02 September 2007

The foggy bay

In 101 Reykjavik, Hallgrímur Helgason describes a city, and a generation, of idleness, depression, self-destruction, and wanton boredom. His main character, Hlynur, calls Iceland "a wind-beaten a**hole and Icelanders the lice on its edge." The entire story is one of interrupted, failed catharsis (and, despite the negative reviews on Amazon, it´s a fascinating book).

The fact is, I hate to say it, but as beautiful as Reykjavik can be in the sunshine, it exudes the same. The entire town (well, the entire town of our generation) takes gluttonous part in a tradition benignly called runtur. The "round tour" is an all-night pub-crawl that starts in the early evening on Friday night and continues, in some form or other, until the early morning on Monday.

Not that there's anything wrong with drinking, pub crawls, and all that. But there's a sense of desperation about some of this drinking. A sense of doing it because, honestly, there's nothing else to do.

I hate the fact that this post is coming across so, well, supercilious. We've been wracking our brains for a way to describe Reykjavik. So, I'll leave this train of thought. We have met some tremendous people here, including the owner of our current guesthouse. And the food is unsurpassed. Even if you pay $20 for a regular, run-of-the-mill salad.

And in the sunshine, Reykjavik is beautiful. Its dominant church, the Hallgrímskirkja, is gorgeous. Plus, attending an Icelandic church service was amazing. The church sits on a hill. From the pews, you see no ground, only clouds, as if you're in the air.

Tonight's our last night in this amazing (and amazingly contrasted) country. We fly out tomorrow for Helsinki.

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