A Quiet Week in Reykjavik

This week has been quiet, but not uneventful. The problem is, I don’t think any of my readers are particularly interested in hearing a recap of orientation meetings I could barely pay attention to, which means I don’t have too terribly much to say about what I’ve been up to after my trip to the West Fjords.

The boring stuff includes orientation, moving into my new dorm, and shopping for food and dorm stuff. I will take the opportunity, however, to introduce you to the logo of Iceland’s cheap grocery store, Bonus:


The bad news is, I am one drunken decision away from getting a tattoo of this pig. The good news is, alcohol here is so goddamn expensive I almost definitely will not get drunk enough to make that decision.

Also I hardly even know what an alcohol is, in case my grandparents are reading this.

Today was the first day of real classic Reykjavik weather, however. I finally got to test out my new raincoat (it works) and legitimately got thrown into a railing because the wind was so strong. I’ve never felt more alive.

Really though, I feel like I belong here, and it’s not just the weather. It’s the puns and the morbid sense of humor. Everyone in Iceland is a really aggressive driver. The country is populated by individuals who are okay with not seeing the sun for three months. I truly feel like I’ve found my people on this small island nation.

My itinerary for today was to visit the National Gallery of Iceland, and then one or both of the other art museums that are part of the “one ticket for 1500 krona” deal. Unfortunately, one of those museums is really far away and the other one was closed when I got there, so the National Gallery was the only gallery I saw today. It was nevertheless a stunning gallery, featuring artists with little in common besides their motherland. Between installations of wig hair from Shoplifter:


A series of cars in rivers by Ólafur Elíasson:


Snapchat captions by yours truly:


And lithographs by Edvard Munch (of The Scream-level fame):


the relatively small gallery has a remarkably diverse selection of work from Icelandic artists over the last century and a half. There were some pieces that had clear ties to art movements like Cubism or Fauvism, but the way that these artists adapted internationally known styles to speak for their home country of Iceland is really incredible to contemplate. It’s no Paris or New York City, but Reykjavik (and the country as a whole) has hosted a parade of vibrant artists that have shared their work and their love for Iceland around the world.

I had a lovely moment of validation for my made-up major (which is formulated on the assumption that everything connects) when, after being absolutely captivated by a bust, I found out it was a portrait of Halldór Laxness, the Nobel Prize laureate author of Independent People, which I read over the summer in preparation for my trip here.

Art meets literature once again.

After a string of uninteresting occurrences, I set out to visit Reykjavik’s Catholic cathedral (and, I’m convinced, the only Catholic church in the city). On my way there, I accidentally stumbled upon Cemetery Hólavallagarður and lost my shit because there’s a graveyard five minutes from my dorm.

Let me be clear: I love graveyards. It’s not in a weird Halloween fetishization sort of way; I just appreciate the craftsmanship of memorializing the dead and the simple calm of being in a place of rest. I maintain that cemeteries are the most peaceful places on earth.

Anyway, I took a million pictures of moss-covered stones among gnarled trees and barely tended-to flowerbeds that I haven’t yet uploaded to my computer, but will definitely share once I do. Hólavallagarður (from what I can tell) has been around for the last two centuries and is still in use, based on the very recent death dates and empty plots I noticed.

Here’s your exclusive sneak peek.

After I’d meandered through the cemetery for as long as I cared to, I made my way to the cathedral, which I’d only seen the exterior of. I approached the entrance, where a car with weird white tufts was parked, and then I realized that I still wasn’t going to see the interior because the tufts were white tulle decorations and that car was definitely for a wedding.

Guess I’ll just have to go back.




One Comment

  1. Cathy McQueney

    Love this Rachel. I am so grateful for the opportunity to tour Iceland with you in a vicarious sort of way! So glad to see you are making the most of this once in a lifetime opportunity.


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