19 December 2005

The Iceland Diaries IV -- Day 4

Sunday, 18 December 2005

I'm an idiot.

I should've looked at the Reykjavík Excursions guide a little more closely. The 8500kr (€100) "South Shore Adventure" bus tour skips doesn't go to the Sólheimajökull glacier in winter. And it's raining. I should've gone out last night.

I woke up with enough time to get to the bus but in re-reading through the guide saw that the glacier wasn't part of the trip in winter. Fuck that. I had some water, finished yesterday's diary, watched a couple repeat episodes of the kid's program on my other latop and decided that today I would finally have a Gleym mér ei again ("Glame myair ae", or Forget-me-not), a burger that most other burgers want to be when they grow up. It's one of the best burgers in the world (right up there with the Space Burger in Munich), it's under 700kr, and best of all, it's right next door at the Vitabar (corner of Vitastigur and Bergþórugata). I don't have to have to trek through the rain.


Gleym mér ei
Vitabar's Gleym mér ei, unforgettable indeed.

Speaking of rain, that's what the skies are doing when they're not slamming us with ice pellets or snow. I think I'm going to the mall(s) today. There are a couple shopes in Mjödd (not a mall) that I want to see, too. I really don't have anything better to do on a Sunday.

Plans:
Monday or Tuesday: Find restaurant with skata. Atli said 22 may have it on Friday but I'm not risking missing it again this year.
Wednesday: Sírkus: Rósa's singing
Thursday: Go way the fuck out into somewhere far away but pictorial and shoot photos from sunrise to sunset on the solstice. Must remember to buy a large thermos.
Friday: þórláksmesse. No idea what it is but I have to find/participate

Next week?: Sex. I plan to find out everything possible about all aspects of any sex industry here, including Vegas bar, Oðal strip club, the porn shop peep show (no film cabins) and whatever else I can find.

At around noon the weather had changed rather drastically (the norm here) and it was sunny. My Gleym mér ei, covered in seasoned salt, grilled with more sauce slapped on during cooking along with garlic and blue cheese at the end, all on a large bun with lettuce, tomato and lots of hamburger sauce, was wonderful if not slightly overcooked. Of course, I think most burgers are overcooked since I'm in the "grill it for forty seconds on each side and serve" camp.

I thought about going to the mall but the clouds were playing nice and the air was clear because it was so windy. I realised this might be my only chance to get a clear view during daylight. I quickly grabbed my camera and went up the road to the cathedral, Hallgrímskírkju. While a number of Japanese tourists were happy to wander around the main building, only an English couple and I were ready to brave the cold and wind (and fork over 350kr for a ticket which was never taken) to go up the tower and outside for a spectaculaar view.

Skólavörðustígur
A look down Skólavörðustígur

And what a view it was, as long as you're able to keep your eyes from welling up with tears from the wind. I started taking photos and realised I'd forgot to set the camera to take RAW images. I had to trust the camera to focus because my eyes just kept going blurry. Inside to warm up and reset the camera and out again. I took a couple dozen shots from two of the four sides to stich up into a panorama later when I realised the focus wasn't right. I'd somehow managed to switch the lens to manual. I'm such an idiot. Back inside again with half frost-bitten hands to reset everything.

The bay
The bay

I did an idiot check on the camera as my hands thawed and saw I had a bad ISO setting and the auto-focus decision field was set incorrectly. Format the CF card again and back outside.

When I got two sides done again and was in some pain, I figured I'd go inside to change to the long zoom to get a couple close-ups. I took a close-up of Perlan and looked around for anything else that struck my eye. Nada.

Perlan at scale
Perlan at the same scale (just below the horizon, 1/4 width in from the left)

Perlan
Perlan close up (and losing light quickly)

It was now around 1:30 and I was losing both light and weather. The bad weather's on its way back and I needed to finish up. All of a sudden the clock chimed. The bells are only about three or four meters above the floor and they're loud. Good thing it wasn't 11:59.





Heh. I noticed the name of the elevator manufacturer on the ride back down. I was on.. wait for it... Schindler's Lift! I slay me, I really do.

As I headed back home, I stopped first to see if a 17mm lens was really short enough to get a full frontal view of the cathedral. That meant waiting as one schmuck after another went in, came out, or stood in front of the door for no other reason than to piss me off and make my hands hurt more. After finally getting the shots I walked home and thought of a certain blonde who I regularly torment with my cold hands. If she were here right now she'd really be in for a treat.

At around 3:30 Sandra had to pick up Magnus from Amma Kristin. On her way there she dropped me off at Smáralind, the penis mall. Most of what I was looking for I couldn't find, like Reebok Classics and whatnot. I did come across a couple interesting food items which I'll report on. Most importantly, Skata (skate) which smells really bad. I didnt buy any; for that one I'm going to a restaurant.

I noticed my phone was dead and that reminded me I wanted to go to the cell phone store and find out about an Icelandic SIM card. Sadly my phone doesn't handle dual cards but I can switch to the German a couple times a day to check messages. I stopped in at Og Vodaphone and asked the woman if she spoke English. Yes, and then idiot I, I spoke in Icelandic. It didn't sound like such a sweet deal after all. That shouldn't be a surprise. I left thinking about it and calculating the costs of the German vs. Icelandic cards and carried on. In front of some electronics/record store were a group of guys and a poster. The name was vaguely familiar but...

