09 July 2006


Today is the kind of day that makes everyone fall in love with Iceland. It's warm (although when I look at the forecast it turns out it's only about 60 degrees f), golden sunny, and with the lightest of breezes. The cafes have put all their tables out and they are all full, people taking leisurely lunches, stretching out their bare feet to the sun. I can hardly believe it's Iceland, so green and fragrant is this place. There are roses blooming on the main square, and walking through the neighborhood is a craze of summer smells- freshly clipped grass, lilacs (or something that closely resembles them), and crisp breezes from the sea. This is why everyone stoically deals with those months of darkness and unpredictable weather- one day like this and it is almost entirely forgotten.

In other news of Icelandic legends, the nightlife here is something that is often discussed as the Most Amazing Party Scene, and I am not sure if it lives up to that billing after my few months here. People from all over the world plan trips here for bachelor parties, crazy weekends of decadence, and hopefully a hookup with an Icelandic girl (seems like it's always guys that want to take this kind of trip).

Based on my experience of this place, the nightlife can either feel too small or just right, with most of the bars and clubs in a walkable downtown area. No place is exclusively a bar or dance club either, so you could spend a whole day in a place, starting with coffee and magazines, then ordering dinner, followed by drinks at the bar, and finally moving to the back where the disco ball and colored lights add dance club ambiance. It makes for a strange mix at the transitional times when some people are finishing up their coffee and others are getting into the beers and cocktails.

The other really special thing about going out here is that if you're with a group, there are inevitably encounters with old friends, cousins, or former co-workers, who get absorbed into the group with much hugging and kissing. It has the feeling of being someone's house party without the dirty dishes in the sink, especially since so many of these bars and cafes still retain so many details from their former lives as homes. This camaraderie is one of the best parts of going out here- after being here for a few months, it's a rare night that doesn't turn up some acquaintance. Of course, if you're out late enough, and everyone's had enough glasses of Víking, even people you've never met start to seem like old buddies. Maybe that's the charm of the place after all, and why people love coming here.

These summer days when night never falls also have a certain timeless magic. Why does it matter if you stay out until five am when it's bright all the time? You'll be sleeping in the light no matter when you go home. To keep things feeling mysterious and nightlife-y and to give everyone the added gloss of intrigue that darkness offers, most places do try to create the atmosphere of evening with heavy curtains. Still, the curtains can always be pulled open to reveal the pink clouds and baby-blue sky that is "night" in July.

At the end of the evening when the curtains are opened, the music trails off, and the crowds pour onto the street, the festive atmosphere clings to the streets as people stop for hotdogs, waffles, kebabs, and sandwiches before dispersing into the morning sun-glow to sleep half the next day away. A curious way to spend a weekend but worth it once in a while.

Ship sighting: There's a sailing race going on now, a distance sailing race from France to Iceland called Skippers d'Islande. Yesterday the boats must have been arriving or leaving Reykjavík, so the harbor was swooping with white sails in front of Akrafjall. Based on the course map, they're heading to their final destination in Grundarfjörður further north. I also saw the research ship Seeadler I mentioned last post. It's still here, tied up at the main dock, and is due to depart tomorrow.


IMS said...

Sounds great! I must visit this time of year - perhaps next summer. I enjoyed the one evening we spent in Reyjavik when I visited.

sb said...

I think I may have a clue as in why you ended up in Iceland.
You are truly a writer extraordinaire.
Start writing as if you'd be writing a book. You'd get it published!

Dance like you've never danced before,
Laugh like you've never laughed before,
Sing like you've never sang before
Cry like you've never cried before,
and my dear E, Write like you've never written before and you will shine like a shooting star!

tsduff said...

sb is right. You have the ability to sketch each scene with your words, painting a picture as sure and real as if one were looking at it with their own eyes. Having just spent time with my boyfriend's Mother and Aunt living in Kopavogar (next to the big blue man-shaped mall - ha ha) I was wondering if you were describing their home in your last post, as the descriptions of the art and other decor so closely matched their own. I can almost reach out and touch the things you write about - if I close my eyes I can easily remember those surreal sunlit nights in which you never really feel like going to bed. Thanks for writing like you do.

ECS said...

hey bro- you should come in the summer. It's an amazing experience!

Sirrý- thanks for the continued votes of confidence, and the compliment. I'm not sure it's quite to publish-worthy level but I'm glad you appreciate it!

Terry- I work near that mall but the house I describe is in my soon-to-be-former neighborhood here in Reykjavík. I think it's kind of an archetype though.

dtw said...

sb sure is right. I don't know if you always had a way with words or if it was refined by expat life, but it's so inspiring. Furthermore I don't know if it's just me, but you can also capture the tone of Iceland, that's familiar from plenty of their music, films and literature. It feels wrong if I try to describe it but I believe you folks know the desolate but warm feeling often in their arts.

sb again said...

Seriously look at it this way, if there is any such thing as god or that energy that is said to have created this universe, then my god.... E you were given a god's gift to write.

Write your heart out, don't just believe it you can do it.
KNOW IT, that way you become the best you can be in your writing. Writing is a profound form of creation, and why would you not acknowledge this beautiful gift, given to you. It's a god's gift, embrace and I'm really loving your writing here. Looking forward to your first book! :D