Friday August 24, 2001

 

 

We left the farm this morning after breakfast, just as we were starting to feel at home. But we were already extending the tourist season a little past the norm for the host family, and the girls glumly admitted that they were starting school on Monday.  After leaving the farm and checking into the guesthouse in Reykjavik, we went to the large park complex where we had a choice of visiting either a huge public pool with lots of water slides, a skating rink, two sports arenas, an outdoor botanical gardens (fairly sparse, as you might imagine), or a zoo and play park. We chose the zoo/play park as stop #1, with the option of going to the pool later. The zoo was small and populated primarily with the typical (and readily obtainable) farm animals that you might find in Iceland. There was one exhibit of seals for a little variety. While the zoo was quaint but rather ordinary, the play park was a huge hit, and the children would be happy going there every day for a year. Well... Geoff might get bored after day 2, but he did a very good job of "big-brothering" and participating in playground games with his little sibs. The novelty of our adventure hadnít worn out and everyone is in great spirits and seems to be happy with each other.   

 

The happy family in front of our guesthouse in Reykjavik (minus the photographer Lynn),

and the flag of Iceland over the door.

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A baby wolf, and some some of the less-exotic animals at the zoo.

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Geoff, Tom, & Lynn test their balance

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w Plenty of playground fun and no crowds to contend with (where is everyone?)...

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 ... Ha!  Anna finds a friend to play with, then tests her racing skill on the track

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Why so glum, Tom? Your car won't go?

The sibling pit-crew steps in and gasses her up - then he's off!

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And a bit of water fun.

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We went on our final horse ride at a large tourist company riding center in the late afternoon. It was a rather docile and anticlimactic experience, riding tired-out ponies on smooth trails, after having ridden Gisle's spirited ponies out on the open fields. It started drizzling shortly after we left the stables and began raining hard about 30 minutes before we made it back. We eagerly dried off and then took a cab to a "Viking" restaurant in a town a few miles from Reykjavik. Having all the symptoms of a tourist establishment, the restaurant also sported a dining room full of happy locals (something you can be pretty sure of if you hear Icelandic being spoken). This aspect correlated correctly with the quality of both the food and the entertainment. A Viking troubadour and his golden-braided maiden belted out a variety of folk songs, ranging from enthusiastic knee-slappers to haunting Celtic ballads. The music was so enjoyable that we bought their tape, which later became well-worn during our drive around the island. 

 

The most novel feature of the dining experience was rotten shark, fish that is toxic when caught, but less toxic - enough to eat without dying from poison but perhaps from the horrid taste - after it is buried for 3 months or more. Who figured that out?  Was it a "lucky" accident?  In the end it's probably another simple example of people doing whatever it takes to avoid starvation during over a long cold-winter. The resultant delicacy has a soggy texture and putrid smell that could easily overwhelm the stinkiest of cheeses. The solution for the gag-inducing taste of rotten shark, or possibly its primary purpose, is to wash it down with 100-proof Icelandic schnapps. It is also probably wise to pre-deaden your taste buds with schnapps as well.  The children had to make do with apple juice, and ended up with a far lower appreciation for the rotten shark than that of their parents. In respect for the delicate palate of the typical tourist, the restaurant went no further with the possibilities of traditional faire, and did not serve up boiled sheep's head or ram's testicles.  I chatted with the folk singer in the lobby returning from the restroom, and in exchange for my compliments, he gave me short political and social history lesson spanning the recent decades and a run down on the best Icelandic folk musicians. I now know all about the cod wars with Britain (haggling over fishing rights that almost erupted into armed conflict) and who to look for in the music stores.  

 

It's easy to tell when you've arrived at the Viking restaurant.

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Tom & Anna raise a glass (horn?) to  a great day, and wash down their rotten shark.

Tom found some palatable food on his plate and wasn't too distracted by the folk singers (they were great!).

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Tomorrow I must find a rental car office and then we will depart for a week spent driving around the whole island. I have had a couple of nights to read guidebooks thoroughly and will hopefully be reasonably prepared for this. I have also been paying attention to the traffic while riding the bus and walking around Reykjavik and it doesn't seem like there are any really strange rules or customs. The primary driving hazard seems to be sheep once you're outside of town.

 

                                                                    - Rolf  8/24/01