I felt like it was a good sign that I had been invited by a local to the one travel guide recommended food spot in Grindavik. Apparently, the lobster soup here was legendary. The menu consisted of Lobster soup and plenty of baked goods.
As I was accompanied by a genuine Icelander who placed her order first, I was addressed in Icelandic for my order. Without skipping a beat though, the woman at the counter asked me again in English “ what would you like?” This scenario would repeat itself a few times.
We sat down on the patio to eat and to get to know each other for the first time as I took in the surroundings. Situated just down the same harbor as my “cabin”, the view was industrial all the same, but it was a beautiful sunny day and I watched the cargo ships float by as we talked.
Gudrun had already written her list of sights to see for me and went over each in detail. I finished my soup and headed back inside for a piece of cake and a coffee. By the time I got back to the table, a massive tour bus had arrived. Before there had been no more than 3 people, now there were upwards of 30. This is life today in Iceland apparently.
I told Gudrun I’d be staying in Reykjavik that night and she told me she was visiting a friend in the city herself and could show me around if I was keen. Of course, I said yes, thanked her for the soup and we parted ways promising to text later. I hopped in the car and took the hilly windy way to Reykjavik.
Reykjavik is a city unlike any I’ve seen before. The population of the entire country is around 300,000 people. ⅔ of them live in or around Reykjavík. The historic part of town isn’t very old by European standards, it somehow seems to have a fresh modern vibe and an old run-down one simultaneously.
After finding my hotel and checking in, I touched base with Gudrun and we set up a place to meet in a few hours. I have a huge passion for walking around cities aimlessly, so in the meantime, that’s just what I did.
After a little wandering I stumbled upon a place I had already intended to visit; the settlement exhibition of the city museum. Around 2001 the remains of an early Viking age settlement were discovered and later a museum was built around it.
In the meantime, I had told her I was interested in finding myself an Icelandic sweater. You may be aware of the famed traditional Icelandic sweaters; they are super traditional and typically made from local sheep’s wool. Icelandic sheep roam free during the winter months and are herded up and shorn before summer. As you might imagine their wool is pretty hearty.
Icelandic sweaters got really popular at some point, so you can buy foreign-made, cheap versions all over the city, but Gudrun had the hookup. She took me where the sweaters were knit by “grandmothers in front of fireplaces”. The hand-knitting society of Iceland was our destination; after some input from one particular grandmother who was working that day, I found the one.
The Cultural Identity of these sweaters is something that fascinates me; They are both traditional and hip. It would be just as normal and accepted to see someone’s grandparent wearing one as it would a twentysomething in an indie rock band.
Armed with my badass new sweater, we were ready for an evening in Reykjavik. Gudrun recommended dinner at a gastropub called “Sæta svínið” (Sweet Pig in English). Which was great because I had been keen to try some Icelandic beer.
Beer being strangely illegal in Iceland until 1989, they have since made up for lost time and loads of cool, inventive craft breweries have sprung up.
Sweet Pig was a cool, lively spot, and the food was fantastic, with lots of great beers to try too. We finished dinner and she finally informed me of the details of the party we would later be attending.
It was a small gathering for an Icelandic rapper, named Emssje Gauti, that we were headed to. Gudrun’s childhood friend had been an actor in his new video and the shindig was to celebrate the premiere.
This was one of those times when I couldn’t really believe where I was. 48 hours earlier I had never seen the northern lights and certainly had no notion that I would soon be rubbing elbows with Iceland’s hip-hop elite.
Just as we arrived and grabbed a drink (i tried yet another beer) all the guests were being ushered into a screening area to watch the video; our timing was impeccable. I really enjoyed the song, “Hogvaer” not being able to understand much other than the phrase “ motherfucking Yoda”. The video was funny and Gudrun’s friend did a good job.
It wasn’t till after the video had finished that I realized I had been sitting directly behind the artist. He got up and started receiving all the congratulations; being that I was so close to him and I had had a few drinks at this point, I congratulated him too. He seemed really nice but I didn’t linger.
We milled about for a while, I met her friend the actor and we chatted, I spoke to a few more people who were wondering who I was and why in the world I was there. It was all a very surreal experience. We were remarkably close to my hotel, so I eventually excused myself and called it a night.
Gudrun and I made breakfast plans so we could go over her list one more time. I walked to the hotel, made sure I couldn’t see any more northern lights, and crashed… To Be Continued.
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