From Iceland — HRÍSEY: Keepin’ It Real

HRÍSEY: Keepin’ It Real

Published March 11, 2005

On the way to the guesthouse we noticed a mural of sorts painted on the side of the village food store: an old woman holding a rake, shaking her fist at the sky as raindrops began to fall on her. Written above her was, “Þú nýtur þess guð, að ég næ ekki til þín,” which roughly means, “You enjoy this, God, that I can’t get my hands on you.” I liked the place more already. Additionally, every person we passed said “Good day” to us and really seemed to mean it. I had forgotten how people in small towns everywhere extend this courtesy, even to complete strangers, and it was nice to be reminded of this.
Nonni Buys a Snowmobile
The four of us checked into our guesthouse and began drinking beer in the late afternoon while watching Little Britain and The Simpsons on the graphic designer’s laptop, just like Icelanders used to do centuries ago. Sufficiently buzzed, we slid down the hill to the reception hall where the Þorrablót feast and dance was to be held.
As we shoveled in the food and began to do shots of brennivín, the comedy portion of the dinner began. On a stage at the front of the hall, there were a series of skits put on. All of the jokes, and I do mean all of them, were references to people living on the island. Naturally, all the locals – a surprising number of whom were teenagers – were peeing themselves with laughter while the four of us sat there wondering why Nonni buying a snowmobile should be so funny.
Doing the Robot
True to any Þorrablót, the feast transformed into a dance. As the band played Stuðmenn covers, we tried our best to dance with dignity and style, which some achieved while others wound up doing the “the Robot.” Somehow, and the details on this are a little blurry to me still, the group of us ended up at some party in the neighbourhood.
As is the case when one follows beer with brennivín, things got a little fuzzy. I somehow ended up going for a walk with a former Scandinavian child star from the band The Boys and his girlfriend, who told me (as a number of young people also said) that they had no intentions of living anywhere else. Hrísey was their home and that’s where they wanted to stay.
That Kind of Place
An elderly couple driving a tractor passed us and waved hello, unfazed that a grown foreign man and a teenage couple were walking the streets at four in the morning together sharing a bottle of brennivín. I parted ways with them a short time later and walked back to the guesthouse and collapsed into bed.
The four of us left the next afternoon and took the ferry back to the mainland. On the drive back home down a nighttime road being pelted with snow, as I nodded off, my mind kept going back to Hrísey. Even in the depths of a torturous hangover, I was looking forward to going back. It’s just that kind of place.

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