I have been to Iceland now, and I can tell you this: the area around Reykjavik is like Eastern Idaho, only with an ocean. The same volcanic stone, the same flat yellow-brown, the same desolation with mountains in the background. In Reykjavik, however, unlike say Salmon, the architecture is very sleek and minimal and Scandinavian. I saw no cow skulls or split rail fences.
The bones of the town lack ornament – no floofy French ironwork for these people – but that is remedied through graffiti. The city is full of bright murals and graffiti. I saw a few small boys with spray paint in the skate park, broad daylight, and it seemed almost like everything had been painted with permission, partly because it felt like the kind of place no one did anything they weren’t supposed to do. I don’t really like places like this; I don’t trust them. And I don’t like the efficiency of the architecture. But I did like the air, and the freshness in things.
In Iceland, they count their money in Icelandic krona, which is kind of like counting in pennies. You buy a chocolate bar. Two hundred and ninety, they say.
When I got to Iceland, I was very hungry. I had been in England. I had been living most of the day on cake. I don’t think very straight when I am hungry, but I knew I needed money. I went to the ATM and got out what I calculated was about eighty dollars, which seemed like enough for a day. A fat stack of bills spit out, and I went to buy a yogurt. It was only when I went to my hostel and it just took one of the bills to pay that I realized I was off by a power of ten. I had 80,000 krona on me, or almost seven hundred dollars. When I checked my bank balance, I had nine cents in my checking account. Thank goodness for internet bank transfers.
I would say more about Iceland, but the truth is I don’t know that much about it. I was there for barely twenty four hours, an unpaid cameo on my way home. The air was clear and cold and smelled like fall in the Rockies. The mountain ash trees in town were ripe, and the berries were squished on the sidewalk. Many people, but not everyone, were blonde. The old people I saw had very bright eyes.
I stayed in a place called KEX Hostel. It was a great hostel, the kind that is so nice you’re sort of tempted not to leave, especially when it’s forty degrees, dark, and blustery in the rest of Reykjavik. I did leave, though, with a couple of other people from the hostel. We wandered around the city doing an inclusive survey of the restaurants, determining that Iceland restaurants are expensive and that you can buy whale at the Mexican restaurant. We didn’t buy whale. We ate delicious salads (beets and grapes! Eggplant with coconut milk, thyme, and pomegranate!) at a coffee shop, then went back to the hostel and drank beer. Earlier, I also ate some dried fish, which is served with plain, cold butter and is a great thing to eat when you’ve been living on cake since Sussex.
On my way to the airport, I went in the Blue Lagoon, which is a funny spa in a volcanic wasteland where you can be delivered by bus. The lagoon is full of milky, salty hot water. Afterwards, my skin felt thick and clean in a way it never has before. My bangs were straw.
And then I left, and now I’m home.