Monday, June 9, 2008

The End of Day Two

After the church, our tour bus hauled out to see an exploded crater. This is not a crater where something fell to earth from tremendous distance at great velocity. This is where a magma chamber, close to the surface, finally erupted and took out a good chunk of land. Now it's an enormous crater with a little lake down in the center. My first stop was to walk to the side and take a picture of yet another caern, just off to the side of the crater.

These things are all over the place in Iceland, tidy piles of rock that stand relatively undisturbed for vast stretches of time. Historically they served two purposes: they were placed upon the graves of vikings to seal them and prevent a vengeful or malicious spirit from returning to harm the living. They also helped horseback riders estimate straight riding lines: when you're in the middle of a volcanic field with sparse patches of scraggly grass, and it's overcast and foggy, every direction looks very like every other direction. But if you're standing beside one tall pile of rocks and you look off and see one other pile of rocks, you can ride to it with great confidence and then spot the next pile of rocks. The most unbelievable part of this story is that anyone could ride a horse with any efficacy across the Icelandic terrain, as the hardened volcanic floes are so pockmarked and potholed as to immediately cripple any horse that dared tread upon them. It truly is hazardous terrain.

So, the crater was neat. Rebecca and I were experiencing a moment of tension so she went down into the crater to examine the lake while I rimmed the perimeter and took closeups of various indigenous plants and flowers, as well as advantageous shots of the crater.

The final site on the tour took us through a dozen geothermal processing plants to a place called Eden. It was one man's folly, to create an elaborate garden in the middle of nowhere, but it had since been bought out by other people who expanded the floral variety and kept the name. There was an automated toy machine in which a small furry ape laughs at you in Icelandic and gives you some manner of bauble or trinket. We took a video of Rebecca earning a billard-ball keychain in this fashion. We also picked up some potato chips that said they were paprika flavored, but Rebecca said, "These taste like barbecue," and damned if they didn't. Is that all a company has to do? Make a big noise like "oh, we've captured the authentic flavor of the southwest with our fancy-ass BBQ potato chips" but just sprinkle a little paprika on them? I want to see roving bands of vigilante ethicists come roaring up and raze every goddamned marketing consulting firm in the world.

We bused back to Reykjavik, walked to our apartment, watched a DVD of Samurai Champloo, and went out for dinner. We'd seen this Chinese restaurant called ASIA and thought we'd check it out. Apparently the sign was missing two words: "WE" and "HATE." The food was mediocre at best and the waiter was indolent at best, easily confused with rude. Friendly enough to the Icelandic family two tables behind us, but we were on our best behavior and the young Chinese man acted like we were a tremendous imposition.

We went back to the apartment and picked up some writing gear and returned to the town. Most businesses were closed because today was May Day--akin to the Communist May Day, which would be Labor Day to us in the States.

Cafe Paris was open so we stopped in and split a slice of chocolate cake, and I tried Egil's Gull beer. It was a golden yellow, not my preferred style but still an okay beer. Cafe Paris would turn out to be our most-frequented hangout.

Thus ends the second day! Phew, sorry that was so hard. Five more to go, though.

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