Tuesday, June 12, 2012

I Wear My Sunglasses at Night

This is Reykjavik at 6pm.
This is Reykjavik at midnight.
 This is Reykjavik at 3am.
 This is me and my friend Lexie in Reykjavik at 12am, just to prove this actually happened because Iceland still feels surreal to me.

This is Iceland and it is like no other country I've ever been to.
Actually, this is a relief map of Iceland, but just because you can map the melting glaciers doesn't mean they make sense.
The sun literally never sets on Iceland during the summer, but metaphorically the country has been a bit overcast with both an economic crash and volcanic eruption within two years. However, because Iceland is the land of the vikings, they persevered and bask in the midnight sun and for a few days last week, so did I.

Why Iceland? First off, I blame my friend Isaac, who went two summers ago and hasn't stopping talking about it since. When I admitted to him after the trip that I found Iceland a "tad overhyped", he replied, "Well of course it was overhyped, you've been around me for two years." Next, I'll blame my dissertation (which I can blame a lot of things on, it should be feeling pretty guilty by now), which was on Neil Gaiman's American Gods and therefore forced me to read a lot of Norse mythology. We would know nothing about Loki's antics (nor could Tom Hiddleston portray him so charismatically in "The Avengers") if it weren't for thirteenth century Icelandic historian Snorri Sturluson, who wrote the only narrative source of Nordic myth in The Prose Edda. As if I hadn't read enough of it for my dissertation, when I found out the original medieval manuscript is housed in Reykjavik, I had to go and geek out over every other Odin reference too (see dorky photo above.) However, the tipping point was when my friends Lexie and Kathryn booked their plane ticket and I asked if I could tag along.
The insanely hip Kathryn (left) and Lexie (right) are pictured above. I hadn't seen them in person for two years and the last time we were in Tennessee, so I couldn't wait to get back together with them in Reykjavik of all places. With their cool haircuts and chic sweaters, they blended right in with the hipster population of the city. Kathryn even got spoken to in Icelandic sometimes and introduced us to her Icelandic friend Olli (who she met when he studied abroad in Murfreesboro years ago), it was like being with a native. And Lexie's sheer enthusiasm meant we saw everything, met everyone, and never skipped dessert. In short, they were the perfect fellow adventurers.

 And adventure we did. Iceland is a country of crazy juxtapositions. My daily itinerary is hardly believable:

Last Tuesday: I flew in to Keflavik Airport in the late afternoon, drove through roads bordered by volcanic rock on the way to Reykjavik, met Kathryn and Lexie for the first time since 2010 in the hostel, and spent the evening loitering in hipper-than-thou cafes where scenesters drank beer called Viking. Yes, really. 

 Last Wednesday: I bathed at the natural hot spring, The Blue Lagoon. Most spa experiences don't have water that stinks like sulfur or offer you scrubs made out of volcanic rock, but that's Iceland for you. We returned to Reykjavik refreshed, but starving and indulged in the Icelandic delicacy that is the hotdog.
I bathed in that and didn't turn into a Martian.
The table had specially built-in hot dog holders. They take fast food seriously.
Last Thursday: We museum hopped.  At the National Museum, I learned that Iceland converted to Christianity in roughly 1000 AD, so there was no chance of me seeing Thor when I was there. At the National Gallery, we saw art depicting Iceland's natural wonders, evidently, the real masterpiece of the country. Then we got some living culture when we caught Olli's band playing The Harpa, the government funded concert hall that looks like a honeycomb. After, we pub crawled until 3am (hence the "sunrise" photo), but don't judge me because apparently on weekends, Icelanders go out until 7am. When the sun stays up, so do the locals.
Well, I guess Thor still exists as your heating repairman.

Lexie and Kathryn wandering Harpa.
Last Friday: Lexie and Kathryn left to road trip around the rest of the country because they were staying longer than me and  unless they fell into a volcano on their travels, they're still living it up in Reykjavik as I type this post. I had plans to actually see all the natural wonders I'd been learning about in museums in person and continue to pretend I was in a Norse myth. So I went whale watching and then to The Settlement Museum, a museum built around a recently excavated viking longhouse.

 Last Saturday: I saw Snorri's manuscript, not that I could understand any of it, but I got a nerdy thrill out of seeing the origin of Norse mythology and essentially my dissertation. Then I went on the famous Golden Circle bus tour and saw the usual: the original geyser, a waterfall, and the continental rift.

That's Iceland in a nutshell and it is a hard one to crack. Whales, hipsters, and every geological formation in my freshman year textbook all exist in one country. Are you in shock yet? Because I still am. I'll have plenty of posts to work through it because I took over 600 photos. These are just the bullet points and I promise to go into more detail than the Icelandic Sagas. The hot dogs deserve their own post, although don't worry, I won't write one.


  1. How I wish I had traveled when I was young!

  2. this makes me so happy!!!!!!! i am so glad you were able to come with us, tess!

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