Northern Lights on the Viking Island of Viðey

by Eli Hodapp

iceland_town

Iceland has been awesome so far, although, while I thought my long days in Amsterdam were exhausting, they’ve got nothing on Iceland. Today I practically went full steam ahead from around 6:00 AM until finally getting back to the hotel at 1:00 AM. First off, let’s start with the view from my hotel, which as I mentioned previously, is just incredible.

hotel_view1

Mountains and ocean to one side of me, and the convention center, the harbor, and the rest of Reykjavík to the other. It’s really hard to ask for better than this.

hotel_view2

Today we met with a bunch of game producers and saw some upcoming titles from this Swedish “Grand Strategy” game development company, Paradox Interactive. It’s sort of a big deal that they’re getting involved in mobile, and showing off their games is the whole reason they invited us here. This conference is one of the most intimate I’ve been to, and the small handful of people has allowed us to do crazy things that we never would be able to do at, say, something the side of GDC.

me_island

The climax of the day was going to be a boat ride to Viðey, and the boat left at 7:00. It was actually sort of amusing because no one seemed to know anything about it short of “The boat leaves at 7:00.” It was a little concerning, but, whatever. I’ll go down with the ship.

the_boat

The boat we were on was a whale watching ship during the day, so it featured tons of different platforms you could stand on as well as a (thankfully) heated and comfortable lower deck that we spent our time on. One thing that was vaguely concerning is that when you get on an airplane, they always go over the vague safety procedure. It’s so second nature that you barely even pay attention… But there was none of that here. I couldn’t even tell you where the life vests were.

on_boat

The boat ride turned into a booze cruise fairly quickly as beers were passed out to anyone who didn’t have one in one (or both) of their hands, and someone kept floating about the lower deck with a tray of shots of the “Black Death” schnapps. I did one again today, and it was still just as terrible, if not more so, than the previous night. It came in two varieties, one a little more yellowish than the other, but I wasn’t sticking around to try both.

off_boat

15 minutes or so later and we made it to the island of Viðey. Stepping off the boat we were greeted by the disemboweled corpse of a seagull, and no one could really decide if that was an omen or not. Regardless, we walked down this super long dock to head up to the building we were going to eat at. It’s called the Viðeyjarstofa and it’s the oldest stone building in Iceland.

vikings

You can’t really make it out very well in the photo since it was so dark, but before we could ascend the stairs to the restaurant we were held captive by vikings who were fighting with various weaponry ranging from different swords and axes. It was pretty amusing, as they’d take turns dying, before springing back up, and “killing” the other viking. They followed us up the hill, fighting the whole way.

inside_restaurant

The actual restaurant was super nice, and we ate in the upstairs area which had this incredible exposed roof. It was a fixed menu of Icelandic fair, paired with some really great wine. Afterwards, a “party” of sorts was held, which basically just consisted of white people dancing to the Black Eyed Peas. I was fairly exhausted and mentally checked out at this point, just waiting for the ferry to come back so I could go to sleep at the hotel when someone came in shouting about how the northern lights were outside.

We all grabbed out coats and filed out, and sure enough, bright as could be was all sorts of weird looking green wispy stuff in the sky. It was incredible, especially considering how much light pollution there was from the nearby city of Reykjavík. They were nice and bright from the opposite side of the restaurant which was shielded enough from the city lights that your eyes could adjust to see them all. I can totally see how people get those dramatic northern lights photos though, as I bet if you drove north just a little bit more to where you couldn’t see a single light around you they’d look ridiculous… Just like looking at stars.

The boat came back at midnight to shuttle us back to the hotel, and the rest of the night was uneventful aside from the fact that they docked us in a totally different location that was almost on the border of the European definition of a “long” walk. Or, at least, a “walk” that was amplified to “long” by just how cold it was out. This trip has been crazy so far, and I can’t wait to see what they have in store for us tomorrow and Saturday… As these outings are going to be really difficult to top.