Published August 20, 2010
It’s been already two months since I left my hometown in Austria to work as the programme coordinator at RIFF (Reykjavik International Film Festival), and Iceland already feels very familiar. I jumped into the cold water of alienation and was warmly welcomed by the city and its inhabitants.
I soon discovered that Reykjavik and Iceland have so much more to offer than the standard tourist package (Blue Lagoon, whale watching, Golden Circle, Þingvellir—all are great experiences by the way). You will find an exhilarating culture, art and music scene; excellent food and a Dionysian nightlife; moreover you can contemplate mind-blowing landscapes and a spectacular animal life. I’ve had some fun, and I’d like to share some of my experiences with you Grapevine readers.
My friend Addi and I just went on a spontaneous road trip to the Westfjords, which is a mountainous, hardly populated area in the northwest corner of Iceland. You should most definitely check out Látrabjarg, which is the most-western part of Europe and its largest bird cliff (120–440 metres), which is home to millions of birds such as puffins, gannets, guillemots and razorbills. Just make sure you don’t fall of the edge.
We slept somewhere in the grassland opposite Patreksfjörður on a bed of moss, and witnessed the midnight sunset (which is one of the most amazing sights ever), while playing the guitar and eating one-way BBQ. The next day I felt like Colin McRae as we drove to Þingeyri on dirt roads, that are barely passable on a Toyota Corolla, it was sheer lunacy (no guard railing, steep ravines and huge rocks lying on the road)!
We visited my Danish friend Janne and her Belgian boyfriend Wouter, who opened up the most jovially and homelike coffeehouse the world has ever seen (it’s called Simbahöllin, and the five year renovation was totally worth it), so if you want to taste the most delicious, exquisite, mouth-watering Belgian waffles (with jam and whipped cream or chocolate) make sure not to miss this place.
Our last destination was Ísafjörður, capital of the West fjords, where we attended a hip hop show by MC Erpur Eyvindarson (from Icelandic hip hop legends XXX Rottweiler), who let me spit some spontaneous rhymes on his still-popular club banger ‘Viltu dick’ (“Do you want dick?”) and later introduced me to the infamous, home-made booze called ‘Landi’ or ‘Moonshine’, which, if not properly made, can make you blind.
On our 12-hour ride back home, coming straight from the post-afterparty get-together, I tried to chase a sheep and failed epically. All in all, I would recommend going to West fjords to anyone who is looking for adventure and breathtaking scenery.
I didn’t know what to expect when I arrived in this arcane, mysterious, moonlike country eight weeks ago, but in retrospect, I’d like to quote Milos Forman (who was the honorary guest of last year’s RIFF) who said: “In comparison to Iceland, the moon seems quite boring.”
Jakob Kattner (AKA Big J) is a rapper, journalist, producer and currently working as programme coordinator at the Reykjavik International Film Festival.