In the run-up to Christmas, there’s no end of things to do; presents to buy and deliver, general cleaning, and food preparations for what is arguably the most important meal of the year. It’s understandable that you may crave a distraction from the holiday season and a reminder of other things happening apart from Christmas.

Being a relatively small nation, some of the stories to make headlines in Iceland can seem quite quaint and even cute at times. We’ve scoured the headlines to find the most curious and amusing anecdotes from the past week to momentarily distract you from any seasonal stress.

Cat Abduction

Baktus the Cat has been found! Photo Credit: Facebook/Gyllti kötturinn

In a strange series of events, a cat was abducted from downtown Reykjavík by a tourist and taken by taxi to the suburb of Breiðholt which is at least a 15-minute drive from the city centre. The abductor then tried to dodge the cab fare by running away at which point Baktus the cat managed to escape into a strange and unfamiliar neighbourhood.

There are many outdoor cats in Reykjavík, and they come and go from their owners’ (and sometimes neighbours’!) properties as they please. Visitors often make the mistake of assuming that a cat on the streets is lost and transgress further when they try to ‘help’. In nearly all instances, attempts to help do more harm than good, especially when the cat is taken away from an area it is familiar with causing it undue stress.

The Strange Series of Events as seen on Instagram

Thankfully, a bystander witnessed the strange cat-napping and contacted Baktus’ owners. The details of his snatching were then shared to Facebook alongside a bid for Breiðholt locals to keep an eye upon for the missing moggy. The post soon went viral among Reykjavík residents, and Baktus was quickly located and returned home.

As a cat of downtown Reykjavík, Baktus is somewhat of a famous feline and is known to loll in the shops along Laugavegur. Many felt compelled to share the Facebook post in an effort to spread the word and hasten his return home. These endeavours and the speediness with which Baktus was found demonstrate perfectly the small-town feel of this unique capital city and the power of social media in such a close community.

The motives of the person who took him are still not clear, but Baktus’ guardians plan to press charges.

Books are the Most Popular Christmas Present in Iceland

Iceland is a nation of bookworms, publishing more books per capita than anywhere else in the world. One in every ten Icelanders has published a book, and in 2011, Reykjavík was designated an official Unesco city of literature.

It may not come as a surprise then, that when surveyed, the people of Iceland chose books as the most desirable gifts they hope to receive this holiday season.

A favourite activity for many Icelanders during the holiday period is to curl up under a blanket with a new book. As soon as there’s a free moment, family members will sneak away to preferred private spots and dive into page-turning plots.

See Also: Icelanders & Their Big Love of Books

Iceland’s deep love of books and stories undoubtedly stems from the nation’s long-standing storytelling tradition which, for centuries, shaped an intrinsic part of the Icelandic national identity. During long winter nights, telling stories and reciting poetry was often the only source of entertainment as families busied away with chores such as knitting or churning butter.

Icelanders not only love to receive books but also relish discussing them! The topic of many a conversation will be what they’ve read recently, and book reviews are rampant.

Some Icelandic authors are available in English, so why not treat yourself to an old Icelandic favourite this Christmas?

Iceland to Represent Mars

Texas A&M University plan to test their Mars Rover operations in Iceland as part of a NASA funded research project that will cost over 1M USD. But why Iceland?

In order to refine extra-terrestrial equipment, scientists seek out environments similar to those they will be exploring in the far reaches of the solar system—and Iceland, it so happens, is relatively close in nature to Mars.

Most of the earth is made up of lighter quartz-like minerals whereas Iceland, like Mars, is abound with rocks composed of dark minerals. In the summer of 2019, scientists will bring a Mars Rover to Iceland and test various operational scenarios as well as communication channels as though the robot was actually on Mars.

This is just further proof of the otherworldly character of this Land of Fire and Ice.

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