Print Story The Iceland Diaries II - - Day 3
By BadDoggie (Thu Feb 10, 2005 at 01:04:20 AM EST) (all tags)
Day 3: Reykjavík
Friday, 21 Jan 2005

I'm an idiot.

I know I'm going back to Sirkus tonight. Ýr is working. I'm a glutton for punishment, I know, but when she wants to talk it's so nice and those eyes...

I should've gone to Pravda last night since, according to the last diaries, Loge works there Thursdays, but I was tired. I'll go tonight and ask about him. I'd found some tourist coupon book with a card thing in Keflavík and it has, among other useless crap, free entry to Pravda. I don't know why they want to draw tourists to a disco that often has a queue to get in, but this is Iceland and I'll probably never understand these things. In case I don't know anyone at the door, it could save me the cost of a beer.

The plan:

  • Go across the street to the conveniently located computer store
  • Head to other bookstore in vain hope of better prices
  • Find shopping mall
  • Head to museums downtown:
  • Cook dinner
  • Watch film on TV and learn more Icelandic
What a day it turned into...

There's also another poll for you to ignore.

The Iceland Diaries II: Preface, Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, Day 5, Day 6, Day 7, Day 8, Day 9, Day 10, "Food", Day 11, Day 12, Day 13, Day 14, Day 15, Day 16, Day 17, The End.

I decided to get settled in so I unpacked my things and put the clothes away in the wardrobe while listening to the radio -- daytime TV is dismal and consists primarily of a repeating hour's rotation of some crappy music videos. It's not that I could understand the radio that well, and it's actually easier to understand television because you can watch the people talking, but I'm not picking up any Icelandic from a bunch of mostly English music videos. Worse, one of the Icelandic videos was some guy singing Annie's Song. Ugh.

I called Einar -- the building's owner -- who came over while I had episode of the children's show Stundin Okkar running on my computer. He found that quite amusing and nodded in solemn agreement as I explained that it's a good way to learn a language. He started talking to me in Icelandic and despite my linguistic fumblings we agreed on the price of only 600 "evros" (that's what they call euros here and it bugs me almost as much as "expresso"). What a deal! He asked me if I needed a receipt or if we should just shake on it. I extended my hand and he took it. I can't write the place off on my taxes unless these diaries actually get published, something that's as likely as BEIG proposing to me.

The day's looking to get better, but it's probably just trying to lull me into a calm before springing the next bit of hell on me.

I ventured outside, across the street to the computer store. I managed to ask if they had a card reader correctly in Icelandic (with only slight grammatical errors). To my amazement it only cost 2000kr, about 25 eurobucks. That's less than one cost back in Munich. More amazing still, it worked perfectly right from the start. After transferring the first round of photos, I walked the short way down to Sæbraut. It looks a different in winter. It's a little windier, too.

Sæbraut in winter
The Reykjavík bay in winter...

Sæbraut in summer
...and four months ago.

As I got to the bus terminal (Hlemmur), my cell phone rang. It was Mr. No-Show-Óli. He was in Reykjavík. Where was I? Outside the bus station. "I'll be there in five minutes." Eight minutes later my phone rang again. "I'm at the Central Bus Terminal. Where are you?" I was at the Hlemmur terminal (a major station in the city center up Laugarvegi). Óli showed up five minutes later.

He asked where I was going and I told him I wanted to head to the mall. It was pretty much like most malls, but with no Gap or Sears or Nordstrom's. Only then did he think to tell me the other mall in town was shaped like a penis, but we never made it there.

Óli was going back to Keflavík later to pick up some people, then go back to Reykjavík for a Þorrablót, the traditional festival meal with all the disgusting stuff. I was prepared for one next week, but not tonight. Tough. It's tonight and I'm invited. Hell, It's not like I had any plans, and going out with a group of friends beats the hell out of sitting there alone being miserable at a bar.

We went to Vinbuð (the booze store) for party supplies. The price for Elephant beer didn't look so bad. They had 6-packs of Carlsberg Elephant and the price was listed as only 210kr, or about 2.80 in Eurobucks. I'm an idiot. Óli reminded me that was the price per can. Vinbuð, the alcohol monopoly store

Along with the Elephant we picked up a 350ml bottle of Smirnoff vodka, a 500ml bottle of Gordon's gin and a 1l bottle of Brennevín. Total damage: 9,325kr, well over 100 Eurobuckies for an amount of booze that two determined people could empty without effort. They charged another 15kr for the plastic bag to carry it all.

You know what they call a Quarter Pounder with Cheese in Iceland?
No man, they got the metric system. They don't know what the fuck a quarter pound is.

McD`s menu board
Ten eurobucks for a Big Mac, Quarter Pounder or Sicken McNuggets? Uhh.. no.

