anticipation of the big day. By Tómas Valgeirsson Photos: Ernir Eyjólfsson


uðmundur was a 25 year old electrician and a father of two on the morning of his brutal accident on January 12th 1998. He had gone to work on a broken distribution line outside the city, which led to him losing both of his arms at the shoulder after eleven thousand electric volts shot through him. It was a miracle that he survived. A decade and a half has passed, and with some help from friends and from complete strangers, Guðmundur has managed to raise the funds necessary for the operation where new arms get grafted onto his body. This is the first double arm transplant in medical history and also the first where one of the shoulder joints has to be grafted on the pa­ tient. The operation will take place in Lyon, France, where Guðmundur currently lives as a part of the doctors’ conditions for proceed­ ing. If the operation is successful, he will be in rehabilitation for at least two years.

Filming it A condition like this requires a lot of pa­ tience, Guðmundur tells us. “You can’t fight

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the excitement, but being in the dark can be exhausting. It’s taking me much longer than we all anticipated to get on the recipient list for the operation. This whole procedure has proven to be more complicated than I ever expected, but I hope to be on the list sometime in January 2014.” Despite the waiting, his year has been more than busy and eventful.


fter the move, Guðmundur began working hard on his French, and all kinds of preparations for the unprecedented oper­ation have been underway. Guðmundur’s routine has also been well documented these past two years, thanks to filmmakers Örn Marino and Thorkell Hardarsson. “It’s a lot of fun to be making a documentary,” says Guðmundur. “A lot of people close to me have been very supportive and I think it‘s important to do whatever I can to let others know what’s going on. The directors have a permit from the hospital to film everything as well as the

operation itself. They’ve inter­viewed some of the doctors and have gotten some pretty amazing footage so far.” The filmmakers’ goal is to make a film with a positive and optimistic message, one that encourages the audience to live their life as if every day matters, no matter how difficult the circumstances. Hopefully it will be ready for distribution sometime in fall or winter 2014. WOW magazine wishes Guðmundur the best of luck and looks forward to seeing his amazing story told on the big screen.

If the operation is successful, he will be in rehabilitation for at least two years.

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A good year … ... for Icelandic football

It’s safe to say that 2013 is probably the best year in the history of Icelandic football. About a year ago, in April 2012, Iceland was ranked number 131 on the FIFA world ranking list but now we’ve gone up 85 spots and stand number 46 on the list. Iceland was unbelievably close to qualifying for the World Cup for the first time in history but lost in the playoffs against Croatia. However, the future of Icelandic football has never looked so bright and we’re optimistic that soon we’ll play in a big tournament. By Þorsteinn Haukur Harðarson Photos: Courtesy of the Icelandic Football Association


celand’s fantastic success over this past year hasn’t gone unnoticed by the foot­ ball world. Journalists from all over the world have written about our good run on the pitch and most of them describe it as a great underdog story. But our uprising in national football is no fluke; it’s thanks to various factors, such as a talented new gener­ ation of players and a great coaching staff that has brought Icelandic football to a new level. Most of the players are between 22 and 25 years old. In the past fifteen years many indoor football halls with artificial grass have been built to improve our training facilities over the wintertime and this young gener­ ation is the first one to enjoy the benefits. Based on their performance we can infer that better training facilities equal better players. But actually the improvement of the Icelandic national team started in October 2011 when the Icelandic Football Association hired Swedish coach, Lars Lagerback to take charge of the team. Lagerback is one of the world’s most respected coaches and has qualified for big tournaments with both the Swedish and Nigerian national teams. He’s very experienced and immediately after he was hired people started talking about how well he could do in the national teams’ process. He then hired Heimir Hallgrímsson, a dentist and part-time coach from Westman Islands, as his assistant and together they’ve made a strong team.

In the big leagues The indoor football halls have helped our young players to reach their goals and we’ve never had more players playing pro­­­­fessional football in bigger leagues. For ex­ample we

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can mention Gylfi Sigurðsson, who plays for Tottenham in England, Alfreð Finnbogason, who plays for Heerenveen in Holland and is the top goal scorer in the Dutch Premier League. Kolbeinn Sigþórsson plays for Ajax, also in Holland, our captain, Aron Einar Gunnarsson, plays with Cardiff in the English Premier League and we also have many other players in Holland and Scandinavia. Playing in teams from bigger leagues helps our players gain experience that they can use in big matches with the national teams.


f we look over the campaign for the World Cup, the Icelandic team often sur­ prised people with good results against stronger teams. They won away against Albania and Slovenia and a high point on the campaign was a fantastic 4-4 draw against Switzerland in Bern. At that time, Switzerland had only conceded one goal in the qualification and with only about half an hour left of the game Iceland was 4-1 down and didn’t seem to stand a chance against the home team. But the Icelandic team bounced back and leveled the scores with a fantastic shot from Jóhann Berg Guðmunds­ son outside box with only seconds remain­ ing. The result set the tone for the rest of the campaign and next came good wins against Cyprus and Albania at home and away, and a draw against Norway. Those results secured our playoff spot. In the playoffs we vied with Croatia and after a 0-0 draw at home, where our key goal scorer, Kolbeinn Sigþórsson, got injured and

we played the majority of the second half a man down after a red card, Icelanders were optimistic for the second game. However, the Icelandic team never got it going in the second match and in the end Croatia won a convincing 2-0 victory, getting the ticket to the World Cup. Although we didn’t qualify our players gain­ed some valuable experience and in­­ spiration that will help the team reach hig­her levels for years to come. This great run for the Icelandic team has also resulted in a more positive atmosphere around the nation­ al team. Couple of years ago, people only filled our national stadium when big nations, like Holland, Portugal and Spain came to play the team. Now this has changed; peo­ ple come to watch the Icelandic team and not just for the stars from the other teams. For example in our two final home games in the qualifying group, against Albania and Cyprus, that don’t have any international superstars, both games were sold out.

However, the Icelandic team never got it going in the second match and in the end Croatia won a convincing 2-0 victory.

Our women’s team is doing it too! We simply can’t write an article about a good year for Icelandic football without talking about our women’s national team. Our girls qualified for the final tournament of the Eu­ropean Cup for the second time in a row, doing really well and making it all the way to the quarter finals; then to the tournament after playoff games against Ukraine. The second game played here in Iceland set a record for high attendance with 6647 persons watching the Icelandic team qualify. After a draw against Norway, a loss against Germany and a win against Holland we got to the quarter finals but lost 4-0 against Swed­en. It was still a good tournament for the Icelandic team who has showed great pro­­gress in recent years and is currently ranked number fifteen on the women’s FIFA ranking list. The team has now been to two big tournaments and will hopefully make it a tradition.


t also can’t be forgotten that Iceland has always taken pride in creating good coaches and that has certainly helped in the progress of making better football players. It’s all these pieces of the puzzle that are now fitt­ing together that are making the prospects of Iceland’s future in football brighter than ever.

The Iceman They say that all good things must come to an end and now that seems to be the case for our star player, Eiður Smári Guðjohnsen. Eiður is the top scorer in the history of the national team with 24 goals in 78 matches. His international career started in 1996 when he came on as a substitute for his father Arnór Guðjohnsen, who is also a living legend in Icelandic football. Shortly after that Eiður got injured and didn’t play a national game for three years. Many feared for his career but he got back on his feet and wound up with a superb career, playing for teams like Chelsea, Barcelona, Monaco, Totten­­ham and many more. He won the English Premier League, the Spanish La Liga and the European Champions League. His dream was to play with the Icelandic team at a big tournament but after the loss in Croatia, with tears in his eyes he announced his retirement from international football. Although he didn´t get us to a big tournament he’s been a massive influence on our young team and his shoes will be hard to fill. Eiður Smári Guðjohnsen, often called the Iceman by foreigners, will remain as an icon in Icelandic football history. Thank you Eiður!

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A good year … … for Sigríður Rún

Sigga Rún was born in Reykjavík in 1979 and graduated as a journeyman in graph­ic media from The Technical College of Reykjavik in 2006. In 2012 she finis­hed her BA degree in visual communication from the Icelandic Academy of Arts. Sigga has participated in several exhibitions in Iceland since her graduation, such as at SPARK / Design Space, the Association of Icelandic Graphic Designers exhi­bition and the graduation exhibition from the Iceland Academy of Arts in 2012. By Jón Kristinn Snæhólm Photos: Hallur Karlsson


er work has been widely recog­ nized both domestically and internationally as a very unique way to approach her topic i.e. the research of alphabetic boundaries where the traditional use of its thresholds between science, media and form is questioned. “This was a great year for me because it’s been both creative and rewarding. Last March I won three prizes in three categories from the Association of Icelandic Graphic Designers. My book, Anatomy of Letters, got 2nd prize in book design and 1st prize in the student category and illustration. Last June I was granted the European Student of the Year Award from the Arts Directors Club of Europe for my project Anatomy of letters.

“Letters are things not symbols” “The project contains my results of a re­­­ search on alphabetic boundaries and explor­­­ es and questions the traditional use of its thresholds between sciences, media and form. I imagine the letters as organisms and thus take the concept of anatomy literally by looking at older books; educational books from the past on zoology and archaeology. I published the findings in an educational

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book, where the imagination of the reader is awakened and set free. All visional ex­­ planations are kept to a minimum and the viewer has to relate to the organisms and their appearances through the construct of skeletons and silhouettes.” Sigga designed the book as a reference to old educational books, older rules for page make-up are respected and the book is in black and white but with modern fonts and techniques. “In this way I use the book consciously as a grap­­hic media to gain credibility and imagina­­tion of the subject.”

structures of reptiles, birds, fish, men and other mammals. I came to the conclusion that ancient dinosaur bones in conjunction with modern time birds bones (chicken bon­­ es I gathered and boiled in high quantities) were the ideal form to bring these five ancient letters back to life.” Sigga’s letters can be bought as posters in SPARK | Design Space at Klapparstígur in Reykjavík for a surprisingly fair price. Get them while you can!


igga’s book describes five letters that were used in Iceland in the years 1200 to 1900 and two other old letters that are almost solely used in the Icelandic language. “The five ancient letters are unknown to most native Icelanders and the aim of this project was to awaken and increase general interest in letters. All statements in the book are based on reality but the information concerning bio­logy and the organisms are created by me through my research of ancient bone

“In this way I use the book consciously as a grap­­hic media to gain credibility and imagina­­tion of the subject.”

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A good year … ... for Guðmundur Arnar Guðmundsson

When it comes to major achievements in Icelandic cinema this year, Guðmundur Arnar Guðmundsson and his short film Whale Valley quickly come to mind. Since its premier in the Cannes Film Festival last spring, where it won special mention, Whale Valley has been on a continual trip of success. The film premiered in Iceland at the RIFF Film Festival, where it won two prizes, as best short film and the Bríó prize for best sound in a short film. by Dísa Bjarnadóttir Photos: Kristinn Magnússon and from private collection


hale Valley tells the story of two brothers, who live on a farm in the Iceland’s countryside. The younger brother discovers the old­ er brother when he is attempting to end his own life. Guðmund­ur Arnar told us how in­ spiration for the film started with the idea for a scene where the younger brother sees the older brother about to attempt suicide, runs away and the older brother runs after him and comforts him. As directly quoted from the jury at the Warsaw Film Festival, the film displays “an outstanding cinematographic expression of a human relationship, with an extremely perceptive direction and a remarkable cast performance.” Guðmundur Arnar’s producer, Anton Máni Svansson told us during a quick conversation from Cannes last spring, “The whole crew believed whole­ heartedly we could get here, each and every one of us; that’s what makes it special.” And it certainly has proved to be some­ thing very special. As already mentioned, the film won a special mention at Cannes and has from there gone on to conquer the rest of the world. At the Warsaw Interna­ tional Film Festival, Whale Valley won for best live action short film. It was selected the best short film at Film Fest Gent in Belgium securing the film a nomination at the European Film Awards in 2014. And the list goes on; the Golden Spike Award at the Giffoni Film Festival, special mention at Zagreb and Chicago. When Whale Valley premiered in the United States it was at the

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Hamptons International Film Festival where the winning streak continued, winning the Golden Starfish Award, which qualifies it for a nomination for the Academy Awards.


hen asked what all these awards mean to him, Guð­ mundur Arnar is both down to earth and humble in his response: “It opens a lot of doors when it comes to getting people interested in fin­­anc­ ing my future projects. This gives me more credibility as a filmmaker who can produce quality work.” And we’re sure to see some more exciting and interesting things to come from Guðmundur Arnar who is now working on a full length film called Heartstone. It’s a script he’s been working on for a long time, about two young boys going through puberty in small Icelandic fishing village, and their conflicting feelings of love and how it affects their friendship. One boy falls for a girl and the other boy falls for his best friend. Furthermore, Guðmundur Arnar has anoth­ er short film ready to show when the time is right. It’s called Ártún and tells the story of three young boys growing up in a small town, how they start smoking and turn them­ selves into punk rockers before heading into the city in the hope of getting girls. When asked about the portrayal of young adults in his films, he said: “these are the formative years and it’s a time of waiting. The adults

are in charge and society isn’t built around teenagers. These years formed me so I’ve always wanted to go through them again and relive them through my films.” When we contacted the executive produ­ cer Anton Máni Svansson for this article, he sounded excited about the future: “This year has been an incredible adventure for us and we are very humbled over the great re­ sponse that Whale Valley has been getting from all over the world. It has opened a lot of doors for us and now when 2013 is coming to an end we are looking very much forward to both 2014 and 2015 as this is clearly just the beginning of our journey.” Even though the story of the little film that could, Whale Valley, is not nearly over (more film festivals are yet to come and possibly more prizes to be won!) We sure are excited to see the future projects of Guðmundur Arnar, and predict that he’ll be featured in many more “Best of” issues to come.

