Published July 7, 2010
I just returned from a little jaunt to London. It was my birthday and my brother, in his infinite generosity, bought me a return ticket to spend time with him and friends. I admit that as the plane left Keflavík I was flush with smugness at the idea of leaving this medieval backwater and getting back to some real civilisation and the things I’d been missing in Iceland. Cheap beer! Sausages! Decent drugs! Street crime! Oh, it was truly going to be heaven.
But as my holiday was ending, I became increasingly pissed off with the city. God, the people and the air smelled like decaying cabbage. It was too hot and humid, riding the tube was like being a tapeworm in Satan’s colon, and the beer in pubs was just as expensive as Iceland! In the end my stress levels were so high I almost punched a granny in the face because her dog looked at me funny.
And then it hit me. Despite my almost daily bitching about real and imagined issues with the place, I was missing Reykjavík and my way of life here.
Holy shit, Reykjavík is now my hometown!
But what is it that I love about Reykjavík that I just can’t get anywhere else? Sitting down with a bottle of vodka and some cheese, I came up the following delights …
OK, Reykjavík’s pools are excellent, but have you ever tried to have a proper swim in Vesturbæjarlaug during the weekend? Forget it. It’s just way too crowded. My local pool on the other hand is only five minutes’ walk from my house, has great hot pots and more importantly, is not heaving with tourist hipsters and annoying bloody kids trying to dive-bomb you as you swim past.
The Austurvöllur establishment doesn’t have the cheapest beer (Kaffi Grand) or the best value for money food (Noodle Station), but when it’s a sunny Saturday lunchtime, you can sit with a bottle of Móri beer, a toasted lamb sandwich and fries and you can just gaze out on the square and watch life pass before your eyes while you ears are assaulted by classic Icelandic pop tunes. Also a great place to watch a decent protest as well.
The comic book corner of Reykjavík city library
I have a friend who has recently discovered the wonderful hyper-real world of comics. To help her in her quest to discover more, I pointed her to a little jewel on the 2nd floor in the City library, a place where you could easily spend all day perusing classic comics of all shapes and sizes. Garth Ennis’ run on The Punisher? Check. Early Ed Brubaker? Check. Alejandro Jodorowsky´s The White Lama? Big check! The place to totally geek out.
The Kebabs at Habibi
When I eventually get chucked out of Dillon’s for violating inanimate objects, then the only place to go is to the little kebab place on Hafnarstræti for their Syrian kebab wraps. It’s not too spicy and the tangy yoghurt sauce will give CPR to your taste buds.
My mate Unnar
The national stereotype of the hard working Icelander has come in for a beating recently. For “taking risks,” read “Have no idea what you’re doing, do it with someone else’s money, and then run away when it all goes tits up.” But there is one Reykjavík resident who keeps the tradition alive. My mate Unnar is the living embodiment of an Icelander who “gets things done.”
This is a man who helped to furnish my flat when I first arrived here, helped organise my wedding, got a good deal on a new car for my wife Sigga (no foreign loans here!) and more importantly helped arrange for me to arm wrestle former world’s strongest man Magnús Ver Magnússon in my underpants for a bet. There is nothing that this man cannot do (except like any good Icelandic male, express his emotions).
If you can find anything as good as these things anywhere else, then sir I shall call you a bloody liar!