Big Macs, McGoodBurgers (Quarter Pounder) McFishBurgers, and the rest, most for 749kr. That works out to €9.25 or US$11.85. For a crappy McDonald's sandwich. Pass.
After a brief discussion about whether the "Quarter Pounder" was indeed 112.5g (I reminded Oli that it's the weight BEFORE cooking), we skipped McDonald's and split a nice pizza at some decent restaurant in the mall instead of a 15 Eurobuck Subway sandwich.

Afterwards, we headed for Keflavík to pick up the rest of the guys so we could drive back to Reykjavík for the Þorrablót. In many EUian countries, there are signs showing you're entering a town's area or incorporated limits and this affects the speed limit. Óli asked if I wanted to take the "scenic" route. Of course not! The roads are crap and still have snow and ice on them. He took it anyway. and passed, among others, the town or municipality of Vogar. The pics say it all: an empty, snow-covered lava wasteland.

You are entering Vogar
You are leaving Vogar
Dude, where's my town?

That's not to say the view wasn't nice, but the snow-covered lava isn't as inspiring as the moss and flowers and grasses you see in during brief summer respite.

The scenic route between RVK and KEF
The scenic route between RVK and KEF

Thor vs. Nidhogg We headed to Paddy's and waited for the others to show up. Sævar was first there and things got amusing quickly. The owner was a bit surprised to see me and asked me if it had been two weeks already. Some guy who is friends with the others and was also going showed up. He's a smith (silver, gold and iron). He was surprised about the Yank going to the þorrablót. I noticed his necklace and asked if it was Thor's hammer. Yes it was. There was more. The spiral was a snake and it symbolised the battle. I chimed in: "Oh, the fight during Ragnarok where Thor kills Nidhogg1, but the snake manages to bite Thor, who dies from the poison but the world is saved." A foreigner knows the mythology? He had two more pendants with him but now only has one. I'm the proud owner of a necklace symbolising this fight. It's a great conversation starter.

The story of the battle between Thor and Nidhogg is a little more complicated due to differences in the Prose Edda and the Poetic Edda, along with other sources, most of which have Thor dead at the end of Ragnarok and both his sons and Niddhogg surviving.

I had a few beers and a couple shots of Brennevín as we all talked for a while as we waited for the rest of the people who were coming along. I kept telling them to talk in Icelandic but the Chris (the Irish father of the woman who co-owns the place with hubby) only speaks English and since he was in on most of the conversation, we skipped the Viking talk. There'd be more Icelandic than I could shake a staff at soon enough, I was assured.

I think it was Björgvin who asked me if I wanted to go snowboarding tomorrow and sit in on a class in Icelandic he teaches or something on Monday. Snowboarding? We've broached this subject already. It was probably the beer and Brennevín talking but I thought maybe I could learn a bit before making a total fool of myself in front of Rósa (if she does actually drive with me to Akureyri), and the class would be neat. What the hell? I'm game. After all, we've already firmly established that I'm an idiot.

This was only the beginning of the talk about mythology for the evening. I sent an SMS to Rósa in Reykjavík that I was being dragged to a Þorrablótlót in Reykjavík. She knew something I didn't. She messaged back a laugh and let me know she was DJing tonight at Prikinu (the club is actually called Prikið but that vicious Icelandic grammar changes proper nouns, too) and ended with "Welcome back to Iceland". No mercy or sympathy here, either.

We waited for Björgvin's woman, April, (an Air Force radio personality and soon-to-be wife and mother of his child) to leave the damned base and get to the bar so we could go. When she finally showed up we left for þorrablót an hour after it had started. The Brennevín bottle was considerably lighter by the time we got to Reykjavík.

The þorrablót was held in a Hall by a group of people who belong to the Ásatrúarfélag, a pagan society of people who want to go back to the old gods. Knowing the stories and sagas definitely helped me fit in. Thor's symbol (a circle with crosshair) was to be seen everywhere. Well it is a Þor (Thor) festival.

The buffet wasn't empty as we arrived, but neither was it full of the 13 or 14 things. I'm not going into the food reviews here; that's for another day. This is more about the evening itself. The buffet included:

  • Blóðmör, a blood sausage preserved with sour whey
  • Lifrarpylsa, a liver sausage preserved with sour whey
  • Bringukollar, fatty meat on the bone, boiled, then pickled in sour whey
  • Súrsviðasulta, a sour-preserved version of the regular sviðasulta I reviewed last time
  • Hrútspungar, the ram's goolies in a sort of gelatin, also sour-preserved.
  • Hákarl, the dreaded rotten shark which wasn't so bad this time around
  • Rófustappa, mashed rutabagas and perhaps some carrot in there. While not sour or disgusting, it's no delicacy. Think "thick wallpaper paste".
I ate it all. There was alo some regular, non-sour lamb in a non-sour gravy which I had (think "stew without the veg") but didn't take the rice. Rice is for children and wimps ("Ása-ekki-svo-trúarfélag" maybe?). I even went back for seconds.