“The whole crew believed wholeheartedly we could get here, each and every one of us; that’s what makes it special.”

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A good year … ... for Icelandic food

Iceland hasn’t always been known for delicious food. Years ago, the Vikings had to go to extreme measures to make sure they would have food all year round. Some of this food included smoked meat, pickled meat and the infamous fermented shark. For some reason these nefarious traditions still hold a place in the Icelandic cuisine, and in the eyes of some, all Icelanders are brutes who relish fermented shark and sour sheep testicles and have it as the mainstay of their diet. This is far from the truth, in fact, Icelanders cook and eat all kinds of delicious food. by Dísa Bjarnadóttir Photos: Birtíngur Photo Collection


ur lamb, dairy and fish are a few examples. Foreign markets have been taking notice of this, including the US fine food market Whole Foods which has sold Icelandic dairy-pro­ ducts, lamb, fish and chocolate for a few years now. Over the years the Icelandic food market has continued to grow each year, making 2013 the best year so far. Baldvin Jónsson, the owner and managing director of a company called Sustainable Iceland, has been the unofficial ambassador of Ice­landic food for a few years now. He has worked closely with Whole Foods Markets as well as Icelandic chefs and food compa­ nies. According to Baldvin there is a specific market in many countries, including the US where people want quality rather than quan­ tity and that’s where the Icelandic food has a niche: “Whole Foods sets really high stan­ dards for everything they sell, even higher than the USDA and Food and Drug Admin­ istration. They pride themselves in knowing their produce and selling good quality. Every year, we’ve been inviting about fifteen Whole Foods Markets employees to come to Iceland so they can really get to know the meat they sell. They herd the sheep, visit the butchery, and take part in the whole process. Afterwards they get a certificate to show that they’ve been here and become what is called a L’ambassador.” According to Baldvin one thing that makes food production in Iceland special is that we have clean energy, which means we produce clean healthy food in a sustainable

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way. But that’s not the only thing. “We have unique food here because of our location. Because we are so close to the Arctic Circle it makes our herbs and grass, different, which is what our cows, for example eat, which then affects the quality of our dairy. That is why our butter is so yellow; it has such high amounts of beta-carotene.”


aldvin has high hopes for the future of the Icelandic food market, be­ cause of the uniqueness of it, and its impact on tourism. “One of the biggest groups of travelers in the world is people interested in food, which is why the restaurant culture in Iceland has drastically changed. When you visit an Icelandic restau­ rant, it’s most likely that the chef has been through four years of schooling; they know what they’re doing and they’re doing it well.” Baldvin has also been one of the main people behind the Food & Fun Festival, an annual event in Iceland for the last 12 years. Taking place in February until March, some world known chefs come to Iceland and cook in some of our prominent restaurants. According to Baldvin this is a great oppor­ tunity to explore Icelandic cuisine, with a foreign twist. “I know of groups of friends whose main thing was to travel together, to different countries, go to restaurants and have fun. Now, groups like this save their money and wait for Food & Fun.” When

asked what he would recommend to a for­ eign visitor to Iceland, he’s reluctant to name specific restaurants, even though he says places like Dill, Kopar, Vox, Grillmarket, Per­ lan, Fishmarket and Kolabrautin are all doing very good things with quality ingredients. As for what to pick at the grocery store he says, “Try the flatkaka (flat-cake) with hangikjöt, some skyr, some dried fish with butter; and there are quite a few good cheeses.” When we ask Baldvin what could be the next Icelandic product to make it big over­ seas, he says he doesn’t want to give away too much yet, until it’s official. However he does give us this hint: “it’ll come from the ocean, the nations that are fortunate enough to have access to the ocean are incredibly lucky, the ocean has endless resources and we’ve barely begun to discover half of it.”

We have unique food here because of our location. Because we are so close to the Arctic Circle it makes our herbs and grass, different.”

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A st y

of his ow n



Guðmundur Jörundsson, at only 26, has truly labeled himself and fast became one of Iceland’s leading fas­hi­on designers. He’s certainly the most talked about. But who is he? What’s his pattern and what can we expect to see from him in the near future? By Tommi Valgeirs Photos: Hákon Davíð Björnsson and from private collection

The man who put flair in the air


hat fascinates me about the art of designing is be­ ing attracted to so many things and to keep chang­ ing obsessions each week. You find something, concentrate on it and then move on to some­ thing else,” says Guðmundur, creator and co-founder of the label, JÖR. JÖR’s debut collection, called JeWLa, was showcased in Octo­ ber 2012, as a spring/summer 2013 menswear collection, and received great reviews from Ice­ landic fashion enthusiasts. His style is possibly best described by a design blog, quoting Steve Jobs words: “Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the round pegs in the square holes … the ones who see things diff­ erently.”

The grand design Guðmundur’s store is located at Laugarvegur and focuses on fashionable clothing built on classic tailoring, often mixing futuristic and masculine in his style. His first women’s line is expected in the store this Dec­ em­ber. Guðmundur is currently work­­ing on the new summer line, which will be displayed in Jan­­uary and, shortly after in March, his fall line will be ready for the Reykjavik Fashion Festi­­ val. Around that same time,

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Guðmund­ur will also be gearing up for The Nordic Fashion Bien­ nale as well as the Copenhagen Fashion Summit in April. As you might have guessed, Guðmundur is very busy, pass­ionate and focused in his profession. “I admit, there isn’t a lot of time off in this field, but fortunately I love what I do and even feel that I’m constantly getting better at organizing every­thing, allowing me at least to be home for dinner on time most evenings,” he says. “How this all started is still a big blur to me. I remember hav­ ing no interest in college whats­ oever and quickly dropped out of studying once I knew I want­ ed to become a designer,” Guð­ mundur admits. Prior to Guð­ mundur graduating with a BA Degree in fashion design from the Iceland Academy of Arts in 2011 he was commission­ed to design a new master col­lection for the shop GK Reykja­vík.

“How this all started is still a big blur to me. I remember having no interest in college whats­oever and quickly dropped out of studying once I knew I wanted to become a designe.”

Meanwhile he also co-founded, along withKormákur Geirharðsson and Skjöldur Sigurjónsson, the brand Kormákur & Skjöldur and still works as creative director and head designer of the brand. Guðmundur says he learned a great deal from Kormákur & Skjöldur and really found his call­ing in life through his colla­ borations with them. “It was a fantastic learning experience, from the clothing to the business and marketing side of it,” he says. “I guess I knew back then my big dream was to start my own label and do something positive with it. However, I never really saw it as a dream, I just knew it was something that I wanted and had to do.”


he wheels started turning after Guðmundur met his co-founder Gunnar Örn Petersen. Together they shared the same vision and once the pair decided to create fashion, there was no stopping them. “The whole process of starting JÖR was an amazing experi­ ence, just the thrill of starting a company and quitting my other job. And the feed­back, of course, has had a huge say in everything. It always matters when people are re­­sponding to your work.”

High fashion Some of Guðmundur’s creative excellence can be seen in the new pilot uniforms recently designed for WOW air, a project

which particularly thrilled Mr. Jör. The uniform is made from 100% pure Italian wool and sports a nice, light gray color. “Usually pilots wear the same dark blue or black suits and sometimes the tiniest shapes and sizes can ruin that look. I think that’s why we really want­­ ed to fashion a uniform that would stand out, something that would look respectable for a pilot to wear and also a bit dash­­ing. We tried a few different things and made some changes to make sure that they would look as good as we wanted,” he says. “Most seem to be very pleased with this new look.”


uðmundur gets his in­ spiration from all sorts of places, and as menti­ oned before, it usually has a lot to do with whatever “obsession” he’s feeling. One moment it’s prisoners’ or butchers’ clothes, the next it’s Mongolian influ­ ence. His thought process is often aided by his sense of ign­ited passion and perhaps a few cups of coffee. The designer always has his mind on what he’s doing and says he is mostly incapable of showing interest in anything that he doesn’t con­ nect with. Aside from the broad world of fashion, Guðmundur is a huge admirer of fly fishing and says he can‘t wait for his next round when he finally gets some extend­­ed relaxation time. And yes, he’s very much looking forward to Christmas. WOW air’s pilots are happy with their new uniform.

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WOW air’s chief pilot, Ingólfur Einarsson, was an enigma to us; that was until we got him to sit down and answer some hardcore questions about himself. The first thing he, somewhat regretfully, admitted to us was that he was born and raised in Hafnarfjörður, the butt of all jokes in Iceland, but he quickly added that he moved to 101 Reykjavík when he was 14.

of W OW

In the pilot’s seat Photos: Sigurjón Ragnar ( and from a private collection


ngólfur is a married father of four and says that most of his free time revolves around his family; that is when he’s not spending time on his favorite hobby. “I must admit that exclud­ ing the usual suspects when it comes to my interests, such as family, knitting and singing, this flying thing has stolen into my free time like a cat burglar, as my favorite past time is flying remote controlled airplanes. But when I’m not spending my time on fluttering things I like to spend it with my wife and our three young boys, five year old Christ­ian Páll and eight years old twins Ingólfur Isarr and Einar Aron.” When we asked Ingólfur if he had any hidden talents he jok­ ingly answered: “I’m extremely psychic. For instance I can tell you that your debit card is be­­ tween the seats of your car.” IEI - Airbus A320

A higher education It was a touch of the traveling bug that got Ingólfur interested in flying. “My parents didn’t travel a lot domestically but we occasionally went on overseas vacations and I remember stating as a little boy that one day I would want to have a job that made it possible for me to travel every day. I had been a pilot for Air Atlanta for over 10 years and, as such got to travel all over the globe, so much so that today I love being home. It’s obviously right what they

88 ı WOW is in the air

say about thinking twice before you wish for something,” says Ingólfur. In 1992, when Ingólfur was 24, he started his studies to become a pilot although he says that decision had probably been rolling around in his sub­ conscious long before. “I chose to study in the United States and at first I learned how to fly planes; then I decided to learn how to fly helicopters as well so I am also a licensed helicopter pilot. When I graduated I was offered a teaching position at

the school,” says Ingólfur. But what he did before he ever took that first flying lesson is a big surprise. “After 4 years in The Commercial College of Iceland I had no idea what I wanted to do in the future and therefore no idea what sort of higher educa­ tion I should go for. And there’s only one thing you can do when you’re not sure of those things … join the army! So I enlisted in the Danish Crown’s military force as a volunteer and stayed there for three years.”

Every pilot’s dream Ingólfur has been part of the WOW crew since the airlines in­ augural flight in June 2012. “The best part of my job is getting to work with our great crews. When I go to a flight, I experience an atmosphere I have never found before with other airlines. WOW air must be born under some lucky star seeing as it attracts so many good, talented people to work for it. It is a privilege to work with these people, they are professional but at the

successful for a reason. The biggest advantage they have is the design. No matter where you look the quality of the design shines through. These aircrafts are highly advanced, high-tech machines where technology is fully applied to ensure the safety of their passengers and efficien­ cy for the airline. They are every pilot’s dream and I couldn’t think of a better work environment,” praises Ingólfur.

Dressing the part Recently Ingólfur and his fellow pilots at WOW air started strutt­ ing about the airports in highly fashionable suits. These are WOW air’s new pilot uniforms and Ingólfur was part of the design process. “The idea was to have uniforms that were cool and sophisticated, a nice suit that the pilots themselves would

This gem, situated in the heart of Reykjavík, offers a homey Mediterranean atmosphere along with great food from the freshest ingredients. The pizza oven at Caruso is legendary as well as the pizzas and everything from pasta to amazing steak and fish dishes are prepared with love and respect. Be sure to try the delicious homemade chocolate cake. Some say it’s the best in town.

same time we have fun working to­­gether to make each flight a great experience for our guests. I want to be clear that I’m not just paying lip service here – it is precisely this incentive to do well that unites us and is the foun­­dation for the unique atmos­ phere here,” says Ingólfur.


