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My Reykjavik Journal

"In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit...dear God, if it’s in your plan for me to be in a plane crash, please let it be on the way home."


8 PM. Reykjavik, Tower Guesthouse. I'm finding it hard to believe that we arrived just this morning. Just after 6 AM. A lovely nap in the middle of the day has given us two days for the price of one. The flight here was both short and long at the same time. Only four and a half hours in the air--but uncomfortable seats and wretched food and a lame ass movie made it seem interminable. Oh, and there's also my fear of taking off and landing. But that mostly exhibits itself in sweaty palms and silent prayers that go something like: "God, if it’s in your plan for me to be in a plane crash, please let it be on the way home." (On the way home, the prayer is something like: "I still have so much to offer the world! Oh, and God, please note, there are innocent children on this flight!!").

Our first glimpse of Iceland was, not surprisingly, the airport. And a cozy airport it was. One unique feature is the opportunity to shop duty free on your way into the country. And a good place to do some too if you're a smoker or a drinker. This reminds me: if you are planning to go to Iceland, remember that prices for a lot of things are fairly high. Please don't complain about it when you get there. Just deal with it. Remember you chose Iceland and all that comes with it. But I didn't find the prices to be excruciatingly high. First of all, cigarettes cost the same as they do in Massachusetts, though I guess if you're from North Carolina the 500 kronur might seem a bit steep.

Keflavik Airport was a breeze. Passport control, money exchange, baggage claim, and customs all went smoothly. It was even easy to find the Reykjavik Excursions bus into town.

Oh, I almost forgot the highlight of the flight:

PASSENGER: Stewardess, my seat won't stay in the upright position.

STEWARDESS (without missing a beat or fully stopping on her way down the aisle): Oh what a pity! Thank you for telling me.

As I write all of this I'm sitting here drinking a Tuborg, well a low-alcohol (2.25%) Tuborg. But I don't mind the halfway to O'Doul's taste of it. Not for a mere 100 kronur. And the best thing is, you get to drink twice as many of them. Or something like that. Beers--real beers--at the bar cost at least $6. But that's okay too.

Oh, back to the airport bus--the bus let us off at a hotel near the city airport and we had to get a cab from there to the Tower. The cab driver--a kindly-looking older gentleman--took us on a French Connection-style chase scene drive through Reykjavik. At one point, as we squeezed between cars parked on either side of a narrow road, I saw the speedometer. We were doing nearly double the posted speed limit. It was scary, but funny too, especially when we pulled out of one street onto another, disregarding the oncoming traffic. All that fun for just 900 kronur.

The hotel suite is wonderful. Better than I had dreamed and well worth the price. Gudmundur, the proprietor, seems very nice. We'll have to get some dining recommendations from him. He gave a couple this morning, but it was 8 AM or so (really 4 AM to us) and a lot of what he said washed over me.

We had a great, light dinner at the Cafe Paris. I had a baguette with olive spread and sun-dried tomatoes. So so good. Well, that's all for now.

FOR THOSE OF YOU ABOUT TO ROKK: Grand Rokk rawks!! I loved the instant energy the band created. And I loved that I found out what Einar Orn is doing nowadays (he played there last night). The blonde guy (hey, narrow it down) in the mosh pit was worth the 1000 kronur admission. More tomorrow...

WHAT’S THAT YOU SAID?: I´m posting this brief blog from the heart of Reykjavik. I’m having trouble finding all the right keys, making blogging difficult. All I can say is that my hearing has been permanently impaired by a heavy metal show we saw last night at Grand Rokk. It was great though. No one in the audience was sitting back at the bar trying to look cool and bored. Gotta love being away from home. We decided to leave as the fun was peaking which, by the way, was when people started to pour beers down each others throats: camaraderie…

As I write this a fierce wind is blowing. Part of the storm that Gudmundur warned me about yesterday. And we've had a good bit of weather today: heavy, sideways rain, winds lashing in our faces, and mild sunshiny weather. Oh, and a little bit of hale. I will say that it really hasn't rained much while we were actually outside. Thank you, elements.

DONATIONS ACCEPTED: Well, we went to the Penis Museum today. I won't point out that in two days it's our only museum visit so far. It was an interesting experience. I couldn't tell if the proprietor expected people to take it seriously--in a way he certainly does himself--I mean, lots of mammal phalluses (or is it 'phalli'?) in formaldehyde but also a section with erotic, not to mention some goofy, things related to penises. Anyway, the mood of the place changed when a group of Icelandic tourists came in with beers in knit cozies around their necks and they started hooting and hollering like they had never seen a minke whale penis before. Anyway, I'm happy to know that four human penises have already been promised to the museum so I'm off the hook.

Tomorrow, it's off to Geysir and Gullfoss and the Blue Lagoon. A busy day out of town. Hope it's a good day.

AS I SIT HERE: in the Internet Cafe, Ground Zero, three guys are playing some sort of interactive computer game, calling out directions to each other--most of them in Icelandic--until, suddenly, I hear one say: "That was a big mistake."

