Before I left, I raved about how excited I was to attend Elf School.
|Álfaskólinn, 2nd floor.|
With regrets and several hugs, he informed me that since I was the only attendee, he would not be holding elf school that day. If I could wait until Tuesday when a big group was scheduled to come through? But no, I would be back in the states by Tuesday.
To be honest, I had mixed feelings about missing elf school. I was in a fair amount of pain due to a minor operation I had just undergone at the hospital (more on that later), so was a bit nervous about trying to make it through four hours of lessons without passing out. He gave me the text book for free, and promised to send an electronic copy of the new edition when it comes out. So I got another rare folklore book to add to my collection, which made me happy enough. Half of it is in German, the other half in English, and I get the sense that the German stories are not the same as the English ones.
I've got a couple of random pictures I'd like to go through. First, viking hats. They were everywhere.
|On a backpack...|
|...on a troll.|
Next, weird art. Ha, I'll bet you thought art class was over.
|In a coffee shop in Reykjavik.|
|In the restaurant near Geysir.|
|Bonus Sexa! Já!|
So let's talk about puffin, shall we? Yes, puffin is on the menu.
What's a puffin, you might ask? This little guy is a puffin:
|"Pwease don't eat me..."|
|"I'm gonna eat ALL the cute fishies! RAWR!"|
OM NOM NOM!
And you are not one to point fingers. Unless you're a vegetarian, you've likely eaten one of these recently:
|Original image from Crack Two. |
Warning: Do not view before dinner. Or breakfast.
The appetizer course was smoked puffin, which tasted like salmon, only softer, more purple, and OMG IT WAS SO GOOD. Puffin, I love you.
The main course tasted totally different... a bit like mild liver. I happen to love liver, so it all worked out.
So the bars in Iceland, on the weekend, are open all the time. That's because in Iceland, time has no meaning. They also let people carry their beer bottles from bar to bar, and I even saw a guy take his glass from one establishment. He had the courtesy to look slightly guilty as he did so.
One thing we quickly learned is that if it's late-night, say 10pm, and you're hungry, YOU WILL NOT FIND FOOD IN REYKJAVIK. They've never heard of bar food, and if you walk the streets looking for a restaurant still serving food, they will look at you funny. We did discover, thanks to some friends of friends we met up with, that after 11pm or so, the food trucks show up in this one part of town, and then it's waffles and kebabs till sunrise.
Except, the sun doesn't rise. We've been over that.
|Picture taken at 12:50am. Still sunny.|
Location: The "Luna Bar" aka the Mánabar
|The smoking room at some other bar. Taken at 3:16am|
Boston was on the second floor, darkly lit, with gold baroque wallpaper and tiny chandeliers. The music ran the range of electronic tunes with that particular Icelandic sound we came to love via the car radio. Not necessarily Icelandic music, but a certain choice of style that was pretty awesome. Iceland has several music festivals, and it seems like that sort of thing might be worth visiting for.
The DJ was a woman, one of my first realizations that Iceland is subtlety less sexist than the states. It's these little things that told me Icelanders actually believe women are just as capable as men. (A guy we were hanging out with, who has done work for the Pirate Party campaign, BTW, told us the problem with Icelandic women is they're too emotionally detached and unwilling to commit.)
|Boston, right next door to Dillon.|
|Lookit! It's my bar!|
Or perhaps it's the wacky sweater the Dude wears throughout the film, which, while not traditional, does distantly resemble a lopapeysa Icelandic sweater.
|The Dude abides.|
|Yes, this is a White Russian menu.|
TMI: click to expand
Now let's leave the city for Iceland's majestic natural beauty.