OW air’s fleet of Airbus A320 aircrafts is the youngest in pass­­enger flights to and from Iceland. How do you like the Airbus? “I have flown Boeing aircrafts for almost the majority of my career result­ ing in some­­­what of an arrogance when it came to other types of aircrafts and to tell you the truth I was on the fence about these Airbus planes. When I started my training on Airbus I quickly realized that they are absolutely magnificent and that Airbus is

pick out if they had to buy one. We wanted to avoid making just another boring pilot’s uniform with no style. Most airlines don’t let the pilots choose their uni­­ forms but it makes sense to let the people who will eventually wear the clothes pick them. WOW air let us do that and we collaborated with the amazing designer JÖR to make a high quality suit that we turned into a uniform and I am ecstatic with the results. Just the other day, on a flight to Copenhagen, I was approached by a loader who asked “Who do I talk to about getting a suit like that? I just have to have one!” Need I say more?” Ingólfur will cruise the upper atmosphere for years to come, impeccably dressed and with his personal mantra on his lips: ���God bless the Airbus”.

Caruso Þingholtsstræti 1 I 101 Reykjavík I Reservations: 562 7335 or email I Fax: 561 7334 Open: Mondays - Thursdays: 11:30-22:30 Fridays: 11:30-23:30 Saturdays: 12:00-23:30 Sundays: 17:00-22:00

ends On week played is c si u live m s classic u o m by our fa r Símon H ye guitar pla eating an cr Ívarsson able unforgett . ambience

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rth A m e


90 覺 WOW is in the air

Editor of the weekly digital magazine Kjarninn, Þórður Snær Júlíusson, decided to travel around North America in 2008. He saw many wonders, some funny, some unbelievable and some amazing, and he recommends this type of vacation to anyone; just book your flights and find your adventure. by Kristín Ýr Gunnarsdóttir Photos: From private collection

“The most fun

“I’ve ever had”


ur trip started in the end of June 2008 and end­ ed five weeks later. We were all complaining about the exchange rates of the US dollar vs. the Krona. It almost seems silly now,” says Þórður. His travel buddies were his wife, Hildur Guðjónsdóttir, and two longtime friends, Jóhann Bjarni Kolbeins­ son and Tómas Hrafn Sveinsson. “I still don’t understand how Hild­­ur survived all this masculin­ ity for so long. We drove about 12,874 km (8001 miles) across the United States in four weeks. That’s about 456 km per day.” Þórður says that the dream of an American road trip began when he went backpacking

with some friends in 2006. “We globe-trotted for 5 months, visit­­­ ing South America, Australia, New Zealand and Southeast Asia. This sparked my interest in diff­­­erent types of trips. The idea for the road trip had been rolling around in my head long before we actually started to plan it.” How do you plan a trip like that? “We planned it in a very weird way. My friend Tómas and I look­­ed up all the places we want­­­­­ed to see in the States and put them on a digital map. These were mostly places that off­­­er­­ed strange monuments like the biggest Superman statue in the World, the World’s larg­­

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Road tripping room at some cheap and shab­ by motel where she was forced into close proximity with all three of us knuckleheads.” What was the biggest obstacle? “Time, or lack thereof, exacer­ bated by trips to Jóhann’s vast familial relations. We often had to change our plans to fit them in, but in the end, it was all well worth it.”

“I think it’s my wife’s patience. How she endured us three manboys, who made up perverse music quizz­ es to kill time on the road, is beyond me.”

Would you take on a road trip like this again and if so, what est ketchup bottle, Popeye’s home­­­town, Carhenge (where Stonehenge has been recreated using old American cars), William Randolph Hearst’s castle, the Cre­­ationist Museum in Kentucky, Salt Lake, the Church of the Golden Hand and the Amish town named Intercourse. We wanted to see all the strange things that the US had to offer and our route looked like a cardiogram, up and down this vast country. “When Hildur joined our group we added her preferences and then our friend Jóhann decid­ ed to come too insisting that we visit all his relatives on the way. He also has a weird thing for bears and wanted to visit a few national parks to see them. We had a very random batch of things to do and see but to tell you the truth we probably wouldn’t have gotten out of the airport in San Francisco had we not had a GPS.

Coming to America Þórður and his group flew to New York, staying for one night before catching a plane to San Francisco where they picked up their car (a weak Jeep without any modern amenities). After four weeks on the road they end­­­ed back in New York where they stayed for a week before head­­­ing back home. “Overall, we visited 30 states so there were a lot of destinations. Besides the ones I already men­ tioned we went to Alcatraz, L.A., Carmel (where Clint Eastwood was once mayor), Las Vegas, Hoover Dam, Yellowstone Park,

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Grand Canyon, Mt. Rushmore, all over Texas (mainly to visit Jóhann’s many cousins and un­ cles), New Orleans, Graceland, Kentucky, Springfield, Chicago, St. Louis, Oklahoma and Was­­­ hing­­ton D.C. before we went back to New York. We also vis­­ited countless small towns in the most conservative parts would you do differently? “Yes, absolutely, but I would take a simpler route and stay longer in each place. And I would rent a better car. The car we had was an absolute wreck.” Do you have any planning tips for people who want to take a road trip in the US? “Well, I don’t recommend just planning the trip around the fun­ ny sights. It might be fun but it is of the US most memorable of which were Sheridan, Oshkosh and Clarksdale. I’m probably forgetting a lot of destinations but these were some of the main ones. “There were a lot of unusual places on this journey but the absolute strangest one is the Kentucky Creationist Museum. This is a museum dedicated to “proving” that dinosaurs and humans lived together on this planet just a few thousand years ago. They tried very hard to make some strange interpreta­ tions of the Bible add up while rejecting all common sense, rea­­son and science. If you’re into this, I definitely recommend a visit there; it was one of my favo­­rite stops. “I loved San Francisco and

New Orleans, but if we are talk­­ing cities, New York was ab­ solutely amazing and I’m so glad we had a whole week there. And then there were Jóhann’s relatives, all very memorable each in their own way. For in­ stance Jóhann Eyfell, an 85 year old who lived alone on a farm in Texas where he was working on a museum to commemorate his late wife. I think he’s still working on that today.” What was the biggest surprise of your journey? “I think it’s my wife’s patience. How she endured us three manboys, who made up perverse music quizzes to kill time on the road, is beyond me. On top of that our accommodations where almost always a four person

not very practical and in the end it can be difficult to follow such a plan. Actually I think it’s a good idea to plan as little as possible. Just book the necessary flights, rent the car and start driving. And I would recommend a trip like this for everyone. It is one of the most enjoyable things I’ve ever done”

If you want to restrict your calorie intake but still eat well and main­­tain a balanced diet, Skyr is the natural choice. Promotion

Our daily Skyr

The ultimate dairy Skyr (pronounced skeer) is a dairy product that is unique to Iceland. It is a deliciously healthy course or snack that has been a large part of the Icelandic diet since the first settlers brought it with them around the year 1000, as mentioned in the Icelandic Sagas. Skyr is made from clotted skim milk, has a slightly acid taste and a tinge of sweetness. Its popular­ ity is due to its versatility and nu­ tritional qualities. Skyr is a creamy delicacy that is both fat-free and protein rich, giving you a great sense of fullness – a convenient and healthy food, loved by both Icelanders and visitors alike. If you want to restrict your cal­ orie intake but still eat well and main­­tain a balanced diet, Skyr

is the natural choice. It is a very satisfying food that keeps you going throughout the day but will not burden your mind or weaken your resolve on a diet! Skyr is a great breakfast, a snack between meals or the sustaining part of a hearty meal. Served with cream it has been Icelanders’ favorite dessert through the centuries. Unflavored, unsweetened Skyr is a great fat-free substitute for mayonnaise, crème fraiche or

yogurt in cold dips and oven dishes. Skyr contains 10% high quality protein, 20% of which is whey pro­­tein, best known for its muscle building properties. This has made it extremely popular among ath­letes and bodybuild­ ers. Skyr is made from the fresh­ est ingredients: milk, farmed in the fresh green pastures near the Arctic Circle where the water is pure and the nature unspoiled. The new processing technique is 100% natural, based on the origi­ nal principles, using the thousand year old recipe and milk from the same cow breed, the color­ ful settlement cow, whose milk has unique health-promoting qualities.

mark, Sweden and Norway under license agreements from Iceland. Skyr is also being exported to Finland. Skyr’s popularity has grown immensely in the short time since production began in the Nordic countries, just another indicator that Skyr really is the ultimate dairy!


ntil a few years ago Skyr was only available in Ice­ land. However this has changed over the last few years as Skyr is now produced in Den­

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Here are some tidbits you might not know about U.S.A. A m e r ic

About 500,000 detectable seismic tremors occur in California each year.


Hop onboard, we’re discovering America once and for all!

The grizzly bear is the official state animal of California. But no grizzly bears have been seen there since 1922.

There are three towns in the United States that have the name “Santa Claus.”

Geography There are large groups of pe­­o­ ple that don’t believe in global warming, but those of them who live in Florida might want to rethink that view. If the oceans were to gradually rise, Florida (350 feet above sea level at its highest point) would become the first U.S. state to be com­ pletely submerged. Life has its highs and lows and so does Inyo County in California where both the highest and lowest points in the contiguous United States are situated, a mere 100 miles apart. You might like the geysers in Iceland but did you know that about half the geysers on Earth are located in Yellowstone Na­ tional Park?

by Guðrún Vaka Helgadóttir Photos:


s Icelanders love to take credit for things and so we will take credit for dis­­covering North America without blushing. Our very own Iceland-born Leifur Eiríksson (Leif Ericson) is believ­­ed to be the first European to ever set foot on America about 1000 years ago. Of course, as we all know, there were already some people there, usually re­­­ferred to as heathens or wild people (skrælingjar) in the old Sagas, who even fought against the Nordic settlers. A few years later (about 500 to be more exact) Columbus arrived and the rest, as they say, is history. The settlement of Nordic pe­­­ople in America was not long-liv­­ed and the actual impact of Leif Ericson’s discovery is almost non­­existent. However, right is right, and with that in mind we rejoice in the fact that WOW air is finally offering flights to the New World so we can discover it all over again. This grand continent has so much to offer and the differences from one state to another are phenomenal. There’s no use putting all of the U.S.A. under one hat (even if that’s exactly what they do). From cold Alaska to scorching Texas and from big cities to small towns, America has it all and then some.

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The state with the longest offic­­ial name is also the smallest. The winner is the “State of Rhode Island and Providence Plan­­tations”. There are over 40 ships buried underneath the city blocks of the financial district of San Fran­­ cisco. Abandoned gold rush ships and their wharves were buried beneath landfill used to fill in Yerba Buena cove; the res­ idents of San Francisco needed more housing. One of the most interesting mysteries of Death Valley National Park is the sliding rocks at Racetrack Playa (a playa is a dry lake bed). These rocks can be found on the floor of the playa with long trails behind them. Somehow these rocks slide across the playa on their own, cutting a furrow into the sediment as they move. Nobody knows how they move! Until 1796, there was a state in the United States called Franklin. Today it’s known as Tennessee!

Check the forecast before heading to Missouri! The record for highest statewide tempera­ ture (48ºC) and lowest statewide temperature (-40ºC) is held by the same city – Warsaw.

Food Hawaii is the only U.S. state that grows coffee commercially. The U.S. Census reports that Americans consume 150 million hot dogs over the average Fourth of July holiday. Pepsi-Cola was originally called “Brad’s Drink.” A report by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission in 1995 indicated that between 1978 and 1995 no less than 37 deaths in the U.S. were credited to vending machines.

The celery stick garnish became a staple of the Bloody Mary only after an impatient patron at Chicago’s Pump Room couldn’t wait for his server to bring him a swizzle stick. He took matters into his own hands and snatched a celery stalk from a nearby relish tray. Coca-Cola was originally green. Americans on average eat 18 acres of pizza every day.

Sports A yellow baseball (thought to be more visible to batters, fielders, and spectators) was tested in New York City at 1938 college game between Fordham and Columbia.

Baseball anthem “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” was written by Jack Norworth. Norworth had never been to an actual baseball game when he wrote the song. Cheerleading was initially an allmale sport. Females were only added to the equation when smaller, lighter bodies were needed for “flying”. The New York Yankees have won 26 World Series titles, which is more than any other team.

