Traveller's Tip:Oh, I found a source for Hákarl: the 10-11 store (a supermarket chain). They have little vacuum-sealed bags of the stuff running about 400kr each. There will be pictures and descriptions. No sign of the pickled ram's goolies however. I also picked up a bag of dried cod (Bitafiskur, Ýsa). I thought that was harðfiskur, but found out later there's a difference. A big one. So massive, in fact, that I surprised the hell out of someone.
Breakfast in Icelandic hotels
No weirder than anywhere else
Breakfast in private may be much nicer, but this was the deal for three different places. There are some nice (and some not-so-nice) patés in the supermarket and a... erm... broader selection of ähm... meat and meat by-products.
- Watery coffee
- Cold cereal with milk
- Orange Juice from Teh Tetra-Pak-Chooie-Unf
- Bread w/butter, marmalade
- Cracker-bread (like Wasa)
- Some cheese slices (or slice yourself from a block)
- Some ham/salami slices
- Tomato &/or cucumber slices
- Maybe some slices of hard-boiled egg
So we're standing outside waiting for the bus and some girl and I get to chatting. We'd met in some restaurant, I think. She's Norwegian. We're having a friendly conversation when some nosy American couple start lugging their bags near ours. "They're going to talk at us" I warned her, so we started talking Norwegian to each other. Sure enough, Mr Chatty tries and fails to become the centre of attention. Pretty slick, huh?
Well, it seemed pretty slick as we boarded the bus still talking to each other in Norwegian when who should appear but gangly Mr Norway himself. The same one from the hostel and horseback ride. He was quite happy to babble away when all of a sudden I hear, "Hey, Doggie! I didn't think you were leaving today." I turned to see Charlie the photographer from last night. He and I started talking, and I feel kind of bad for leaving the girl with gangly Mr Norway, but shit happens.
Charlie and I start to talk and he pulls out some of his work. Very nice stuff. He's got a whole bunch of shots of Peaches which are. He's just going to London for a couple days to get some film and developing (middle format). He's been back and forth between Reykjavík and London for years and is finally moving to Iceland. He'd like to take a few weeks next year and do the Great Circle (drive all the way around the island) and I'm definitely up for that. I wonder if I can borrow a Hasselblad from someone...
Once I got to Keflavík with the airport bus and saw Charlie off, I called the woman from B&B Guesthouse who came to pick me up. Great service. She gave me a detailed tour of the place: nice room, big public area, free use of the dial-up Net acct, TV and couches in a general room with a few English videos subtitled in Icelandic, a large kitchen area with pots, pans, some general cooking stuff plus all the standard breakfast stuff. I was also able to use the washer/dryer after receiving extensive instruction.
No one was in the common rooms so I trotted off to see what there was. It was a short walk up Tjarnagata past an elementary school and onto the main drag, Hafnargata.
Drag is right. It's kind of empty here in Keflavík, in ways that New York City and London very much aren't. It's a small place, so small that they and their neighbouring towns joined up together a couple years ago and created Reykjanesbær which is still small. It's also Sunday, but besides the foreign kids at the Salvation Army (why did this surprise me?), signs of religiousness are few. The only times I've ever seen cross necklaces, they were accompanied by runes or other Icelandic stuff. Still, It's nice. Have a couple pictures at the bay edge and note the typical precariously stacked rocks:
I had a beer at the sports bar. There were a couple games on the TVs that I didn't give a damn about. I noticed that within a minute of looking over to the pool table, the two sharks got incredibly bad, missing the easiest shots. I may be an idiot but I'm not naïve. I left after my beer and went to the 10-11 for the initial "food" supplies.
I went back to the hotel and saw some woman and a kid watching Dr. Doolittle. The Eddie "Remake" Murphy version. No. I went to my room to do some writing. I grabbed the phonebook. You see, in Iceland, the phonebook is alphabetical, but in order of first name, not last. I went looking for a Clara I knew way back in Regensburg and I remembered her name ended in "dóttir" although that applies to about 90% of all women. There were only three Claras in the book. I tried the numbers and hilarity ensued, but no recovered contact. When I came back out of the room to get on-line, the woman and kid were playing Solitaire. Fine. It was time to do some food experiments.
Experiments in disgusting Icelandic foods, part einn:
Are they really so desperate they have to eat this?
First up: Bitafiskur. Dried cod. Not bad, actually. Sort of like a beef jerky but made of fish instead, and without the heavy spices. Surprisingly it's not too salty, and it's pretty light and airy in a way. There are other fish they prepare like this and I may yet try them. Just not this trip as it turns out.
Next: Sviðasulta (Svee'-the-sool-tuh). Again, this proved a lot less unpleasant than I'd imagined. I'd looked for the smallest piece and now wish I hadn't. It's like German Sulz but with the inedible bits of lamb rather than pork or beef. Basically, you take a bunch of bones and skin and maybe some meat but mostly weird bits and cook 'em for hours. Let it cool and you have gelatin. Think along the lines of head cheese. In the case of Sviðasulta it appears that quite a lot of the edible bits slipped in. Maybe they made a mistake. In any case, it's quite nice. I didn't see any mint jelly in the store though.
Herring pieces in red wine sauce: I bought this for some breakfast or non-lunch and it turned out to be pretty harsh. The wine sauce would be OK except for the double-digit salt-by-percentage-of-weight content. Damn.
Hákarl (How'-kr-l): Rotted shark. OK, I'm warming up to this one by cooling down a shot-sized bottle of Brenivín I still had in my luggage. I understand that you eat a piece of the shark "meat" and immediately throw back a shot of the booze. I have no problem with the second part, but I'm getting worried about the first bit. I don't even know if there's an alcohol store in town outside the airport. This experiment will be conducted later this evening.
The experiments in disgusting Icelandic foods having been a bit of a let-down, I concluded the first round and went back to the main room, where I ended up talking with the German woman and kid. They're staying here, but only until about 11:00p.m. Thanks to a travel agency fuck-up, she had to wait for a 1:00 a.m. flight to get to 5-hour train ride to get home.
She really doesn't want to leave the place and I know the feeling. We talked a while, or rather, she talked about her previous trip as well as this one for more than an hour. Fine with me. She's been here before, knows more about it, is just as taken in with the place and feels the same way I do about leaving, and probably even worse. We three went for... Pylsa. And yes, með ölli. I know mine was an everything.
Katja and I spent a couple more hours talking and her 7-year-old daughter Gesine seemed relieved to hear German again. The child was entertained by many episodes of Two Stupid Dogs episodes while Katja and I kept chatting away. I made vodka & Cokes but she could only have one since she needed to stay up. I was under no such restriction and, in fact, needed to get more into me to carry out the harshest experiment.
I had to stop talking to Katja a few times in order to provide Gesine with some translations when they were important, but she understood the cartoons more or less without the help. We don't get TSD in Germany. Mum is 10 years younger than me and quite attractive. She also more or less invited me to visit; we exchanged contact details. I really should see more of Germany; I've been here long enough. What better way to do that than with someone with whom you have at least a couple common interests. Of course, it's a massive cleaning job before she can come to visit Munich should she be so inclined.
Attention Atreides Infidel: Parting was a handshake; she might read this, no tapping advice necessary, k?
Some Scots who were overnighting it in Keflavík had taken the dryer before I could put my wet laundry in. No worries, a lot of their clothing was soaked and they had to be back out at 5:00 or something. I've still got a day. "Griet! Chairs, meht!"
Katja and Gesine finally took off for the airport and I wrote some notes. While typing I did enough damage to the voddie bottle and was prepared to perform the Hákarl experiment, which by the time this diary is written, I'll have already done. I hope it doesn't go as badly as I think it will.
In the kitchen were two Icelandic couples who looked at me a little strangely as I set up the experiment. They laughed when I told 'em what I was about to eat.
I'm an idiot...
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