The famous Blue Lagoon is near the airport, about a half hour southwest of Reykjavik. It was really hard to tell what time it was, since the sun was still just as bright (gray, overcast) at 10pm as it was at 10am. We got there a little late to pay the tourist-mine prices for a soak in the water, but...
|Please take a moment to memorize this color.|
|Panorama. Feel free to zoom.|
That's about all I have to say about it. I can't vouch for paying to go in. There are natural hot springs all over the country, as well as naturally-heated public pools. I read that it's cheaper and better to go somewhere else.
|The mysterious path leading to the Blue Lagoon.|
Given my previous writing research into dark ages political systems, I was super-delighted by this surprise. If I'd been feeling up to it, I would have run to all the monuments and historical markers all over the valley. As it was I hobbled about the best I could and still managed to see alot. Have some pics:
The Althing took place in that valley. The bluff we're standing on is made of basalt, and a large natural crevice cradles the path that leads down. Here's the start of the crevice's humble beginnings, and the path:
At the bottom is another crevice, parallel to this one.
And then of course I have to take a picture of the only sign carved into the rock. I have no idea what it means, but that curly-cue "c" symbol looks really familiar.
So let's talk about cairns. The first thing I noticed driving to Reykjavik from the airport, is that out in the middle of the vast lava-flow rock covered in struggling moss, were rock piles. Most were only three or four feet tall. Others were more impressive, maybe forming low walls as if they could have once been huts. It was a common feature of the landscape. I speculated (rightly) that they were markers of some kind. Specifically, they were landmarks that once denoted roads and paths that no longer exist. They are hundreds of years old.
So imagine our surprise when we pulled over to a viewpoint, and found a whole field full of them:
My guess is this started out as one cairn, and as people stopped along their way to Þingvellir, they just added more. Some are very artistic. If I'd not been impaired, I would have made one of my own.
The Geysir area was just like a mini-Yellowstone, although, if you think of it, Yellowstone is more like a mini-Iceland. The Great Geysir itself is the first geyser ever written about by mankind. It goes years between eruptions now, but there were several other geysers nearby, including the very active Strokkur, which went off at random intervals of 2 to 6 minutes. Roland got some great video of it.
|The sign wordlessly says "Don't throw coins in here, you jerk!"|
Some jerk had thrown two coins in.
Now for Gullfoss! No, this is not a product for cleaning between your seagulls. It is a giant waterfall. There's a larger waterfall to the northeast, Dettifoss, where Prometheus was filmed, but since it would have been a day or two drive, we opted for this tiny little thing:
|See those dots on top of the rainbow? Those are people.|
On our way home to Reykjavik, we took the scenic route.. I mean, the other scenic route.. hell, they're all scenic routes, and we discovered Skálholt, a really old church, built in 1056AD. At least, it used to be that old, until it burnt down, and then they rebuilt it. Anyway, the site was once the largest religious and cultural center of Iceland until all the fires and earthquakes forced them to move to Reykjavik.
|Source: Wikimedia Commons.|
Because we fail at taking pictures of churches.
|"Upon this rock, I will [literally] build my church."|
At the end was a tiny basement museum sporting huge stone sarcophagus lids, carved in art and Latin, dating across 700 years, the newest being from the 18th century.
We followed a narrow winding staircase to the cathedral above.
Perhaps it was because of the ancientness of the site, or perhaps hundreds of years of worshipers, or maybe it was the candles and the organ music, or the atmosphere of having entered via a basement full of ancient coffin lids, but in the cathedral I was struck with a sense of power that coursed through me like lightning. I've had few experiences like this in my life, but it's been a very long time, so I wasn't expecting it.
I almost cried. I couldn't speak until we left the building.
|Iceland is small, but it's really big.|
Here I am, back at the airport, coffee in hand, all ready to depart. I would definitely return to Iceland. Perhaps next time, we might travel around the Ring Road, aka the Golden Circle, staying in B&Bs we pass along the way. Or perhaps more partying in Reykjavik, or going in winter for the Northern Lights. I still crave learning the language and the elf lore, and would love to live there a couple of years to do just that.
One parting sign just before we went through security. I knew just enough Icelandic to recognize the word "coffee".
It says, "Prohibited from placing coffee cups in the window." And I was so sure "gluggann" had something to do with how fast you should drink your kaffi before boarding your international flight.