I had to go downstairs to the lobby full of arrivals and departures to get them to reprogram the card key so I could get my shit. Check-out time had been an hour and a half earlier. The girl at the counter smiled and gave me an hour.
I went back to the room. The guys in the room were wide awake and had been. They'd kept it down for my sake. They were awake when I'd arrived earlier and had just been relaxing and reading, waiting for the bus to some activity when I woke up. They were Australian.
"Bloody respect, mate!" said one to me. "Huh?" They saw the condition I was in when I arrived to go to bed and they were in awe of my super-Doggie powers of recovery. I have this feeling that when I passed out I may have only switched off but got into a chat with them. They didn't say. We chatted for a bit as I packed up and got ready to go. They're traveling all around Europe and Western Asia.
I went downstairs and asked if a slot had miraculously opened for tonight. No dice. By chance I asked if Hotel Býrgaðárgauþáððöllátargásttárgatur or whatever it was called was any good "It's even further out from the city than we are." Dammit. I made a few phone calls and ended up with Hjálpræðisherinn(Kjowl*prythe-iss-hair-inn) which is a Salvation Army place that turned out to cost ISK 5000 (EUR57/USD71), but it's a room and right in the city centre. Also, the taxi ride from the other place and back would've cost well over the 2000kr more this place was costing. I called the other hotel to cancel, expensive (like everything else), but common courtesy.
Traveller's Tip:The hotel rang a taxi for me and told 'em to send a van. I have a huge suitcase which is sized right up the airlines' max dimensions. It's a bit unwieldy, but it's survived a lot of travel in the past six years.
A user's guide to Icelandic public phones
Invest in a phone card.
Like many European phones, there's a "follow-on call" button, but it's in Icelandic (duh) and not explained in the English instructions (D'oh!). Unlike many European phones, pressing it is futile.
- Dial the number
- Listen to phone ringing
- Listen to person pick up at other end and start asking "Hello?"
- Frantically drop coins in
- Listen to person at other end ask "Hello?" one more time
- Get last coin in slot
- Hear other end hang up
- Listen to phone keep your ISK20
- Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
I got to the Kválpræðisherinn and checked in. I went to the room and opened the door with trepidation. Actually, I opened it with dread and wasn't disappointed. It would be very difficult to make the room smaller without converting it into a Japanese cubicle place. I dropped my stuff and left for town.
Pints in Reykjavík normally cost 500-700kr (EUR6/USD7.50). Definitely try the Viking homebrew. Alcohol in general is incredibly expensive, but so is everything else here. There are only two shops in this town to get alcohol, though, one downtown and one in the mall. The selection is poor, at best, although you can find Gammel Dansk.
Am I that much of an alcoholic that I was checking out the booze shop around noon? No. I'm going to a birthday party tonight and figured that since I have no idea whose birthday it is, much less what she likes, I couldn't go wrong with a nice bottle of wine.
I was still very much in a haze as I grabbed my cell phone and called R to confirm that this would be a good idea. Maybe strangers shouldn't bring something. Maybe wine wouldn't be a good idea. I didn't know but I do know how easy it is to make a faux pas, which is exactly what I did when I rang R, whom I woke up. "I told you last night a bottle of wine would be a good idea," she said groggily. Oops. "Well, since you're already up, when and where should I meet you tonight?" "Call me back between 9 and 10." We hung up and I went into the liquor store.
I figured a nice bottle of merlot would be good. I didn't see a single label I recognized, but the prices would've been more at home on some 5-star restaurant's wine list. The stuff is also poorly arranged. They're clearly not trying to actually sell anything. Most wines were Seth Efrican or Argentinean, with a couple Italian and French ones for good measure. I finally decided on some bottle and had a look at what else was on offer.
For comparison shopping, it's best to go with what you know. In grocery stores in Germany, a 0.7l bottle of Gordon's gin costs EUR10/US$12 and in Washington, D.C., EUR6.50/US$8. Here that fifth of Gordon's costs 4700kr, or about EUR55/US$67. Moving here would either dry me quickly or bankrupt me. Smart money goes on the latter. Beer prices were no better.
Up a few storefronts was a restaurant that had wireless access (but which had blocked damned near every non-HTTP port) writing Friday's entries and slowly drinking a Kronenborg while trying to recover from the subjects of Friday's entries. There I had a couple Kronenborgs, a lot of soda water and a double "expresso". That particularly insidious mispronunciation is, in Icelandic, correct. I fought back the urge to scream and choked the word out of my mouth.
I spent about three hours wading through E-Mail and reading through a few sites, including those this diary series is on. It was slow going and not because of the connection. I had to hit /. at Score:2. I tried to check for anything important at the office but couldn't get into the VPN at work. No great loss - I was finally on a true vacation, although at the rate I'm going, I'll need two weeks in detox and a three-week vacation to recover from my vacation.
I went back to the hotel, watched a few Simpsons episodes on my laptop and drifted in and out until about 10pm, at which point I started getting ready. Rosa had told me before to call between 9 and 10. OK, a little too much drift, but while this place is no Key West, I've got the impression that being perfectly on-time wasn't real high up on most people's Lists of Important Things.
There was no problem with getting dressed nicely and I even remembered to shave. I also figured brushing my teeth wouldn't hurt, little did I know. As I wrote, I was still under various influences and had had little sleep, so it took about 15 seconds for it to register that something was terribly wrong with the toothpaste, namely that it wasn't toothpaste. It was the hydrocortisone cream. The extra-strength 1% stuff.
