Lighthouse Apartments, Laugavegi and Vitastigi.
Home in the heart of the city for 10 days
Paying the price for the "food"
I went to the cafe across street for espresso and was astonished at how warm it was outside. Almost all the snow and ice has melted from the sidewalks. Weird. After the past couple days with the wind and cold, this felt almost tropical. I hear, however, that there are a couple meters of snow in Akureyri and am still rather hesitant about the drive there.
The cafe was closed. It hit me that today is Saturday. This changes plans a bit... maybe. Not that I have any real plans. There's no whale-watching at this time of year, but there are some things like the museums that I want to see, and I have a lot more time here this time. Still, I had a week last year and never managed to get out to sea to see some whale tails and possibly a few stray puffins.
I grabbed the laptop and made my way up Laugavegi. I saw Cafe 22 was open so I went in and spent the next two hours drinking coffee and soda water, writing notes on yesterday and generally recovering from the festivities. There will be more tonight, I think. I'm pretty sure I committed the apartment to a party next Thursday, but I'll have to call Rósa to make sure.
What to do? What to do?
I never got any message from Björgvin about going snowboarding. I'm not sure if he even went. Icelandic TV is even more dismal on weekend days than it is on weekdays. One channel had English footie, another a rebroadcast of the Olympic Women's Volleyball gold medal match between China and Russia (China won but the Russian team was a brace of Teh Hotties). The third channel is a bunch of crappy videos that no other channel would show. Except maybe on German daytime programming. Is it me or are about half of all songs released now just covers, and usually pretty horrid?
As loathe as I am to go near it, I'm headed down the street to the tourist center because that's the easiest place to get all the info and times on the various crap I want to see. Other have confirmed that I won't be seen in the bad tourist light because of the time of year I showed up. It was also confirmed that, yes, some were a bit skeptical that I was actually going to learn the lingo and show back up at any time other than high tourist season. Having done so, I've attained a pretty good status. Most people figure I must live here and don't really believe that I'm spending quality holiday time in this place.
I'm going to end up breaking my arm patting myself on the back. Considering I can't follow most conversations past a couple sentences at best, perhaps I really need to cool it with the self-praise, but noticing progress makes it easier to continue trying to shovel the language into my head.
However, as was pointed out in a comment in yesterday's diary, this fitting in with the natives may not be conducive to getting picked up by Teh Icelandic Hottays who may be more interested in someone doesn't know everyone else and who will definitely go away. We shall see.
I didn't quite make it to tourist center. At quarter to 3 I walked into a grocery store and spent 45 minutes there. I did it for you. Well, for me too, but most of the stuff I got was to do provide pictures and in-depth analysis of þorramat, the Þorrablót "food". Ugh. It cost a lot, too. By that I mean "more than some of the more normal foodstuffs like 8 Eurobuck/kilo chicken" or 12 Eurobuck/kilo ground beef.
1090kr/kilo (about US$8/lb.) for ground beef and it's not even center-cut.
So I'm having a mid-afternoon brunch/snack of other not-too-diusgusting stuff, although I will have some of the hangiálegg (lamb smoked over tað, then rolled up and formed and sliced like deli meat). It's actually pretty tasty.
What's with the summer pamphlets in winter?
After "lunch" I actually made it down Laugavegi to the Tourist Information center without getting distracted too much. There weren't many pamphlets on most of the stuff inside the city outside the art museum (Listasafn Íslands), but among some of the crappy pamphlets like "Iceland Practical Information" with 70 of the 80 pages just ads) there was some interesting stuff like "Lobster or Fame", a small pamphlet with reviews of Icelandic music and artists. Considering Smekklysa is pushing all of these for a group of different record stores, their review of Sigur Rós' Verbrigði was pretty brutal: "Recycled tracks from debut album Von", which itself is listed. They write that that first album took three years to record. Time wasted if you ask me, but a lot of people dig 'em.
From there I walked along Lækjargötu past the 66° North shop (closed
at 4pm). The road changes names to Fríkirkjuvegur and continues past the big lake called Tjarna or Tjörnin or something similar depending on the grammar, where not all of the pond had frozen over and natives had their brats along to feed bread to hundreds of ducks and geese and swans. I walked across a bridgeway to the Ráðhús ("Rauth-hooss"
soft "th" as in "this", City Hall; Parliament [Alþingi] is across the street). I saw what little there was to see (very little) then strolled around up along Aðalgata with my coat open, no sweater, no gloves, no hat. I enjoyed the quiet, the calm, and a pleasant scent of the sea on gentle breezes. The difference between the weather today and yesterday is incredible.
Tjarnan: The picture is from a week later after most of the ice & snow melted.
The large building in the background, right is the Ráðhús (City Hall)
What a Wonderful World
I see skies of blue... no, clouds... no, wait...
They say that Iceland doesn't actually have weather, it just has previews. There was today's relative warmth, for example, and the blizzards in the north in July. It's always interesting. It was also probably colder where you were today. I know it was back home in Munich and in New York City.
Though the sky was overcast, the air was really clear and I'd wanted to take pictures of the snow-covered mountains from the harbour. with the clouds touching the mountains in Akranes which can be seen in the distance, it would've made a beautiful shot.