April is a Teh Hottay and is one of the few women I've met who has no trouble talking with and like guys. "When are you coming back again?" she asked. "June, I expect. There's a 3-week intensive language course at Háskoli Íslands (the university)". "Well, you have to come the first week of August." I said I was there last August. "No, you have to come in the first week." There's a massive national party then, it seems. And? American April spelled it out for me. "Look," she said, "it's a fuckfest. All bets are off. You drink and you fuck. All week."

It's a good thing I live in Germany and get 6 weeks' vacation a year. Better still, I have couches and possibly beds to stay on next time I'm here. I'm already picturing the Iceland Diaries III, in which some girl tries to ritually sacrifice me to the Æsir for typing notes in the morning rather than bringing her coffee and getting back to business. Fat chance. I'll probably be sitting alone at a bar with half a beer and a bewildered look on my face.

Pagan sanctuary
Can you pick out all the symbols here? The raven is one of Oðin's eyes
(Oðin sacrificed an eyes so that humanity could drink water of knowledge).

We ate, we drank, but we didn't quite quaff2. After the food was gone, the festivities began. Story-telling is a part of the Icelandic tradition, and historically, they do it in a very round-about way. Some guy stood at a microphone and he finally got amusing after page 4 or so based on the reaction of the audience. I had no clue what he was on about. Afterwards some other people got up and talked, but none had the stamina or willpower that the first speaker had.

Another Rósa Then a woman named Rósa Johannesdóttir played violin. It sounded more classical with some national folk stuff in it, but what the hell do I know? Then a male and female sang and audience participation was expected. Óli and Orn (but mainly Óli) were singing along quite happily and loudly. A few of us sat there like bumps on a log until a woman from another table brought us over the song sheet so that April, Björgvin and me would sing instead of talk to each other. Oli already knew the words and was singing louder than the people with the microphones.

I think it was Bjarki who was disappointed by the lack of a few of the 13 types of meat that should be at a Þorrablót like whale. As I found out later, it's not whale meat but blubber that's eaten. Considering the group I expect they did have some at first but we were too late.

As it broke up around 11:30, noticed the signs on the bathroom doors. Heh.

Boys             Girls

A lot of people were standing outside the women's room and chattering away. I asked someone what was going on and I was immediately led into the bathroom to see the inside of a stall door. Granted, it's easier for women to write in blood, but doing so is always a pretty strong statement.

Heill Oðin
"Hail Oðin" indeed.

The guys drove me back to my apartment and I put remaining booze in the fridge. Then I remembered the bag of snacks and mixers I'd left in Óli's car. I'm an idiot. I'd pushed the bag with the Coke and water and nuts and chips out of my way when I got out of the car.

With the booze safely stored in the fridge, I headed back up Laugarvegi to Prikið and talked briefly with Rósa. It was good to see her again but the conversation was pretty limited what with her having to DJ. Prikið isn't really my kind of club -- at least it wasn't that evening. I was starting to fall asleep at a table I'd finally got when a couple who'd been drinking small glasses of water for hours finally left. I split after only a couple hours and was planning on going straight home. I'd had enough to drink (and more was at home in case "enough" wasn't actually enough), but as I went past Sirkus, I just had to go in. There was a queue outside and it was cold. This only served to wake my sorry, drunken ass up. A bunch of people came over from the side and the queue dissolved into chaos. I moved about 2 feet this way and ended up right in front of the door. The next time it opened, I was in.

BEIG was working and we didn't really talk much, but it wasn't just because the place was packed. I left her alone. I'm hurtin' here. I talked with a couple of people at the bar who again were impressed with my progress but I'm getting tired of saying the same thing over and over: "I'm a Yank who lives in Germany. I'm learning the language. Only four months. LOL What?" Still, it's good to meet people and I slowly pick up a little more as it goes on.

I stayed until the bitter end at 5:30 and stumbled the eight blocks or so home. I don't remember if they actually had to ask me to leave or if I went on my own accord.

At least I managed to get the coat and boots off before I passed out with an episode of Stundin Okkar running.

1 Nidhoog is the snake who, among his other "duties", eats at the root of the tree of life (?) in Miðgard called Yggdrasil.
2 Quaffing is much like drinking but you do it faster and spill more, or so sayeth pTerry Pratchett

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The Iceland Diaries II - - Day 3 | 14 comments (14 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback
That's an expensive burger by gazbo (4.00 / 1) #1 Thu Feb 10, 2005 at 01:31:21 AM EST
Holy fuck - do you need a second mortgage to go to Burger King?

I recommend always assuming 7th normal form where items in a text column are not allowed to rhyme.

