Seeing that it's been four months since I returned to the United States, though, it's high time I suck it up for the sake of posterity. You're welcome.
A Note on Couchsurfing *
By the time I left the European continent, I was completely broke. Moreover, I had read that everything is quite expensive in Iceland, and my stay there would cover seven nights. There was simply no way I could even charge that amount of money to my credit card. I found my solution in couchsurfing.org
Beginning with the infamous two-mile trek I covered in my last entry, I stayed (for free!) for three nights with a young couple in their late twenties who had been generous enough to send me a message after I'd written about my need for a place to stay. This allowed me the time to meet with my next host in person before staying with him for the remaining five days.
*I don't wholeheartedly endorse staying with strangers in foreign places, I have to admit that the idea turned me off when I first heard of it, and I wouldn't encourage it just anywhere. However, Iceland does have some of the lowest crime rates in the world, so it was a pretty perfect place to couch-surf.
|The weather in Iceland changes from hour to hour.|
By the time K and her host left, I wasn't exceptionally keen on hearing the Canadian conspiracy theorist brag (yet again!) about his semi-autobiographical crime novel so I left the hostel and explored more of the city, taking ample photographs along the way and keeping an eye out for affordable souvenirs.
K and I eventually worked up the strength to revisit the pouring rain and parted ways at the bus stop. I returned to central Reykjavík and spent more time exploring the city before meeting with the guy who had agreed to host me for the remainder of my stay. (I felt better about staying with a stranger if we met first).
|Reykjavík Cathedral and Leif Eriksson statue|
Icelandic culture draws heavily from Norse mythology (not from Marvel comics, as some might assume...) In fact, both of my male hosts had the middle name of Þór (anglicized to "Thor").
be so terrible.
one will survive
C (my new host) and I met in a café and spent the next several hours chatting and getting to know each other. C was born and raised in northern England but has spent a significant amount of time in Iceland because his mother is Icelandic. He recently moved to Reykjavík with a level of permanence to attend art school and was the sole occupant of a flat right in the center of town. Encouraged by his genuine, non-threatening approach, I decided to take him up on his offer and would bring my things to his flat the next morning.
I left my first hosts with a thank you note (which also explained that their cat had vomited on the sheet they'd covered my temporary bed with which is why I put it with the other soiled laundry) and rode the bus into the city. With all of my luggage in tow, the *mostly* uphill trek to the Cathedral left me winded but I made it. In addition to moving my stuff into C's flat, I would also be meeting with A, a local in his early thirties who had (via couchsurfing) offered to show me around and buy me a cup of tea after I'd requested his couch but found it unavailable. I spotted him near the Leif Eriksson monument, we shook hands, and he helped me find the address C had given me. At the flat, I unpacked my things (I even had my own room!) and C gave me a spare key so I could come and go as I wished. A and I went out to tea and browsed a couple of book shops. He has a PhD in nutrition (a fact I only realized much later, due to his very humble manner) but spends his free time writing and photographing various natural phenomenon. His most recent photographic venture had been in Hungary, which gave us something in common.
It was incredibly windy by the time we left the tea house, so A drove me to the National Museum (admission was free with my Reykjavík Welcome Pass). Because I would have to walk back to C's flat and because the rainclouds were so heavy, A gave me his waterproof jacket to use for as long as I would need it.
|I wrote my undergraduate thesis on Gunnar's Daughter, a historical novel set in medieval Iceland and Norway.|
I mentioned this before, but the weather in Iceland really does change from hour to hour. My welcome pass included a ferry ride to Viðey (a small island across the bay) but I didn't want to be stuck out in the open in the pouring rain. Thankfully, when I went to the island (the day after "moving in" to C's flat) the wind and rain subsided during my two-hour jaunt around the island, so I successfully basked in its majestic beauty.
|Viðey in the distance|
Cy and I arrived at the concert and I took in the view: it was breathtaking. I'd venture to say several thousand people showed up but since it was outside, nothing felt crowded. Cy and I even managed to make it up to the front of the crowd and enjoy the music as such. What struck me most about the aura of the situation was that it welcomed families. From what I've seen in the US, kids and hip concerts don't mix well: Either the music is enjoyable but the crowd behavior is grossly inappropriate for children, or the program is safe and aimed at children but the music is painfully lame. Iceland is a very different world, though. Parents brought their children (some were just babies) and the younger members of the audience seemed to enjoy the music as much as the adults. I was awed because I could never, ever envision something close to that concert happening where I'm from. It was refreshing to witness.
The music itself was wonderful. Prior to the concert, I'd only really heard a few songs by Of Monsters and Men. (I also hadn't a clue that they were from Iceland). I loved what I heard that night, especially their cover of "Skeletons" by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, which happens to be one of my favorite songs.
I have never experienced anything like the venue of environment at Garðabaer. From the free admission to the open-air stage smack in the middle of a field, it was gorgeous.
The next day, K (my fellow Minnesotan) and I checked out the Reykjavík Flea Market and I finally tried a famous Icelandic hot dog. They are really, really tasty. (And this coming from someone who used to shun any and all red meat). I think what makes them unique is the assortment of sauces and the crunchy onions sprinkled on top. At any rate, it was a treat. When K and I parted ways, I used my Welcome Pass to get reduced admission to the Volcano House where I watched two documentaries about volcanic eruptions and their impact on Iceland. Fascinating stuff.
|I used to hate hot dogs, but I've been converted.|
Don't believe in the Icelandic pride for hot dogs? Read this article.
|With K at the National Museum|
Bright and early, C and I left the flat to buy the delicacies he had talked up the night before. I can't remember their Icelandic names (though I kept having C re-pronounce everything so I could hear the charming sound of the language) but the treats turned out to be some sort of orange soda and a pastry like a cinnamon roll. C had to leave for his classes but not before a lovely goodbye which involved exchanging lists of film and book suggestions. (Yes, I am a nerd and no, I am not ashamed of this fact).
My time at the airport was fairly nondescript as I filed through the line to have my passport stamped. It was almost time to board the plane when I noticed that my scarf (the accessory that had accompanied me through this entire journey that had been a gift from my sister) was missing. I tried to go back the way I came to look for it but the way was blocked off. I spoke with the woman behind a desk and filled out a lost item slip as I quietly resigned myself to having lost the scarf. My plane was boarding, I explained, and I was fairly certain I had left my scarf at the other side of the airport on the back of a chair in the food court. She encouraged me to explain myself to the people at the passport station and go back for my scarf. I knew I would be cutting it close but I ran back to the line, explained my situation, sprinted to the food court, located my scarf, sprinted back, waited to have my passport stamped before being waved forward by someone who recognized me, beelined past people on the broken escalator, and made it to the gate just in time to board.
I was going home.
|On board my flight home. The napkin says:|
"In the year 1000 Leifur Eiríksson the Lucky sailed from Iceland to America. He named it Vineland.
On his journey, coffee, tea and soda were not complimentary."