We can feel it. It’s coming in the air tonight. The first signs of the impending horde of tourists that will descend upon Iceland this summer are appearing on the horizon. Apparently 1.5 million tourists came last year, the vast majority of them in the summer and almost all of them passing through Rvk. This year, if all the reports come to pass, will be the biggest year yet. Tourism as critical mass.
And us bar workers are absolutely dreading it.
Because make no mistake: While everyone has been wringing their hands impotently at this country’s out of control tourism industry that’s torn the ass out of downtown Reykjavik (which, by the way, looks like a dystopian building site sponsored by retro clothing manufacturers and beards), us 101 bar staff have been the unofficial front line dealing with and cleaning up the end results of a lack of planning by the powers that be. And all of us with a weary smile on our faces. 101 Rvk will be overrun this summer like a bad case of the tourist tribbles, complete with overpriced clothing and backpacks (even though it will be July, they will come into the bar looking like they’re about to do an Antarctic expedition), and a preening self-righteousness masked with an overbearing politeness. A mask that will surely slip once they get several pints down them.
And the questions. Man oh man, the questions! Mark Twain famously said, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts,” but he never had to deal with the people who come our way, babbling the inanest crap, the sort that make you wish there was another world war. What’s the wi-fi password? (While standing in front of the sign telling them.) Do you have a drinks menu? (No.) Where is there a good restaurant that serves authentic Icelandic food? (They’re never happy when you tell them to go to the hot dog stand.) Are there any good clubs? (No.) Can I climb up Esja in February? (Why would you want to do that? Do you really want to die needlessly?) You don’t sound Icelandic, where are you from? (Please don’t speak to me…) All this and more, all the way up to “It’s my birthday! Can we get some free drinks?” (Do we look like a booze ATM?), the ever-wonderful “Where can I buy some weed/cocaine/MDMA?” (Actually, we can’t really help you in doing something that’s still illegal), and the classic, “We’re on a stag do, can you tell how we can get some…um… ‘escorts’?” (See previous answer. And that’s really fucking icky mate.)
But before you think this poorly thought-out column will simply be a stick to bash El Fokking Turista with, the locals are infinitely worse, the ones still believing that they are merely acting out the scenarios of Jeff Who’s “Barfly.” You’d be hard pressed to find a worse bunch of entitled, narcissistic oxygen thieves this side of the Western Hemisphere. From the cool kids wearing the latest dogshit fashions while tweaking on chalk dust speed, to “artistic” fools suffering delusions of grandeur, to the lecherous, ever so mildly racist older folk who think they own the fucking place. And that’s just the Grapevine staff who come brandishing their “eternal happy hour” staff cards. A pox on you all!
So… you want to know the real Iceland, the one that you may only glimpse of in the papers and in documentaries about our “cool” pertri dish culture? Then be sure to read more in the coming weeks. You’ll almost certainly disagree with it, and say that this messenger is full of crap, but at least you’ll you can’t say you haven’t been warned when you find yourself in toilet bowl hell at Paloma at 4am.