It was the church that really made me gasp. Up until that point I had never imagined that Icelanders would worship in such a place. I imagined them worshipping rusty bottle-tops or shallow bowels of sour milk, not on bended knee, praising a civilised God, in the confectionary-box cum architectural monstrosity which graced downtown Reykjavik.
|Not as Nice as Chile|
It’s not just the creepy buildings and the fact that the population seems to be whimpering around behind your back, having fun, that menaces the casual visitor, but the almost tabloid-drugged sleepiness and lack of sound that really disturbs. One morning, haunted by the way my footsteps seemed to fade supernaturally into the morning, and concerned that I was vanishing into my own subconscious, I raised my voice and tried to produce an echo. The sound died unnaturally as soon as it left my lips and the faint echo produced sounded like finely chopped liver hitting a concrete wall. It left me deeply troubled and scurrying back to my hotel.
|Another Great View|
One afternoon, after exhausting the joys of watching the traffic-lights change colour and polishing my shoes (something I hadn’t done in living memory) I dropped into the local tourist agency to ask for advice. What, I wondered, could I do to have fun in Iceland? Clearly this was a somewhat difficult question for the terminally miserable girl whose role in life was evidently to offer poor tourists ways of ending the agony and whom had probably never smiled in her life, let alone had a good time. I imagined that she could have advised me on seven different, yet wholly painful ways of killing myself, but struggled in finding something fun for me to do.
|Iceland Airport View|
Ok, I thought, if there is nothing to do I might as well try and learn some Icelandic. I had read that as a written language it was virtually unchanged in a thousand years (which was about the last time anyone cracked a joke in Reykjavik) and was rich and poetic. I had also read that one day a year, everyone in Parliament has to speak in rhyme. I thought it would be fun to have a few expressions up my sleeve for the next time I met Icelanders somewhere on my travels (later I realised that should I ever meet Icelanders on my travels I would probably want to inflict great harm on them and their pets and not amuse them with my witty repartee at all) so I went to the next tourist office and asked the slightly less scary troll there for some help.
|Can I Go Home Now?|
She looked blankly at me, scratched her ample backside and frowned. Clearly she was just taking a break from sitting under bridges and scaring small children.
‘You know nothing flash, just a few basic expressions.’
She looked at me like I was a small puppy that had just urinated on the new plasma television that had taken ten years to save up and buy.
‘This is not a language school. This is tourist information’
‘Great, and don’t you think tourists should at least make the effort?’
‘No. Now if you don’t have anything sensible to ask, please leave.’
I tried not to giggle: I was finally having fun.
‘Or perhaps I can interest you in a Blue Lagoon tour?’
‘No thanks, I saw the movie once, wasn’t my kind of thing. But tell me, how many words do you guys have for snow?’
‘We have just one,’ she snarled, ‘we say snow. Now please leave.’
I returned to my outrageously over-priced hotel and spent the next few days counting the Bjorks listed in the phone book and dreaming of being elsewhere.
A few days later, thankfully, I was.
About the Author
Philip Blazdell has been travelling for the last fifteen years and would like to stop now, thank you very much. His travels began when he followed a girl in nice purple pyjamas to Istanbul and got into all kinds of trouble with her parents. Despite marriage proposals in Las Vegas, arrests in Germany, and lust in the dust in more than one third-world shit hole, he has never looked back. Well, not that much really.
Philip currently divides his time between his home in Middle England, SFO International Airport and some grotty little town in the Netherlands that is best not spoken about in polite company. He constantly worries about using the word ‘awesome’ too much whilst in the USA and dreams of a day when he can go a whole day without resorting to Diet Coke. His greatest ambition is to raise his son to be a much better person than himself and to see Liverpool string a run of wins together. At least one of those, he believes, is possible. He can be contacted, when not bouncing around the world at 32,000 ft: nihon_news at yahoo dot com and his own personal homepage, www.philipblazdell.com, is updated daily.