Peeling Off Thousands of ISK Like It Ain’t No Thang
by Eli Hodapp
Today was awesome, but backing up, I should cover what I didn’t write about yesterday as I had sort of resigned myself to the day being finished as I started working and sleeping at around 3:00 PM Amsterdam time. I did a ton of TouchArcade junk, then around maybe 9:00 PM I headed to this incredible Italian restaurant, which was the first place I actually ate when I arrived in Amsterdam. It seemed delightfully cyclical for that to also be my last meal, so I had basically the same thing (Spaghetti carbonara!) for dinner. I followed it up with some tiramisu which they served with a hot double tall shot of Heaven on Earth. It was ridiculous how well the drink went with the dessert. I mentioned on Facebook, it was bordering on a religious experience.
I woke up this morning stupid early, something like 5:30 AM or so and hopped in the shower and packed my bags to get ready to go. I’m glad I bought that extra leather bag while I was in Amsterdam as I NEVER would’ve been able to fit all my junk in my existing suitcase as I’ve picked up way too much swag since I arrived. So, I packed all my dirty laundry, souvenirs, and other junk I couldn’t bring on the plane in my actual suitcase and shoved the rest into my new bag to carry on. Aside from being a bit of a hassle, it worked out fine.
My flight from Amsterdam was delayed like crazy, as there were some super strong gusts of wind to deal with. Schiphol apparently was down to one runway, as the wind was so powerful they were on the verge of closing the airport. I’m not sure why they felt the need to tell us this over and over, as “Hey, your flight is delayed, we’ll get you guys going as soon as we can” would’ve been totally significant. One last hit of Dutch pragmatism before leaving the country, I suppose.
The flight to Copenhagen was largely uneventful despite all the lip service about how horrifically windy it was. There wasn’t any major turbulence, and I was lucky enough to arrive with just barely enough time to quickly walk to the gate for my next flight and hop on the plane without needing to do any rebooking. This was a totally welcomed turn of events, although, looking back on it, it seemed like the alternative was to spend the night in Copenhagen and fly out to Iceland the next day which might not have been that terrible as I’ve never actually been to Copenhagen despite changing planes in its airport more times than I can count.
The actual flight to Iceland was great, I was fortunate in having a window seat so I got to look out at the whole southern coastline of the island before we landed. The geography here is crazy, as Iceland is 110% exactly like that typical arid frozen volcanic tundra area of video games. It’s eerie how familiar it feels because of that, despite being in a totally foreign environment.
The money here is something else. I turned 80€ into what seems like a stack of tens of thousands of ISK and a fist full of coinage. I need to find something to spend it on while I’m here though, as the value of ISK seems highly volatile compared to the Euro. Either way, it’s neat to add some new currency to my Jason Bourne passport pile. One thing that is even stranger than their money is just how far outside of the city their airport is. It felt like a good hour long, if not more, bus ride from the airport to get to Reykjavík. I’m not talking slow urban bus riding either, an hour at really high speed highway driving rates.
The hotel I’m staying at is ridiculously nice, and after the sort of dumpy place we stayed in Amsterdam I practically feel like Orphan Annie in comparison. Of the people I know here, I got the nicest room, and I think I know why, or at least, suspect. When I got off the bus I just let everyone of the 20-30 people who were with the group go in front of me to check in. I figure I’m not jet lagged at all, the American business day hasn’t started yet, and everyone looked way more tired than me.
What it seemed like they were doing was just assigning the rooms in order as people checked in, so, me being super polite inadvertently meant the only rooms left were top floor corner suites? Maybe? Either way, my room is awesome. One whole wall of windows faces the ocean while the other looks out at downtown Reykjavík.
I got settled, then quickly went to meet everyone for dinner, including Jared who is now sporting a pretty amazing beard. Dinner was at Grillmarkaðurinn which is this Icelandic … Steak house? I’m not sure how you’d classify it, but the food was out of this world. It was a great mix of really elaborate things I can recognize like blue New York strip steak slices and equally uncooked slices of whale.
The drinks were flowing like crazy, and me just doing my normal thing of being like “Bring me whatever it is you guys drink here” resulted in Icelandic white wine, red wine, the popular mixed drink (Which is a twist on the mojito, oddly enough!) and a shot of schnapps that either colloquially or roughly translated is seriously called “The Black Death.” It tastes like drinking liquid rye bread with a strong alcoholic bite. Totally crazy.
Oh, and, as weird as it is to take photos in the bathroom the sink at this place was rad. It was pretty dark so the photo didn’t turn out that great but basically the water comes down in the middle of this stone trough in a little waterfall. You don’t realize it initially, but this is actually open space with the women’s bathroom, but just under the mirror. The only thing that’s shared is the waterfall of water, so you stand there washing your hands and the women can see your hands and you can see theirs. It was a really cool idea.
Following dinner most of us headed over to this ultra dive bar nearby, and we arrived just for the end of American pop culture pub trivia. Weird, right? What got stranger is the area the DJ-like person was set up handling the trivia got handed off to a guy playing a guitar who then sang these incredibly strange not-quite-English covers of popular American country songs. You could recognize what he was playing, but what he was singing seemed like a mixture of English for the words he knew and Icelandic for the ones he didn’t.
Also noteworthy about this bar was whenever you ordered a drink they spun a big wheel behind them and you got whatever it landed on. Most of the areas it could land on were clearly marked as losers, but we watched more than a few people win free shots and beers, including the “meter long beer” which is basically exactly as advertised.