Tuesday, September 17, 2019. Reykjavik, Iceland.
Soundtrack: The Sword – Cloak of Feathers
We were woken by the dulcet tones of a dude with a jackhammer outside of Kex, which is equal parts hostel and social event of the season. The downstairs bar/venue room is a huge, beautiful library full of fine leatherbound books in a language I can’t read. The chairs are leather as well, and it always smells like toast. Unfortunately, everything there costs a minimum of 2500 krona, which is like $22 in real money. I enjoy the ambiance, but not enough to pay that much for the Icelandic equivalent of Budwiser.
I brought a padlock from the states. I got it from Wal-Mart. It broke as soon as I strapped it onto the locker. I spent the first half hour of the morning googling WikiHows of how to crack combination locks and growling.
I succeeded, eventually. Eureka! We hit a cafe, from whence I tickatacka’d yesterday’s BT, then we made our way to a neighboring hostel where I foraged up something that contained meat and vegetables.
From there, we proceeded across downtown to soak up some culture.
I suspect this was the consulate building, if not the consulate himself. We’re both a long way from home, little fella.
A little beyond the expatriate bear, we found Tjornin Lake, a gorgeous shallow pond full of hateful waterfowl.
Tourists were frigging around with the birds, trying to catch them on their hands like in Snow White. The difference is, the birds in Snow White are cute little cartoon bluebirds, whereas the birds of Lake Tjornin are colossal ex-dinosaurs, molded by evolution since the Mesazoic to become diseased airborne gang rapists.
I have it on good authority that the secret to defeating a goose is grabbing it by the neck, spinning it around like Mario 64 Bowser, and hurling it through the air. It’s important you scream the entire time. I was confident that I could do this, if it came down to it, but I didn’t want to. Instead, we retreated to the National Museum, to look at culture.
This was about the extent of the old god’s representation in the museum, unless it was also Jesus.
Grave goods were a big seller, though. The first half of the museum was recovered beads and rusted weapons once buried with long deceased Icelanders. Grave goods apparently included horses, whom, the Icelandair video had assured me, are known as “the true ambassadors of Iceland”.
Horrific ghoul King Olaf of Norway decided in 1000 AD that Iceland should spurn the old gods and embrace Christianity. Iceland was like “okay, I guess.” Their squat and deadlift totals immediately plummeted, despite their truly awesome fish protein intake.
Look at this messiah, though. Who needs Thor?
I would’ve preferred this to be an elaborate engraving of Ragnarok but I’m not going to turn down whatever the hell this is.
In our time at the National Museum, we were followed around by a cadre of collegiate German tourists with no concept of volume control. They would not shut the fuck up. And it’s not even like they were conversational about it; they toddled along and inflected, shouting in German, presumably to appreciate the acoustics of the empty, silent god damn museum.
It was a dissonant experience for me, and here’s why. Firstly, I don’t speak German. Maybe what they’re saying is pertinent. Maybe this dude is explaining his treatise to his 22-year-old review board. Maybe he’s a tour guide with mild Asperger’s.
Secondly, I don’t know the cultural mores of this land, this Ice Land, as yet. Maybe shouting in the museum is encouraged! Maybe I’m the one making a faux pas by quietly reading the placards surrounding the artifacts.
Thirdly, I’m an American. We are the loud obnoxious tourists. That’s our whole purpose. Look up “loud American Japanese business”; it’s not even a stereotype, it’s a living wage.
It was on the third floor I noticed everyone else at the museum fleeing from the Germans whenever they entered a room. It’s not like you didn’t hear ’em coming.
“Let’s go back downstairs until they’re done,” Ladygirl suggested.
“Excuse me!” I called to them. “Can you guys keep it down?”
They gawped at me, presumably for addressing them at the same volume. Sort of like the frat boys back at college who would yell at pedestrians from their little beer pong porch bunkers, right up until you yelled something back, at which point they would go record-scratch silent.
“We’re just talking,” one of the girls said.
“I know,” I said. “We can all hear you. We’re in a museum.”
European politesse won out, and they entschuldigung`d and continued their heated exchange with their inside voices.
Ladygirl and I finished the circuit at a decibel level appropriate for a dimly lit museum, then suited up and made our way across town to the Culture House. The tickets were two for one, and you had no choice. Sodden with Icelandic culture as I already was, I’d be remiss to waste this other ticket that I apparently bought.
The Culture House was more to my tastes. A lot of the paintings were spooky, and trolls were well-represented.
I also happened onto a display of old Icelandic spellbooks from the pre-Christian days, and I took pictures of them in order to push my luck with the spirit world.
That was as much culture and eldritch knowledge as I could collect in one day. We proceeded to Brew Dog.
The beers were spectacular. The only thing stopping Reykjavik from being heaven is the fact everything costs twice as much as it does in the real world.
I cannot stress this enough: Iceland is preposterously expensive for no reason.
Well, okay, that’s intellectually dishonest. There’s a reason. It’s a huge cold socialist island, and everything has to be imported. While that has nothing to do with me, the cheapest meal surrogate I’ve been able to get my grubby little mitts on is a shwarma sandwich, which still cost $10.
$10! For shwarma! What?
I don’t hold it against them. It’s not their fault. I’d want some kind of recompense too, if I had to put up with this weather every day.