It takes 3,000 cows to supply the NFL with enough leather for a year’s supply of footballs. The home team must provide the referee with 36 footballs for each National Football League game. Americans spend more than $630 million a year on golf balls. In July 1934, Babe Ruth paid a fan $20 for the return of the baseball he hit for his 700th career home run.

In the four major US professional sports, (Baseball, Basketball, Football, and Hockey), there are only seven teams whose nicknames do not end with an “S:” Basketball: The Miami Heat, The Utah Jazz, The Orlando Magic. Baseball: The Boston Red Sox, The Chicago White Sox. Hockey: The Colorado Valanche, The Tampa Bay Lightning. Football: None. The Tom Thumb Golf Course was the first miniature golf course in the United States. It was built it 1929 in Chattanoo­ ga, Tennessee by John Garnet Carter.

Because metal was scarce, the Oscars given out during World War II were made of plaster. There are more than 10 million bricks in the Empire State Building!

Both James Madison and Alexander Hamilton helped George Washing­ ton write his famous farewell address.

New Jersey is home to the world’s highest roller coaster.

Grover Cleveland is the only U.S. President to serve two non-con­ secutive terms. He was the 22nd AND the 24th U.S. President.

Culture and entertainment The first known chain letter appeared in 1888 soliciting dimes for the poor in Tennessee and promising God’s blessing in return. When in the U.S.A. if you’re ever forced to participate in the dreaded “Chicken Dance,” you have Werner Thomas to thank. The Swiss accordionist wrote the song (originally called “Der Ententanz”) in 1963 and used to play it to customers in his diner. The first person to successfully go over Niagara Falls in a barrel was 63 year old Annie Taylor, a former school teacher who needed money. She died destitute about 20 years later. Created in 1994, the Comic Sans font was inspired by Batman and Watchmen comic books.

It Happened One Night (1934), One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest (1975) and The Silence of the Lambs (1991), are the only films to grab all 5 major Oscars (Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, and Screenplay) at the Academy Awards. Vanna White is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as “Television’s Most Frequent Clapper.” The official color of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco is “International Orange”. SeaWorld began as a plan by four UCLA alums to open an ocean-themed restaurant with a marine show. The Barbie Doll’s full name is Barbara Millicent Roberts.

Politics and history Ben Franklin’s formal education ended at ten years old. Despite its 6.5 million square feet of floor space, the Pentagon in Washington was constructed in such a way that no point in the building is more than a sev­ en minute walk from any other point in the building. In 1939, Hitler’s nephew wrote an article called “Why I Hate My Uncle.” He came to the U.S., served in the Navy, and settled on Long Island. Al Capone’s business card re­ portedly said he was a furniture salesman.

While they were in the White House, John & Abigail Adams had dogs named Satan & Juno. In writing his own tombstone, Thomas Jefferson penned a lengthy memorial listing many of his great accomplishments, from “author of the Declaration of In­ dependence” to “founder of the University of Virginia.” However, he did forget one small achieve­ ment: the tombstone fails to mention that Jefferson was once president of the United States. Senator Strom Thurmond is in the record books for giving the longest recorded speech in history, clocking in at 24 hours and 18 minutes. The speech was a filibuster in opposition to the 1957 Civil Rights Act (which passed, despite his efforts). Not a single witch was burned at the stake after being convicted in the Salem witch trials. (Most were hanged).

The bald eagle became America’s national symbol when it was placed on the great seal in 1782. One member of Congress who did not support the bald eagle selection was Benjamin Franklin. He thought the Continental Congress should have selected a more uniquely American bird. His choice was the turkey. US President John F. Kennedy was an accomplished ventrilo­ quist.

Broken shackles lie at the feet of the Statue of Liberty, signifying freedom from oppression and tyranny. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, William Henry Harrison, John Tyler, Zachary Taylor, and Woodrow Wilson were all born in Virginia, making it the birthplace of more presi­ dents than any other state. The British deployed the first rockets in America during their attack against Fort McHenry in the War of 1812. Francis Scott Key witnessed the attack and immortalized it in a song he titled “The Star-Spangled Banner.” That song is now the national anthem of the United States. The State of Nevada first legal­ ized gambling in 1931. At that same time, the Hoover Dam was being built and the federal gov­ ernment did not want its workers (who earned 50 cents an hour) to be involved with such diver­ sions, so they built the town of Boulder City to house the dam workers. To this day, Boulder City is the only city in Nevada where gambling is illegal. Hoover Dam is 726 feet tall and 660 feet thick at its base. Enough rock was excavated in its construction to build the Great Wall of China. Contrary to old wives’ tales, no work­ ers were buried in the dam’s cement.

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Get ready for

Boston! Transatlantic flights will be added to the WOW air schedule with the launch of new routes to Boston in spring 2014. The new route will mark the airline’s first venture to the US and we are so excited.


ur new flights to Boston mark a significant mile­­ stone for WOW air,” says Skúli Mogensen, founder and CEO of WOW air. “The continued growth of the company since its inception in 2011 has been really ex­­ citing to watch and we’re really looking forward to connecting the land of fire and ice with the land of opportunity.” Founded in 1630, Boston is one of the most hist­­orically important cities in the USA and New England’s gateway city. It owes its youthful, vibr­ant atmosphere to

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the thousands of students that frequent its various prestigious colleges and uni­­ versities, keeping the city buzzing during the day and bringing it to life at night. Spring is an ideal time to make the most of the city’s museums, cute boutiques, cafes, restaurants and rich jazz scene as its 2,200 acres of green parks start to bloom.

“Founded in 1630, Boston is one of the most hist­­ orically important cities in the USA.”



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Boston from the bottom up In 1630, John Winthrop was chosen by the Massachus­ etts Bay Company, a tra­ding enterprise, to govern the colony that he and his 700 fellow Puritans would establish in New England. Leaving their homes in Boston, a town in Lincolnshire, England, the company embarked on a journey that took them two, cold and sometimes stormy months across the Atlantic. They landed in Salem, a raw wilderness barring a few huts and clearings that former settlers had left behind.

ten years tens of thousands would arrive and Winthrop serving as the elected governor through twelve administrations cared for them as if they were his own family.

Boston on the move Under Winthrop’s good govern­ ance, Boston soon became the political, commercial, financial, re­ligious and educational center of the New England region, playing a key role in American history. Today more than 18 million people visit Boston annually, mak­­ ing it a leading tourist destination. And this is more than just a great

city for shoppers. The New Eng­ land Aquarian, Museum of Science, Sky­­walk Observatory, Boston‘s Museum of Fine Arts, Harvard Muse­­um of Natural History and the Old State House are some of the most popular attractions. Back Bay, officially considered the neighborhood of Boston, is famous for its rows of beautifully pre­served Victorian brownstone houses dis­­ play­­ing the splendid urban archi­­ tecture of the 19th century.


or music lovers there‘s the Boston Symphony Orchestra, one of the country‘s five

by Paul Michael Herman Photos:


fter the long hard trip the harsh sight was more than some could bear, com­pell­­­ ing scores of them to stay on board the ships returning to England. Needing a place where they could have more room to build houses and raise crops, Winth­rop, undaunted directed them to explore the coastline, eventually disembarking on the hilly peninsula known as “Shawmut“ (later renam­ ed Boston), meaning either “land accessible by water” or “land with living fountains”. From there he ord­­ered some of them to fan out into the outlying areas while he and the remaining company stayed be­­hind. While Winthrop well understood the difficulties ahead, he felt that God had provided a good land for them, so he and the others set themselves to the task of build­ ing a model society: Thus said John Winthrop, “We must always consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill—the eyes of all people are upon us.”

Getting started Their immediate concern though, was for any type of shelter, and Winthrop, through industry char­ acter­istic of Puritans, by example

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guided his companions working side by side carving caves in the hillside and digging holes in the ground. Food was scarce and many people didn‘t make it through the first winter but come February, pro­visions finally arrived enabling them to fortify themselves and go on with their enterprise.


n spite of the tenacity of these early colonists, the enthusiasm of their British investors had waned and many of them opted out leaving the settlers to their own re­­sourc­es. It was then that John Winth­rop took his own money from the sale of his estate in England, and for the next year provided for nearly the entire colony. In the next

major symph­o­­ny orchestras playing most of its concerts at Boston’s Symphony Hall, and in the summer performing at the Tanglewood Music Center. There are also Boston’s indie clubs, blues bars and open-mic jazz loung­es that have transformed the traditional rock town into a careerlaunching capital for bands of all gen­res. It doesn’t matter why you visit this beautiful city, just know that it will fulfill your every desire with its rich history, architecture, culture and nature.

John Winthrop took his own money from the sale of his estate in England, and for the next year provided for nearly the entire colony.

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Let’s face it; the Icelandic winter is long and trying at times. How about turning up the heat with a spring trip to Alicante or Barcelona? Start planning for warmer days right now – It could even be a nice Christmas or New Year’s present for you and your spouse/best friend/mom. Whomever you choose to take with is your business, but for affordable flights go to WOW air’s website and book your ticket. You won’t regret it and here’s why.

Fast forward to summer by Lilja Björk Haraldsdóttir Photos:

Pick Alicante! It’s sunny and it’s warm. We could stop trying to convince you right now, but we just love talking about Alicante. If you like relaxing, sun­­ bathing, having fun and going to the beach, and who doesn’t, this is a place for you. And if you’re not one of those who love soaking up the sun in a horizontal position, well rest assured, you won’t get bored, Alicante has more to offer than just a exquisite climate. Check out the view from Catillo de Santa Barbara or visit the 14th century,

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Church of Santa Maria. Stroll down Alicante Harbor or the El Palmeral Park and if that doesn’t fill you, feast your eyes on some modern sculptures in Collecia Capa or the not so modern artifacts at the arc­­ heological museum. Alicante also happens to be a golfers’ para­­dise. Should you get hungry, try some of Alicante’s famous rice dishes. Throwing together almost any combination of ingredients and experimenting with preparation methods throughout the centuries has yielded literally hundreds of

rice dishes – most notably the in­­ famous paella, which itself has a myriad of variations! The best way to sample them is to head to special rice restaurants called arrocerías. Alicante is a dream vacation for the entire family. The beaches, the theme parks, the play areas and the ice cream are sure to keep you and your children enjoying your­­ selves the entire trip. In case you need a change of scenery visit the Canelobre Caves where you’ll get a crash course in geology and see the stalactites and stalagmites. Pack your sunscreen and kick start the summer as early as April in Alicante.

Alicante is a dream vacation for the entire family. The beaches, the theme parks.

How to get there? Regular WOW air flights to Alicante begin as soon as April with two flights a week and three flights a week from May until next fall. Book now on

Pick Barcelona! Just picture this: You’re enjoying your sangria while sitting on Las Ramblas nibbling delicious tapas. After visiting Gaudi’s architectural creations, you’re basking in the warm sun at Sitges sipping a cold glass of Cava. All a preparation for an exciting evening when you will fulfill your lifelong dream of be­­coming a flamenco dancer and Barcelona is where it could happen. Think this all sounds too lazy? Barcelona is also a perfect place to get the blood pumping as this Mediterranean city offers great outdoors exercise options from its mountains to its beautiful beaches (mmm beaches!). The scenery around the Catalan Capital will surely stretch out the time you usually endure at a cardio. Want to bring the whole family? No problem. Barcelona offers an incredible variety of water-them­­ ed amusements in the form of beaches, swimming pools and water parks. Check out scary attractions like the “Black Hole” in Aqualeon or the “Anaconda”

in Aquabrava Water Park. You can also go and see the Magic Foun­­­­­tains situated between Plaza Espan­ya and the Palau Nacional. It’s a magical music and lights fountain show which has been runn­­ing since the World Exhibition in 1929. And it’s free! For a more peaceful time, get a taste of that quaint Spanish village atmosphere with a day trip to Sitg­­ es, a wonderfully located spot that’s buzzing with cultural life. For something even smaller we highly recommend the small town of Cadaqués, a picturesque village that was a second home to artist

Salvador Dalí during his childhood and an inspirational haven for many others such as Picasso, Miró, Marcel Duchamp and Dieter Roth. One wonders what could have lured these great talents to this small coastal village. So stow your parkas and Long Johns a bit earlier than usual and hop on a plane to Barcelona in May.

How to get there? WOW air starts flying to Barcelona in May and offers three flights a week starting in June. Book now on

The way carrental should be Up Free Pick vik in Reykja


City Car Rental

Reykjavik Office +354 771 4200 / Keflavik Office + 354 771 4202

Need Accomodation? Hotel Icelandia located at the beginning of the main shopping

street Laugavegur. Museums, art galleries, shops, restaurants, nightlife and many other attractions are within walking distance. For booking reservations, please call + 345 511 3030 Issue six

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Heja Sverige! The beautiful city of Stockholm is built upon 14 islands and therefore is often called Venice of the North. The city boasts of amazing attractions for the whole family with over 70 museums and nature never being far away; a great summer getaway or a relaxed city venture before heading on to more exotic regions! Photos:


rom June 2, 2014 WOW air will offer flights to scenic Stockholm through­­out the year, fly­­ ing three times a week, Mondays, Wednesdays and Fri­­ days through Arlanda Airport. This not only gives travelers a great opportunity to visit the beautiful capital of Sweden but also a great connection to the Middle East and the Orient. We really can’t wait to show you what Stockholm has to offer so here is a little preview to get you ready.

