Reykjavik boasts all the trappings of a modern European city, as well as an interesting old town, whitewashed wooden buildings, and rows of brightly painted concrete houses. Nearly everything of interest is within walking distance of the old settlement.
The barren lava fields that surround Iceland's international airport are an eye-grabbing introduction to this near-Arctic island, belched out of the mouths of volcanoes (some still active), awash in midnight sun from May to August, glistening with glaciers, geysers, hot springs and waterfalls.
6 Mar 2005 - Reykjavik, IcelandThis was our last day in Iceland but there was still something that had to be done - take a revitalising bathe in the volcanic pools. Rumours of their restorative powers actually turned out to be true. Our hangovers left us and I even found that an Achilles tendon injury improved. Some pain came back after but writing this a week later, the injury has definitely improved. I think that with the Achilles tendon being an area with poor vascularity, the hot water forces nutrient rich blood into the area and helps the healing. Maybe a physio can tell me.
Well that concludes my first and probably last trip to Iceland. Perhaps gone is the chance to indulge in the dubious delights of a typically Icelandic dish of Hakarl - putrefied cubed shark meat. This represents a method of food preservation that involves leaving shark buried in the ground for consumption at a later date.
Reykjavik - Thermal baths I
A short way from the airport are the thermal baths which make for a good a way of killing a few hours before a flight. Fortunately the weather in Iceland was relatively mild as the dash from the changing rooms to the hot water would definitely make for an unpleasant experience in harsher weather.
Reykjavik - Thermal baths II
In the pool many people can be seen coating themselves in the mud while plenty can be seen just relaxing, neck deep enjoying the heat. In some places the water is uncomfortable hot.
Reykjavik - The Mountains around Reykjavik
Before leaving Reykjavik I took a the chance for a few pictures, some to capture the beauty of the country.
5 Mar 2005 - Reykjavik, IcelandDespite only having a few beers the night before I still woke up feeling like I'd been drinking - this is why it was fortunate we didn't get arrive in Iceland too early yesterday or today would have been misery. Remembering my promise to myself the night before, I made sure that I went down to breakfast. Pat was the only other person to make breakfast. Rich remained true to the form he has shown in the 10 years that I have known him for and ignored breakfast to stay in bed - again fully clothed. Coming home from a night on the razz and sleeping on top of the bed covers without getting undressed is just typical Rich.
Today we decided to have a look around the town, have a meal then have a look some more. Of note was the peculiar modern cathedral photographed below. Bizarrely, outside the cathedral there exists a number of what can only be described as metal castings of androgynous naked people. Why these are here I have no idea. The cathedral has a lift that allowed visitors to visit the top of the building to take in the view across Reykjavic. This normally has a charge but as the shop was closed we just took the lift anyway.
With our sight seeing done the plan was to get everyone in a room to drink vodka and recount tales involving the stag. Many amusing tales were told that cannot be repeated here but Rich, despite a 10 year acquaintance and former house mate at university couldn't think of any funny tales to tell when it came to his turn to be the story teller.
Our surprise for the man was the costume that we had for him. Good traditional Viking garb to impress the Icelandic folk.
We went to our first bar at sometime between 9-10pm and found ourselves to be the only drinkers in there. Very different to yesterday's 2AM start. We were still drinking to English pub times and this only guaranteed that we would be in a bad state come 2-3AM. The first bar involved us regressing to university days and playing drinking games and singing. Then before we got too rowdy we moved off to various bars and clubs.
I can't remember much apart from it the general fun that was had and in particular some kissing school girls. Anything goes it seems. While we walking down the road with our pints these young ladies approached us and asked if we would go into and buy some alcohol for them. Not bloody likely - look what is happening to Jackson for plying minors with alcohol! We did allow them to take a sip of our dregs though and Fraser told them we would buy them some alcohol if they kissed each other. With no further prompting they started kissing but not the quick peck we expected. No. These ladies proceeded to kiss each other with mouths wide open and tongues wagging. No encouragement needed. Absolutely shocking.
The night carried on with more bars, us (particularly me) getting worse for wear. Come 4AM a decision was made that we could take no more. The neon bars would have been next had they not been shut but without such a distraction we had taken all we could.
With Sunday breakfast lasting till 11AM we all made it down to breakfast the next morning though for a while I did feel a little uncomfortable (a morning heave took care of the nausea).
Reykjavik - View from the Hallgrímskirkja
Colour buildings that probably make up for the lack of natural light in the winter!
Reykjavik - Hallgrímskirkja (the church of Hallgrímur)
Thid church at 74.5m is named after an Icelandic poet and clergyman. There is an observation deck near the top of the tower which gives great views all around.
Reykjavik - Strange sign on the toilet door
Is this some kind of 'third leg' joke?
