Saturday, March 10, 2007

Reykjavik Report Part 1of N

You can tell it's Reykjavik because of the Hallgrimskirkja back there.

We recently took a break from the corporate grind to do something completely different in a place which was completely different from our usual environment (except for everybody still speaking English), namely, Reykjavik and the surrounding region in Southwestern Iceland.

The stated goal was to see the Northern Lights, which I very much wanted to see. Given that the Northern Lights are not particularly predictable, we needed to go someplace that would still be a cool place to be if there were no Northern Lights, so we chose Iceland. Actually my wife chose Iceland. The whole thing was a surprise for me in honor of my turning 37 (time is running out, see the Northern Lights now. See the glaciers before they melt away).

We were there for 3 nights which was great, but we were sorry to leave. The past week I've been checking out various Iceland related websites (the Grapevine, Iceland's English Language newspaper, is a good one) when I need a 5 minute mental vacation from the tedium, the ongoing struggles between the fragile egos, and the ridiculous requests to do stupid demeaning shit.

As the Chinese proverb goes, the journey of a thousand miles begins with a miserable airline experience, but things started off smoothly enough travelling from Indianapolis to JFK airport. There some Australian asshole wearing a blingy New York Yankees cap and fancy jacket (maybe he was rich or famous, I don't know) cut in front of everyone in line at the British Airways desk only to be given the what-for by an elderly woman in line in front of us.

We had dinner at the airport and the $8 margaritas were good preparation for the priciness of food in general we were to encounter in Iceland (the conversion rate was 67 ISK to 1 USD, which doesn't tell you much. A better way to put it is to imagine a Starbucks ($3 coffee)/Football Stadium ($4.50 hot dog) food pricing scheme generalized to everything). We eventually got on the plane, where we waited at the gate for 2+ hours while the maintenance crew fixed something or another so we wouldn't crash into the North Atlantic and find out whether we'd freeze or drown first. The flight attendants handed out a paper in Icelandic, which we looked through and wondered at all the ways there is to make the 'th' sound.

Despite the assistance of alcohol and the Dalai Lama Maroon neck pillow purchased at the airport, as always I was unable to sleep on the plane. So I noticed around 3am somebody had decided it would be a good idea to have the Dustin Hoffman transvestite vehicle Tootsie as the in-flight movie. OK.

A couple hours later while walking up and down the aisle, I heard the captain give a very long announcement in Icelandic, and figured we must be near our destination, which the follow-up in English confirmed. Having worked some of the stiffness out of my legs, I was very excited despite my tiredness and the documentary on Kenny G that followed Tootsie on the Monitor Screens.

After waiting in a couple of lines, we got on the FlyBus and made our way from Keflavik (check out the cool 'sperm penetrating the egg' sculpture) to Reykjavik. In my extremely sleepy state I did my best to ignore the American photographer and the Icelandic businesswoman trying to impress each other so I could check out the landscape, which doesn't really look like Earth. There's lots of black, cracked volcanic rock in the foreground, covered with very short green lichens that take 70 years to grow, with beautiful mountains and the ocean in the distance. There are no animals anywhere (except the occasional bird), yet there's life everywhere. Little scrubby bits of non-sentient life, but still, life.

We ended up at the bus terminal where there's a Restaurant called 'Fljott og Gott' (Something and Goat). The logo is a happy cartoon chef holding a platter which has a sheep's head on it, and the (singed) head is sporting a baseball cap at a jaunty angle. He is like the Flavor Flav of decapitated sheep. Unfortunately I can't find this image on the web, just an uninteresting alternative with a hamburger instead of a goat's head. I would like a t-shirt with this logo, but it's probably not to be.

There were no goat's heads or rotten shark (Hakarl) to be found inside, though. Just assorted sandwiches, Viking Beer (with 2% alcohol content, now you too can drink like a Viking), and skyr, a thick Icelandic yogurt which is delicious! We picked up some skyr, water, and a free copy of the aforementioned 'Grapevine', with the cover 'The U.S. vs. Laxness', which in my ignorance, I thought had something to do with American can-do spirit and perkiness conquering laziness and ennui or something. Halldor Laxness was an Icelandic author who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1955.

Our brusque driver dropped us off at the Hotel Odinsve (Odin's Dwelling) on Thorsgata (Thor's Street). Really.

We decided to start things off by sleeping for a couple of hours as we were running on fumes at this point.

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