Vesturbær – our new home.
So when I say that we often don’t know what is going to be behind the next door, I mean that literally. As in, we can’t even read anything but the most basic of signs. I once also went into what I thought was a computer lab, only to realize I’d stumbled into the 9th circle of hell and it was a lab full of Macs. I still have PTSD.
The construction site actually doesn’t bother us. In fact I’m probably going to make a post just about the construction site at some point in the future. However, in the meantime don’t be surprised if it sneaks into posts semi-frequently. It is a fairly big part of our existence after all. We’ve named all the workers and the machines and created an entire story, it helps deal with the jackhammers starting at 7:55 am.
The good news is that it ended up being the GPU that had bit the dust. This was the first time ever I’d had a GPU die on me – wonderful. So I went about figuring out how to get a new one, and despite my best efforts I ultimately decided that I’d just need to buy one in a brick-and-mortar store here to get the best price (due to customs + shipping). However, I soon found that there were no stores within walking distance that carried computer hardware. Fortunately, I was able to use the free shuttle to Smáralind (mall) which leaves from City Hall to get within about 10 minutes walking distance of a computer hardware store. I guess the one lucky thing was that it happened before the shuttle stopped running for the season. So, thanks to a bit of leeching from the mall shuttle I was able to acquire a new GPU.
Of course I paid over $100 more for it than I would have even in the more expensive stores in the U.S., but in my life when it comes to my desktop there are two options 1) I have my Desktop 2) I end up on the FBI’s (or I guess Lögregla’s these days) most wanted list.
Now, life being life, that wasn’t the only expensive thing that broke. As I mentioned before our camera lens also decided to break at some point. We had purchased the additional coverage when we bought it, but because we are abroad it turned into a massive shit-show to get them to honor the warranty. The end result is that we had to pay $50 to get someone to say “Yep, it’s broke.” Then pay $30 to send it to the warranty people so they could say “Yep, it’s broke.”
And early morning (and late night) jack-hammering. Or as better reference of what morning currently looks like:
Ok so that photo was actually at like 6 o’clock, but more about the ENCROACHING DARKNASS in a bit. Besides, Pigsten might get angry at me if I discuss his “secret” construction site too much just yet.
Actually Valentino is a little more crazy than usual. We think it’s the newfound proximity to the Arctic Circle that is causing him to go a bit feral. Polar Bears can be dangerous yo’.
It’s actually fairly common here, it’s also a good idea. In our case there’s so much grass that they even have to come mow it.
Naturally a lot the clipped grass ended up pilled up in the walk ways, or bunched up on our welcome mat. That was a kind of a pain. The street cleaner did come clean up everything in the street though, which was neat (except for Clifford, he hates street cleaners for some reason that we have never understood).
Speaking of plants, Iceland doesn’t have much in the way of trees. I mean, I guess this isn’t a huge surprise. The environment itself isn’t conducive to tall vegetation (see wind), but a lot of the forests that were here got chopped down by the Vikings a long time ago. So most of the vegetation you see scattered around was intentionally (re)planted, and even then there isn’t a ton of variety in the trees. The cool thing is that while evergreens are definitely popular, a fair chunk of the trees are actually seasonal – which means you still get fall colors (even if nothing like New England). For example, here’s a photo from a bit ago showing some trees on campus just starting to change.
All those leaves are completely gone now, and have been for awhile – which is a bit more depressing. However, the change was fairly gradual in the leaves, so we had a few good weeks of colors!
We also had a crazy explosion of mushrooms around us! There for a week or two mushrooms were everywhere!
Yep! SB found someone who was getting ready to move and couldn’t take their plants, so we got them! They are three aloe plants, and their names are from left to right: Þorunn, Gunter, and Logi – none of which are pronounced the way you probably think they are. 🙂
However he’s since came to understand that Þorunn, Gunter, and Logi are friends, and not for eating. We feed him lots of oat biscuits from Bónus (our regular grocery store, featuring a pig mascot!) to keep him happy too, which probably helps.
Sometimes you get lucky and can see almost the full arc, complete with Icelandic leprechauns (i.e. gnomes) at the end.
I guess rainbows are a good segue into the weather in general, which is itself tied to the rising tides of darkness. A good bit ago we woke one morning to a little bit of snow on Esja in the distance.
That was pretty much the beginning of the dark times. Since then we’ve been losing daylight, and fast. As an example, take this photo from around 9:00am from October 11th.
SB and I have lived in windy places since 2010, each progressively more windy than the last. Here the wind is so bad that literally all the lines (power, etc.) have to be underground. Plus, I’ve walked through some Nor Easters, and those definitely, definitely sucked – however, there was a wind storm here a few weeks ago where I legitimately thought I could have glided if I jumped in the air. It was picking outdoor furniture up and moving it – for real, and I don’t mean plastic lawn chairs, I mean furniture. We couldn’t open our windows or balcony door – as in, we physically couldn’t open them due to the wind pressure. It was bonkers. Yet the planes still came into the domestic airport. Sure they were (literally) landing sideways, but one thing I’ve noticed about the Icelandic and Greenlandic pilots that we get to watch at the airport is that they give no shits. This isn’t the international airport down in Keflavík (you don’t actually fly into Reykjavík from most places – we didn’t either). We live near the domestic airport, which is obviously domestic, but also handles a lot of Greenland flights.