[Change of location: As I'm writing this, I'm having a double espresso and a beer in the Arabic cafe across the street from my apartment which is now open. I ended up talking to a girl and her visiting Irish boyfriend (Adnan and Hanna) for an hour instead of writing. She's amazed that I even went to a Þorrablót much less ate all the food and was quite impressed that I knew about the Nordic gods. "Even a lot of our people don't know about them!"]
Bizarre, bazaar, what's the difference?
But as I was walking back up Tryggvagötu and reached Pósthússtræti, I saw a couple people walk into an unmarked door that had a sign in front of it with some words I didn't understand and also a big OPIÐ which I did. I went in. It was a sort of bazaar. I found out later it's the famous Kolaportið flea market. I picked up some very good harðfiskur, some cod roe (but missed the deal at the next stall on a package of cod roe & liver), then walked around some. I found a used book seller and a bunch of children's books. Six books at various reading levels cost me only 1600kr (about 20 Eurobucks), less than one new book at a bookstore. Things are looking good.
I came back home to make dinner and write some more while waiting for the big hand to get to the 12 and the little hand to get to the 10 so that I could go down to Pravda. Maybe that girl will show up and ask me the questions again. I understand enough that I could answer this time. If I don't understand, I'll just say yes to any question. The way Icelanders phrase their questions, "já" is almost always the correct answer.
Dinner: Cod roe cooked in butter and some smoked herring. It was only just now that I notice the herring is "tað-smoked". You may recall from the Iceland Diaries Day 6b, as I just did, that "tað" is lamb shit. Yum. Maybe I need to stick to burgers and hot dogs. OK, so the smoked fish turned out to taste very nice but, as with almost all fish here (including the dried stuff), you have to pull off the skin yourself.
No, really. Why else would you watch this crap?
I relaxed a while and Watched that classic from 2002, Juwanna Mann. It was in English but with subtitles. Unlike Germany, France and Italy, they don't overdub anything but cartoons here. Still, I was reading Icelandic text and hearing what it meant and I think I was getting something out of it. The film was over at about 10:00 so I put on my coat and walked 10 minutes down to Pravda. I asked the doorman if Loge was working. "Yes."
Cool. I started to walk in and he stopped me. Dress code?
"It's Ladies Night. No men allowed in until midnight."
Son of a bitch. I went back home, picked up one of the children's books (Vera, apparently for age 6 or so) and went to 22. The place was still pretty empty. I had a beer and gave the book my best shot. The beginning wasn't so bad. A girl doesn't want to go to sleep and gets into a discussion with her father about mum (who doesn't live with them anymore). Some of the paragraphs I didn't even have to re-read to understand. The girl at the bar asked what I was reading and I essplained. At about midnight, I headed home to drop off book and go back out.
I flipped on the TV for a minute and that 1996 blockbuster Down Periscope was on. I parked my ass on the couch. It wasn't too hard to concentrate on the subtitles until about 1:15 while alternatively sipping Carlsberg Elephant and Brennevín. Then I finally set out to Pravda. Loge wasn't there (he'd moved to the US), and almost all the girls were with guys, but a couple guys talked to me. It was probably the T-shirt I was wearing. The downstairs DJ had a neat set-up and was damned good, regardless of my opinion of the music in general. I stood there just watching him for about 10 minutes but we never talked; he seemed lost in his world of mixing. He had the new turntable-style CD players. Impressive.
Did someone call for a hero?
Didn't I play this game a few months ago?
At around 3:00 I left for Sirkus. Two girls started talking to me after I rescued one from a drunk, shirtless Viking who wanted to be buddies with me or fight with me or both and who alternated between blabbering at me and hitting on the girls who I'd said were with me. He apologised each time I reminded him and went back to talking to me. Between the loud rock and his slurring, I couldn't understand what he was saying, but that was OK. He didn't understand what I was saying eiither, which is good because a few times I just gave him a hard look and started reciting passages from my Icelandic language books: "Það er margt athyglisvert að sjá í miðbænum Reykjavíks" (There are a lot of interesting things to see in Reykjavík). Indeed.
Icelandic Male Rituals
A lot of men here fight. For fun. Two guys will be sitting around at a bar. One will ask the other if he wants to fight. If he does, the two go outside and pummel each other until one of them stays on the ground, at which point the other helps him up. They go back inside and get back to drinking with no hard feelings. Declining a fight might only provoke a friendly question why.
On the other hand, most Icelandic men are well-dressed, soft-spoken, and quite friendly. I don't get it.
Sirkus closed early and the girls I'd rescued asked if I wanted to go with to 22. OK. They got in free; I was stuck with a 500kr cover charge. In my 6-hour absence beer prices had increased 20%. There wasn't much going on down below but there was a lot of loud music and dancing upstairs. At least the music wasn't bad. But just as a sweet, brown-haired lass started chatting me up, they played Wish You Were Here and turned up the lights. Within 30 seconds her friends grabbed her and dragged her away. They were saying that one of their number had some problem but I didn't catch much more of it. Cockblocked.
I walked home and fell asleep to Mr. Monk and the Paperboy.
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