Just a second job by BadDoggie (2.00 / 0) #2 Thu Feb 10, 2005 at 01:33:19 AM EST
A lot of Icelanders have two jobs.


"Eppur si muove." -- Galileo Galilei
"Nevertheless, it moves."

[ Parent ]
Tree by Herring (4.00 / 1) #3 Thu Feb 10, 2005 at 01:34:41 AM EST
I thought the whole tree was called Yggdrasil (and that it supported the 9 worlds). I may well be wrong.

You can't inspire people with facts
- Small Gods

I'm an idiot by BadDoggie (2.00 / 0) #4 Thu Feb 10, 2005 at 01:48:31 AM EST
Time to edit correctly. I started going too far into Norse mythology and deleted most. Not too cleanly, it seems. Good thing I know the editors...


"Eppur si muove." -- Galileo Galilei
"Nevertheless, it moves."

[ Parent ]
And by Herring (2.00 / 0) #8 Thu Feb 10, 2005 at 02:01:39 AM EST
didn't Odin hang from a branch of Yggdrasil above the void for 9 days and nights to give mankind the secret of the runes?

Can't remember - I haven't read any of this since primary school.

You can't inspire people with facts
- Small Gods

[ Parent ]
Yup by spiralx (2.00 / 0) #14 Thu Feb 10, 2005 at 09:02:59 AM EST
With a spear piercing his side just to add to the experience as well.

[ Parent ]
Have you read Gaiman's American Gods by georgeha (4.00 / 1) #5 Thu Feb 10, 2005 at 01:48:32 AM EST
all Odin, all the time, and the denoument takes place in Iceland.

Dang, that place looks bleak. A good thing booze is so expensive, every one would be an alcoholic.

Read it. Loved it. by BadDoggie (2.00 / 0) #7 Thu Feb 10, 2005 at 01:58:17 AM EST
Will read again some time.

"Bleak" is a good description, but it was out in the wasteland between the cities. The shot of the bay doesn't have the green area and road to the right like the summer shot because, well, who needs another picture of a road? It just wasn't interesting. The sky, however, was another matter, and that without the aurora borealis.


"Eppur si muove." -- Galileo Galilei
"Nevertheless, it moves."

[ Parent ]
that stylized wiener is really disturbing (nt) by tps12 (4.00 / 2) #6 Thu Feb 10, 2005 at 01:50:28 AM EST

What? What's stylized about it? [nt] by greyrat (2.00 / 0) #12 Thu Feb 10, 2005 at 05:18:10 AM EST
[nt] == non-narrow testicles

[ Parent ]
no one votes in polls anymore by Kellnerin (2.00 / 0) #9 Thu Feb 10, 2005 at 02:47:52 AM EST
I think it's because people used to do it mainly to say "I wuz here" but now the hit counter takes care of that.

... though I was always told that I never worked to my potential I assumed someone somewhere was. --blixco
What does the rotten shark taste like? by nebbish (2.00 / 0) #10 Thu Feb 10, 2005 at 02:50:22 AM EST
And the sheeps bollocks?

I really fancy visiting Iceland, but I have to say the cost of living puts me off. It's expensive enough getting there.

It's political correctness gone mad!

It tastes like death. by BadDoggie (4.00 / 1) #11 Thu Feb 10, 2005 at 04:15:03 AM EST
See the first series, Day 6b. It was truly horrible, but the stuff they had at the þorrablót wasn't nearly as bad. Still tasted foul, though. I think I'll be doing the whole disgusting food review just before Day 10, when I went to another þorrablót that wasn't quite one.

I'd expected the goolies to be kinday stringy, but really they were just grainy an didn't have a lot of flavour. I think it's the sour whey preservation that makes all the stuff grainy.

As far as the cost, you can do things to save money like sleeping at the hostel (go with friends and make reservations as far in advance as possible). Hostels also have free kitchens you can use, so you can go to the store, get (admittedly expensive but not as expensive as restaurants) supplies and cook your own meals.

No matter what you do, you can't get away from the cost of alcohol.

I don't work for Iceland's bureau of tourism. You can probably do more and eat and drink more and have a nicer hotel somewhere for less money. Me, I don't care about the hotel room as long as it's clean and relatively quiet. I found the place fascinating and it's worth it to me to go back.


"Eppur si muove." -- Galileo Galilei
"Nevertheless, it moves."

[ Parent ]
Yeah, but how's the pr0n? by ti dave (2.00 / 0) #13 Thu Feb 10, 2005 at 07:45:38 AM EST
From the looks of it, there ought to be some decent amateur stuff available there.

I don't care if people hate my guts; I assume most of them do.
The important question is whether they are in a position to do anything about it. --W.S. Burroughs

The Iceland Diaries II - - Day 3 | 14 comments (14 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback