I slept in late.
There's no point getting up before 11 here. Half the stuff is closed and the other half (like fish markets, with five women prepping last night's catch in a warehouse prep area) is of little interest. Actually, I was interested, but women cutting up fish at 7:00a.m. are rarely looking for company, especially inquisitive company speaking a foreign language. Strange, that. In my building there's a room marked "Privat". I heard a washing machine. The room wasn't locked. I'm glad I didn't bother calling the owner and asking where a launderette is. Having exhausted almost all my clothing, today was the day. I only used a little of their soap, and when you consider I'm only using one bed and the same set of towels all week, there's a lot less soap being used than normal. I also bought stuff for the place so I think we're even on that cup of soap.
Thanks to a paucity of anything of interest on the boob tube and an indescribable desire to learn the language of a land with a smaller population than my bloody hometown city suburb, I spent some time with my Icelandic grammar charts. There is no room for error, and the pronunciation doesn't even let you come close to faking it the way you can with German.
During the day RUV shows the Alþingi (Parliament) if it's in session. It's like like CSPAN except that while the representatives talk an awful lot, they don't do it to an empty room like so many in the US Congress do.
On the way for the ritual coffee and water at 22, I was stopped outside the Ósómo store buy the guy standing outside taking a smoke break. I recognised him, but I have no clue where we met. Probably at the pool hall. We started talking a bit and I went inside to look at the T-Shirts. He should have a lot more on Friday.
There was one shirt I really want. I mentioned that I always see a particular girl on the children's program Stundin Okkar wearing it. I essplained I watch kiddie programs to learn the language and he agreed that's a great way and he did it himself in Denmark when he lived there. So what else do I watch? Óp, and caught it last night. The cat food was Teh Funnay!
"The girl from Óp just walked by the shop as we started talking."
I *so* wanted to offer to buy her a nice lunch after last night's snack and performance.
At 22, I checked my mail and messages and confirmed the rental car. I used some Icelandic in my mail to the car company and the answer came back completely in Icelandic. Great. At least I know I'll have a car on Sunday at noon; I just don't know what time I'll be sober enough to drive it.
On the way home I stopped in the Tiger store, a schlock shop where everything is 200 or 400kr. They had shower heads for 400kr so I grabbed one. They also had el-cheapo alcohol testers at the counter. Two for 200kr. I'm sure this wasn't just coincidence. The Æsir are looking after me. I picked up a package.
Back at home I ate a little normal food, forgoing the packages of þorramat, did the laundry had a shower, and planned to head to bank and afterwards perhaps to a museum. Maybe. Is it me or is U2's Vertigo totally rip off You Keep Me Hanging On? Others in the hourly rotation: some slow song from Jón og sira Jón, REM's Leaving New York (even though they're from Athens, GA), Beastie Boys' Open Letter to NYC and Meðan ég sef from an Iceland band called Í svartum Fötum (In Black Clothing). The latter is a soft/dream-rock piece with a video of the singer imitating Franka Potente and running all over the place.
I'm getting that Icelander smell which I've realised is a combination of the sulfur (sulphur) in the hot water and the light perfumes in the soaps. I can confirm that you do start getting used to the smell of the hot water, but it never goes unnoticed.
I set out for the þjódminsjasafn (National Museum). After yesterday's miss, I stopped in the Tourist center and found out which bus goes to Perlan (the Saga Museum, and it's the #7) and made sure I was going the right way to the þjódminsjasafn this time. Yes.
But first, a quick stop at the bank. Sólveig was busy and for about 15 minutes I watched a video screen behind the tellers' counter showing the history of the bank with lots of photos, video and subtitles. Finally she was done with another customer and had good news for me. According to the people who handle and have access to actual ATM transactions records, my transaction never went through. It's still showing as pending on my Postbank on-line statement but Sólveig was happy to print out a copy of the mail she received so I can show it to the mooks. Bite me, Postbank (and wait until Day 11).
Another panorama at the Tjarna or Tjörnin or whatever the hell the grammar says it's called this week.
And I found the University. Whoops. RVK looked great from here, and there was a clear view of Prelan on the hill as well as Hállgrímskirkja standing majestically in the middle of the city. I headed for the cathedral.
A poorly stitched-together panorama looking at the city from the university.
Iceland is Darwin in action. The people here have survived the cold, the food (or lack of it), the jackboot of Denmark for half an aeon, volcanoes, whatever's been thrown at them. They live evolution, so it's no surprise that no one really cares too much what you do here. Either you'll survive or you won't pass on those I-want-to-die genes to the next generation. There aren't any barriers to crossing a major roadway. Either you make it across or you won't have offspring who might do the same stupid thing. I was glad of the hiking boots as I sloshed through a field which had become a swamp with the melt and trudged along until I got to Njarðargata and started the hike up the hill. I'd've been in a world of sorry had I come here with the normal Reebok Classics.
The cathedral is impressive, and on the back of the huge statue of Leif Eriksson (carrying a longsword and wielding a battleax and cross) was an inscription. More than 70 years ago, a bunch of Americans knew accepted what's since been proven about Leifur making it to North America. The statue was a gift on the 1000th anniversary of the Þingvellur. So their spelling needed a bit of work, but it's the thought that counts:
Having gone out every night I'd started smoking again, dammit. Worse, within three days it wasn't limited to a couple social smokes some night at the bar. It had become regular, every night. And had already progressed into daytime, too. I'd lit one and was taking photos when three little girls walked into my path and started chastising me. The one I understood best yelled "Reykingar drepa!" ("Smoking kills!") pretty loudly. I let my camera down, looked at the butt in my hand, looked at the girls, dropped the smoke and crushed it. Then I pulled out the pack and crushed that. The girls were elated as I said, "Takk fyrir" ("thanks"), but that didn't stop one of 'em from continuing to impart upon me the wisdom of her tender years.
Fucking cigarettes. They killed my father, killed my mother's father, and I'll be damned if they're gonna take me, too. Of course, I'm also cynically resigned to the fact that the smoke at Hallgrímskirkju probably wasn't my last, but breaking away again after only a few days of smoking won't be too hard. I think there are a couple nicotine patches in my suitcase just in case.
I'd walked back down Frakkastígi, passed Laugavegi and continued on the last couple hundred meters to the bay to get some neat pictures to contrast summer and winter. I also took a few of the famous statue Sólfar (Sun Voyager) and came home to rest my dogs.
A panorama of the bay along Sæbraut in winter
Sólfar, one of the most photographed statues in Iceland.
I've noticed that these diaries are getting a bit banal at times. Taking an apartment rather than a hotel or guesthouse has allowed me to get a more realistic feel for living here, but also ensured a more normal life as compared to the uncertainties and that was the hostel living. I have a pretty bog-standard flat about 30m² with none of the toys I'm used to. No dozen pinball machines in various states of (dis)repair
1, only a couple laptops instead of half a dozen whining mid- and full towers, the most basic of cooking instruments. It's pretty Bohemian for me. But it's great. I don't quite fit in, but I've been recognised a lot on the street already, and the people who recongnise me aren't always doing a quick 180° and breaking into a sprint. Still, I carry the tag of "American" and despite living in Germany, speaking a few languages and killing myself trying to learn this one, I'm not quite there you. Still, I'm making inroads... I think.
Oh yeah, I still want to live here as much as ever. The view of the mountains in from the bay every day alone is worth it. I've moved elsewhere for much less. The pictures don't come close to licking the boots of the worst this place looks. Yes, I'm on vacation but I have the feel of this place as much as I had in Regensburg when I knew I'd move there. Job. Language. I've been through this before and hope like hell to go through it again, not having forgotten how hard it really is.
I got an E-Mail from Rósa. Looks like I'm driving to Akureyri solo. She's low on cash and because of the weather, there's not much snow to go boarding. Shit. I expect it to be a good 4-6 hours on the road, not including the inevitable stops I'll be making for photos unless the weather sucks. Since I never received an E-Mail response I called Guesthouse Íbuðir in Akureyri. The room is free, it's now booked, only about 4000kr/day, and they have ADSL. Whether the ports are controlled or not we'll find out Sunday night.
I still don't have a place in Akranes, but if worse comes to worse, I can day-trip it there and come back to RVK at night. Or maybe I'll crash at Stefán's place in Þorlákshöfn (extra half hour drive or so). He's got his own place now and has offered me the couch. I'd like to take him up on it.
So I'm sitting in 22 surfing and writing this. The bar girl needed three tries to understand me. I asked if my Icelandic was so bad. "No, it's very good." Don't blow smoke up my ass, honey. "No really, it's just too loud here." Thank you sincerely. Glub knows I'm making the effort. And with that she just killed the lights. From "enough to see" to "Ray Charles" inside two seconds. Touch typing rules. Too bad I've worn down the home row indicators on the F and J keys.
Tonight appears to be another evening in Sirkus. I may stop by Pravda. Other than that there's not much planned, which is a shame, really. Most adventures begin by waiting for me to make plans and then thoroughly destroying them. I still have time to kill; no one goes anywhere before 10 or 11.
It was there, beckoning. I had no choice. I had to go. I stopped at the peep show. In a land with serious controls over all things adult and intimate in nature (despite the as yet unproven claims of Bacchanalian activities) they had a rather large selection of reasonably priced toys and gadgets. It was, however, a classic circular peep show with booths that have windows with covers that drop for specific amount of time for coins and not just a bunch of film booths. Call me a chicken, but I didn't go into booth, partly because it's not one-way glass and partly because I just had no interest in seeing some girl or hag put down her cup of coffee and start writing around in the hopes that I'd shove a few 1000kr bolls through a slot. I don't think I spent five minutes in there.
Instead of going straight to Sirkus, I went back to the pool hall and Æsgir was working. I got some change at the bar and started playing, sometimes alone, sometimes with some girls who asked if they could join me. Then all of a sudden it was 1:00a.m.
Before I left I dropped 1500kr in a slot machine and Won 5000kr. As I took the coins to the bar to trade in for currency, some lamer started hanging around insisting I had to buy him a drink since I won. Uh-huh.
I cashed out and went back to Sirkus which was closed. Tomorrow they're open until 5 and that's the plan.
I went back home and did some damage to the bottles in my fridge, no doubt damaging myself in the process.
1 Anyone have a couple spare WPC95 CPU boards?
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