Posted by: jeanne | June 28, 2014

in reykjavik for the night

first, let me apologize for the inconsistent capitalization.  i don’t usually capitalize, but when i’m offline i use the word processing software, and it insists on capitalization, and autocorrect and removing the two spaces after the periods.  at this point i don’t have the heart to figure out how to turn it off, so oh well…

Reykjavik backpackers’ hostel is where I am at the moment. That means it’s saturday.  I’m here for a change of scene, and to be close to the bus that leaves in the morning for akureyri. And it was a daunting trip, let me tell you.

First of all, I forgot to turn in my room key, which means I have to journey back to hafnarfjordur to return it, and that’s okay, because I left a present for ragnhildur in my checked luggage and have to take it back to her anyway.

Last night I went for a walk. It was 10:30 pm and the sun was looking like it was only 7 in the evening, so I suited up and headed out. This time I went to gardabaer, the next community up the coast road. One thing, when i’m walking the dogs at home, the cars all sneak up on me because they’re so quiet. Here, you can hear them coming for miles. I think it’s the tires on these roads that make so much noise. Maybe they’re crushed lava and tar, but they fairly sing with tire noise.

So I walked forever up this sloping hill, toward red roofed farmhouses, a church and a school. In the distance everywhere I turned were mountains, and finally I got to a point at the top of the hill where there was a gnomon with the landscape around me etched into the platen. If I was taller, I could have read it, but as it was I could only see the near side, and that meant reading everything – in icelandic – upside down. So I gave up after admiring its practicality as an art object, and the view from it. And then I walked back. I seemed to be out of the lava field, and the ground was very marshy. I passed several fields with horses in them, cute icelandic horses, which I petted and offered some tasty grass they couldn’t quite reach. And I passed a whole bunch of nesting birds, wheeling and circling and calling out in the gloaming evening. Because the sun only went down behind clouds and the sky turned pink after midnight. And it stayed light all night. I still can’t get over that part. People must be asleep in their homes, but there were cars about, and when I got back to the hostel there were a dozen young german kids sitting around the fire outside, drinking and toasting marshmallows (where did they get them?) and playing guitar. And I supposed they were up until 2 or 4. I didn’t see any of them the next morning, duh.

I got up at 9:30 this morning, instead of 11 or 12 as I did yesterday, and had a cup of coffee that my stomach didn’t enjoy. So I packed up my bags and walked out and down to the bus stop. I tried to find hellisgerdi by dead reckoning, but I missed it by 2 blocks, else I would have stopped and said hello to frodi once again. I guess i’ll do that later this afternoon, anyway.

I hadn’t been into reykjavik center before. The bsi terminal is on the other side of the huge hill with the modern church on it, so I hadn’t seen it at all. The first thing that struck me was how tiny and squinched together the houses are. And winding little roads, like a really old city. But reykjavik isn’t really old. It is built on a hill, however, and so it’s mostly up, or mostly down. And it’s massively crowded. It’s famously difficult to find a place to rent, for example. But it’s cute. Right now i’m eating my lunch on the 4th floor of the hostel, and I can see the roofs for a nice little stretch. It reminds me of paris.

But I arrived just before noon, and was told that the hostel doesn’t open until 3. however, they let me store my luggage, so that was great. I hopped a bus out to a different part of town to go to a leatherworking and bookbinding store called hvitlist. And it was a nice journey, and then up a steep hill, where my legs kept complaining that i’m not a kid anymore. And then the store was closed, this being saturday. Now if I want fish leather i’m going to have to journey from olafsfjordur, because I don’t think i’m going to have time to go back to the store when I come back thru town.

I have been asked to stop by the phallalogical museum (the dick museum) and buy some oosik, which would be sliced penis bones made into a necklace. But they only sell stupid penis carvings, rather than anything actually artistic, so I passed. Sorry christie, i’ll see what else I can come up with. The only thing they had was a mink penis bone, which looks like the half of the wishbone that got the wish. I don’t actually feel like shopping here, now. I’m too tired and alienated, and not at all consumerist, like all these tourists around me.

The tourists come from everywhere. The americans can be heard for half a block because they speak so loudly. Lots of germans. Lots of children. Lots of young adults here to party. Wee hah. But not me. At close to 60 i’m not much of a partier anymore. Like I ever was…

Speaking of age, it was necessary to go get my huge big suitcase out of storage at the bsi terminal and cart it up here to the hostel, and i’m going to have to get it to the other bus terminal in the morning. And at this point it has all my luggage except for the backpack with all my sleeping things and my food. So it weighs more than 50 pounds. And I dutifully dragged it out of the terminal and started up the hill to the bus stop, going by a taxi stand. I thought for a moment, and then walked back to the taxi. It costs money to take a taxi, but I can’t translate the cost anyway, and I got to the hostel with my bag in good time and with no wear on my feet and legs. The receptionist at the hostel even dragged it upstairs for me, thank you very much. I must look old and fragile. I feel old and fragile…

i’m almost done with my dinner. Last night I had some soup and a guinness, and that was plenty. Today i’m eating my dinner at 2 pm, and that’s good. I’ll have plenty of time to digest it before bed, and will get some sort of light meal before I go to bed.

