Tuesday, August 18, 2009

ICELAND SAGA: Videy and "The World's Largest Pub"

With fresh clothes and caffeinated tummies, Joe and I decided to start our Saturday off with a trip to Reykjavik's Botanical Garden.  We walked to the bus station to buy tickets, arriving at 11:25.  I guess we shouldn't have been surprised upon seeing everything at the station shut down, considering that nothing else in the city was open.  To reiterate, we quickly learned that on the weekends in Reykjavik nothing happens in the morning.  A lone concession worker informed us that tickets were not being sold until noon.  Rather than wait, we decided to walk to the Garden, housed in the middle of a rather large park only three or so miles from the bus station.  One of the neighborhoods we walked through really reminded me of L.A., minus the palm and citrus trees.  My friend Beth lived in L.A. for a year while working with AmeriCorps and the Program for Torture Victims, and this neighborhood looked eerily like hers.  Maybe it was just because of all the stucco.  Lots and lots of stucco.  The Icelandic houses were a bit boxier, with a skosh of art deco, and the majority of the roofs were tin.  Yeah, ok, it was all the stucco.  I wish I would have taken a picture of the street so I could have Beth verify that I'm totally off, but I was in "I would never hang a picture of this on my wall" mode, which makes me worry that I'm a poor photographer.  

We found the park easily with our trusty Lonely Planet map, but we weren't so fortunate with finding the Garden itself.  You see, this particular park has no roads running through it, so once we entered it we couldn't tell where in it we were walking.  It's difficult to tell where you are on a map based on open fields and trees.  After a couple hours of roaming, with feet starting to ache, crabbiness starting to set in (Remember, Julie, you're in Iceland.  You're in Iceland!  I kept reminding myself), and little faith that we would successfully find our destination, we decided to forego the Botanical Garden and move on.  I can't even find a good website devoted to the Garden to let you see pictures, so I'm going to confidently say that we didn't miss out on much.

On to the island of Videy.  

There is actually supposed to be a small dash at the top of the "d," which is pronounced like a "th" in English, so the island name really sounds like "Vithey."  Thought you might want to know that.  We had to take a 10 minute ferry ride to get to the island.  It was a pretty small boat, and it rocked back and forth heavily the entire ride.  I felt like a wimp for feeling nauseated.  Videy was once home to a monastery established in 1225, but it closed down in 1539 after being pillaged by men of the Danish king.  In 1755 the first sheriff of Iceland, Skuli Magnusson (Do you automatically think "Skuli, son of Magnus" like I do now?) had a house built there called Videyjarstofa, which is one of the oldest preserved buildings in Iceland, and incidentally its first concrete building.  Here is a totally boring picture I took of it.   

Videy is deserted now, save for the cafe inside Videyjarstofa, but anything I have read about the island refers to its population, great farming land and fish processing industry.  This is confusing to me, because we walked the trails of the island--which is only 1.6 square kilometers--in two hours.  There are remains of a village and a school, and I read that in 1930, 138 people lived on Videy.  When the local fishing company closed down in 1931 inhabitants slowly moved away until the island's desertion in 1943.  Now that the history lesson is over, here are more pictures.

See those tiny pillars in the distance in this picture?  Those are 4 of 9 pillars of columnar basalt sculpted and donated by American Richard Serra in 1990.  Apparently they frame a nearby landmark, but I don't know what that landmark is because I didn't see anything. 

Interesting Videy fact: The island is home to the Imagine Peace Tower, which is a tower of light created by Yoko Ono in 2007 in memory of John Lennon.  Its light shines every year from his birthday on October 9 to his death on December 8.  Needless to say, we did not see it.  I'm not a huge John Lennon fan or anything, but the tower would have been cool to see against the Aurora Borealis.  Oh well.

Also, in 2000, a statue of Virgin Mary was unveiled as a celebration of 1000 years of Christianity in Iceland.  Mary was the patron saint of the Videy monastery.

Back in Reykjavik, after having dinner at another AMAZING vegetarian restaurant, called One Woman Restaurant (rumor has it that both Mick Jagger and Madonna love to eat there),we decided to walk to the next city over called Seltjarnarnes.  There were two attractions that drew us to the town.  1. A lighthouse 2. What Lonely Planet phrased as "The World's Largest Pub."  The pub was described as having a glass dome and that we should picture "a covered outdoor market with lots of beer vendors."  I pictured a very large outdoor flea market.  In my mind it was just huge, endless.  What we found was quite the opposite.  I mean QUITE.  What we found was a medium sized business building completely enclosed with a large sky light and several store fronts (more than one was dedicated to selling electronics).  We walked around its outside several times thinking we must have missed something or gotten the address wrong, but it all matched up.  All of the businesses inside were closed, except for a dinky bar, whose name matched Lonely Planet's for "the world's largest pub."  Picture Northwest Plaza (deserted St. Louis Mall for those of you who don't know) and a scaled down crappier Houlihan's inside it.  Then you have "the world's largest pub."  I don't know what the editor's were thinking, but the place was an absolute joke.  My apartment is bigger than this bar.  We had a skunky beer there anyway since we had walked all that way (a Viking, but it's pronounced "wicking," which we didn't know, and the bartender looked at us like we were from a different planet), but it was so not worth it.  I guess it was worth the laugh.  This is my WTF? picture.

Afterwards we tried to find the lighthouse, but never found that either.  Our feet were getting super tired, so I don't think we tried very hard.  On the walk back to Reykjavik the Viking hit my bladder.  We were just uncomfortably far enough from our hotel that I definitely had to find a place to pee.  We stumbled upon a gas station, but when I went in, all of the standard gray gas station doors were unmarked.  There were two men in the shop having a conversation, but I felt so embarrassed that I walked out instead of asking them which door was hiding the toilet.  No other businesses were in sight, and I was beyond doing the potty dance.  Joe spotted this gathering of trees:

Normally, I would never ever do this out in the open.  First off, it's a much more difficult task for girls than I think boys will ever realize.  A little over a year ago I was assisting on a photo shoot in Iowa in the middle of a soybean field, which was surrounded by miles of more soy bean fields and corn fields.  I was the only girl on the shoot.  Every time nature called one of the three men I was with, they simply walked into the corn and took care of business.  When Mother Nature knocked on my door I realized I hadn't done this since grade school when I went camping with a friend and her family.  I wasn't really sure how to go about doing it.  Any position seemed awkward to me, and I nearly urinated on my pants.  I swore I would never do that again, but there in Reykjavik I just couldn't hold it any more.  The reason I am telling you this stupid story, I'm realizing, is really to illustrate just how light out it stays during the summer in Iceland.  This photograph was taken at 8 p.m. at the earliest.  Even with standing in the thick of the trees I was sure if anyone passed by they would be able to look directly through all the branches and see pantsless me.  It wasn't fun or comfortable, and I'm not proud.  But my bladder and kidneys love me.  

1 comment:

  1. LMAO at the peeing story. Jason and I went to the Cardinals home opener at the new Busch Stadium a few years ago. Well, we were so drunk on the ride home, we missed our metrolink stop and decided to WALK home down Delmar from the stop in the Loop. Good thinking, huh? Well, I had to pee so badly, I simply went b/w two buildings on Delmar. I often think how lucky we are that we were neither arrested nor mugged/killed that night. Anyway, just had to share b/c I concur that it is incredibly awkward to try to pee in "public" without getting any on yourself.

    I'm loving the Iceland stories and pictures:)