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23 February 2008 @ 06:03 pm
Icelandic Saga I: Reykjavik!  
Touched down in Reykjavik 6 AM on Friday morning, got some krona from the
ATM, bought a bottle of Cuban rum at the duty-free, and went off to get one of the few four-wheel drive SUVs in Iceland with (much-needed) automatic transmission.

Driving into the city totally exhausted from the flight was fun, especially when the best the navigators could manage was “Make a right at some unholy long name that starts with an H.” Let me tell you, all the names are unholy long and many, many of them start with H. Just as I got a hang of passing slow drivers along the white, mountainous, oddly moonlike landscape, we hit morning rush hour and promptly discovered that wacky morning DJs are not unique to America.

We managed to track down our hotel after K. made the brilliant linguistic realization that “Pfingholt” was the same as “Thingholt.” I can’t say enough good things about the Centerhotel Thingholt. It’s an awesome place to stay. The décor’s funky cool in a James Bond nemesis kind of way, the rooms are super comfortable, and the staff extremely nice. They not only let us check in five hours early, but since they made us wait a few minutes they upgraded us to deluxe rooms, even though we were paying a specially discounted rate.

One of us immediately fell to jetlag and the promise of nice bed, but the other three headed out to explore the various coffeeshops that make up your breakfast options in the city, settling on Mokka, which is apparently the oldest java joint in town and wickedly 50s-ish in a Frank Lloyd Wright kind of way. We had waffles with whipped cream and a grilled ham-and-cheese sandwich with awesomely strong coffee. We were just jokingly lamenting how mild the weather was when a beautiful blizzard whipped into town. We played in that for a bit, then all went back to the hotel to nap off some jetlag.

After waking up, we grabbed a mediocre dinner at Café Kultura: mushy falafel and they think nachos means Doritos served with a side of salsa. Iceland’s Gull beer tastes like Coors Light, so stick to Stella Artois, which is everywhere here.

After that, more napping, followed by going out to the bars. Drank too much vodka to remember the names of where we went, but around 2 AM we decided to sample Iceland’s favorite junk food: hot dogs! At Baejarins Beztu (Bill Clinton’s favorite when he’s in Iceland), you just order one with everything, which includes both raw and crispy fried onions, ketchup, mustard, and a bechemal-like remoulade. But even better than the food was the entertainment! There was this skinny, drunk Icelandic kid enthusiastically lecturing us on his two favorite subjects:
1) “This hot dog is the greatest hot dog. It is every hot dog in the world in one hot dog! This hot dog....”
2) The corporation! Wait, make that… THE COR-POR-RA-SHUN! I think he’s opposed to it; I guess to all corporations. Maybe the corporation is every corporation in the world in one corporation. It was hard to make out much than the word corporation.

My companions said he reminded them of the German nihilist in The Big Lebowski. We're now regretting now taking pictures of him. Or inviting him to join us at the cabin.

In the morning, we hit a less exciting café that nonetheless pleased K. by serving the coffee with little shots of Pellegrino and chocolates. We wandered some more in the city of bookstores, coffeeshops, and hairdressers, went to a flea market where the girls bought a fur hat and a pleather jacket, and browsed the crazy enormous manga section of the public library (K. likes to visit libraries when traveling).

Then it was goodbye to our lovel hotel (sob!) and off to the cabin. Outside of Reykjavik, you rapidly realize why they call the place Iceland. Snowy roads, frosty deserts, and gorgeous mountains. (zeeke, picture the area around Moab, but covered in ice crystals.) Finding the cabin was a little maddening, so asked for directions and and pizza from the only business for miles around: a little clubhouse or lodge type place. While our friends waited for the pizza, K. and I went off to search again for the cabin again. And we found it! But then I backed the driver’s side of the truck into a ditch! Fortunately, we were near a cabin and fount two extremely nice guys who helped us get back on the road. Turning the cold water on in the cabin involved some fence-hopping, cursing and chipping away of ice, but now we’re warm and safe inside, drinking rum and shiraz, stealing someone’s wi-fi, and slowly getting totally used to the sulfur smell that seemed just about overpowering when we first opened the door.

Oh, and in about an hour… the Northern Lights!

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Pallaspallasathene8 on February 23rd, 2008 11:33 pm (UTC)
I hope you are taking pictures to share when you get back. :)
Diary of an Ass Monkeyassmonkeydiary on February 24th, 2008 01:07 pm (UTC)
Most definitely!
saint_bonersaint_boner on February 24th, 2008 12:48 am (UTC)
Cool... pun intended.

I just saw Anthony Bourdain eating a hot dog there last week on the Travel channel. He was missing Jamaica.
eeeoeeeo on February 24th, 2008 02:18 am (UTC)
I've wanted to visit Iceland for quite a while. I think I'll plant that seed in wifeys head and let her get after finding some good deals. IcelandAir flies direct from MSP to Reykjavik, I believe.
JuhnDonn: beer bourbongilmoure on February 24th, 2008 02:39 am (UTC)
Oh man, that sounds so cool! Is third on my list of must see countries before I die.
jover on February 24th, 2008 02:52 pm (UTC)
You're, like, totally close to me, man! We're even in the same time zone! I bet if we both stood on the top of really tall buildings we'd even be able to see each other!

Also, I told you that Aimee Mann played one of the nihilists in the Big Lebowski, didn't I? I think I was talking to you when I wikipedia-d her, but just in case I haven't already told you... Aimee played one of the nihilists in the Big Lebowski. Amazing, huh?
orcaarroworcaarrow on February 24th, 2008 03:41 pm (UTC)
Glad to hear you're having a great time. It sounds wonderful. Sounds like your traveling companions are fun to be with.
Porcupunkvyk13 on February 24th, 2008 04:00 pm (UTC)
I am so jealous of your trip :))

Btw, wanted to ask, do you know what's the tattoo in the picture is supposed to be?
(Anonymous) on February 24th, 2008 10:19 pm (UTC)
Sounds so wonderfully awesome! Your description makes me feel like I'm right there, staying warm with all the booze.
davezeeke on February 25th, 2008 03:22 pm (UTC)
wicked! I am very jealous...take lots of pictures!