The food is good, the tapwater is heavenly, the weather suits me down to the ground (like ireland, like portland), and the people couldn’t be nicer or more helpful. I have nothing bad to say about this place, but I feel sorry for them because they cater to tourists extensively, and that means they’re at the mercy of tourists, and have to tart themselves up for tourists. It cheapens them, a little, but honestly it’s wonderful that they all know english. Funny, i’ve seen several wheatpasted art pieces, and they’re all in english. Lingua franca, I guess. It’s really handy, being english, to have people who speak the language. That’s what makes ireland such a great place; all you have to do is successfully fake the accent, and everyone leaves you alone. Here they know i’m american before I even open my mouth, and like in holland nobody will let me even start to stumble in icelandic. Takk fyrir.

Okay, last few bites and then i’ll do the dishes and go thru my bags for the present for ragnhildur and hop on the bus. Leg of lamb slice fried with garlic and mushrooms, pint of guinness please, and some pickled beets from the free section of the fridge. I’m putting the other piece of lamb and the rest of the mushrooms into the free section, and will take the garlic with me in my bags. I don’t think they have vampires here, tho; probably too cold for bats.

Except bats like me.

Well, I went back to hafnarfjordur; ragnhildur wasn’t there, so I walked down to the hostel and gave them back their key. Then I borrowed a tiny piece of paper and wrapped my present – an oxalis corm from my garden – and left it wedged near the front door of the elf house. I sent ragnhildur a message, and it turns out she’d had a strong feeling to go to the elf house, and got it before I sent her message. So great.

I rode back into town. At this point it was 7 o’clock in the evening. Most of the tourist shops were closed, and that was trouble, since I needed to get a pair of fingerless gloves, having left mine at home and knowing full well i’d need them. Trouble is, much of the tourist things made of wool are not made of icelandic wool, and they didn’t have any fingerless gloves in the icelandic wool shops. And plus they were closed at this point, so I went to the viking store and bought a pair of lined regular wool ones, and they will have to do. While I was there I found some icelandic spar, and bought that without hesitation, because it’s illegal to go to the mine in the east fjords and pick any off the ground, because it’s private property and the mine is closed. I had looked up that possibility, and could have stayed in a hostel where they used to mine it, but it would have only been for the spar, since I didn’t really fancy that particular fjord, where they’re doing lots of aluminum smelting things, and wanted to spend the night on another fjord. So now my mind is at rest.


Then I went across the street for my snack, at 8 pm, and ate sushi made by a scottsman. It was good, tho, and I am sated and ready for sleep. Except that I have to get reception to call a taxi at 6 tomorrow, as my bus for akureyri leaves at 7:30. I wouldn’t have decided on a taxi because it’s only 5-6 blocks away – downhill – but the checked luggage is heavier than ever and so is my backpack. So screw it, i’m going to act like an old lady and get help.


Fortunately I found an open bakery, and got a chocolate croissant for the morning, because there’s nothing open that time of day, and I don’t want to starve. I may not even get a cup of coffee, tho that’s something i’ll decide tomorrow.

Tonight i’m in a 4-bed dorm with 2 other people I haven’t met yet. It’s possible I won’t meet them because they’re probably young, and they’ll probably be out all night partying. I’ll have to sneak out when I get up at 6, so i’ve prepared, and everything’s packed except my sleeping stuff. I’ll be able to drag everything into the hall and finish packing – there’s not much room in the room – and then perhaps get some coffee while i’m waiting for the taxi; we’ll see.

It’s a beautiful evening. The hostel is on a shopping street so there are still millions of people roaming the streets, sitting at outdoor cafes, enjoying the late evening. The sun is out, the sky has got some blue in it, and the world cup is on in the bar downstairs – go brazil. There’s a live band out the back, and every time the bar door closes, one floor directly down from my room, it slams, and it’s a big heavy wooden bar door. Maybe the slamming stops once the game is over.

I’m off to bed and it’s still light outside. That’s a joke, not a testament to how old I am. Sure it’s 9 pm. I don’t actually have to get over jetlag here because I can just keep my usual 5-hour delay and still function perfectly well here. But I will adjust to icelandic time once I get to olafsfjordur, on monday, or whenever it’s july 1.



  1. I had not asked for oosik, but thanks for thinking of me. A postcard would have done. 🙂 Hopefully I will be the recipient of some cool art thing you make or encounter while you are there.


    • huh. whotf asked me for an oosik necklace, then? it wasn’t ginger.


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