Reykjavik - The Stag
The impressive looking stag.
Reykjavik - Rich and the Stag
Icelandic bars and clubs fill up quite late because alcohol is so expensive and people drink at home. At about midnight previously quiet bars suddenly come to life.
Reykjavik - The kissing school girls
These were the game girls ready to kiss each other for a beer.
Reykjavik - 'Have I done that?'
For the second night running, Rich wakes up fully dressed. This time there is a brown stain next to his head. We say it is sick, he says it isn't.
4 Mar 2005 - Reykjavik, IcelandAnother marriage amongst the lads - this time the big man Nick Williams turning up the pressure for the rest of the lads to conform. The customary stag night destination was Iceland.
The trip didn’t start off to well with the flight being delayed for an hour because the pilot couldn't be bothered turning up on time - apparently he got held up by traffic(!) Although this cost us a few hours Iceland side it wasn't too much of a disaster and was probably for the best as it turned out.
Upon arriving we opted for a taxi to the city which lay some way off. This came to the ridiculous price of £106 but thankfully this was split between 8 of us - pricey Iceland is a city best visited in a large group. Without a minute to waste, we immediately checked into our hotel and went on to hit the town, sinking our first beer at 1:30AM.
Our immediate impression was the friendliness of the Icelandic people and their grasp of English obscenities. We received many shouted greetings of, 'Hey I love the effing English' and 'England is effing great'. We also discovered their passion for English football when one unusual midget came up to with us the usual 'hey you are English…' He asked what team we supported and Chris started off with Arsenal, next was me who said Liverpool which unfortunately was also his favourite English team. My reward for this was a kiss on the cheek.
Another bar we came to didn't have the same atmosphere but was still good none the less because at this point a number of us had found our dancing shoes. A chubby local who thought he was something of a dancer pulled off a few moves. Fraser, also thinking he is a bit of dancer, decided to dance opposite him and have a dance duel. It was a good contest. Fraser gave a good account as a break dancer and edged the competition with his variety of moves while his opponent kept repeating the same action.
However, the dance killed this Icelandic Travolta who was found in the toilets with his head in the urinal - unconscious. Jeremy, being a socially responsible individual elected to flush the urinal after using it. What he didn't realise is that pressing the flush button would flush all the other urinals thus soaking the danced out local. It didn't wake him.
We did a few other bars but kept it pretty low key and ended up going back to the hotel after 4AM though with plenty more fire left in our bellies. That’s not to say that we didn’t get merry and on the way back to the hotel we came across several groups of girls. One was a gymnast who proved it by slipping into the splits without any problem and then started doing press ups. Fraser just had to copy.
A real warrior of a lady then turned up. Short hair, big and stocky with a gut to match - almost a perfect match for Nick if he wasn't already spoken for. She was obviously attracted to the big man and proceeded to rip his t-shirt open to get a feel of his chest. She proved a clingy sort and kept hugging him and saying things along the line of 'I want your babies'.
Finally, on our trek back a couple of ladies copped a look at the foreigners and brazenly asked for 500 Krona - about £4.50. Nick gave some comment which resulted in a kick to the balls that sent him backwards and to the floor. We all cheered then chatted to the cheeky girls some more while Nick recovered and got back to his feet. He returned with a challenge that resulted in another accurate kick to the knackers. Back again he staggered. Much amusement for all.
The main shock about this country was the prices, particularly beer and shots - about £4.50 each. Our trip to the 24 hour shop for a few goodies almost made me decide to starve. Over a quid for a cola, £2.50 for baguette, £2.50 for a loaf, near to a fiver for some ham, the list could go on. In the end I settled for the bread whilst making a note that I must get up for breakfast.
On the plus side - and there are many of them, the main street of Reykjavik has some great bars, doesn't get too crowded, majority of pub/clubs charge no entry fee, the people are friendly and there is plenty of Scandinavian eye candy.
Incidentally, I shared a room with Patrick Taylor and Rich Chamberlain. I ended up with Rich being in the bed closest to me but this time, unlike other times I have shared a room with him, I didn't have to endure a night of listening to him grind his teeth - a noise that makes me cringe every time. Part of the reason may lie in the fact that for some reason yet to be fully explained, Rich got up in the night and went to share Pat's bed. Upon waking he found Rich next to him but fortunately Rich was fully dressed and on top of the sheets.
Reykjavik - An Icelandic maiden
This is the person who assaulted Nick and wanted his babies. Here it is ripping the Stag's shirt open despite no encouragement from us - well maybe a bit.
Reykjavik - An Icelandic maiden - perhaps
But look again. Is it really a woman? Looks like two men to me. Nick is the one without the gut - I don't think I've ever said that before. Pat can be seen grinning knowingly in the background.