10 Aug 2014

Icelandic Adventure by alexkrook

5/6

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My last day in Reykjavik was an eerily deserted and quiet affair. Perhaps everyone was hiding from all light and noise after a riotously gay evening on the town, or perhaps that's just what Sunday afternoons are like in this city. Either way, my wander up the hill into town was soundtracked by nothing but the bouncing of a lone basketball, and some muted children flitting around a playground under the shadow of the Hallgrímskirkja. The Einar Jónsson Museum is not a particularly exciting place and I'm glad my wily ways got me in for free. Constructed by the artist himself as "his greatest sculpture yet", it was one of the first buildings to grace the "desolate hill on the outskirts of town" (as the now bustling Skolavorduhaed was known back in 1914). It contains plaster versions of many of his later bronze works, and a reconstruction of his study and library which is all rather perfunctory as the real gem is the sculpture garden outside. Picturesquely framed against the Soviet-esque museum structure and the peeping spire of the Hallgrímskirkja, his beautifully symbolic bronzes thrive in the open air just as the plaster versions inside fail to really connect - definitely worth a visit.

I popped into an analogue photography store I'd been eyeing up on the hillside, run by a cheerful Irishwoman who sold me a polaroid and talked about the full moon with great gusto. Next stop was Reykjavik Roasters, a cosy little cafe full of armchairs and the sound of vinyl, that has been listed by Buzzfeed as one of the top 10 COOLEST coffee shops in the world! I could certainly see the appeal as I sank into an armchair and a novel, and it is patronised by both the young and hip and the old and moustachioed. I whiled away an excessive amount of time with the aid of a heavily spiced Chai tea and an Icelandic cinnamon scone, served with butter, jam and, more incongruously, two slices of Swiss cheese.

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I'd promised myself some Icelandic cinema before I left, and on the way I detoured along the coastline to catch my last glimpse of some of the sculptures that line the seashore east of the harbour. The wind direction today meant that the smell of the ocean assaulted the nostrils in waves, something that always takes me back to childhood holidays at the beach. Old men were perched on the rocks by the sun-craft getting in some late-afternoon Sunday fishing, and the whip and whistle of their lines filled the air (along with the smell of their buckets full of bloody and gasping mackerel - if only murder wasn't so gosh darn tasty.) Sunday evenings mean happy hour at the cinema, so I headed into the screening of the Year 2000 classic 101 Reykjavik with two bottles of beer in hand and very few expectations of Icelandic cinema in mind. And I was not to be disappointed, as the film itself is fantastic. Touching and hilarious - sort of like a cross between Submarine and Bridget Jones's Diary with an Icelandic thirty-something protagonist and an enormously 90s vibe. I was very pleasantly surprised, and the best part was that the film takes place across all the churches, streets and bars that I've explored in this city, which makes one want to clap at the screen with delight and feel simultaneously very smug. I'm fairly sure that some of the nuns that appear in a church scene are the very same whose prayers I interrupted on my first day.

Sarah and I headed to a noodle place on the hill for delicious chop suey with a view of the Hallgrímskirkja bathed in evening light. We couldn't resist our now-favourite ice-cream shop on the way back to the hostel, so packed for the evening that we had to take ticket numbers and wait to be served. I've now sampled kiwi, white chocolate and bubblegum, but green apple has to be the fave.

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The Kex bar was as buzzing as usual, and we scooped up an American friend and some new British ones with whom to enjoy our final night in the city. The sun was setting peachily over the ocean as we wrote postcards and discussed coming back to Iceland to work after graduation, which is not an uncommon proposition for foreign travellers and one that has been looking more and more appealing to me by the day in this country. My sights are now set on the Blue Lagoon tomorrow and my near-and-yet-so-far homeland, but my long distance vision is already formulating my next trip to Iceland armed with more time, money, and waterproofs. Until next time, Reykjavik.