Hiker Completes 300 km Postal Route for Charity

Hiker Einar Skúlason

Hiker Einar Skúlason finished an 11 day trek along an old northeastern postal route this Friday, raising over ISK 1 Million [$7300, €6600] for The Akureyri Cancer Society. He acted as a real-life postal worker during the trek, delivering Christmas cards along the way, Mbl.is reports.

Einar has previously hiked a number of other old postal routes, which were used before modern roads allowed for safer and quicker travel between rural communities. His latest journey started in the eastern town of Seyðisfjörður on the East Coast on December 4. “I stopped at a few places along the way, as the postal workers used to do back in the day,” Einar told Mbl.is as he concluded the walk in Akureyri. “I visited places like Möðrudalur and Grímsstaður á Fjöllum and got lodging and food like they did in the old days.”

Most of the nights Einar stayed in a tent which he carried on his back along with other supplies, a 30 kg extra weight in total. “I didn’t know if I’d make it in time for Christmas, if there would be any low points, how the weather would be and whether something would happen to me on the way,” he added. “There is always a risk involved carrying such a heavy backpack.”

Freezing cold during the hike

The route is nearly 300 km long, but Einar was able to stop at a number of natural baths along the way to ease his sore muscles and warm himself up. “It was frightfully cold on the way, usually a double digit number below zero, sometimes 15 to 20 degrees freezing,” Einar said. “But the day before yesterday it was 17 below by Mývatn, but then suddenly zero degrees at midnight.”

Einar raised money for The Akureyri Cancer Society from online pledges and fees for the Christmas greetings he delivered on the way. “The Society does great work. So I called them up and asked if I should raise money for them,” he said, adding that promoting the Society’s work is an added benefit, which will hopefully encourage people in need to reach out to them.

Skull Traced to 18th-Century Danish Woman

Katrín Jakobsdóttir, Residence of Minister

Human skull fragments, discovered under the floorboards in the attic of the Prime Minister’s Residence in Tjarnargata this fall, have now been analysed by deCODE genetics. Experts announced this Friday that the skull belonged to a Danish woman who most likely lived and died in Iceland in the 18th century, Vísir reports.

The discovery of the skull sparked curiosity, but no criminal activity was ever suspected. Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir, herself a scholar and author of crime novels, said at the time that finding human remains in such a noteworthy setting should provide intriguing story material.

Brown hair and brown eyes

At yesterday’s press conference at the Residence, however, it was confirmed that no foul play was involved. CEO of deCODE, Kári Stefánsson said that distant relatives of the woman can be found in Denmark, but that Danish authorities did not allow further inquiry into which Danish people she was related to. Geneticists Agnar Helgason and Sunna Ebenesersdóttir introduced the findings and revealed that the woman may have had brown hair and brown eyes. No descendants or relatives of hers exist in Iceland.

Agnar mentioned a theory that the woman’s remains may have originated from nearby Víkurkirkjugarður cemetery. Major construction has taken place in the area throughout the years and human remains have regularly been discovered as a result.

Recent renovations

Renovation work, including enhanced fire protection measures, recently commenced at the Minister’s Residence. Significant modifications were previously carried out in 1980, and additional upgrades were made toward the end of the 20th century. The investment in maintenance work comes as the residence has seen increased use in recent years, particularly for governmental meetings and similar functions.

The minister’s residence in Reykjavík has a storied history, originating as a one-story log house built in 1892 by Norwegian Hans Ellefssen for his whaling station in Önundarfjörður. Sold to Iceland’s first minister, Hannes Hafstein, for a nominal fee, the house was disassembled and moved to Reykjavík in the early 20th century. It served as the official residence for Icelandic prime ministers until the 1940s, with its last occupant being Hermann Jónasson. Over the years, the residence has hosted various dignitaries including David Ben Gurion and Duke Philip of Edinburgh, and has been used for receptions and meetings.

New Payment App to Launch in 2024

Smartphone

The Central Bank of Iceland is spearheading a new mobile payment app for smartphones to be introduced as early as fall of 2024, Heimildin reports. When up and running, the app should help lower prices and stabilise payment systems, according to Central Bank Deputy Governor Gunnar Jakobsson. Over 90 percent of transactions in Iceland are now made with payment cards.

Similar to apps in Denmark, Sweden and Poland

Icelandic financial institutions and the Central Bank have agreed on developing the peer-to-peer payment solution that would allow consumers to purchase goods and services without using the payment systems of VISA or Mastercard. The consumer could download this app to their phone and pay with a direct bank transfer. The service would be similar to MobilPay in Denmark, Swish in Sweden and Blik in Poland.

Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir is expected to introduce a bill requiring financial institutions to participate, which Alþingi will need to pass into law. The goal for the authorities is to increase the stability and security of payment systems in Iceland, with the possible side effect of bringing down costs of financial transactions in the country with a less expensive solution. As it stands, Icelanders spend more on credit card fees than their Nordic counterparts.

Market to dictate who benefits

Only two to three percent of payments in Iceland are concluded with cash payments, with the vast majority made with cards. Gunnar says that this split is unacceptable in the eyes of the Central Bank from a security standpoint. For example, a cyber attack on a service provider in November stopped payments for hours. He argues that a middle solution of simplified bank transfers would increase stability and also reduce the costs that consumers face for their everyday card use.

“It’s often hard to think of the whole picture, but if we manage to lower the cost of payment systems in the country, economics tell us that it should eventually lead to lower prices,” Gunnar told Heimildin. “Who benefits from lower prices, whether it will be the consumer or the provider of goods and services, is something that market competition will dictate.”