Settling in, days 3-5 July 8-11, 2014

Days 3,4, and 5

Tuesday was the day of the first World Cup semifinal, which was, not too surprisingly, a big day here in Iceland also, even though Iceland has never had a team in the tournament and only this year had a player with dual US/ Iceland citizenship on the team. There are a lot of tourists with a vested interest however. We spent the day going on a “free walking tour” which is something you can find in almost all tourist cities around the world. It involves going to a meeting place and meeting up with the leader/ guide who is usually a rather worldly, sarcastic student who gives you the facts, the stories, and what the regular man on the street thinks as you walk around the downtown areas. In addition you get a lot of history and social commentary thrown in. At the end you pay what you like into a hat. It’s quite good I think and I always try to do it. Our guide was great and had his opinions about the worthlessness of local politicians and how a man who believed wholeheartedly in elves and has claimed to slept overnight with them on numerous occasions shouldn’t be in the legislature. Some notable comments, “World War 2 was a great thing for Iceland because it allowed us to get free from Denmark, since Denmark was controlled by Germany and Iceland by the British”. So when they declared independence in 1944 there was no problem. “iceland has the highest population proportional number of nobel prize science and literature winners ( actually only 1 of each but with a population of 270,000 people, the proportion is quite high). Also the reason Icelandic women are so beautiful (I’m just starting to appreciate that they are indeed (till now ive thought they were nothing special))is that the Vikings went to England and stole only the beautiful women from there. Of course there was lots more too and many wry comments, such as how the parliament building originally was a jailhouse and how appropriate that seems etc. we finished around 4 and walked around about, discovering various lovely murals and sculpture gardens, meeting a beautiful mother with 3 kids in tow. She was showing them how to blow a thin piece of grass, something that I can do but HY had never see. We shared a nice magical moment together, culminating in a little concert. HY also was able to make a note too. We got home at about 7 pm. The plan was to go to one of the public pools. It’s a big thing here. There are lots of public pools with geothermal pools where you can soak in healthy natural waters. This one cost $6 and was pretty nice. A 20 meter pool, a baby pool, and 2 temperature outdoor baths, one at 42 and one at 39 degrees. We spent too long there and by the time we made it to our spot it was 930. I stopped off on the way to see how the match was doing and the drunken old men called out cheerfully to me, “this match is over”. It was already 5-0 and not even halftime. No sense in sticking around for that. I went out to play. HY joined me later. We had played just a few songs together when a Braziian drum battery paraded by. I couldnt resist joining them as they had no horns. They gave me smiles and thumbs up. I wanted to find out who they were and where they were going. I was leading the parade now. I felt like Ferris Beuller in his movie. I felt a little bad about leaving HY but I could hear her singing in the distance and knew she would be alright. We paraded about 4 blocks. The group stopped in bar at the end and played one more song. The musicians were not too friendly now. They. just told me that they played for the match and they were Brazilian fans. I left and went back to HY. She was surrounded by many people mesmerized by her singing. Then I realized them truth, she was the real attraction not me.
We played at our spot for a while longer. Nothing amazing happened but it was fun, watching people drift by and trying to catch their attention and their hearts like fishing on the shores. We finished earlyfor us, 2 am, but of course still very light out.
Thursday was the day of the other world cup match and I really wanted to watch it in the main square where they had a big screen set up to watch at 8 pm. HY was happy to stay home and regenerate so I was off on my own. Around 1 pmI headed off for the amazing Harpa concert hall whose prismatic walls light up with mild and subtle computer controlled led’s that look like some alien message from another dimension. As I went in I heard some strange music. There was a full dress rehearsal of an avant-garde opera taking place. There was a pianist, guitarist, bass, percussionist and singers and everybody moved. It was really quite amazing and even though I was trying to see and walk around all downtown, I stayed and stayed to the end. The concert hall itself is amazing too, inside and out, day and night. Afterwards I walked around the harbor. There they have erected many signs to the many many sailors that have lost their lives, and ships that have gone down. Thousands of ships have sunk around here. It seems to be their national burden. They have small billboards showing the shipwrecks and sinkings from every decade. There are many songs about the deaths and everyone knows someone who has lost someone dear. After that I walked around and visited some galleries. It seems there are many galleries for artists around and a guidebook shows where they are located. By the time we got ready to go it was 9 pm and the game was already well underway, but not to worry, the football was back to its normal pace and it didn’t really matter if you missed the first half or the entire regulation or even the entire game because it was 0-0 and it all came down to the kick-off at the end and Argentina was in and Holland out. Still it was a really nice atmosphere in that square with families watching and oohs and ahhs for near misses and blocks . Little kids riding around, chasing each other, young men being in ecstasy, lounging around,drinking a beer, smoking a cigarret and watching the world cup. I guess it doesn’t get much better than that. 2 cranky spinsters pissed everyone off by standing up in the middle of everyone and blocking scores of people. They refused to move when some father asked them to. I became a kind of hero when I just walked over and stood right in front of them, pretending I just didn’t notice. They had to move over. When I went back to my seat, many people were smiling and laughing. After the match, we debated, play or not. We were cold and tired but after all, it is our focus, so we agreed to play 2 songs each. HY played first. Just as we started, a German circus woman we seemed to run into every day walked past with about 5 of her friends. They all stopped and human nature being what it is, a lot of other people stopped to see what all the fuss was about. Soon there was a crowd of about 30 people, and after listening to a song or 2, people were dumping all kinds of money in the hat. In about 7 minutes we had about 45 dollars. I played a couple songs and then we left cold and tired but happy that we had stopped for a last song. We got home relatively early too and were in bed by 1 am. Good thing too because we arranged to go on a bus tour the next day.
We waited at the bus place at 745 and it came along around 815. Taking a bus is tour is the lowest form of tourism, the least active, the most disagreeable to the locals, and just about what we were capable of doing. We were after all street musicians, not travelers. Other tourists with their tidy backpacks that included a tent, subzero sleeping bag, gas stove etc, put us to shame. We were challenged to find the address of the pickup point, let alone actual sleep out. We were traveling so heavy,mew could not even think about hitch hiking. Who would pick us up, an 18 wheeler?
Our tour was called the Golden Circle and it included to beautiful waterfalls, a number of sulfur hot springs, a geyser area, and the historical region known as Thingvellir. The driver had a headset on and so chatted as we drove. It didn’t take long to realize he was a pretty smart and funny guy so I listened closely. He especially gave interesting and technical information about the geysers, volcanos, and hot areas. At the break I asked him and, yup, I was right,mhe was a professor of geology. How lucky for us. So we learned all about the Mid-Atlantic rift and how it passes right through Iceland from Southwest to Northeast and that’s why it’s so active. In Thingvellir we saw a spot where the 2 plates came together, the best place in the world to see something like that.mit looked like a 10 meter high ridge that as far as we could see in either direction. At one point he dropped us off on the European Side and picked us up on the American side so we walked from Europe to America. We got back around 6 which gave us time to take a quick shower and bath at the geothermal beach before going out to play again. We were becoming familiar sights on the streets these days. Even the Subway Sandwich people we’re getting rather friendly. It was another late night, getting home around 3 am. Friday nothing was planned but we would manage to find something interesting to do.

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