From Iceland — Sour Grape

Sour Grape

Published August 26, 2006

Sour Grape

Dear Bart,
Thanks to you and your colleagues for the listings in Grapevine’s last issue. It sure was a helpful guide in finding our way around Reykjavik although our introduction to Sirkus didn’t quite fit the description in The Grapevine…
On Saturday August 5th -after having a great evening at Innipukinn we decided to spend our last hours in Iceland at Sirkus. It was about one o’clock when we arrived at the club and we were expecting quite a line but there were only 4 French people waiting to enter. The door opened a couple of times to let people out but was closed immediately and without any explanation. We waited patiently and assumed that it was just too full to let people in but after some time the door was opened again and a girl let us know that there were no French people allowed in Sirkus. The reason given: Sirkus did not tolerate French and French people are boring!?!
Quite a generalization and pretty offending as well- even if you’re from Amsterdam! Is this supposed to be one of the best places in Reykjavik? I really did not expect such a hostile approach from a club that is described as an alternative club and promotes itself with the slogan ‘welcome to the jungle’. We spent some time in front of the door hoping that it was just a joke but soon found out that while people from Iceland were getting in without any problems, the doors stayed closed for us foreigners. Some people from Reykjavik complained about this door policy but nothing helped and the doors stayed shut. Is Sirkus known for its tourist ban or were we just plain unlucky?
Take care,
Bart & Vivian
Bart and Vivian,
You were extremely unlucky. There are usually a range of people inside Sirkus. But the line can be a drag – I stand in it sometimes, and it convinces me that sobriety is really the best policy. One more thing, the Welcome to the Jungle slogan was a bad joke on our part. It really isn’t their slogan, we just thought it was a really lame way to describe a bar. That irony thing that was big in the 1990s, and that we only just discovered.

My name is Karim and I am here in Iceland on holidays all the way from Sydney Australia. I thought I should write to you to congratulate you on an excellent newspaper. I think I learnt more about Iceland and Reykjavik from your newspaper (Issue 12) than any of the popular travel books. I stumbled across your paper on the table at the Subway just down the road from the HI Hostel where I am staying.
I thought I’d express something of concern that I believe Iceland needs to address. Yesterday on the way home from Jökulsárlon Glacial Lagoon an event occurred that shook the life out of a coach bus full of tourists. I was staring out the window at the moss covered lava grounds listening to Guns N Roses on my iPod when I heard this scream followed by hard braking and a loud thump. The back of the coach bus reared up momentarily and we then came to a complete stop. The bus had hit and run over a baby lamb that wandered out onto the road. The driver had the horrible task of removing the carcass while the mother sheep watched on, as did everyone on the bus. The travel guide, all shaken up and nearly in tears, explained that this happens on a regular basis and that human fatalities occur.
I really do think that laws need to be introduced to ensure that farm animals are behind fences and not left wandering popular tourist roads. I felt sorry for the lamb but was also grateful that the bus did not go off the road and crash. I would not care so much if the bus handled like a Porsche 911, but at 100km a 10-ton tourist coach full of people does not look good when it crashes. I would hate to think what would happen if a full grown cow wandered onto the road in front of the coach bus.
We passed quite a few cows just grazing freely without fences. I understand that you can’t contain wild animals, we have a big problem with people hitting Kangaroos in Australia, but farm animals are another story. I hope that Iceland and the local farmers and communities address this issue, if not for the safety of tourists and Iceland people then for the well being of farm animals and livelihood for farmers.
On a different note … I loved your articles, your cafe-bar-restaurant guide is awesome, and your article on the Rex nightclub convinced me to give it a try. Are the barmaids really that sexy??
I hope you publish my letter. Keep up the great work!
See ya,
Sydney Australia
Glad you enjoyed the issue. Bus drivers really shouldn’t crash. I think that’s the issue. And they shouldn’t hit sheep. Sheep really aren’t that sneaky. And they pretty much only wander around in the summer, when it’s light out. So crashing into a sheep when you’re a professional driver is inexcusable, in my opinion.
As someone who enjoys the wildlife of Iceland, I have to say I would prefer it if fences weren’t erected throughout the country. This doesn’t mean I want more dead sheep. I just think drivers whipping around at unsafe speeds should be held accountable. Not farmers.

Dear Bart
Having just spent a few days in your town, it was a pleasure to read an intelligently-written free paper which took in not only things of particular interest to English-speaking tourists but some very interesting articles about life in Iceland for the locals, especially the immigrant issue and the interview you did with the designers of your City Hall.
The fact that I picked up on your summer concerts and managed to get to see Bela twice in one day was a definite added bonus…
Low spot – the weather. What have you guys done to deserve that in summer?!
High spots – the people and the scenery (when I could see it…) Soundtrack to the summer – Bela’s Ticket for a train, of course. Sublime!
Best wishes
Peter A. Phillips
Sindri Eldon did the interview with Studio Granda, who designed City Hall—I thought it was an excellent piece. As for the weather, I grew up in Wisconsin. This is good weather. Glad you found Bela. Every foreigner should buy at least three Icelandic CDs on a visit or consider him/herself a failure in life.
RE: Greetings from Racine
Greetings and salivations ~
Just wanted to send a friendly hello after seeing the write up on you in the paper the other day — what a lovely surprise! I’ve been reading Grapevine for about 2 years or so now, and had the extreme pleasure of spending the best week of my life in Iceland in June ’05. It’s funny how you mention the similarities between Reykjavik and Racine; I felt at home immediately, but didn’t really know why. And I’m still homesick– yes, for a place I visited for only a week. Who can explain it? That’s the beauty of Iceland. I hope to get back in the next year or so. Desperately.
Cheers! ~Julie.
See, Peter. I told you. I’m from a cold place. My hometown paper in Racine, Wisconsin wrote a far too kind description and interview about the work the Grapevine is doing. Then I realised that a lot of people from Wisconsin read our paper, and never introduced themselves. We’ve really got to do something about our state motto: Don’t speak until spoken to. Please, if you visit Iceland, and you’re from Wisconsin, drop a line. (I won’t be here, mind you, as this is my last issue, but I’ll still be serving as an advising editor, and everybody in the office has specific instructions to be friendly to cheeseheads.)
RE: Weren’t you there?
I went to Innipúkinn and saw you, disguised with a beard, playing two shows, one as a country band called the Foghorns, and one with an Arcade Fire-type band. Then I read the Innipúkinn review.
How did you manage to actually play a show and have no perspective on what happened? You didn’t even manage to get the right genres for your own band.
If you were on stage, and you were in the festival, why didn’t you write an insider’s article on the thing? Isn’t the Grapevine your job?
A lot of questions here. Was I at Innipúkinn? Yes. Is the Grapevine my job? Yes. Most of my time at the music festival involved local bands yelling at me for giving out negative reviews. Only now do I see how amusing that might have been as an article. Finally, I didn’t grow a beard to hide. I grew a beard to have something new on my face to talk about.

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