Iceland in winter, part 4: What goes up must come down

On day six we got back into the car for the “golden circle.” The first stop was Þingvellir, which is apparently the continental divide between North America and Europe. A big crack in the earth. Many trolls watching from the rocks. Very cold and slippery.

You can't tell me these aren't trolls.
You can’t tell me these aren’t trolls.

We stopped next at Gullfoss, where it was blizzarding. We ate and shopped in the store at the top–sharing bottomless soup and coffee–and then walked down partway. It was late enough that we were already losing the light and so we made it a quick trip. Big waterfall! Largely frozen!

Gullfoss. Most-photographed waterfall in the world?
Gullfoss. Most-photographed waterfall in the world?

The last stop was at Geysir, which ended up being hilarious. We walked around and saw the hot, bubbling water, and Mer made fun of Chris because when they’d been there before he’d been attacked by one of the geysers. This time we were all attacked by Strokkur. It blasted up into the air, and I judged that the water was going to come back down on top of us, so I ran out of the way. Well, not ran, because it was icy. I shuffled like a cautious velociraptor out of the way. The others didn’t. The hunkered down and got pretty soaked, and we laughed and laughed about it. None of them were sure they weren’t going to be horribly burned (the water erupts from the earth at a high temperature!), but still they just waited for it. Meanwhile, I was sure the water would cool fast in the frigid air; I was only afraid of being drenched–and I ran like a ninny.

We decided not to do Big Dinner that night; some of us went to a supermarket (sort of like an Icelandic Wal-Mart) and I bought a lot of cocolate to give out as gifts. Then we went downtown to the Hlöllabátar sandwich place that Bunny and Crow had loved so much on their last Iceland visit–we had been hearing about them all week–and took them back to the hotel room to eat. Good sandwiches, though maybe not as incredible as the hype.

Day seven was about wandering Reykjavík. We started by driving to Perlan, which really does have the best view in town. Would like to eat there sometime when it’s light late. Surely it will be next time we’re in Reykjavík.

We dropped the rental car off in a full-on blizzard, and got them to drop us in town, where it was only mildly snowy. We wandered the main street of Reykjavík, which I will always love. Tourist shops, coffee shops, book shops. Iceland loves books. I love that about it.

It was almost time to decide about Elfschool. Elfschool is the “famous” (in my circles it is, okay? don’t judge me) brainchild of Magnús Skarphéðinsson. I’ve known people who’ve gone to it, or have it on their bucket lists. It’s right at the intersection of being a fantasy writer and also being the editor of the Norwegian American Weekly and traveling with our little mascot, a “nisse” called Nils Anders Wik. I wanted very much to go. The others were on the fence about it, and I was on the fence about whether it would be fun to do it without them.

But first I made everyone tromp all the way back down to “Moby Dick on a Stick” (Sægreifinn / The Sea Baron), which as it happens is much bigger than I ever knew. We sat upstairs (there’s an upstairs!). Whale continues to be delicious (I’m sorry people, but it is), though I was less impressed with the lobster soup this time than last. Maybe it’s just the season.

Okay, but then it was really time to decide, and I decided I wanted to go to Elfschool. Everyone else bailed on me, so I went alone. I hailed a cab, and almost started crying because it felt so weirdly sad to break off from the herd.

Magnús is a character. I took a lot of notes, but it was really just tales and anecdotes that he’d collected. He is very sincere, and blames the decline in Hidden People relations on the Enlightenment. Our group had the second-ever Icelandic person to go to Elfschool, which was a really nice addition. They chatted amongst themselves, mostly in English. The pancakes were fantastic. Magnús had a tendency to pause in his ramblings for a long time and then sort of start over. We had to remind him of his place several times. His husband was also a character. They’d talk in Icelandic and Magnús would run off for long periods. I wish I knew what they were saying. I may have to learn Icelandic once I get a grip on Norwegian. But did I learn about Elves? Not really. I’m sorry, Magnús.

Magnús and Nils Anders.
Magnús and Nils Anders.
There were so many new friends at Elfschool that Nils Anders didn't even get to meet them all.
There were so many new friends at Elfschool that Nils Anders didn’t even get to meet them all.

Afterward I split a cab with the Irish couple and met the rest of my folks at Kex, which turned out to be a very interesting bar in a hostel. Very loud. But everyone was in a good mood and there was a Scottish band who played one terrible, cliché set of mopey songs–“love is the key that unlocks every door”–and then their second set, as we were leaving, was much better. It was the kind of place I would have loved to stay in my younger traveling days. Or live in. Whatever.

And then the trip was over. This morning we had our last smörgåsbord breakfast, packed our over-stuffed bags, and hit the hotel’s spa. It’s no Blue Lagoon or Mývatn, or even Akureyri pool, but it was a fine way to wrap up our stay in Iceland.

We drank a lot of booze on the way back to the airport, and then bought a lot more booze in the airport, and basically had a really nice time until we had to say goodbye to Chris and Mer and get on our flight. Ugh, flying. My TV doesn’t work so Jeremy and I split the sound to watch Man of Steel on his screen. My neck hurts from it. Also that movie makes no sense. Also also, Jeremy took the window seat. Oh yeah, and we’ve already eaten our meals and are still quite hungry. There are still four hours left of this flight. I have never looked forward to ordering a pizza and watching some TV more.

Oh, travel. It’s amazing to go and amazing to return.