Gamla Stan You really haven’t visited Stock­ holm before you’ve walked through Gamla Stan. It is one of the largest and best-preserved medieval

city centers in Europe and it is where Stockholm was founded in 1252! When walking through Gamla Stan and the adjacent is­ land of Riddarholmen you’ll feel like you’re walking in a living pe­ destrian-friendly museum full of

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sights, attractions, restaurants, caf­és, bars and places to shop. With narrow winding cobblestone streets, several churches, hidden cellar vaults and frescoes from the Middle Ages, the district sure looks like something out of a storybook. You can also find century old rest­ aurants and taverns in old houses brimming with history and culture.

You can also find century old rest­au­ rants and taverns in old houses brimming with history and culture.

Several museums are located here including Stockholm Cathedral and the Nobel Museum and you wouldn’t want to miss visiting the Royal Palace, former home of the royal family and one of the largest palaces in Europe, where you’ll find a number of museums related

to royal affairs. After promenading through Gamla Stan, be sure to rest your feet at Stortorget, the oldest square in Stockholm.

Djurgården One of the great things about Stock­­holm are the numerous green

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Scenic Stockholm royal palace; this seventeenthcentury palace is certainly worth a visit! Featuring grandiose salons from the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, a beauti­­ful park, a unique palace theater and a Chinese Pavilion; it is a sight to remember. The palace and the park are open to visitors most of the year.

The Botanical Garden near Brunnsviken is also to be recomm­ end­ed where you can admire thousands of plants from around the world and see the world’s largest water lily.

Stockholm from above! An exciting, and bit of a daredevil way to explore the city of Stock­ holm is from above, and oddly enough there are a number of ways you can do exactly that! One of them and maybe the safest is to take a tour with the new worldclass SkyView atop of the Ericsson Globe, a Stockholm landmark. The SkyView gondolas depart every ten minutes and give you a fan­­tastic view over the city.

For the nature lovers Sweden’s capital is made up of 14 beautiful islands so there is for nature lovers to do in this city. We recommend taking a guided boat tour in the National City Park or on the Djurgården Canal, perfect on a sunny day! The Botanical Garden near Brunnsviken is also to be recommended where you can admire thousands of plants from around the world and see the world’s largest water lily. Moving from plants to beautiful butterflies, there‘s The Butterfly House, located in Hagaparken, where hund­reds of exotic butterflies inhabit the green and tropical environ­ment along with parrots, frogs, insects and other animals.

Moderna Museet For those interested in art and

de­­sign, a visit to Stockholm’s Modern Museum is a must. With its temporary exhibitions and large col­­lections of modern art you can experience one of Europe’s lead­­ ing collections of art from the last century, including works by Dali, Matisse, Derkert, Picasso and other masters. Situated on beauti­ful Skeppsholmen Island, the muse­ um and its surroundings offer a stunning view of Djurgården and Strandvagen.

Metro art The Swedes know how to bring art to the public and travelling with the Stockholm underground train system (Metro) offers you the cheap­est art shows in town! Almost every station is decorated with artwork by artistic pioneers from the 1950’s to today’s contemporary

areas in and around the city, one of them is Djurgår­den a beauti­­ful island popular among locals and tourists alike. Home to several of the city’s top museums and attractions, it sure is easy to spend a whole day there. Bring your picnic basket, take in the scenery, and visit Skansen Open Air Museum or the Vasa Museum where you can examine the only preserved seventeenthcentury ship in the world. If you’re travelling with kids or just wish to bring out the child in you, also check out Gröna Lund, Stockholms oldest amusement park.

Junibacken Another great attraction for child­ ren is Junibacken, where the Story Train takes you on a journey through the magical fairy tale world of Astrid Lindgren. Here they can also see a theater show, visit the house of Pippi Longstocking, play around, read books and much more. You’ll also find the biggest children’s bookstore in Sweden at Junibacken and a very family friendly restaurant. Sounds like a magical day!

Drottningholm Palace Then there‘s the royal family’s permanent residence, one of Stock­­holm’s three World Heritage Sites and Sweden’s best preserved

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f you wish to get even higher, Stockholm is one of few major cities that allow hot air balloon rides over it. Experience the city from way above, swaying in the wind; two companies Upp og Ner and Far og Flyg offer rides when conditions allow. For those brave enough you can now go on a rooftop hiking tour, experiencing the city from its rooftops, well secured with safety equipment. But beware; this is not a tour for those who are afraid of heights!

artists. This not only makes the train ride a more beautiful journey but also helps disoriented travelers navigate the underground! Yet another reason to visit Sweden – this man: “I’m from Sweden. We don’t wear clothes in Sweden.” -Alexander Skarsgaard

How to get there? Stockholm becomes a whole year WOW destination starting June 2014 with three flights a week.


ÁLAFOSSVEGUR 23 - MOSFELLSBÆR OPEN: MON. - FRI. 9.00 - 18.00 SAT. 9:00 - 16:00 LAUGAVEGUR 8 CITY CENTRE OPEN: 10:00 - 18:00


To celebrate Stockholm as a new destination WOW air asked people to send in their favorite WOW moments from this awesome city. Here are some of our favorites from the bunch. For more WOW moments go to

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m o m e n t



Lively Drottninggatan. Sender: Sara Sig­­urlásdóttir

Kayaking in Stockholm. Sender: Rúnar Már Jónatansson

Pearl Jam’s 20 year anniversary at Globen. Sender: Kolbrún Edda Sigurhansdóttir.

Beautiful fall colors. Sender: Kolbrún Anna Vignisdóttir.

A nice summer day in Stockholm. Sender: Gunnar Steinn Ásgeirsson

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At the Grönalund Tivoli. Sender: Aðalbjörg Sigmarsdóttir.

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The attractions of Salzburg are loved by millions of visitors from all around the world, making it one of Europe’s busiest cities all year round. This, however, is not the only reason to take flight to Salzburg. Just a short distance away from the bustling city life you will find some of Austria’s best ski areas, Kirchberg, Bad Hofgastein and Saal­­bach-Hinterglemm. Photos: Birtíngur Photo Archive,, Gasteinertal Tourismus GmbH, Kitzbüheler Alpen Marketing GmbH and Tourismusverband Saalbach Hinterglemm.

The Monster Energy Nightpark by day. Photo: © Saalbach Hinterglemm


he excellent ski resorts are precisely what Austria is best known for. Some even claim they are the best in the world. With reliable snow conditions and prices that are generally low­er than in Italy or France it is no sur­­ prise that ski vacations in Austria are becoming increasingly popular. Also, Austrians really know how to make their ski resorts a great ton of fun with, for example, a num­­­­­ ber of entertaining festivals and happenings at each one. This in­­ sures a boredom-proof trip for all enthusi­­asts.

Kirchberg In the cozy little town of Kirchberg in Tirol lies the heart of the Kitzbühel Alps – only 6 km from the world

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famous town of Kitzbühel, best known for being one of Austria’s fanc­iest winter sports resorts. Both Kirchberg and Kitzbühel are close to the mountains Hahnenkamm (1715 m) and Kitzbühler Horn (1996 m). The Hahnenkamm is home to the annual World Cup ski races, including the circuit’s most im­­­port­ ant event, the downhill race on the famous Streif Slope, counted as one of the toughest downhill com­­ peti­tions in the world. The World Cup and other international races that take place here bring many celebrities and jet setters to these slopes. Kirchberg also attracts coup les, groups, families and any dedicated skier looking for a good deal. Ski holidays in Kirchberg offer bargains to many of the ski and snow­­boarding related festivals held

in the region each season. The world famous Hahnenkamm Race Week (January 22 – 26) is just one of these. Kirchberg offers a number of lively pubs where you can party all night, if you want. Now, if that isn’t your thing, you can also take a trip into Kitzbühel to try out their après ski scene or try your hand at the casino. There are also plenty of options for snowboarders in the area with a local snowboard park as well as a second snow park near the Kitzbühler Horn.

Bad Hofgastein There is nothing negative to be said about Bad Hofgastein, despite what the name could imply. This little town is part of Ski Amade, a network of 28 ski areas and towns that combined make up the largest

ski area in Europe with 860 km of down­­hill slopes and 278 modern ski lifts. Your ability level doesn’t really matter because the right slope awaits you no matter what: deep­­-snow and mogul runs, carving hills and free rides, along with family runs, guaranteeing the best ski va­­­ cations you could possibly wish for. The optimal elevations and broad snowmaking coverage of Gasteiner Valley’s ski resort guarantees relia­­ ble snow conditions from the end of November until late April. In addition to the 250 km of pist­­es, Bad Hofgastein is also an este­­ e­­m­­­­ed wellness resort offering one of Europe’s most exclusive and extensive thermal spas, the Alpen­­­therme. With six adventure and vital­­­ity worlds spread out the Alpen­­therme covers an area

Most adrenalin junkies head to the new Boarder and Skiercross on the Bernkogel (a 500 m long run, planned and built by none other than Boardercross World Cham­­­pi­onship legend Mario Fuchs.

Kirchberg. Photo: Kurt Troppe

Kirchberg. Photo: Stefan Eisend

Bad Hofgastein.

of 32,000 square meters and features a unique 360° panoramic view of the Alps, a sauna world with a mountain lake, leisure and wellness areas, a multi­­­media adventure dome, thrill­­ing water slides, geysers and a glass­ed-in sky bar. For an unforgettable view, trav­erse the 140 m long pedestrian footbridge on the Stubnerkogel, with 28 meters of nothing but air under­­neath and at 2400 meters above sea level, this is Europe’s high­est suspension bridge. You won‘t forget it.

Saalbach-Hinterglemm Saalbach is probably one of Austria’s premier ski resorts, offering a wide range of runs, extensive off pistes, and an excellent snow record. Ski­­ing can

be found on both sides of the valley. Much of the off-piste ski­ing is on the north side, where thighdeep, untouched powder can be found only meters from many of the pistes. There is a small snow park in Hinterglemm, but the more experienced crowd usually prefers the snow park in the adjacent valley in Leogang, which boasts superior kickers, as well as rails and jibs While most adrenalin junkies head to the new Boarder and Skiercross on the Bernkogel (a 500 m long run, planned and built by none other than Boardercross World Cham­­­pi­onship legend Mario Fuchs), children and other inexperienced skiers or boarders should head to the Easypark that’s close by. Some never get enough of the slopes and for them there’s the

Monst­­er Energy Nightpark that stretch­­es from the mountain to the valley station of the Unters­chwarz­ ach cableway in Hinter­­glemm. The ex­tended and im­­prov­­ed flood­­lit facilities provide just the right light conditions and turns night into day, perfect for the night owls who can work on their free­­style techn­ iques until 9:30 pm. That should be enough time.

There are also plenty of options for snowboarders. How to get there? WOW air offers flights to Salzburg every Saturday from December to March. Check out their varied ski-packages to these magnificent ski-resorts at

Photo: © Saalbach Hinterglemm

Après ski in Saalbach. Photo: Edward Groeger © Saalbach Hinterglemm

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Wonderful winter days in


The city of London is always a great place to visit and it doesn’t really matter what time of year you go, but during the winter London has a certain charm especially around the Christmas holidays. by Þorsteinn Haukur Harðarson Photos:

December If you visit London in December the festive holiday spirit is all around you. We can guarantee that the city will get you in the right holi­­ day spirit. There is a cheerful buzz everywhere, especially in places like Covent Garden with a multi­tu­­ de of restaurants, wine bars, pubs, trinket shops and chain brand stores in the area and a quaint cobblestone section around the square. At Christmastime it’s most tastefully decorated bringing every­­ one into the holiday spirit. Us­­ually street performers can be seen offering a wide variety of enter­­tain­­ ment, some quite remarka­­ble. You could spend hours there.

