Breaking newsflash: Iceland is a really gay-friendly country! Of course we all know this; we have a big ol’ lez of a PM, our occasional drag queen mayor and a Pride Parade that draws in more families than the state church. Not to mention the sheer number of daily rainbows we get between spring and fall! These are all perfect conditions for Reykjavík to jump on board with the worldwide phenomenon of gay tourism known as Rainbow!
The Rainbow Reykjavík event was created by Pink Iceland, a gay travel agency founded and operated by tourism mavens and lovers Eva María Þórarinsdóttir Lange and Birna Hrönn Björnsdóttir. The Grapevine was graciously invited along to take part in the activities so yours truly hopped on board.
The fun started on February 16 at Trúnó with a packed-house kick-off party. My partner and I arrived rather early and took a seat in the window, where we had a prime spot to watch the masses of starry-eyed and smiling event guests coming in droves. Queen of the queer blues Elín Ey treated us to a quick solo concert and spun tunes while the barman passed out free shots of Ópal. People were mixing and mingling until the lights came on and they kicked us all out. But this was only the first night.
The next day, I joined the group as they finished up what I hear was a lovely Italian lunch at Pisa. From there we met up with Hilmar Magnússon, who took us on the two hour long Reykjavík LGBT History Walk. Unfortunately, from the back of the very large group, there was little chance of hearing much. Still, the stories I did catch were quite good and informative about local culture. It is a shame how little history was recorded by the lesbians though.
Nonetheless, the walk was a great chance to begin befriending other event goers. Double entendres and juvenile giggles got me acquainted with Elvin Ramos and Heidi Hlawaty, a pair of friends and colleagues from New York City who were on their second visit to Iceland in less than a year.
At a cocktail hour later in the day, I met several more people from New York City, as well as from France, Germany and the Netherlands. It turned out this wasn’t the first visit to Iceland for a lot of people nor did it seem like it would be the last.
The group then went on to dinner at Harpa and a show by Lay Low and Viggo & Víoletta. Páll Óskar had originally been booked for the gig, but he blew out his voice (pun intended!) and couldn’t perform. We wish him a speedy recovery!
Saturday morning we all loaded onto a magical rainbow tour bus to go on a customised ‘Golden Shower’ excursion hosted by a pair of drag queen grannies. We started at Iceland’s very own golden shower, Gullfoss, where the group got to have the photo op session of their dreams.
We couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful day for the trip and everyone was in particularly joyful spirits.
Then we headed towards Geysir (or as they were calling it, GAYSIR) for a delicious lunch at the fancy-shmancy Hotel Geysir. Here I sat across from Ute Zimmer, an Icelandair representative from Germany who was instrumental in putting together the whole shebang. She told me it was sold out weeks in advance, so they actually had to turn people away! That can only be the harbinger of good things to come in the future, I suspect. After lunch we moseyed over to the great waterspout for a group photo and shameless jokes about premies and multiples. And no, I don’t mean babies.
Next stop was the beautiful Laugarvatn Fontana steam baths, which I have been partial to since my first visit and talked it up to everyone in the tour, but it seems to have been met with a less than enthusiastic response. Many of the guests found the waters either too cool or too hot and many were not particularly interested in the dry saunas.
It was sitting in one sauna that I did get to chat with New Yorker Stephen Pevner about how he was enjoying himself, and although the ambient air was hot, he seemed a bit lukewarm. He said the tour could have used something more than just the LGBT Walk, including some things of more specific interest to people within the group or different aspects of Icelandic culture. Still, he was gracious to the first-year nature of the event. Over in the hot tub, another New Yorker named Steven Weinstein wondered aloud to me the best possible idea: why didn’t they take us to the penis museum!?
After a final quick stop at Þingvellir for kókómjólk and hangikjöt on flatkökur, we rolled back into town in a sleepy daze, with couples in cosy amours, serenaded by the happiest French men singing nostalgic pop hits of their youth. And as the group went off to their hotels to gussy up for their final dinner, it really felt like somehow we found it: the rainbow connection.
Visit rainbowreykjavik.is for information about the next festival. Plan ahead, it sold out fast this time!
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