Memoirs Of A Spring Breaker, Or How To Catch Feelings For Reykjavík

Memoirs Of A Spring Breaker, Or How To Catch Feelings For Reykjavík

Jennifer Fergesen
Photos by
Art Bicnick / Illustration: Catherine Fergesen

Spring has come to Reykjavík, and with it spring breakers: a seasonal phenomenon as invasive as lupine and ineluctable as allergies. When I came here on my own university holiday, I planned to follow the Iceland-lite itinerary that most of us spring breakers stick to: Blue Lagoon, Golden Circle tour, somehow getting drunk enough on overpriced beers to regurgitate them onto your futuristic heated sidewalks. As so often happens on this island, however, nothing turned out as expected.

Swim with native wildlife

According to The New York Times, “‘spring break’ means only one thing” for most of my breed: “a beach vacation.” True to form, I sought out surf and sand as soon as I got off the Flybus at the BSI terminal. A quick ride on the number five bus took me to Nauthólsvik, home of Reykjavík’s native ‘polar bear’ population—that is, the group of locals who insist on swimming in the 3°C sea.

I took a cue from said locals and wore a beanie with my Instagrammable bikini, though a wetsuit would better suit the temperature. I could only handle a few seconds—more than enough time to snap a selfie—before I sought solace in the nearby hot pot. After that baptism of ice, the early-spring air felt Bali-balmy for the rest of my stay.

Trade Northern Lights for stage lights

Spring break falls at the tail end of Iceland’s aurora season, but the country’s capricious spring weather often blocks the view. Reykjavík’s vibrant music scene, however, always shines bright. The Met Office forecasted clouds on the night I’d booked a Northern Lights bus tour, so I cancelled my seat and replaced it with a ticket to see the electro-pop group FM Belfast at Húrra Bar.

“I’d caught Egill’s sweat rag, and been slapped by Lóa’s boa.”

All the hip kids in the intimate venue seemed to be on first-name terms with the band, and by the end of the evening, I felt like I was, too. I’d also caught Egill’s sweat rag, been slapped by Lóa’s boa, and livestreamed the inimitable Örvar surfing across the crowd.

Meet local celebrities

The bars closed at four in the morning, leaving me just enough time to walk to Grótta to watch the sun come up. As the sky streaked red behind the lighthouse, I became aware of a sinking sensation in my stomach, the one you get when you start to fall for a would-be fling. In the parlance of my generation, I was catching feelings for Iceland.

“Around his wizened face hung the sleek blond locks of a pop star.”

I was pondering this sensation when a figure approached in silhouette. Around his wizened face hung the sleek blond locks of a pop star—of Örvar Smárason, to be specific. Or was it Óðinn the Wanderer, in one of his countless guises? At that moment anything seemed possible.

“You must come back to Iceland,” he intoned when I told him I’d be leaving that afternoon. How could I respond to such a divine commandment? I stretched out my arm and took a selfie with him. It would hang forever on my Facebook wall as a reminder of the day I fell for Iceland.