Friday, November 25, 2011

A Snowy Day in Reykjavik

Woke up this morning to a couple of inches of snow on the ground and a date to meet one of Cheryl's friends for lunch. Benni works for an on-line music store/streaming service called gogo yoko ( -- part Pandora, part iTunes, part CD Baby. We had a nice lunch at the Kex Hostel which is where KEXP broadcasted from last month during the Iceland Airwaves Music Fest, and then walked to the gogo yoko office which had the look and vibe of every tech start-up I've ever walked into; some things are universal, and it's always fun to meet friends of friends' in foreign lands. Oh, and that's a puffin perched on the table in the background in the portrait; from what I can tell, the national symbols of Iceland are puffins, trolls, and sweaters.
Benni and the President of Iceland

local graffiti

After I left Benni's office I went to the Hallgrimskirkja, which is in fact the name of a place and not an indication that my hands are going into spasms on my keyboard. The Hallgrimskirkja is a church, the belltower of which is the tallest structure in Iceland.

After I left the church, I wanted to do some shopping outside the donwtown-tourist area so I had asked Benni where his wife would go if she wanted to buy clothes. He told me to go to a place which sounded like "Gringotts" which I recognized as the place where Harry Potter does his banking, but after questioning the lady at the bus station, speaking to a lady on the bus, and quickly repeating what she said to the bus driver, I found myself at Kringlar, the local shopping mall. It kind of reminded me of Northgate Mall, and like at Northgate, there wasn't really anything there I couldn't live without. I would have liked to have bought a little something to take home, maybe something to wear or something for the house, but Icelandic fashion is a little too forward for me (and like next year's fashions which I've seen at home, everything appears to be shades of gray or brown which just don't work for me). I did see a cute coffee mug in a home store that I liked, but it was nearly $50 and that was $40 too many. There was a Hagkaup (excuse me) in the mall which is a grocery store (note about food shopping in Iceland: chocolate covered raisins are really popular here), so I bought some snacks and took the bus back to the hotel. Note about the bus: I don't often take buses when I'm abroad, preferring to stick to walking and subways/rail when available (not as easy to get lost), but earlier today I spent nearly $13 for a ten minute taxi ride (I heavily tipped the driver which Benni told me was completely unnecessary) and since buses are the only public transportation option in Reykjavik, I decided I had to hop on a bus. There is a small central bus terminal downtown where I found out what bus to take to the shopping center and the return bus dropped me off directly across from the hotel. I even got some smug satisfaction when a hapless traveler came up to the bus stop in front of the mall and asked a local guy how to get the bus going in the other direction, and when the guy said he didn't know, I butted in and told traveler-dude how to find the pedestrial bridge which crossed the highway and where to find the bus stop on the other side. The fact that this would have been fairly obvious if the dude had just looked around for a minute did not diminsh my sense of pride, given my deeply deficient sense of direction.

View from hotel looking toward downtown