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he shops on Oxford Street are filled with people enjoy­­ ing the live Christmas music and carolers and then there’s the great Christmas tree in Trafalgar square. And don’t forget about all the Christmas markets where the holiday spirit is always high. London has a number of cute mark­­ ets where you can buy spec­­ialty items or just enjoy the atmosphere. We especially re­­com­­mend the handcraft market and the Hyde Park Winter Wonderland. For some family fun time there‘s Alexandra Palace’s ice skating rink, a great place to enjoy freedom on the ice and give your kids some fun. You could also try one of the temporary

ice rinks which pop up all over London from November to January

January If you‘re on a limited budget, Jan­ uary is the time to visit London. The peak season is over, so the hotel rates are down and you can expect some great bargains because of all the January sales. If you’re in London on New Year’s Day get ready for the New Year’s Day Parade. 2014 will mark it‘s 28th year and this year over ten thousand performers; dancers, musicians, cheerleaders and others will participate in a colorful celebration in the heart of the city. Sounds like a fun day! If you’re look­

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A WOW winter city

The London Eye is the fourth-tallest structure in London, offering spectacular far-reaching views. On a clear day you can see as far as Windsor Castle.

of London. You can see most of these places by taking a sight­­see­ ing bus that goes around the clock. At Buckingham Palace you’ll get to see the Queen’s Guards, famous for standing outside the palace for hours without moving at all. Just remember not to touch them; they really don’t like it. The London Eye is the fourth-tall­ est structure in London, offering spectacular far-reaching views. On a clear day you can see as far as Windsor Castle. And the slow speed of its rotation means there’s plenty of time to see everything else and take lots of photos. It’s always a pleasure walking down Oxford street, known for its

to a premier league match is a fun experience with lots of singing, chanting and shouting. The culture of the English football fan is also quite interesting to see. Most of them go to a pub hours before kickoff where they drink and talk about the match ahead. After the game they meet again and discuss the game. You should be on the lookout for the hooligans though as they take the game a bit too seriously and are likely to start a fight against supporters from other teams. If you’re in London on Valentine’s Day you can expect a very roman­­ tic evening. There are many great restaurants for a nice even­­ing out

ing for something new you should try the inter­­nati­onal mime festi­­val that starts January 8. If you’re an art fan, you can go to the London art fair, the largest art fair in all of England located in the Busi­ness Design Center on January 15-19.

February During the winter months London is the place to go for football fans. The premier league in London is one of the strongest leagues in the world and London has no less than six teams playing in the top division. The teams are Arsenal, Chelsea, Crystal Palace, Fulham, Tottenham and West Ham. Even if you’re not a big football fan, going with your sweetheart and afterwards you can walk hand in hand down the banks of the Tham­­es. For fashion enthusiasts the Lond­ on Fashion Week will be lots of fun. It’s held in the Somerset House from February 20-23 and for those four days, this historic venue will be transformed into a fashion paradise where all the big names from the fashion industry will show their work. Perhaps the most fun of all is watching the fashionistas of the world strutting their stuff outside the venue, but to each their own. Most of the tourist attractions in London are available during the wintertime, such as the Big Ben, Bucking­­ham Palace, the Lond­­on Bridge, London Eye and the Tower

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good atmosphere, with its street artists and countless shops dis­­ play­­ing the latest fashions. And then why not pop into a cozy café for a cup of warm coffee or hot chocolate to relax and watch the people pass by. A walk down Reg­­ ent Street to Piccadilly Circus is also a favorite and Piccadilly Circus is a great place for anyone toting a camera.

For fashion enthusiasts the Lond­on Fashion Week will be lots of fun.” How to get there? WOW air flies to London 13 times a week all year round.

Our Master Watchmaker never loses his concentration With his legendary concentration and 45 years of experience our Master Watchmaker and renowned craftsman, Gilbert O. Gudjonsson, inspects every single timepiece before it leaves our workshop. All the watches are designed and assembled by hand in Iceland. Only highest quality movements and materials are used to produce the watches and every single detail has been given the time needed for perfection. The JS Watch co. Watch factory and exclusive retail shop located at Laugavegur 62, in the trendy “101� area of Reykjavik provides customers with unique opportunity to meet the watchmakers who assemble and test their timepiece. The quantity of watches produced is limited, giving them an exclusive and truly personal feel.

, oui ais








ter in


A wintercanin Paris warm the heart Paris is one of those cities most people, newcomers at least, raise high expectations for. There is also a reason why many consider it the most romantic city on the planet. A cruise on the Seine, a warm embrace in the Eiffel Tower, a show at the Moulin Rouge, dinner at the Tour d’Argent; it’s standard fare, but it works like a charm. Now, add some Christmas mirth to that thought. Sounds good, right? by Tommi Valgeirs Photos:

December It’s a low season in Paris, meaning sparse tourists, giving you more of the city to yourself. Yet, this won’t exactly apply though when Christmas is in high gear. Many can feel a bit overwhelmed by the festive season but the key factor is to put all stress aside and set your priorities straight: you are here to shop, dine, explore and make a bunch of cool memories; but where to begin? It is actually pretty important to know beforehand that certain at­ tractions and monuments may be closed, so be sure to check those opening dates to avoid disa­­­­ppointment. There will still be plenty to see, and in comparison to spring and summer, lines and exhibits won’t be nearly as crowd­ ed. More good news is that there are a ton of activities taking place indoors. But try not to dress too lightly because there will be plenty of good walks outdoors. It’s interesting, the fall and winter months in Paris are sometimes known for being wet, dark and gloomy, but once the Christmas

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de­­corations are up, the city lights up more than during any other season. The Eiffel Tower sparkles even more, the Seine is more illuminating and the streets get a cheery holiday vibe.


peaking of Christmas, it is almost essential to check out the wonderful markets, like the one on the Avenue des Champs-Elysees. These types of markets are very popular for Christ­­mas shopping offering hand­­ crafted ornaments and all kinds of delicious food. There is one parti­­cular market on 58 Aven­ ue Philippe Auguste open from Decem­­ber 13-15. It’s a must.

For those looking for a tasty slice of the night life, that’s great because that’s when the streets of Paris come alive.

For those looking for a tasty slice of the night life, that’s great because that’s when the streets of Paris come alive. And the best part is that the days are pretty short anyway so the nights are long and festive. Also, rest assured, the legends are true, there is no short­­age of cafés. If it’s nightclubs you’re looking for, you’ll find diff­­ erent ambiances depending on the village areas. For example, on Saint-Germain you’ll find some trendy spots, some tourist bars are set to be at Marais and Bastille, and then there’s of course Montmarte and Pigalle, home of the Moulin Rouge itself. On the calmer side, it can both be seen as quite romantic and even a good laugh to head to one of the

ice rinks set in the city. Entrance to the rinks is usually free and the skate rentals are pretty cheap. Even if you don’t step out on the ice it can be a blast to watch others with something warm in your hand (coffee or hot “chocolát”) or better yet, someone’s warm hand. There is one rink at the Eiffel Tower, a really cool one, as well as one at the city hall.


here’s something the Dec­­ ember visitors need to witness and it’s truly a sight to behold: Picture loads and loads of people in red Santa suits running a great distance. This is known as the Christmas Corrida Race and takes place on December 15. Make sure your camera’s battery is full and the memory card empty. A lot of guests will also be de­­ lighted with pretty nativities set up all around the churches of Paris. If you are unsure of which one to visit, you might want to go with Notre Dame’s. It is the safest and arguably the most majestic choice, and you simply won’t believe the size of the amazing Christmas tree!

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Mais, oui

Another thing that makes the city so great in January is the ad­vantage that cultural activities are at the height of the season and in full swing indoors. And, if you like, you can witness the long and sacred tradition of hundreds of people attending midnight mass in the cathedrals of France, brightly lit with candles and filled with Christmas carols and hymns. After a midnight mass, families usually join together for a late-night feast known as the Reveillon de Noel. If you are in Paris when the New Year kicks in, you are lucky indeed. The city of lights makes it all the more merry to say “bonne année” in the contagiously joyf­ul celebration. Whether your pre­­ ferred style is clubbing all night long, sharing a good meal with a view or simply a toast of cham­­ pagne, it’s all there, and guaran­ teed to send you into the New Year in a delightfully grand fashion.

January Is it worth the trouble to be visiting Paris right after such a fantastic, festive season? Of course! Part of the charm in the quietude and peace that come from the postholiday season is how you can get the whole city experience by choosing a few choice events and

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leaving the rest to serendipity. To kick off the New Year in Paris is a wonderful thing and that feel­ing is punctuated by the mas­­ sive New Year’s Day Parade in Montmartre. A huge procession with lots of music, lots of clowns and jugglers. And while we’re talk­­ ing about New Year’s, those who wish the extend the festivities to include the day of January 31st will witness the celebration of the Chinese New Year being held in Paris’ Chinatown in the southeast of the city. An enormously colorful event, packed with paper lanterns and even a dragon dancing down the street!

theater, opera, ballet, galleries, concerts and museums. And don’t forget that hot “chocolát”!

February The days are still quite short in Febr­uary but with the right clothing and heart, your trip won’t lose any magic at all. If anything, this could be the best time of the entire year for lovers abroad, especially if you celebrate Valentine‘s Day. Of course, some of your friends might get super jealous.


ashion shows are in order as well and enthusiasts should find their time well spent during Paris Fashion Week (January 15-19), with the emphasis on men’s fall and winter wear. One of Paris’ fine qualities is that it is a refreshingly “walkable” city. You can pretty much spend the entire day outside meandering around, looking at buildings, bou­ tiqu­­es and all sorts of gorgeous views along the way. The fact that there are fewer people acc­en­­ tua­­tes the intricate nuances and the entrancing mystique of this fine city. Actually it is often easier to appreciate the architecture of the city when the trees are bare and fewer pedestrians crowd the sidewalks. And if you feel your feet getting tired, there’s always Paris’ excellent, easy to navigate underground metro. Another thing that makes the city so great in January is the ad­ vantage that cultural activities are at the height of the season and in full swing indoors. Neat activities are spread out before you like the


s we said before, it’s not a traditional tourist season, meaning, for example that the river cruises might be closed but during the winter you couldn’t ask for a better view into Paris and real Parisian life. And that‘s a wonderful thing when you’ve got a cityscape so breathtaking and filled with history and character. In short, a regular day in Paris can be better than most other days almost anywhere and if romance is on the ticket, all the better. In this city, so much of the mood is set for you, so everyday can be your own personal Valentine´s Day. February is also the month of an agricultural fair held at the Porte de

Versailles, Salon de l´Agriculture, which draws in more crowds than most other expositions in France. Starting from February 22 to Mars 2, it includes a special contest of France’s finest breeding animals Mark that down.

Wherever or whenever you are planning to go, you can be sure that your thirst for cultural know­ ledge will be quenched, and even (especially) for the most dis­ cretionary palates, your thirst for wine The cuisines are also to die so choose them well. As for some nice bistros and restaurants, certain places come highly recommended, such as The Quartier d’Aligre, not far from the Bastille, Cantine Merci, Le Pre Verre, The Boulangerie and Les Dingues (The Crazies!). That last one probably won’t found in many tourist guidebooks. You can thank us later. Everyone should see Paris at least once in their lifetime; and those who’ve been there are prone to return. There is so much to see and every moment is precious, but the main thing is to compose yourself, make a sched­ule and leave yourself open for whatever special that catches your eye, because that’s what happens in Paris. So make the most of it and don’t be shy with that camera. How to get there? WOW air flies to Paris three times a week during the winter and spring.

It's a kind of magic Guided tours daily Winner of the Mies van der Rohe award in 2013 Information & booking:


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Harpa Concert Hall and Conference Centre

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A wonderful winter in





ca n do



Berlin is my favorite city in the world and there is always something extraordinary going on there. No matter what you’re in the mood for, this city will entertain you every night of the week. For December, January and February the difficult part about listing up events is simply what to choose out of that delicious array on offer in this historical hotspot. Still I gave it a go and am now seriously considering taking three months off work to hang out in Berlin. by Guðrún Baldvina Sævarsdóttir Photos: VisitBerlin and

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December It’s the best. Everything anybody loves about Christmas will be in abundance in Berlin. The Christmas markets are a must of course and Berliners really know how to put up a good Christmas market and plenty of them. I highly recommend the Scandinavian Christmas Market Lucia in the district of Prenzlauer Berg (nestled in the courtyard of the Kulterbrauerei). It’s not just be­­­cause I’m Scandinavian and love all things Scandinavian, it’s just extra cozy and wonderful and man­­ag­es to capture that holiday spirit without being touristy and commercial. Another Christmas must is Gendarmenmarkt and its surroundings. When I think of Berlin and Christmas I think of Gendar­­menmarkt square. The entire square is a UNESCO heri­­ tage site and you haven’t exper­­ ienced Christmas in all its glory until you‘ve smelled the pretzels and “gluhwein” from the Christmas market accompanied by a German men’s choir singing Christmas carols, as you cross the square on your way to the Konzerthaus Berlin for a night of a world renowned boys’ choir from Leipzig performing Bach’s Christmas Oratorium. Be there on December 6th at 7 pm for a big dose of Christmas straight to your heart. That’s definitely my pick for my birthday anyway. A slightly younger generation would probably rather go to the Winter World Fair at Potsdamer Platz to try out the 70 meters long toboggan run or the open air skating rink.