There wasn't a queue and I figured these guys had to be a band. I looked at the name again, went inside and asked if I could listen to the album. Not there but at Skífan, the major record store on the upper level. Fine.

I went into Skífan and there was Sandra. She'd sent an SMS earlier to let me know she was in the mall but my battery was dead. This damned Nokia 60-something-or-other really sucks down the juice. She was willing to give me ten minutes when I essplained what I was doing.

With Sandra waiting I found an album from these guys (though not the latest one they were promoting) and had a listen. It was pretty good, and it was fairly easy to understand the lyrics so I dropped 1800 kr for it and went back downstairs. I asked the guys if I bought the album from them (they had some on the table) or if I needed to go inside. Inside to drop another 1700 or so. I came out and started talking to them. They realised I wasn't of Viking descent.

We talked as they signed the new CD and I pulled out the older one from my bag. They were all surprised and quite happy to autograph it as well and happier still that I actually liked the music enough to buy two of their CDs, the music on which is only in Icelandic. They were also well impressed with my half decent Icelandic abilities and then they told me they're playying at NASA on the 14th. Or was it the 13th? They weren't sure themselves. Sorry, Charlie. I'm back off to Germany on the 8th.

Well, we're playing the Hotel Ísland on New Year's. Oh really? Maybe I can be there. Any chance I can get a photo pass?

"You are taking pictures?" (with gestures).
"For whoever pays me, among other things."

And with that Arngrímur gave me his direct E-Mail address. I'll have a photo pass. I know what I'm doing after the fireworks. Of course, I'm now going to have to buy a couple more CF cards for the camera because theres no way I'll have time to dump the fireworks photos nor the band photos halfway through. I'm shooting full-sized plus RAW which tends to fill up a 1GB card after about 66 shots.

After leaving them we stopped by Vodaphone again. There was a stand outside the store and Sandra started asking about the card again for me. I had to chime in a few times and was able to talk mostly in Icelandic with them though it was a struggle. The deal sounded a lot better: 2500kr for the refillable card with a 500kr fee. Which these guys then dropped. I was making enough effort and they turned to Sandra and said, "He needs it." I handed them two 1000kr bills and had a neat little package with SIM, PIN, PUK and 2000kr of credit to lead into the phone. Anyone who really needs to get hold of me immediately will just have to call the Icelandic number. It's +354 661 9781 in case you want to send an SMS (which doesn't cost extra for foreign countries). W00t! I have an Icelandic telephone number! That's pretty cool, Beavis.

Well, it would be cool if it actually worked. After a few problems I can get and make calls here but I can't send an SMS to Germany though I can do it with my German SIM card. I called the help number (1414) and ended up doing the tech monkey dance, exhausting all options, arguing the suggestion that a lack of contracts between providers was bullshit by explaining that it worked when I was roaming with Og Vodaphone on my German card and running the girl out of all the possible answers on her call center screen. My case has been transferred to actual technical people and I have to wait for a call from them. "Have them call me on my German number." I don't want to have to carry around a couple SIM cards and lose them.

That was dealt with after returning home but first we went shopping in Hagkaup, then Bónus for Hangikjöt and some other things. Sandra's cooking some traditional xmas food. I think we got the birch-smoked rather than shit-smoked stuff. The aroma's still pretty strong. We shall see. At least it's not sour-preserved.

Skata
Skata (skate). Very smelly.

The drive home had me scared. Unlike some people, Sandra has no studded tires, only all-season radials. The wind was blowing hard, ice crystals and pellets were coming down, the streets were slushy and hilly and cuurved a lot, and Sandra's a bit of a leadfoot. I kept trying to see the bright side figuring that no foreigner had ever wwritten about Icelandic emergency medical services and hospitals. I had the small camera with me and held it in a death grip. If they were going to be prying us out of that tin can with the jaws of life, I was going to get pictures.

Such reporting was, alas, not destined to occur on this evening. We made it home safely, her 11-year-old kid tormenting me with his renditions of Eminem tracks, all of which he knew word-for-word. He was intentionally being a shit, and the caffeine and sugar in the Coke he had with his burger earlier is at least partly responsible. I find it rather disturbing that this overweight Icelandic pre-teen is spewing out some of the more vile Eminem sentiments.

I did a bit of work on the photos as the computer ripped the CDs in the background. I want my mp3s; the memory stick eats up a lot less power than the CD. And maybe I'll dump the tracks into my phone.

I went out to 22 to post yesterday's diary rather late, then went to Prokið for a change of scenery. It was a rather young crowd and I spent the time it took to drink two beers answering a series of PMs from the owner of a particular restuarant I was involved with, packed up and stopped in at Sírkus.

Sigga was there and happy to see me, happier still that she didn't have to talk to me in English which generally seemes a language of exasperation for her, used when thick-skulled tourists act touristy. I asked about the no-photo policy and explained what happened Friday. It was no big deal. Will I be able to shoot on Wednesday when Rósa sings? "Rósa's singing here?" Yeppers. And yes I can. I drank a couple and split around 3:00 when the lights were turned up. The wind wasn't so bad last night.

(If you're wondering about a couple screwy picture names, Blogger managed to fuck those up, mixing names with the wrong pix. Big surprise)

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