Although we arrived at five in the morning and the bus ride from the airport to Reykjavik was through rain and dark, so we could have been pretty much anywhere, just knowing that I was here again made me tremble. Despite of it being like a humongous rock thrown into the cold water of Norwegian Sea and the “final frontier” of the Atlantic ocean, Iceland still feels like a hug to me. I don’t really know why, but coming to Reykjavik is like coming home. Maybe, just maybe, hundreds or even thousands years ago, there was an ancestor which connects me with these people and this land, someone who gifted me with his gene to carry forward. Most of the visitors to Iceland leave it awed by its natural beauties, but I feel almost physical pain in my chest at each encounter – this is where magic lives.
As I was leading our way up to the church, seeing only its illuminated cross on the top at that moment, I was trying to recognize a street, a house, a wall… from 2014. There, it took me eight years to come back. When it finally revealed itself to us in its full glory, what a sight! It was almost singing. Or it was just my heart glancing down the now familiar street with still sleeping Reykjavik inhabitants? The church was designed to resemble Thor’s hammer, with the handle facing up. I am imagining this giant, the son of Odin, standing on this hill and reaching out to grab the lightning hammer. We came back to it later in the day when it was open. We could hear its bells tolling a number of times during the day.
Was this the coffee shop I liked? Yes? No? Yes! We enjoyed a morning sip with a number of similar visitors, with suitcases, their laptops or phones, warming up, waiting for a sun rise that would eventually come at 8:41 according to the Internet. Everywhere we went, I tried to recognize at least a few words from my short Icelandic language course I took last fall. I was so ready to say “Ég heiti Natasha” but no one asked me for my name.
At some point, we were finally in the “poetry park” where I saw for the first time the use of QR codes for something more than a shortcut to a website, advertising a commercial product. They were on the benches in this park, Hljómskálagarðurinn, giving you access to poetry and literary world. Reykjavík has been designated a UNESCO City of Literature and poets and creative writing students launched the project Word from a Bench publishing fiction and poetry on benches in the public parks. I was going from one bench to another, disappointed, as QR codes were nowhere to be found. Later on, I checked on Google, and discovered that they were there only in September 2014 when I visited Reykjavik! I see it now as a gift for me from the city eight years ago, and I wonder what I will receive this time.
We took our time to check the shops and take the opportunities to warm up inside, killing our eight hours on our feet before we could finally access our Air BnB to rest.
I am not sure we were ready to go out in the evening, but Húrra was the only place, and Sunday was the only day that I could find with open mic for poets. Why not? That would be something to remember. Bonnie was a good sport and said yes, even though we were both longing for that soft bed. I don’t know if I had a half an hour nap since I got up on Saturday morning. Converted, that would mean that I was still awake at lunch time the next day. We got a table too close to the speakers and the music was not what I would listen, so we left during the first break without even waiting to see if there was an open mic at all. Regardless, it was an experience for me for many different reasons, one of them being listening to someone singing in Icelandic and talking to me (as an audience) in this still very incomprehensible bundle of consonants and vowels. I recognized “Takk” (thank you) a few times, and “Bless, bless” (Bye, bye)! The walk from our accommodation adjacent to the University of Iceland (we couldn’t run away from an academic environment) to downtown next to the city pond was beautiful.
The first day gone!