Reykjavík had the bluest skies by day, and turned tangerine at twilight.
After going through customs, my father and I wandered to the monumental Hallgrímskirkja, which towered over Hallgrímstorg at 73 meters high. The church was starkly beautiful, with an incandescent crystal basin, wrought gold crosses, and a large white statue of a Norse-Jesus.
A set of little girls with white blonde hair sold me painted seashells for the discounted price of 77 Kronen. They seemed so excited to welcome me into their world, a quality that I would later find echoed in our generous hosts…
Our hotel, Hotel Odinsve, was clean, minimalist in a luxurious way. We had three rooms plus a bathroom. My bedroom was starkly white and incredibly aesthetically pleasing. The staff was helpful and lovely; the attached restaurant delicious.
The rest of the city was colorful with a primary palette (i.e. minimal pastels, much to my initial chagrin). I noticed lots of oranges and browns, earth tones. Icelanders are beautiful, ethereal, vata-types with super wide set eyes and angelic features. I noticed girls wearing colored tights and flats, shirts reading “#AintNoWifey” and “Healthcare for All.” A socialist heaven.
My father quickly picked up on how laid back the city was. It often seems as though formality gets in the way of substance in the States, so the more casual Icelandic customs were brilliant. Hrefna and Oli later confirmed that even doctors are called by their first names! Johann told us that Icelanders had been really excited about Bernie Sanders because he was socialist.
People were friendly, and Norse culture ran fluidly through both the customs and the moral values. If not for the tremendously difficult turn of tongue, I could totally see myself living in Reykjavik.
We walked through the city center. I bought postcards and stamps immediately as per usual, and tried to stay awake sans green tea. My mother fell to slumber immediately, and it was only after eating an oatmeal square that my father succumbed to the inevitable. I lay in bed, rested my eyes and drifted in and out of a lucid dream.
Hrefna and Oli picked us up. We explored the outskirts of Reykjavík and Keflavik, then went to the pool/beach to see the natives soaking in the warm, sulfuric water of a rectangular pool post ocean-swim.
Then we went to their house, cozy and luminous, met with Atli and Johann, and ate Oli’s salmon. The conversation was brilliant from the get-go. We all meshed incredibly well, and laughed as though the 15 years in time since we’d last truly conversed just evaporated. “The Atli’s” are perfect.
We awoke the next morning and got ready at a leisurely pace, and after ogling the mermaid scales of the Harpa center (where Johann had performed a duet with transcendental precision), headed towards a volcanic pyramid in the distance in a rented car as the terrain was rather treacherous.
Hrefna and Oli, decided to surprise us with the “Speak Friend and Enter”/Doors of Durin cave (not really a cave at all, but a daunting entrance to an unknown world nonetheless), a narrow parabola that divided the mountain. Our friends assured us that a variety of pastries (cream florentine cookie sandwiches dipped in chocolate, fried doughnuts, and hat-shaped shortbread cookies) and fresh Icelandic water lay waiting for us on the other side. I was decked out in (vegan) leather pants and platform Tevas, which was not the ideal hiking outfit, but there was no way that I was going to admit defeat (plus, kleinur…).
Suffice to say, I should’ve headed Hrefna’s advice to wear smarter shoes. To me, the cave was steep, and the volcanic ash terrain seemed daunting. My mother was laughing with nervous exhilaration as we clawed our way down to the bottom of the reverse parabola and pulled our way up (with a little help).
Breathing heavily, we settled onto the spongey moss for cups of cold water, pastries, and a trail mix containing infinite squares of dark chocolate. My knee was a bit ripped up, but I felt SO alive. The granulated sugar cream, the cool of the water, the undoing of my limbs as I splayed across the moss. (For reference, the moss was so springy that Neil Armstrong prepared for his trip to the moon there!)
The next day, we awoke early and headed to Fridheimer Farm, a greenhouse restaurant. The menu was comprised solely of items containing tomato. Tomatoes aren’t really my thing, but the soup was thick, warm, and devoid of vegetal chunks. I couldn’t stop dipping my bread into the bowls beside me. Hrefna, my mother, and I sipped on Happy Mary’s, which were essentially more effervescent Bloody Mary’s. The drinks were made from green tomatoes chock full of pulp, and lots of ginger. Very odd. I had pesto ravioli, and Oli and my father shared a tortilla pizza. The coup de grâce was dessert, featuring tomato cheesecake (eh), tomato-apple pie (good with cream), and tomato ice cream (which was, shockingly, excellent as the proportion of tomato:vanilla seemed just about right). The desserts were served in tiny terra cotta pots. The meal ended with tea, and we were off to the mountains.
We stayed at Oli’s sisters cabin, which was spacious and cozy, but with Scandinavian style “sharp” furnishings in red. I was delighted to have the attic to myself, where I could read and collect my thoughts. We feasted on Oli’s grilled steaks, chicken, salad, and Hrefna’s delicious rye bread. When not on an excursion, we curled into chairs and ate “ugly” cheese, read books, and nursed Icelandic beers.
And finally, a note on Mother Nature’s splendor. We visited several waterfalls, and of course I’ve forgotten their names, but traipsing around the dusky green landscape, getting pelted by water and mud was the most enlivened I’ve felt in a while. At the biggest waterfall, the excess spray created an aura above the crashing waves that reminded me of fairies dancing. The geysers, too, were incredible and we got close enough to feel the warm hiss of steam being emitted from tiny craters in the ground. The geothermal springs ranged in color from chalky white to opalescent blue. We even got to walk on a glacier!
The final day, we returned to Reykjavík and ate cinnamon rolls and sipped coffees and lemon spritzers. We journeyed to the top of Hallgrímskirkja, which offered us a generous view of the matted rainbow city. That night, we celebrated Hrefna’s and Oli’s silver anniversary with a 5-course meal at an incredible restaurant called Von. The trip was entirely intimate, and I feel fortunate to have gotten to experience infinity!