Gleðileg Páska!

Happy Easter, everyone! We’re in the midst of Iceland’s five day spring holiday here, which is conveniently timed to allow for more dedicated study time, as my last two exams are at the end of the month. We also have a few friends in town who are celebrating their honeymoon amidst what can only be described as some extremely Icelandic weather: sun, immediately followed by hail, immediately followed by rain and black clouds, immediately followed by sun, and then back again.

It has been immensely gratifying to share our adopted town with such enthusiastic visitors, and it’s given me some nice chances to go to favorite spots (the lopapeysa stall at the back of Kólaportið which is always staffed by the same lovely old lady), and finally go to some new ones, too—like the top of Hallgrímskirkja for a great view over the city. (I’ve also had an incredible Icelandic track record this weekend—not one, not two, but three people have said to me, mid-conversation, in Icelandic, “Oh, you speak Icelandic” and not kept talking in English, but rather, switched back to Icelandic. The woman who sells the sweaters had a whole conversation with me, even. It was. The Best. So, thank you, Iceland: my confidence brimmeth over.)

Here are some shots of Reykjavík from the Hallgrímskirkja tower:

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I Met the President. And Musselled. (In the same weekend.)

Hállo, Internet! Easter is on the way and spring is in the air this week…Or at least, it’s very bright outside, and stays that way until around 9ish now, but the weather is fluctuating wildly: it snowed yesterday, in fact. Can’t you just tell that the first day of summer is next week?

Anyway: I had a pretty awesome weekend, Internet. Or pretty awesome pre-weekend-into-weekend. Because not only did I get invited to attend a good portion of the inaugural Iceland’s Writers Retreat (I’ll be writing an article about this for The Grapevine soonish), but I also got to go musselling. These things were both entirely and incredibly awesome in two entirely and incredibly different ways. So let’s get to it, eh?

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Húsfreyja day (Part II)

Quick update/addition to the last post, as I have just received two photos from the lovely intern who was accompanying and assisting us yesterday. She maintains an online anonymity, so we’ll just credit her as Flash, per her wont.

By way of explanation, however, here you see me wearing upphlutur, which would have been a sort of non-working Sunday outfit. The top jacket is woven together with a little chain and was the bra of the time, but much less uncomfortable (I assume) than a corset. Still, as messy as I got with the butter-making, I understand why this wasn’t the everyday outfit.

More about the costume, and other forms of national dress, here (which includes amazingly fun pictures) and here.

Beware the Fearsome Icelandic Death Ice!

Years ago, in college, some friends of mine rented a movie called “Death Bed: The Bed That Eats.” I wasn’t even around for this viewing—although the title has stuck with me for all these years—and honestly, The Death Bed (The Bed That Eats) is neither here nor there in terms of this post, except that I would like to draw a mostly-unrelated parallel to a fearsome blight sneaking up (and under) Reykjavíkurs all over our lovely city. Beware, all ye who walk here: Death Ice: The Ice That Sprains. Death Ice: The Ice That Bruises.

Death Ice: Do not be fooled by the attractive vista; this ice is merely lying in wait.

Death Ice: Do not be fooled by the attractive vista; The Death Ice is merely lying in wait for its next victim.

Death Ice:
The Ice That Maliciously Wants You to Fall, Embarrass Yourself In Front of Strangers,
and—If Fortune Smiles—Break An Ankle, A Wrist, A Tailbone…Or All Of The Above.

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First Snow!

So, remember how I was waxing rhapsodic about the fall just days ago? Well, it’s certainly still fall, but Iceland has a funny (and attractive) sense of humor: I woke up this morning to our first snow of the season here in Reykjavík. (I think it may have already snowed in the North…)

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The funny thing is that it is supposed to start raining within hours. So enjoy this lovely snow while it lasts!

Books and Bacon

Chelsea and Darren were lovely guests this weekend and we did a lot of fun, albeit mostly low-key, things. These included sweater-hunting in thrift stores (per Mark and my’s usual, perhaps embarrassing, tradition, we took other people shopping and found something for ourselves—in this case, a delightfully ugly-but-awesome sweater with a mama polar bear and a baby polar bear which had been marked way down because apparently, no one else gets what Awesome is…), wandering around the Kolaportið, getting late night hot dogs, looking at the organ in Hallgrímskirka (I really need to go back and hear it being played finally), cooking a nice fish dinner, and watching movies. There are very few people with whom a first-weekend-back-in-town would go over well, particularly given that Mark and I had to spend a fair amount of time on Sunday doing work. But Chelsea and Darren are the Chill Visit All-Stars and I very much hope that they will come back for a longer visit in the future. We had a great time, you guys!

But on to the B&B… On our “town day” on Saturday, we all stopped by Little Free Library Reykjavík, since I hadn’t actually seen it since I arrived. This was extremely satisfying! Not only was the library still there and in good shape (no graffiti or vandalism to speak of, knock wood, and it appears to still be watertight after the rainy summer…knock wood x2), but it still had books in it. Books which I didn’t recognize and definitely did not put in there or collect myself. Which is really heartening–it looks like people are really using it! At this point, I am unconvinced that anyone has brought the books back after reading them, but baby steps. I am  glad that it is getting off to a strong start.

