Call of the North (9): Reykjavík

july 19

2 a.m. Guesthouse Pavi, Reykjavik. A sign on the door – for checkin call danny at this number, at any time. I try to call – phone not working.

WHAT?

I try again. Phone still not working.

Oh, no.

Out of a Divine inspiration (thank you), I try the door. It’s open – thank God, at least I don’t have to freeze outside. I enter, try to call again, no chance.

I curse, in Romanian (something I only do out loud when I’m completely alone). While I continue bitching at the phone, I hear footsteps. A sleepy silhouette appears at the top of the stairs.

“Oh! (gladly) Are you Danny?”
“Yes”
“Aaa, I’m so happy, I tried calling you, but my phone was not working”, I explain hastily and happily.
“Poti sa vorbesti si romaneste”.
“Excuse me?”
“Poti sa vorbesti si romaneste.” [=’you can also speak romanian’]

His name was Daniel, and he is from Craiova, Romania. I laughed out loud.

The next day I also met Veronica, his wife. Both of them work at the Pavi guesthouse. Probably the only two romanians in the entire hotel industry in Iceland.

The room i’m staying in is very cool, 20 beds, separated by… cubicles, an arrangement I have never seen before (or since). Gives a neat sense of privacy.

I started exploring Reykjavik around 11 am, not in a hurry, but very happy. Just very happy to be there. When I realized I was happy, i wondered what will happen to dampen my mood. Something always happens to dampen your mood when you’re happy. Or maybe it’s just me.

It did, nevertheless. The fact that I found out that the trip I wanted to do is damn expensive. Which raised worries about the whole trip budget. Oh well. I booked it nevertheless, and then joined a free walking tour (“the only free thing you get in Iceland”), lead by a funny guide, the one with a geuti.

That’s how i found out some interesting things about Iceland. In no particular order:

  • A quote from the queen of Denmark: “if you get lost in the forest in Iceland, all you gotta do is stand up.” That’s because there are virtually no trees in Iceland, only smaller vegetation, due to climate. The one in the picture above is an exception
  • Therefore, wooden houses we saw were made using wood imported from Norway. Newer ones have roof material on the sides as well – handy in snowy wet winters.

  • Around 1800 their literacy rate was 100% (!!). „what can we do in winter? read!”
  • Very advanced education system, completely free. First school dates back to 1052. Book recommendation: „independent people”, Halldor Laxness, the only icelander winning the Nobel prize for literature.
  • Country was colonized by vikings around year 800. the few irish monks living here before “fled”. Quotation marks from the guide – “do you see anywhere where they could have gone??” Then he made a suggestive gesture at his neck.
  • Male genoms seem to be of norwegian origin, female of irish. Apparently vikings had a base in Ireland, hence the irish ladies supply.
  • Oldest parliament in the world, Anno 930. We’ll get back to that.
  • Population – 310000 (3 100 1000, i.e. three hundred thousand), more than half living in the capital and around it. About 20% of the island is inhabitable
  • Country is supplied 100% by natural energy. 30% thermal, 70% hydro. Or the other way around. Anyway, first shower – odd rotten eggs smell. Sulfur. You get used to it. Drinkable, too, says Vero. Directly from the ground. Even the hot one, there are 90 degrees temperature hot springs.
  • Thats because Iceland is on the Altantic ridge, hence volcanos, hence thermal water.
  • Crime pretty low. Phone number of the prime minister supposed to be in the public phone book.
  • Cheap natural energy = ecology? Nope. Government wants to sell it to some canadian and/or american dudes who want to build a huge aluminium factory. to get power for that they want to flood a huge currently uninhabited territory. Environment scandal on-going.

After the tour, which was fun, i started walking on my own. Town is small, no place to get lost really, at least in the center, with the main shopping street

main intersection, with the photoproject featuring every kid between age 3 and 6 in rural iceland

next to the lake

in the “center”, with the cathedral (middle) and the parliament (right)

the harbor.

Speaking of the harbor, a highlight is this shack, selling the apparently best hotdog in the country.

Bill Clinton was passing by one day, and one of the employees shouted at him asking if he wants a hot dog. He said yes, and got one each for all his staff. Liked it. They have a picture :).

Indeed, it is simply the best hot dog i ate in my life. And it seems that not only me, but also these young people who arrived as i was queuing

to eat a festive hot dog!

After that, on to the big dome

all under refurbishment

but with a good view from the back

finally the king kong syndrome – up the tower for the panorama

Upon exit, i asked how to get to the Pearl. I wanted to see it, but also to go shopping before they were closing at the supermarket, to get some food. It would have been wiser to go to the supermarket first, so i turned the other way around and hurried out to the Pearl first

they are water tanks, but also used as panorama spot.
After that, quick shopping, and… hm. It was 8 at night, sun high up… a thought kept nagging at the back of my brain. There was this town closeby with the coolest name, Hafnarfjörđur. Only 30 mins away by bus. Not much of tourism at this time, but… that name… so i went.

Not much to see, of course, it was evening, everything closed, but it didnt matter.

After a short walk i took the bus back. And while the normal Icelander was preparing for the runtur, the famous bar hopping every Friday night, I went home to sleep. One has to prioritize, and with 7 euros the cheapest beer in town, i had other thoughts on what to do with that money.

It was still light outside, although midnight. I observed that it does something to your biorhythm. makes going to sleep harder – i.e. less of a priority for the body. Especially combined with the adrenaline of discovering a totally new place, many sensations to digest…

While writing this, it’s almost dark by now, it passed 1 am, probably the max darkness point – you don’t see well enough to read. Time to go to bed. Good (nordic) night.

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