I started spitting. Then I was sucking water from the tap and spitting. Still, there was some gunge in my mouth. I remembered the bottle of vodka and rinsed a few times with that, too. Only after three four or five, gargles and rinses with the voddy did I remember that alcohol is absorbed directly in the mouth, and this memory was more or less induced by the noticeable effect of the latest BAC spike.
I'm as ready as I'll ever be.
It was 10:30 when I finally called R. I went to her place just up the road and met some others who were getting ready to go to the party. She asked what took so long and I told her. She laughed. A lot. Others heard it and laughed, too, even a girl who didn't know what hydrocortisone was. Stories about brushing your teeth with anything in a toiletry case other than toothpaste can usually be expected to be amusing to listeners. I met a UKian photographer named Charlie, and I think it was him who told me that if a tablet is yellow, it's probably X. Useful information.. Some (I expect) Californian woman was there too. She'd accidentally poured red wine into a beer glass and was walking around telling everyone how interestingly nice it tasted, convincing almost all to take a sip. Yours truly respectfully declined. I had to decline it four or five times ("You really should try it").
I did have a sip of beer which ended up tasting like shit thanks to what wasn't toothpaste and so I stuck with water... for a while. We left half an hour later and walked about 15 minutes with R's DJ cart to a good-sized hall where the party was in full swing. There were about 60 or 70 people there and a lot of beer.
Birthday girl "Y" is a model.
Birthday girl Y and DJ/bartender sister R
From what a couple people told me, a lot of Reykjavik's fashion scene was there. I talked with a few people, including girl from NYC who designs Nikes and was on an "inspiration tour" with some colleagues. Other than the shoe designer who was otherwise occupied with some Viking descendent, I appeared to be the only non-Icelandic speaker there, something that had a rather chilling effect on conversation. Still, I had fun and did meet a couple people.
I spent time talking to Ý, a blue-eyed Icelandic girl (dibs on BEIG, HuSidels) in whose eyes I could completely lose myself. If she said were to tell me we should give it a go, I'd move within a month just to look in her eyes every day. I'd even be willing to learn to prepare traditional Icelandic food, although I bet she'd be pretty impressed with my current repertoire. Having since tried some traditional Icelandic food, perhaps I shouldn't mention that bit. I expect seeing me staring into her eyes all day and night could quickly become boring for her. Still...
After quite some time spent not talking to anyone, I took a break and went outside. I was pretty sure I knew where I was (the docs) relative to the main streets. I headed toward the center and was back on the square, where I had a pylsa með öllu. Only a couple doors down was Pravda, where I was supposed to be on the guest list. There was already a queue for the place. I told the doorman I was on the list and I went zooming in.
Zooming into an empty room. Not empty, but certainly not full enough to warrant a waiting line to get in. The upstairs dance floor area was equally underpopulated, although there were definitely more people going upstairs than down. I couldn't find the bartender from a couple nights ago but was assured he was there. I had a drink or two and went back to the party.
The beer was gone before all the guests were, but most of them didn't stick around too long after the place had been drunk dry. And by "dry", I mean all the beer and booze initially supplied plus everything people had brought with them and anything with alcohol in it that was sitting on the gifts table. At about that time I coulda easily got $50 for a little bottle of vanilla extract.
As most of the people disappeared, I witnessed a strange Viking ritual. The dance floor was a bit wet from a couple spilled beers and a couple girls (including Y) had to keep on dancing and would occasionally slide (whether intentional or not). A couple rather big guys noticed the slidey-ness of the floor and began their strange, shirtless, running-wrestling-sliding thing, getting them even sweatier and covering them in the nastiness from the floor. This went on for about half an hour, seemingly with the womenfolk's approval. No. I did not.
At the end of the night, only R, Y one other girl were there. I helped collect cans, bottles, trash and said thanks and goodbye She was surprised I was going. "You're leaving? Then who's going to go home with my sister?"
OK, what she actually said was to remember to send the pics and CDs I promised. Her sister also gave me a hug goodbye and I went back to Pravda. It was pretty full upstairs and doing well downstairs as well. As I stood between the sitting room and the dancefloor, a gorgeous girl came up to me and said something. I asked her, "what?" and she repeated it. In Icelandic. I gave her a dumb look and said (in Icelandic) that I didn't understand because I don't speak the language yet. She gave me a nasty look, rolled her eyes and walked off. The guy next to me started laughing and I asked him what was so funny.
"First she asked you if you were here alone and then she asked you if you wanted to go with her."
Oh yeah, laughs galore. Bastard.
I'd like to believe she was just asking me what time it was, but subsequent conversations with others have lead me to believe this guy was telling the truth. The sad thing is that I was sober enough to actually think, "I should just keep saying 'já' (yow, Icelandic for 'yes') no matter what she says and see what hapens, but knowing me, I'll just get into more trouble." Of course, "trouble" might've made for a few more interesting stories. Damn it!
I left around quarter to six and went to the square for food. I couldn't do another hot dog and I didn't want a döner (kebap/gyro), so I queued up for pizza. There were only six people in front of me but it still took about 20 minutes to get a slice, which cost 350kr. for about ¼ of a 12" pie. It was very good.
I wandered back to the hotel to go to bed and saw a lot of the people standing outside waiting for the airport bus. I wearily told the guy at the desk I'd need the 13:30 bus. "You have to tell us a day in advance". Great. "But there is already someone going at 13:30 so you should be able to get a seat as well." Another lucky break.
I trudged up the stairs and passed out wondering what somebody was doing trying to learn guitar chords at 6:15 in the morning.
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