24 September 2009

escape artist

As much as I love it here and all that, sometimes a girl's gotta escape. Last year the grand finale of the Norway project phase 1 coincided with the collapse of all the banks (literally.. the first bank collapsed the day before I left for Norway, and when the installation team returned to Iceland they'd all gone under), so since then I haven't had much chance to travel abroad for work. I've had to figure out how to feel like I'm traveling a bit while actually not taking a plane instead.

Some techniques involve first of all, splurging on some less ordinary ingredients. Yes, avocados cost a bundle here but they remind me of sunny places. Same with fresh herbs. I am also happy to see that the dairy producers have stepped into Greek yogurt production, another creamy indulgence that makes for good breakfasts and delicious sauces when mixed with other ingredients.

Further on the food front, there are still good restaurant choices in the cheep-and-foreign category. The Bulgarian restaurant that opened a few months ago has been consistently delicious and serves up all the right sort of spicy, including grilled hot peppers alongside their main courses. Then there's the decent Mexican place around the corner, the slow-but-tasty service at Saffron (although its Glæsibær location seems impossibly distant to those of us living in the west side of town), and the grand old standby Hraðlestinn. We're not suffering too badly here. I did try the much-Facebook-fanned Serrano a few days ago though, and I have to say that it's one that I won't be returning to sample again in any hurry. Their "chicken" was tasteless, they didn't do the nice cheese-melty thing like my old Boston standby Viva burrito, and the avocado cost additional, on top of their already steepish price of 900isk.

But, moving on, when I need a change of scenery from the openly sweeping vistas and frigid looking ocean, I take my new absolute favorite running loop. It starts at the Vesturbær pool going towards the university. The first bit of the route is a bit of a churn to get through, following bustling Hringbraut, past the domestic airport with the planes angling in to land overhead, down the touristastic street towards the airport hotel. But then, the reward comes, after the left turn into the only foresty place below Perlan. How did I not know of the magical mystery that is Öskjuhlíð? My friend M had said she was avoiding it because she'd heard of lurking men and fearsome rabbits but in my many trips through there this August and September, I've met very few other people, and seen only a few of the rabbits. The population of rabbits is supposed to have come from people releasing their pets to the wild when the novelty of the easter-bunny gift has worn off. Whatever the reason, they are certainly shy and certainly in great numbers. As for the people, I've seen a very occasional walker, and recently, only evidence in the form of a backpack or bag that someone's up in the woods picking the mushrooms that are prolific in this extremely rainy autumn.

What I love best about this short forest are the mossy stones, the gnarled trees with their tiny leaves, the hush that collects around me in spite of the rather downtown location of the place. The branches rustle with sparrows and other small birds, the paths twist away into shaded corners further up or down the hill, and the whole area smells of autumn leaves, mushrooms, and moisture. It's the smell of this time of year, one of my favorite markers of September in New England, and small though this "forest" is, and though it's lacking that swishing whisper of wind through large pines, it helps alleviate some of the homesickness.

And then finally, there's international films! For the first time I've been going to some of the films at the international festival that happens every September. So far the ones I've seen have been delightful and varied, and even better, they're all showing within a 5 minute walk of my house. Anyone in the area who hasn't should check the listings and try to squeeze in a viewing or two before it ends this weekend. There've also been some good releases to video lately, including a wonderful Lebanese film called Caramel. See it. You'll feel like you took a trip.

The last way I maintain some connection to the outside world is through the careful rationing of the Goodies From Abroad. When I came back from Martha's Vineyard, my parents loaded my suitcase with wine and jam and other delights, and S has brought more similar supplies (thank you for keeping me stocked with such excellent chocolate, C!).

Don't get me wrong- I'm not suddenly loathing this place and planning my imminent departure. The nice stuff that I always talk about is still here. It's just that sometimes I like a different sort of nice stuff, and thankfully have figured out how to make that happen within the confines of this tiny island which sometimes seems extremely remote.


Professor Batty said...

What is the name (and the street) of the Bulgarian place? I'll be in town next month and I am always looking for a good place to eat.

Michelle said...

I love this post - when I feel like getting away I just make myself a fancy coffee. Or I walked 500 m over to France.

No but seriously, I'm jealous of all the options you're listing here! Somehow German's can't quite nail foreign food restaurants like other countries can (big cities like Berlin being the exception).

ECS said...

Batty: It's called Balkanika and it's just off Laugavegur, heading up the hill towards the church. Maybe Frakkastigur or the next one towards Hlemmur. I recommend the mixed grill plate.

Michelle: I had some good Mexican in a little village outside Nurnberg, and I am willing to wager that the middle eastern food is significantly better there.

What I like a lot about Germany though, is that every region has some special thing that you simply cannot get anywhere else. So you may be heavy on the meat & potatoes but there's still always some special extra to look forward to everywhere. Here, the only thing I can think of like that is that in Akureyri they serve their hamburgers with bearnaise sauce.

Professor Batty said...


Djaddi said...

That sounds like a great running loop :)

I do miss the free movie job perq I had in Iceland.. Jo and I saw a lot of the RIFF movies last year for free!

Migrationdiary said...

You have a Bulgarian AND a Mexican restaurant?! I think there's more happening in Iceland than there is in Norway!

I'm still looking for a spicy joint in Fredrikstad but it's somewhat lacking in that department.....