After visiting the library and adding a few more books to the box we had lunch (a waitress mistook my Icelandic accent for Faroese which was certainly a first and somehow heartening), and then…drum roll…went to the Bacon Festival!

Darren in particular was a very good sport about Bacon Fest, for which I thank him here on the Interweb. Chelsea and Mark chose not to partake, both for very good reasons (too full/legitimately a little grossed out by the grease-drowned bacon/not a bacon-eater), but it would have been, well, super sad for me to be eating free bacon all by myself.

Bacon Fest, for the uninitiated, is basically just an excuse to close down a major street for uber-specific gluttony. There was country band playing Icelandic covers of American honky tonk (“Stand by Your Man” is perfect bacon music, bt-dubs), an abundance of bouncy-castles for kids (like, three or four at least), and about seven stands and tents where bacon and sausage were being given out by the Ali Bacon company. Someone was even handing out flyers for a Bacon After Party, which was hilarious, but might have been pushing it.

I didn’t realize it when we arrived, but it would have technically been possible to start at the church and wend our way down toward the city center, eating bacon every few feet. I can’t say that I regret not doing this, because, you know, I want to live to see my golden years, but somehow, I was pleased with the option—and the fact that having so many stands spread out the crowd a little.

Skyr is Here!

Not long ago, I passed along the thrilling information that Icelandic skyr was going to start being exported to Whole Foods in the US. I checked on this when we got to Arizona, but unfortunately, no skyr (at least no Iceland-made skyr) was in stock. And then, last night: Ta Da! Feast your eyes, America: Skyr is here!

Found in a Whole Foods in Portland, Maine.

THE SKYRAMID!
Just imagine that you are hearing a (my) goofy, child-like giggle on loop as you look at this.

Mark and I essentially cleared out the full stock, at least of the flavored varieties. We agreed that without the rhubarb jam, the plain skyr just was not going to transport us as much. We were rhapsodizing so intensely about our skyr triumph at the register that the girl checking us out took one out of the bag and checked the ingredients: “16 grams of protein?” She was impressed. “19 grams of sugar?” She was less so. (But it’s fat free! And so much protein! And it’s skyr!)

I will admit that the imported skyr is not a cheap deal: it set us back about $2.39 a piece. But it’s so filling and thick and creamy! And so heart-warming. Totally worth the splurge.

Photo Update: Seaside Sculptures

I’m in the process of organizing all the photos which haven’t yet made it onto the blog, and am almost done. When sorting the other day, I found some great shots of the sculptures outside the Sigurjón Ólafsson Museum that I took a couple days before leaving Reykjavík. On that lovely May afternoon, Mark and I were hoping to see some sculpture outdoors, and since I remembered seeing what looked like a sculpture garden along Sæbraut, we took the bus over, only to find out that not only was the museum closed that day, but that the building that I had thought was an outdoor sculpture garden was actually a private home with tons of crazy, massive, amazing iron figures outside. (I would love to know the story with this house and the person who lives there.)

Anyhow, I’m looking forward to going back to the museum in the fall, but we got quite a nice little art infusion just walking around the perimeter of the neighbor’s house and checking out the tall wood and stone figures that the museum has installed on the grounds.

I’ve archived all of May’s photos on the photo blog here, but the sculpture ones are below.

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Old Ice Cream and the Ísbíltúr

The Vesturbæjar Ice Cream Shop. Photo via likealocal.com.

It seems only appropriate today, as the temperature creeps over 110 F (bouncing between that and 114 F this weekend—the longest it has been this hot in Arizona for consecutive days since 1989, lucky us…) to reminisce about a particularly fun Icelandic ice cream ritual, as well as a particularly awesome ice cream that Mark and I shared on our last day in Iceland.

The ice cream in question, called gamli ísinn, or “old (style) ice cream,” was brought to my attention during my first semester, but we didn’t manage to make it over to the beloved Ísbúð Vesturbæjar where it’s sold, until our last day for some reason. I’m not sure why this is, since it is right around the corner from the westside pool, but there you have it. Now that we have sampled the offerings, however, I imagine we will be much more frequent customers next year.

So: why is this “old” ice cream so-called, you ask? Honestly, I have no idea. But it is thicker than your usual soft serve, and at least to my palette, tastes a lot more of water. (I think Mark found this a strange taste assessment at the time, but this article in The Grapevine seems to confirm my suspicions.) If this doesn’t sound particularly great to you, let me just say, for the record, that it is. Particularly when you ask for the old ice cream, blended (there’s a name for this, but I forget it…), with a bunch of ingredients mixed in, much like a Dairy Queen Blizzard.

Oh, and the small size, which the nice girl at the counter, warned us came in a very deceiving cup size? It’s the size of a small pine tree. Or a baby’s head. Or a gigantic Icelandic Easter egg. However you like to hyperbolize, it’s huge.

Observe:

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