Today we had a party. Charismatic host Jon Baldur of the ISAK tour company was holding a harvest festival party for clients, suppliers and co-workers and had also invited foreign visitors along. John met up with seven guests underneath the famous and imposing Church of Hallgrimur but instead of going straight to the party we drove to his local swimming pool for a communal bath. If you suggested this back in England your guests would either jump out of the van in a blind panic at the next set of traffic lights or they would stay, and I'd be more worried about the ones that stayed. But here it's de rigeur to get semi naked with total strangers and discuss politics or the weather. As Jon neatly puts it; you have pubs and we have hot baths. Everyone stripped off and we were warmed by the heat from the center of the earth. Then off to the party.
Top to bottom, hot bath, A Zimbabwean New Yorker whose name I've forgotten, Jacob Chila, and the glorious Viking brew
We arrived early at a garage outside Reykjavik which was all festooned in party paraphernalia. We immediately tucked into the thirst quenching Viking lager. A very cheerful Zimbabwean (by way of New York) showed off the best off his newly adopted country by coming up with advertising slogans for Viking Lager. I think we came up with something like 'Need a wife? Drink Viking and kidnap with confidence'. Oh how we laughed, but there's a serious side to our jocularity.
The Icelandic gene pool is very limited, so much so that they sell themselves as a scientific research resource. Icelanders are about 50% Scandinavian and 50% Celtic and not much else because before settling here just over 1000 years ago the Vikings trawled the villages of Scotland and Ireland kidnapping the most attractive women to bring here as wives/slaves. In fact the men are still genetically more Scandinavian and the women are still more Celtic. Amazing.
Top to bottom, Jon and his Viking mates, two ladies whose ancestors might have been Vikings
Jon had tastefully laid out some Viking helmets complete with plaited blonde hair coming out either side. He welcomed us warmly in his speech and then we all tucked into the amazing spread. Jacob, a very funny 19 year old American student studying Icelandic, finally started chatting up the girls at the party but not before he had steeled himself with several cans of Viking.
Chantal the photographer and I had to run off to the next event: bedtime storytelling at the Iceland Air hotel Natura in Reykjavik. Storytelling, ghost stories, and sagas are ever present here, especially to tourists, but they give you an insight into Iceland's dark ages. At this time Iceland was the poorest country in Europe and they had to eke out a living from whatever they could lay their hands on.
Top to bottom, Bedtime Storyteller, and right , meanwhile the Viking is working its magic
Our bearded storyteller regaled the pajama clad visitors with tales of elves and trolls. I have to admit I did fall asleep at the back, cradling my camera in my arms like a baby. His dulcet tones blended with the Viking beer and the hors d'oeuvres to make the perfect sedative. Chantal woke me up and we went back to the party which was winding down. We gave the partygoers a lift back into town where they continued their merriments and we went back to the hotel to hit the hay.
I wondered rather randomly if we have another word in the English language for sleep, other than slang like shuteye. I did a search and found this in the thesaurus; a natural periodic suspension of consciousness during which the powers of the body are restored, characterized by lessened consciousness and slowed-down metabolism. Sounds good to me.