One month in… REYKJAVÍK

2004-2014: 10 years, 10 cities, 10 language schools!

10 one-month stays, sometimes longer…

Small tribute to each of the ten cities, from A to Z.

Last one: Reykjavík.

A tribute to both Reykjavík and Iceland.


A like… Aurora borealis.

It means northern lights in Latin and can be spotted in Reykjavík. See “N” as well.

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B like… Bónus. Bónus is kind of the equivalent of Swiss supermarket Migros.


C like… There is no ‘c’ in the Icelandic alphabet.

On the other hand, they have got ð, þ and æ.


D like… Density of population. Very low in Iceland: 3.2 inhabitants per square kilometre. Kind of high in Reykjavík: as high as 446 inhabitants per square kilometre.


E like… Elliðaárdalur. Almost as hard to pronounce as Eyjafjallajökull, Elliðaárdalur is not an insult in Icelandic, but a valley. And where is this valley? Inside the city of Reykjavík! It is crossed by Elliðaá river and goes from lake Elliðavatn to the ocean.


F like… Faxáfloi. It’s a bay. Reykjavík is situated on its southern shore.


G like… Gnarr. Jón Gnarr. Former Mayor of Reykjavík (2010-2014) and comedian.


H like… Happísland. To know everything about the life in Iceland, do not hesitate to read Happísland, my short story. See as well “More about life in Reykjavík” at the end of this blogpost.


I like… Ice hockey in Iceland, not really.

In February, as in January, the weather is constantly changing. The days are slightly longer. The temperature is invariably stuck between -5° and +5°. Consequently, it freezes, unfreezes, snows, rains, melts, etc. That explains why the land of ice does not have a tradition for ice hockey as we* do. As Canada and Russia do, as well as the rest of Scandinavia too. The winter can be harsh, due to the storms and humidity, but it does not give the ice a chance of staying for long. Hence, handball is the major sport here.” (extract from Happísland, see letter “H” and “More about life in Reykjavík” at the end of this blogpost)

*: in Switzerland


J like… Jólasveinarnir.

Called Yule Lads in English, they are the Icelandic Santa Clauses.

Another extract from Happísland (see letter “H” and “More about life in Reykjavík” at the end of this blogpost):

Yes, you did read that right. Not one Santa Claus. Thirteen Santa! They show up one per day, the thirteen last days before Christmas. Each one of them puts a present in the shoes of the well-behaved children, or a rotten potato for those who did not behave well enough. And one per day they leave, during the thirteen days after Christmas up until Epiphany.

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Sviss Jólasveinn


K like… Krónan. Krónan is kind of the equivalent of Swiss supermarket Coop.


L like… Le Pourquoi Pas?

The Pourquoi Pas? IV is a ship that sank in Iceland in 1936.

It is now the name of a yearly newspaper, published in Iceland in French.

In the 2015 issue, you can find one of my poems.


M like… Midnight. There is no midnight sun in Reykjavík, as it is located just below the polar circle, as all of Iceland but the tiny island of  Grímsey.


N like… Norðurljós.

Norðurljós can be literally translated into “northern lights”. To know if the conditions are favourable to their observation, you may follow this link.  See letter “A” as well. And have a look at the video below, representing my best-of-Reykjavík auroras 2014-2015.


O like… Oh, see, all the wild geese!

Yes, wild geese do fly over Reykjavík and make regular stopovers in the grass or the snow.


P like… Píratar. The Pirate Party has more than 30% of voting intention, far better than any other party. If Icelanders were to vote today, the Prime Minister would be a pirate! But the elections are still far away (2017)…


Q like… Quantity of swimming pools. 17 thermal pools just in the Reykjavík area. More than 120 for the whole country. That is more than one per 3000 inhabitants.


R like… Rauðavatn. It is the name of stopover number 48 of my collection of poems “Eighty-One Stopovers” whose appendix states: “Rauðavatn: Red Lake (in Icelandic), near which most of the poems of this collection have been written.”

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S like… Sviss. The word Sviss is mostly visible in coffee houses, as it is served as Súper Sviss and Sviss Mokka. If you wish to know the difference between Súper Sviss and Sviss Mokka, and their relationship with Switzerland, just read Happísland (see letter “H” and “More about life in Reykjavík” at the end of this blogpost).


T like… Transports (public -), public transports.

Another quote from Happísland (see letter “H” and “More about life in Reykjavík” at the end of this blogpost):

“Icelandic paradox: despite of the huge amount of space at their disposal, there is a traffic jam every weekday on Reykjavík’s main highway! Once in the morning, when the desks open. Once late afternoon, when they close. Time to point out the lack of public transport which is limited to some buses, very useful but not sufficient in number, making the car almost an imperative purchase. OK, it’s a small capital, too small for underground. However: no train, no tramway, it’s a shame!


U like… Ur.

It is the common ending for numerous masculine names in nominative (= when the name is the subject of the sentence).

A dog” is thus “hundur” in Icelandic. The root “hund” + the ending “-ur” = hundur.

The dog” is instead “hundurinn”. Root (“hund”) + nominative ending (“-ur”) + definite article (-inn) = hundurinn.


V like… Volcanoes. Icelandic volcanoes are regularly active, like the world famous Eyjafjallajökull (2010) and more recently Holuhraun in 2014. I was lucky enough to fly over erupting Holuhraun (see video below)…


W like… Wow Air.

A low cost airline with ideas, like to offer discounted prices on transatlantic flights.

Example: London – Montréal via Keflavík (Iceland) from £ 149.

Another idea, not as bright: make passenger pay extra charges for cabin luggage exceeding 5 kg.


X like… LaXness, Halldór Laxness.

Born in 1902 in Reykjavík, Halldór Laxness won in 1955 the Nobel Prize for Literature.


Y like… Yippee, sheep!

Last quote from Happísland (see letter “H” and “More about life in Reykjavík” at the end of this blogpost):

“Following a bet I unfortunately lost (I won’t go into details), they introduced me to “svið”, which has nothing to do with Swiss. They made me eat the svið with a spoon. And what is that not-Swiss svið, will you ask? Sheep head! The full thing! On my plate. Bones included! And the eyes… Fortunately, they did not force me to eat the eyes. Yes, everything is good in the sheep, from head to tail, including everything in between!


Z like… Zuism.

Zuism is an old Sumerian religion, now popular in Iceland as more than 1% of its population recently joined in. Mostly to escape an archaic and medieval tax that forces every citizen to sponsor a religion, even if having none. By joining Zuism, Icelanders can get that unfair tax back.

More about life in Reykjavík, via Happísland:

Enjoy your (e-)reading experience!