Screaming in a big rubber tube while listening to blasting techno music may not be everybody’s idea of fun, but to each his own.


n case you are the Grinch or you’ve just had enough of blink­­ ing lights and the excessive use of tiny bells and the color red, check out this next event for what should be a serene evening for every music lover. On the banks of the River Spree sits a beauti­­ ful, old pumping station which now houses one of Berlin’s most wonderful event venues. Radi­ al­­­system V is the place where you’ll find anything from edgy, modern electronica to delicate early classical music. Whatever the genre, if it’s Radialsystem V, it’ll be good. On December 7th at 7 pm you’ll find nothing less than a full blown vocal festival at this magical place. Featuring artists like the Slovenian Carmina Slovenica, the very lovely and talented (not to mention Icelandic) Kira Kira along with Mikhael Karikis and Shara Worden, to name a few, enter­­taining their guests using all manners of voices and sounds. Get ready for the perfect vocal night at the perfect place.

And don’t miss Alan Gilbert con­­ducting the Berlin Philharmonic and Norwegian cellist Truls Mørk playing Dvořák’s world famous cello concerto.

And a little bit off the radar but definitely somebody’s cup of tea is “the best of poetry slam” at the Volksbühne on Rosa-Lux­ em­­burg-Platz on December 29th. Poetry slamming as we all know is the hippest, most cool cultural activity known to man but consider yourself warned, it will be in German. The theater and the square are two of those amazing places in Berlin where you can explore layer after layer of revolutionary history (revolutionary martyrs meet revolutionary sculp­ tors meet revolutionary theater). So even if you don’t speak German, a visit to the Volksbühne is always worth it and good poetry slamming will sound like music anyway.

Brandenburg Gate at Christmas time. Photo: © visit Berlin / Scholvien.

January Let’s face it. January is a dark month but there’s no need to be gloomy. The perfect way to take advantage of the darkness is a visit to the planetarium to check out the infinite beauty of the cosmic sky. Sit back, embrace the dark and enjoy a live, up-to-date skywalk at 8 pm on January 3rd at the Planetarium am Insulaner. Farmer’s market addicts should go directly to the green market on Kollwitsplatz which offers that extra cozy and welcoming atmosphere regardless of the lack of sunshine. I

used to do my fruit and health food shopping there every Saturday and I usually ended up buying a wonder­ful little treasure in the form of a handmade postcard or an old fashioned wound up pocket watch. Nothing is as cheerful and hopeful as a found treasure at a farmer’s market. And don’t miss Alan Gilbert con­­ ducting the Berlin Philharmonic and Norwegian cellist Truls Mørk playing Dvořák’s world famous cello concerto. It’s bound to be a magical moment of this newest addition to cellist virtuosos and the world’s most beloved cello concerto. The same concert will also feature Finnish composer and pianist Magnus Lindberg performing his own work “Kraft”, written in Berlin in the 80’s, in­­ spired by the infamous Berlin punk scene in an effort to imitate its force and sound. And if you love all things classical, be at the Berlin Philharmonie on January 30th at 8 pm.

January brings an­ ot­her delight, the sales! The dates vary between shops but tra­­­ditionally the sales begin in the 3rd week of the month.


or the hip and modern take on culture, check out the digital media festival Trans­ me­diale that runs for 6 digital days at Haus der Kulturen der Welt starting on January 28th. Despite its darkness and that de­­pressing feeling of “all the fun stuff is over,” January brings anot­­her delight, the sales! The dates vary between shops but tra­­­ ditionally the sales begin in the 3rd week of the month. The hipsters should head down to Kreuzberg and thread the streets around Oranienstra´e (not to be confused with Oranienburgerstra´e). The organically grown (and well off) hippies of Prenzlauer Berg will stroll around Kastanienalle or Huse­­ mannstra´e but I personally would give a few hundred Euros for a walk around Mulackstra´e or AlteSchönhauser Stra´e in Mitte. For

Berliner Philharmonie.

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What to do when you can do anything?

If Berlin excels at anything, it’s the museums. So any month of the year, be sure to allocate some time for at least two or three of those. Exhibit at the Jewish Museum in Berlin.

Christmas Market on Richardplatz. Photo: © visit Berlin / Scholvien.

the full-blown shopping mall mega sale experience take your energy drinks and your serenity to Alexia Mall on Alexanderplatz. You’ll find practically everything there, except peace and quiet.

February Although it’s a city of all cultures and mediums, that doesn’t really apply to the month of February. Every­­body knows that there’s really only one thing on the agenda in February, the world’s largest public film festival, the Berlinale. This February will be the 64th time we are all invited to celebrate film in all its glory with over 400 films screened in theaters across the city from February 6th-16th. This is the best of both worlds where you can watch mind blowing art house cinema in the morning, stroll down the red carpet with Hollywood film stars in the afternoon and catch a late night experimental film at a small indie film theater. The hottest events are the ones involving the big film stars and you’ll have to be a dedicated early riser to catch tickets to those events. But for those of us simply in it for

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the cinematic experience, we’re perfectly happy getting tickets to any of the other hundreds of film events happening around the city. Even though I’m a big fan of the dark, little cinemas nestled deep in Berlin’s boroughs, nothing beats the experience of a film screening in Friedrichstadt-Palast. It’s a red carpet-worthy palace and we’re all divas when we walk in there. On the off chance that you’re not into that whole film fad you might want to check out my personal No. 1 music pick of 2014: Connan Mockasin at the Frannz Club on February 1st. This may have something to do with my recent love affair with Mockasin’s music and my joy when stumbling across music that sounds like something I’ve never heard before and yet so familiar at the same time. Since Connan Mockasin’s albums have been on repeatedly in my house for the past month, this is definitely a good excuse for a night out at the historical Kulturbrauerei (literally “culture brewery”) up in Prenzlauer Berg. So I lied, there are of course other things happening in February than

the Berlinale. Once the glamour and glitz of the Berlinale passes, on February 16 you get a second February festival in the form of “Tanzolymp”, Berlin’s international dance festival that runs from the 18th until the 21st. The festival includes competitions in a wide range of dance styles so if want to see a proper dance-off, be it classical, modern or even tap this should be right up your alley.


erlin’s center role in Euro­ pe’s history means that a huge responsibility is placed on this city to preserve in an honest and truthful way, the accounts of the past. This explains the endless museums, monuments and permanent exhi­­bitions on everything from a full size Greek temple to life during the DDR. If Berlin excels at anything, it’s the museums. So any month of the year, be sure to allocate some time for at least two or three of those. My favorites include the Jewish Museum, a phenomenal building housing two millennia of German Jewish history; the DDR museum, a hands-on, playful yet


truthful account of life during the DDR; Hamburger Bahnhof, an old railway station that now houses a collection of contemporary art; The German Bundestag historical exhibition in the Deutscher Dom on Gendarmenmarkt where you’ll get an overview of and great in­­ sight into German political history and the Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg Museum right by Kottbusser Tor Station where you’ll experience an account of these hippest bor­­ oughs in Berlin in a mundane yet intriguing way.


hese were a few of my favorite things and if you get overwhelmed and feel the onset of a panic attack as you realize all the tough choices you’ll have to make, I recommend walking into a Berlin café, chatting with the locals, checking out the flyers and doing whatever you feel like for the night because in the end this is the place where any­­ thing goes. How to get there? WOW air offers flights to Berlin three times a week during the winter and spring.


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Copenhagen Crazy for

by Lilja Björk Haraldsdóttir Photos:

December Copenhagen may be the best place to go in December, if it’s Christ­­­­ mas spirit and a cozy atmos­phere you’re seeking. The Danes are big on making this season, joy­­o­us with shops decorating their windows, people selling sugar almonds and pancakes on the street, choirs sing­­ ing hymns and with the general Christmas spirit everywhere. If you are in Copen­­­­hagen in the beginning of Dec­­ember make sure you catch a glimpse of when they light up the big Christmas tree at City Hall (December 1st); a splendid way to inaugurate this joyous season. But Christmas is also about shopp­­­­ing and you are just in time for Copenhagen’s annual Christ­­ mas Flea market. The flea market is abundant with precious finds

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at really low prices such as Royal porcelain plates and beautifully pre­­­­served clothes and furniture. Just remember that when shopping in flea markets always bring cash and an extra pair of strong arms to help carry off your booty.


f course you have to take a walk down Strøget, the longest pe­­destrian shopp­ ing area in Europe where some of the most famous and exclusive stores can be found. It is a shopping heaven for those looking for the perfect gift, a souv­­en­ir or simply to have some ex­­cell­ent retail therapeutic-time. If your up for some local crafts and design make sure to wander in and out of the little side streets of Strøget to find peculiar shops, cozy hidden cafés

and other gems. And while you are there, you mustn’t forget the Tivoli in the city center, probably the most Christ­­massy place around, and check out their Christmas program with con­­certs, shows and markets. If you are staying in the city over New Year’s Eve you should join countless Copenhagen locals and visitors on the square of Ama­­lien­­ borg, the Royal Palace, who cele­­­ brate the arrival of the New Year and wish each other Happy New Year. It’s also a great chance to see the Royal Guard Parade in their red gala uniforms.

January The lovely city of Copenhagen sure gets cold in January but that should not stop you from paying it a visit! Just imagine how the many fairy

tales of Hans Christian Andersen come to life as you stroll around the city in its winter coat, exploring the Tivoli or huddling up inside some cosy café for a steamy cup of cocoa or Gløgg. Then head down Strøget for selective shopping at the winter sales and stop by Kong­­ ens Nytorv or observe the Royal Danish Theater to sense the history of this remarkable city. After a good day of shopping and other excursions sit down at one of the many restaurants in Ny­­havn to partake of the lively Scandi­­navian atmosphere and de­­licious delicacies and then if you like, pop into one of Copenhagens Jazzclubs such as Jazzhus Mont­martre or Jazzhouse for a cock­­tail and some fine music. For those interested in art and design there is a lot happening in January and what better way to spend the cold winter days than being inspired inside one of the beautiful and warm museums of Copenhagen? Until the 12th of January, you can dream yourself away to warmer locations and ex­­ perience the life of Mexican sur­rea­ list artist Frida Kahlo in the exhibition A life in art at the Arken Museum of Modern Art. For a glimpse into a slightly colder region, namely Greenland, check out The Danish Architecture Centre’s exhibition; Greenland – Head for the center of the world where you are invited on a sen­­­suous and exciting journey to mod­­ern Greenland. The exhibition works at explaining the country’s oppor­­tunities and challenges that have opened to its people in recent years.

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A WOW winter city

A trip to Copenhagen will never be complete without seeing the statue of the Little Mermaid.


or a genuine art lover no visit to Copenhagen is com­­ plete without visiting the two main museums: The National Museum and Louisiana. Both of them have outstanding exhibitions throughout the year and this winter you can explore the dream world of geishas, samurais and cherry blossoms in Japan at the National Museum or the magnetic lure of the


Arctic and expressionist paintings at Louisiana. If you’ve had enough of art, why not spend a day at the Carlsberg brewery in Vesterbro indulging in the history of this 150 year old brewing company and tasting their fine products! A trip to Copenhagen will never be complete without seeing the statue of the Little Mermaid, which was sculpted based on the much loved fairytale of Hans Christian Andersen. Funny enough the statute’s head was modeled after a prima ballerina while the body was modeled after the sculptor’s wife when the ballerina refused to pose nude.