“We laughed at the wind”: Sunday was one of those days that’s hard to encapsulate in a few mere paragraphs: heading out to the moss-covered lava fields that surround Reykjavik, seeing an active volcano--well, it´s been three years or something like that since it erupted--enduring 70 mph winds while trying to visit Geysir (geysers are named after the place, not the other way around). OH, LET ME STOP A MOMENT TO NOTE: When the winds are about 70, geysirs just kinda spew steam sideways rather than up. Oh, and also, when the wind is blowing at you like that, small pebbles smack into your face like a challenge to a duel. But the mantra of the day was: “At least it’s not raining.”

We also got to see the rift between the two continents. Iceland splits apart at this point about 2 cm a year...Oh, and there are about 2000 small earthquakes a year here. That means we went through about 40 of them while there.

Today’s quote of the day comes all the way from ingvellir: A woman getting off one of the tour busses steps out with her camera. Briefly surveys Iceland’s most important historic site (the long time site of the Aling) and proclaims to no one in particular: “There’s nothing here.” And gets back on the bus.

We’re taking a brief break after a hectic morning of sightseeing here in Reykjavik. Okay, we went to the big church on the hill and the art museum, but that’s hectic enough after yesterday’s gale blowing in from Greenland. This afternoon we’ll shop a bit and walk the streets.

The computer gamers seem to be doing well. Someone just obliterated a monster. Smiles all around.

AN IMPROBABLE SWIMMING HOLE: On the night of the Greenland Gale we visited the Blue Lagoon for the first time. The "tour guide" on the bus we took to get there didn't seem to be a big fan. He pointed out that Icelandic people go to swimming pools in town not to this "coincidental" place; he seemed to feel we all should be doing the same. He also emphasized that the Blue Lagoon is formed by run-off from a power plant. A good point I must admit. But the evening did end in a surreal, tranquil time, brought to you courtesy of the power plant outside of Reykjavik. We spent the evening soaking away the wind effects in the lagoon, a 100 plus degree pool created by the previously mentioned water run-off. It’s milky blue and soothing and filled with wonderful minerals not to mention dead algae. One of those, ‘this is lovely but should I really be bathing here?’ places. Being there was like being in heaven. The warmth of the water and the cold cold night air invigorated and soothed me at the same time--and after a day of fighting 70 mph winds it was worth the stuffy noses and sore throats we came home with.

Tonight’s quotable quote comes from an American woman who was going on and on about her many trips as she lounged in the lagoon with her companions. She got on to the topic of all the sweaters she’s bought around the world and brought up the slew of them she bought in Scotland: "I gave them to charity. They were itchy anyway."

Tonight we are off in search of a lovely and relatively inexpensive meal. For the most part, we have become regular customers at the 10-11 grocery store. Though more expensive, we found it to be much better than the Bonus. Today we had some salsa from 10-11 that was quite a bit sweeter than we are used to. And I continue my low alcohol beer tour of Scandinavia. The "Bjarna Bragg" is not bad. The Gull (which is Icelandic) is quite good.

And I must stop a moment to recommend the hot dog (pylsur) as a cheap and interesting treat. Try it with mayonnaise; it’s better than it sounds. And you absolutely must try the fried onions. They make having hot dogs fun again.

As this seems a good place in the journal to add randumb thoughts, I will remind myself that one evening as I started to drift off to sleep I made this really strange noise in response to a question. This has nothing to do with Iceland but it’s something I want to remember because we found it so damned funny.

A LOT OF WALKINGToday we woke up to cloudy skies, a bit of rain and occasional snow flurries. None of this deterred us from going to the Botanical Gardens. It was a long walk there, but gave us more of a chance to see the city up close. We opted for the bus back downtown though, giving us yet another new Reykjavik experience. Most interesting thing about the bus: books attached to each of the seats by plastic cords. Gotta love literacy. We also walked out to the University, mostly so I could get a Haskoliislands t-shirt--which we in fact did find. It’s so cool and black. We also shopped a bit today, took some photos and hung out at Cafe Paris one last time. A very soothing place, even with the "ugly Americans" sitting next to us. And the final joy of the night: a free plastic bag from the cashier guy at the 10-11 market.

Well, we're packed, but not ready to go. Off to the Blue Lagoon tomorrow before heading back to Keflavik for our flight to Boston....

október 28, 2003 | Permalink


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It's funny to read how you experienced Iceland! I'm really happy to see that you enjoyed being here inspite of the weather changes, which I'm particularly proud of;)

Posted by: thora | 27.11.2003 19:24:45

The weather was great! I love challenging weather. Thanks for reading the journal. When I look at it I keep realizing there are so many things I forgot to talk about. Someday I'll finish it.

Posted by: j | 29.11.2003 20:54:56

I'm enjoying reading your account of Reykjavik -- found your photo of Grettisgata which google lists under my own photo. Just posted an account of our 2005 cruise which included a day in Iceland's capital.
Great to read other's account
You can read mine at

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