On my first day in Reykjavik on June 20, I had a challenge: To stay awake until it was time to go to bed on Greenwich Mean Time.The problem is, I started the day on Pacific Daylight Time, which added seven hours to the usual twenty-four.
By the way, there is no Daylight Savings Time in Iceland because—duh!—it’s the Land of the Midnight Sun, and it remains light at all hours.
One way I managed this was to take GoEcco’s Haunted Walk of Reykjavik. From my readings in the Medieval Sagas, I was already interested in Icelandic ghosts, so it was a natural for me. I was fortunate that the walk was given by a historian familiar with the Sagas (shown below).
One of the places we visited was Fossvogur Cemetery near the University. Our guide told us an interesting story about an old Icelandic custom:
Icelandic folk beliefs hold that the first person to be buried in a cemetery will be its ’guardian’ and that the body will not rot but serve to watch over those arriving later. In Fossvogur the ‘guardian’ is Gunnar Hinriksson, a weaver, buried there on 2nd September 1932.
The tombstone of the cemetery guardian contains the image of a lit oil lamp as shown in the top photograph. Now, not everyone wanted their loved ones to serve as the guardian of the cemetery for all time; and, in fact, a number of people who died prior to 1932 were buried there.
Fossvogur is one of two cemeteries I visited in Iceland. The other was on Heimaey in the Westman Islands. I remembered videos of the 1973 eruption of the volcano Eldfell that showed a fall of ash and lava that covered the cemetery to a depth of several feet. It was cleaned up and is now in immaculate condition.