Those arctic pilots don’t care. “Oh lookee there 500mph winds, nuclear fallout, a Russian invasion, Y3K, herpes, and a vortex to hell – no worries we’ll just land upside down, sideways, while simultaneously on fire and frozen.”
Yes it should come as no surprise that SB and I purchased a French Press within the first 10 hours of being in Iceland. 🙂
In other food news, we’ve been eating a lot of lamb. Whereas chicken had traditionally been our staple, chicken is INSANELY expensive here (~$23 for a pack o’ tendies), it’s now become lamb and fish, because lamb is decently cheap and fish is well.. still expensive, but comparatively less so. We’ve also been eating a lot of eggs, because eggs are cheap despite chicken flesh being expensive.
In fact the expense of food has limited us quite a bit. For example, we no longer really go “out” on our Friday Date Nights. It can legitimately be $25 per person, with no drinks, to eat – and that’s just a hamburger place. If you add in beers, then god have mercy on your soul. Really you should plan to spend $30-40 per person at your average place. For instance SB and I went out once, got 2 beers and an appetizer and it was like $36 during Happy Hour. Yeap.
There is also a local chocolate company with the awesome name of Omnom Chocolate Factory that we’ve had a few times, but like most things their candy is really pricey. We actually want to go do the factory tour, but even that is really expensive.
Still, we don’t let finances stop us from exploring culinary stuff entirely, and besides we’ve found a few cheap things to try out. A good example is lakkrís (licorice). Icelanders seem to love their lakkrís, it exists as everything – to the point that even lakkrís ice-cream seems normal. However, there is one thing you have to be careful about with their lakkrís. Some of it contains ammonium chloride (sound familiar?) – for realsies. For example, take Opal – a super popular traditional Icelandic lakkrís.
If you get the red box, you can prepare yourself for lakkrís pellets that taste like cough drops. Not too bad, but nothing you’d be clamoring to consume either. HOWEVER, should you get the green box…
That package is quite good. I mean, it’s licorice (read: not Twizzlers or Red Vines) so if you don’t like licorice-licorice you won’t like it, but I happen to be a fan of licorice (just not, you know, licorice laced with Borax).
If there is one thing I have to say about beer in Iceland it’s this: prepare thyself for poverty. Alcohol in general is more expensive here than anyplace else I’ve ever been (with the exception of Kaktovik). If you are eating out (and not in a happy hour), don’t be surprised if you pay $14 for a beer, and if you want to head to the store for a six-pack, prepare to spend about $25 for the six-pack, and that’s just for normal beer, not the fancy stuff.
They have a pretty good stock of local, European, and Murkan’ beers at the locations we’ve been too. Of course they are expensive, but beer is life. As far as quality goes, Icelandic beers have been good. Anymore I don’t think any one country has beer on lock-down. I think it’s more brewer-to-brewer since the micro-boom. I’ve had a couple that were really good, and then I’ve had some that were meh. Just like any other place. The moral of the story is that there is plenty of good beer here, I just can’t afford most of it. 🙂
In reality I have to keep them in there because our refrigerator is the size of a shoebox. But hey, that doesn’t stop us from telling stories on it with magnets!
Indeed, our apartment has a lot of quirks. From the Scandinavian-style shower that really isn’t a shower in the traditional sense, to the cabinets designed for giants, to water pressure that will rip your skin off, to the tiny little sink that gives you a bath (NO MATTER WHAT YOU DO) due to said water pressure. Yes, when coupled with the fact that we pulled most of our furniture out of the basement or trash area, it’s been an interesting time.
Háskóli Íslands is the largest (and objectively best, because I go there) of the seven schools in Iceland. To best honest I didn’t even realize there were seven, I only ever really hear about four: Háskóli Íslands, Háskólinn á Akureyri, Háskólinn á Bifröst, and Háskólinn í Reykjavík (which is Háskóli Íslands’ rival). Háskóli Íslands (henceforth HI) has something like 13,200 students. It’s by far the largest university in Iceland, but still fairly small by Murkan’ standards where schools like Ohio State have 743,000 students.
Plus, like I’ve mentioned before, Tjörnin is right in the middl(ish) of it.
And with Tjörnin comes duckies, geese, swans, and 9 octrillion seagulls (who are assholes, but still friends).
It’s a very pretty place, and while our walk-commute to the store is fairly long (especially on the way back with all the groceries), it’s nice that part of the walk takes us through such a pretty area.
This area (a bit further from us) also has stuff like the Icelandic parliament, Alþingi – I discussed that part of town a bit more here.
So that’s kind of a general overview of where we live – in a noisy undergrad-dominated complex, near a construction site, an airport, the university, and across the country’s largest highway from some duckies. I don’t make it sound too great, but really it’s not that bad, we both know I like to whine. Most of the stuff doesn’t bother me, it’s really just undergrads – who, for reference, I still hated while I was one.
Yes, despite not traditionally celebrating Halloween, the holiday has started to creep into Icelandic culture (as it should, Halloween = best holiday). We might have ended up getting a pumpkin, but that’s a story for next time. 😉
Actually it ended up showing right after I wrote this, but hey, I have a 180 degree view of mountains. So at least I can take in a pristine view while I eat laundry detergent candies, rotten fish, drink my $75 beer, and slowly go insane from endless darkness!