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Copenhagen in February is all about festivals, festivals, festi­­vals and lighting up the winter dark­­ ness, then some more festivals. The one that holds it all together is the Wondercool Copenhagen Festival that runs for the whole month; it features events and exhi­­ bitions citywide, offering a variety of everything from jazz, rock, fas­ hion, food, design, art and a lot more. Check out www.wonder­­­cool­ for more details. Copenhagen Cooking is part of the Wondercool program and focuses, as the title points out, on culinary activities. It’s Northern Europe’s largest food festival cele­­ brating seasonal produce and high quality cooking. So if you are a food lover make sure not to miss this fancy festival that runs for the whole month of February.


f performance art excites you more, the Frost Festival should be the thing to see. With a series of curated events taking place in both established and alternative venues across the city it presents a wide range of both Danish and

international high quality acts, with of Montreal (US) being the first band announced. Of course there is the outstand­­ ing Copenhagen Fashion Festival’s winter edition at the beginning of the month (January 29 – Febr­ uary 2). It hosts a number of pub­lic events at venues citywide displaying the latest in Danish and international fashion design. In line and tune, with this month’s theme, the Winterjazz Festival (February 7-23) does not disa­­ ppoint those interested in jazz and having a good time. It’s a part of a nationwide event and hosts concerts at Copenhagen’s legendary jazz clubs like Jazzhus Mont­­martre, La Fontaine, Copen­­ hagen Jazzhouse and The Standard. And then we have Liquorice! The Danes are so crazy about liquorice (much like us Icelanders) that they have their own festival to celebrate it! The Liquorice Festival runs for two days in the end of February (22 - 23) and gives you an opportunity to discover the luscious world of liquorice, including a liquorice cuis­­ ine! Yummy!


or a little more sophisticated visit to dearest Copenhagen we recommend Copenhagen Dining Week where a host of the city’s leading gourmet restaurants offer dining evenings with top-rate cuisine at very affordable prices. After dining out it’s an excell­ent idea to enjoy an evening of classi­­ cal music or ballet and from Febr­ uary 17 you can do both. The K&K Philharmonic and Ballet perform works by Johan Strauss at DK Concert Hall and The Royal Danish Ballet performs Manon at the Royal Danish Theatre! With so much happening it’s clearly a good idea to visit good ole Copenhagen this February!

Copenhagen in February is all about festivals, festivals, festivals and lighting up the winter darkness. How to get there? WOW air flies to Copenhagen 10 times a week.


Book your ticket online & save time for relaxing

The future is now

Aries 21 March - 19 April You have recently received some equipment with a manual. Please give it a quick read so as to avoid problems later. You should buy some new electron­ ics. Cups of tea and coffee will start to collect on your desk to­ day as you try to get everything done under the heady influence of a bucket of caffeine. Jesus himself could not have done a better job than you today.



22 June - 22 July

23 September - 23 October Put your mental abilities to the test today and figure out how best to spend your money in a non-frivolous way. It’s time to lower your standards in order to find true love but beware, marry­ ing your own pets is not allowed in most countries. Test your­ self today by walking around seminude. However, please take note, seminude does not mean just-clothed top halves.

Telephone salesmen may come through for you this week and offer you something useful and at a decent price. Your daily rit­ uals are what’s keep you going. Avoid the temptation to change your ways, lest you become half the person you are today. Being a storyteller is good, but avoid narrating every detail you see and do, to everyone that comes your way.

Aquarius 20 January - 18 February

Scorpio Leo 23 July - 22 August

Taurus 20 April - 20 May The mental problem you are hav­ ing may subside later this week once you relax. Memory can often plays tricks on people - consider tricking your memory by getting a lobotomy. Repetition may annoy you today as someone close by tells you the same damned story over and over again. The loboto­ my may be a solution.


Sweet, sticky, orange stuff: possi­ bly marmalade or an orange lolly. We’re not quite sure what it is, or what it has to do with you these days ... but it definitely features. If you don’t like orange - don’t panic! It might taste like some­ thing completely different, like sausages…or beans. Yes, it could be beans! The next few weeks are going to be a very merry-goround of feelings but by the end of the month you’ll realize that it’s all been for the best. Speaking of which, good news will come from a stranger who will predict a mixture of happiness and sadness that will resolve itself before the year is over.

21 May - 21 June


Everything you have done is brill­iant and you will get the re­ ward you richly deserve but pre­ senting yourself with homemade cardboard awards is probably not the most encouraging way to go about giving yourself a morale boost. Creeping around on your tiptoes is all very well and good, but driving like that may not be so popular with your passengers.

Thinking and driving at the same time can be hazardous for you today. If you never liked sprouts before, try them again. You might be surprised. If you are itching to experiment by adding various plants to your diet - avoid those with 3 leaves. It may make matters worse. Your favorite color will soon start to look a little different.

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hasn’t affected you in the way you need it to. You do have ro­ mance in your heart but it needs to be released. Relax all your muscles, perhaps excluding any sphincters, and then tense them all again. Then relax again. Now go get ‘em! (Warning: if you hear a bubbly sound and smell some­ thing unpleasant you are doing it wrong.) Ten people will confess a manic love for you today. Make sure to file for a restraining order if an Aquarius is among them.

23 August - 22 September

24 October - 21 November You will win large compensation in a court case this month, but you’ll still have to live with that botched plastic surgery and your extra boob. This will make you a little sad at first but then you’ll realize the boob is a great conversation piece and begin having fun with it. Watch out for overweight dogs when it’s raining.

Back in school when people bullied you about your hair and possibly the jacket, you swore you’d have your revenge. Make today that day. Many of the people you admire are going to have incredible fortune this week. It turns out that the anti-stalking court orders they’ve filed against you are completed. Office politics may cause problems for you in the coming weeks if you arrive with a comedy tie. The way you dance around the office may also cause some to question certain aspects of your personal life.

Sagittarius 22 November - 21 December This week will see big advanc­ es in your love life. Your lonely existence will be replaced with a slightly less lonely existence when you are given a blow-up doll as a joke. Little do they know that this is exactly the gift you’ve been looking for... Some­ one close to you will squeeze your arm today in a way that will make you think that you’re “in there”. However, what you may not notice is that your sleeve is damp and sloppy and they have just passed on their cold to you.

Capricorn 22 December - 19 January To say that love is dumb is just acknowledging the fact that love

Pisces 19 February - 20 March You are feeling extremely pes­ simistic these days and in this state you start spreading butter on both sides of your bread so that if you drop it, you’ll be screwed no matter what. The stars recommend a triple decker sandwich to get you out of this dreadful state. You might also want to consider wearing colors other than black and grey, just to lighten up. We know the clothes will just become dirty and you’ll have to use the special color program on your washing ma­ chine, but please, just live a little. Disclaimer: This horoscope is total and utter nonsence. Any accuracies, real or imagined by readers, are purely incidental.


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Grettisgata Apartments - Stay Inga’s New Guest Apartments Reykjavik Downtown Hostel

32 Túngata

CenterHotel Arnarhvoll

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Keflavik Airport

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4th Floor Hotel

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Kex Hostel

Reykjavík Backpackers Hostel Reykjavík Centrum Hotel

Adam Guesthouse

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Laugardalur camp site

Aktu Taktu - Garðabær

CenterHotel Skjaldbreid

Hafnarfjörður Guesthouse

Laxnes Horse Farm

Reykjavík Domestic Airport

Alba Guesthouse

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Leifur Eiríksson Htel

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Hlemmur Square

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Anna Guesthouse

Central Guesthouse

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Apartment K

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Hotel 66

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AR Guesthouse

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Hotel Björk

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Arctic Adventure Laugavegur Domus Guesthouse

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Sjómannaheimilið Örkin

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Eric The Red Guesthouse

Hotel Klettur

Our House

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Flying Viking Guesthouse

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Transfers are available after each scheduled incoming flight. Tickets are available at our tour desk located in the arrival hall.

Best Western Hotel Reykjavik Fosshotel Baron

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Price from 1.900 ISK

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Gallery Central

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Welcome Apartments

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Visit our Sales Office at Lækjartorg Square. Book your tours online at or call us at +354 540 1313

Really, really bored? Here are a few sudokus to make time fly. But how do I do it?


128 覺 WOW is in the air

The object is to insert the numbers in the boxes to satisfy only one condition: each row, column and 3x3 box must contain the digits 1 through 9 exactly once. What could be simpler?

fly into a relaxing holiday with

Laugar Spa

Situated in the heart of Reykjavik, the Laugar Spa offers a wellness center for your whole family. Enjoy our luxury health spa and ensure your body and soul feel their best. Laugar’s outdoor and indoor thermal pools, beauty and massage clinic, unique fitness center combined with luxury spa will help you breeze into a wonderful and relaxing holiday.

Laugar Sundlaugarvegur 30a 105 Reykjavik Tel. +354 553 0000

Laugar Opening hours Mon - Fri 06:00 - 23:30 Sat 08:00 - 22:00 Sun 08:00 - 20:00








q ui sit


Daníel Geir Moritz became a well known name in Iceland when he won the title “Funniest Man in Iceland” in 2011. Since then he’s been an entertainer and a lecturer, worked in music and been a substitu­ te teacher while working on his master’s degree in writing. Daníel recently published his first book, a self-help book called Að prumpa glimmeri (Farting Glitter). We recently apprehended this funny guy and made him reveal some of his traveling secrets.

He’s a riot! by Dísa Bjarnadóttir Photo: Eggert Jóhannesson

What are some of the favorite places you’ve visited abroad? “It’s really the Faroe Islands. I’ve been there three times and I believe it’s where they invented hospitality. It’s brilliant, seeing dogs walk around everywhere without a leash, while calves are leashed up close to the houses. Buda­­pest is also a very memora­ ble place. I took an evening boat ride on the river Danube in Buda­­­pest where there was a band playing, bass, classic guit­­ar and the works. To sail the Danu­­be Riv­­er at night and watch Buda and Pest is a wonderful experience. But the most fun trip I’ve taken abroad was to Play del Carmen in Mexico. It was a graduation trip with the Teaching Academy of Iceland and we visited the Maya tribe in Mexico, which was un­­forgettable. The first night there I got my hair cut like Garga­mel (the evil wizard) from the Smurfs cartoons. The day after I got my whole head shaved, but that didn’t prevent the bartenders at the hotel from calling me Mr. Burns for the rest of my stay there. Can you share one of your most memorable experiences? “When I went to Budapest in 2006 the revolutionists cele­­­ brat­­ed the 50th anniversary of the revolution against Russians by making another revolution against the president of the coun­­try. A video had been caught

130 ı WOW is in the air

of him shortly before bragg­ing about having been re-elected by lying about the econo­­my. Me and my three mates were walking to a small parade when we were all of a sudden in the middle of massive crowd riots with thousands of people. People were being shot with rubber bull­­ets, beaten with clubs, and tear gas bombs were going off. One bomb went off so close to us that the tears started roll­­ ing. After having watched the crowd fight and scream “Via Via Hunagaria” we rushed to a bar

“Reykjavík is also a great city and I don’t think we appreciate it enough. We have a vibrant culture here with many great places to see.” and ordered drinks as fast as we could. For a young man from the small town of Neskaupsstaður this was a very dramatic and mem­­orable experience.” What is your favorite place in Iceland? “I have so many, but Norðfjörð­­ ur where I’m born and raised stands out. At the bottom of Norðfjörður there are two val­ leys and one of them Seldalur, is a great favorite of mine. Ásbyrgi is one of the most beautiful places in this country

and I really like Skógar and Vest­ manna­­eyjar. There are also two fjords in the east where no one lives that I find very beautiful: Hellisfjörður and Viðfjörður; to be there, almost alone in the world, is something that every­ one should try. “Reykjavík is also a great city and I don’t think we appreciate it enough. We have a vibrant culture here with many great places to see such as Ægisíða, Hljóm­­skálagarðurinn, Laugardal­ ur and many more.” In your opinion, what’s the one thing that visitors to Iceland shouldn’t miss? “Jölulsárlón is what first comes to mind. It’s probably one of the most stunning gems in our treas­ ure trove of nature’s jewels. And even though I love Gullfoss, I’ve always preferred Dettisfoss be­ cause the tremendous power of the raging water there. Something

that both foreigners and Iceland­ ers should go to is Grundafjörður to see Mount Kirkjufell. It’s like a painting done by nature. Mývatn is also a fasc­­­inating place that everyone should visit. “People looking for music and a good party should try the music festival Eistnaflug in Nes­ kaupsstaður. There you’ll hear the best rock and roll music in a fantastic place location.” Any places you’d like to visit but still haven’t? “First of all: The Westfjords of Iceland! I’ve never been there. I traveled all over the country as a child but we never went to the Westfjords and I don’t want to have to say on my deathbed that I never went there! Outside of Iceland I’d like to see more of Eastern Europe. And I’ve never been to Berlin. Also I’d like to visit Africa and Asia - one day, one day.”

Watchmaker Frank Michelsen, founder of Michelsen Watchmakers, at his desk in Sauðárkrókur, N-Iceland, in 1920.

Michelsen Reykjavík 64°N/22°W A fine mechanical self-winding movement, a 316L Stainless steel case with a scratch-resistant sapphire crystal, a black, lava-grey or silver dial and a choice of 15 different handmade leather straps. These exclusive watches are made in a limited, numbered edition.

Reykjavík 64°N/22°W Lava-grey dial Icelandic Wolffish strap

Laugavegur 15 - 101 Reykjavík - Tel. 354 511 1900 -



WORN OUT FOR CENTURIES We offer clot h i n g & ot her mer c h a nd i s e t h at r em i nd s u s of go o d old Ic el a nd

– Visit our stores: 101 Reykjavík, Akureyri and Haukadal. –

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