Saturday, February 19, 2011

Walking and Wind

Today ended up being a walking day. Some of it more fruitful than others. Having taken a benadryl at midnight I was out for a while but Sara was up early reading and having breakfast and working out. My spirits were eventually lifted by a nice cup of coffee. In winter here, the sun never gets very high in the sky and thus has a low angle of incidence with the horizon making for very long sunrises and sunsets, but finally finds its way up a little after nine.

We head out with the idea of finding some Icelandic sweaters with their iconic circular pattern around the collar and made of the local sheep wool. We take a long winding route into downtown passing the tall, gaudy cement church which dominates the otherwise short skyline. More interestingly is the statue of Leifer Eiriksson in front which we dutifully snap some pictures of. Even though its almost 10 at this point downtown is mostly empty and we struggle to find a coffee shop open at such an hour on a Saturday morning. We are able to find one finally and get a muffin to share with our coffees.

Noticing that the Handknitters Association is still closed we make our first stop Farmers Market, actually a local sweater shop which is located on the far side of downtown out on a large pier like peninsula. Its once we reach this peninsula that we really start feeling the wind. I quickly remember something that I recently read, it's not the temperature of Iceland that makes it uncomfortable but the wind. I later find out that steady winds are blowing at 30 mph with gusts to 45. We do wind our way to the end of the land where we are greeted with stunning views of the neighboring Mt. Esja across the bay and even more wind. At the very end we find the Farmers Market sign and the front door. We confirm that, "Opið Mán-Fös" does indeed mean open Monday through Friday with a tug on the very locked door handle. Well, it was a nice walk if a bit windy. So, we turn around and head back to town.

On the way back is the sushi place recommended by the tourist information guy, Sushi Smiðjan. With all the fishing around Iceland we had been looking forward to trying some sushi with their ultra fresh fish. Our expectations were easily met. And we ended up being there during two for one time. We both had a mixed plate of 10 pieces, with five rolls and five nigiri, and a bowl of miso. Excellent food and excellent price. We'll be back!

Nearby is the flea and fish market. The bulk of the space is for the fleas with many stalls of locals selling books and jackets and sweaters and knick knacks. Towards the back is the fish market oddly filled mainly with dried fish. We do happen upon one stall with little tubs of white cubes. We recognize these as the dreaded and famous Hakarl, a shark that when fresh is poisonous with acid in its flesh but once left to rot/ferment for a few months becomes edible. Who was the first person to figure that out??? The woman hands us toothpicks with dice sized pieces and tells us not to smell them. I do anyway, smells faintly of ammonia, and then pop it into my mouth. Not to bad, tastes like some overripe cheese. But liking fairly stinky cheeses I find it not completely repellent. We end up buying a little tub for 150 krona.

On the way home is the Handknitters Association store where we make our way to. The back half of the store is filled with shelves, floor to ceiling, packed with sweaters of all styles and sizes and colors. After trying a few I find a charcoal one that I like and that fits pretty well. With sweater in hand we head home through the strong wind for some needed napping.

After waking up we decide on the Iceland Fish & Chips shop for dinner. Its a vaguely Portland style place what with its healthy bent. No wheat, the batter is made with barley and spelt flour. Chips are baked not deep fried. And for a truly local twist, instead of mayonnaise they have various flavored skyronnaise made with the ever present skyr. After dinner we trudge back home facing straight into the seemingly ever present gale force winds.

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