Thursday, August 03, 2006

Iceland, Pt. 1

Recap of Iceland so far....

We flew into Keflavik on Saturday the 29th, arriving at 6:30 am. We took a flight that left Minneapolis in the early evening on Friday, and since we were travelling east it "took" all night. Ingunn's dad Hallgrimur met us at the airport with her uncle Stefan to pick us up and take us into Reykjavik. The international airport is 40 km outside Reykjavik in Keflavik, where the US Army base is. They built the army base as a strategic North Atlantic position during WW II, and the US is only pulling out of Iceland now, as they are having to divert their resources towards the Middle East (ie Iraq). They built a base in Iceland because before the jet plane days, they had to stop and refuel in Iceland to make it to Europe. Also, during the Second World War, North America saw Iceland as the last European blockade before Hitler would expand to America - so it was an important asset to protect. So when Icelandair, the national and only airline with landing rights in Iceland, decided to build and international airport, they built it in Keflavik so they could just piggy-back on the runways the army base had already built. The Keflavik airport only does international flights, and Icelandair also has a domestic airport in Reykjavik on the Nes peninsula near the University, that services all of Iceland.

When we flew in Hallgrimur and Stefan took us over to Stefan's house, where his wife had a huge, delicious breakfast waiting for us. And this is when I had my first tast of Skyr, elixer of the gods. It's this yoghurt-like staple of Iceland made from skim milk. Traditionally they left the milk to ferment in a pig's bladder, and there was an enzyme in the bladder that turned the milk into Skyr. They have now of course identified the enzyme, and there are two companies that produce Skyr commercially. And like yoghurt they also make it in many different flavours. But the best way to eat it in my opinion is plain Skyr, with blueberries and a little Ryómi (cream). After breakfast at Stefan's, they took us to our temporary digs that we stayed at until Ingunn's apartment was ready. Michelle and I ended up in an apartment-style University of Iceland residence on Eggertsgata, while Catherine and Ingunn stayed in the guest room of Hallgrimur and Gudrun's friends Hans and Sölvig on Reynemelur. We tried rehearsing but we were too exhausted, so we crashed very early.

On Sunday we got up bright and early for church, because in order to get the church we were playing our concert in for free, we had to play at a service. So we headed over to Neskirka (Nes church) for service. Then we had some major rehearsing to do, as our concert was on Monday night. So we rehearsed our booties off, and played our concert. It went well, and a reviewer from the paper came. We are still eagerly anticipating the review, as it hasn't been published yet. As well, Icelandic Public Radio recorded our concert, I'm not quite sure why. Then on Tuesday there was more rehearsing to be done, and we said goodbye to Eggertsgata and Reynemelur, and moved into Ingunn's apartment on Bógahlid. It's a very nice, big apartment in a three story walk-up. She's close to downtown, and the University, so it's a very nice location.

On Wednesday we got up for our 9 am recording session at Neskirka, recording the Kansas Quartet by Thordur Swinburne for Icelandic Public Radio. It took about 2 hours to record a 20 minute piece, but I think it will turn out OK. Then we went swimming and after that to a big dinner at Hans and Sölvig's. Ingunn's brothers had both flown in that day or the day before - Gunnar with his wife Adrienne, and Benedikt with his wife Lee, daughter Elizabeth, and Lee's parents. Benedikt had gone fishing that afternoon with Stefan, and so we ate the huge catch he brought in - about 8 large cod. If was a fun night, but long and exhausting. Made even more exhausting by the fact that we got up at 6:45 this morning to go swimming.

The pools in Iceland are so cool! They're warm, and either very lightly or not chlorinated at all. They get the water from natural underground springs and every public pool also has 3 hot tubs (hot, hotter, and ow! burning!), and a sauna. In order to not heavily chlorinate, they have very strict rules about showering, with signs in the showers showing you where you have to wash before going in the pool. So we've been going swimming alot, because it's so nice, and even when it's chilly out, the pool is still around 20 degrees.

After swimming we walked back to downtown and met up with people (mostly Ingunn's family) for a noon hour organ recital at Hallgrimskirka. It's this huge church in downtown Reykjavik that was partly designed by Ingunn's grandfather. It's a good orientation landmark because it's about five stories taller than any of the other buildings around it. You can see Hallgrimskirka from anywhere in town, so if you're looking for downtown, you just follow the church! It also has a famous, super good organ, so there's always an organ recital going on. After the recital, the entire family (plus us) headed to the 66 North outlet store to pick up discount fleeces. And now we're just relaxing at Ingunn's apartment, in our new comfy fleeces, before we leave for our trip to the south tomorrow.

So that's all from Iceland for now. It's kinda cold and rainy, and hopefully our entire weekend in the South won't be this bad. It's kind of hard to hike in torrential rain!

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