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October 8, 2013

Things To Do in Iceland When You’re Me
Posted by Patrick at 08:40 AM * 120 comments

In a couple of weeks’ time I’ll be in Reykjavik for slightly over 24 hours, with nothing to do except see sights. Yes, it’s that famous perk of flying across the Atlantic on Icelandair—you can stop in the middle for no additional charge.

I’m sure that quite a few Making Light readers have done this. So while I’m perfectly capable of putting together my own list of things to see and do, I thought I’d put the question to the Fluorosphere.

Constraints: I arrive a bit after 6 AM local time, and I’ll be leaving the next morning a little after 7:30. I have a hotel reservation. And I know it’ll be pretty brisk outside.

Basically, I’m a history-and-culture nerd. I like new-to-me food and drink, historical museums (including art museums to the extent that they illuminate history), and aimlessly walking (or cycling!) around interesting urban neighborhoods I’ve never seen before. Things I’m not interested in: Night clubs, strenuous cross-country exertions, and that fermented shark dish everybody’s always on about.

I have one day, containing about nine and a half hours of daylight. What should I do with it?

Comments on Things To Do in Iceland When You're Me:
#1 ::: Mary Robinette Kowal (@MaryRobinette) ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2013, 09:19 AM:

First, you need to email me and tell me the dates you'll be there, because I'll be in Iceland on the way to and from WFC.

Second, pack long underwear.

Third, book a water massage at the Blue Lagoon.

Fourth, rent a car, or sign up for a tour, and drive to Thingvallir, which is the valley where the old parliament used to meet. It's also where the North American and European tectonic plates are separating and is a place of amazing natural beauty.

#2 ::: Theora ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2013, 09:28 AM:

Get a hot dog. Really:

#3 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2013, 09:28 AM:

First Icelander: Want to go have a beer?

Second Icelander: I can't tonight. I have a Thing.

#4 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2013, 09:32 AM:

Stay away from Count Saknussem.

#5 ::: Sica ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2013, 10:03 AM:

At work now, will write more later. I am Icelandic but living in Edinburgh so can't meet up with you and play tourguide (which I otherwise would love to do)

There are a few fun historic type museums to go to, the art museum right down town is super fun to go to as well, it's a very intersting building I find although it tends to be fairly modern arty.

There's LOTS of good food.

People will say to go into the country side and if you want to do that there are tours called the Golden Circle which are pretty amazing to go to but that does mean you'll sit on a bus for a lot of the time (in between seeing amazing waterfalls, geysirs and Þingvellir which is the place mentioned above).

However if you do that that's about what you'll do so it might be more fun to check out the museums and walk around a few places in down town Reykjavik.

The landscapes are phenomenal, like really awesome but you only have 24 hours and will be travelling a ton so yeah.

You could do whale watching as well if you want to go on a boat, it's not the season for puffin watching unfortunately now but that's very fun too.

Anyway I'll elaborate more on specific museums later

#6 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2013, 10:45 AM:

If you do have some dead rotting poisonous shark that's been buried on a beach, please tell us how it tastes! (Personally I wouldn't leave town without trying some.)

Parachuting into a volcano and letting the hot air blow you back out might take some time to arrange.

Also in Reykjavik: the Penis Museum.

#7 ::: Andrew Wells ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2013, 10:57 AM:

At the risk of being a pedant, you will not be in Reykjavik for just over 24 hours; you will be in Iceland for just over 24 hours. You will be using the international airport at Keflavik, not the domestic airport at Reykjavik. It's too long since I've done it to remember the exact travel time, but you should figure on an hour's travel each way if you actually want to get to Reykjavik, as well as time to process luggage drop-off / collection, security at the airport each way.

#8 ::: Michael Weholt ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2013, 11:12 AM:

#7 Andrew Wells: At the risk of being a pedant...

I don't think noting travel times b/w international airports and downtown areas can actually be considered pedantry. These are fairly important details which I, when traveling, always appreciate hearing about, especially before it's too late.

#9 ::: SummerStorms ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2013, 11:24 AM:

Jim @ 6: How... how did I not know about "Scandinavia and the World"?!

Many thanks!

*Adds it to bookmarks, subcategory: Amusing*

#10 ::: SummerStorms has been gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2013, 11:26 AM:

Perhaps they're disturbed over what I find amusing.

Freshly-made hazelnut coffee?

#11 ::: Joe Holmes ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2013, 11:41 AM:

We loved visiting Holavallagarour Cemetery, which is walking distance from the main part of Reykjavik. Actually, everything is walking distance from the main part of Reykjavik.

We also had a terrific time at the Blue Lagoon. We took our luggage, stopped at the Lagoon for the afternoon, then continued on to the airport for our flight to London.

Honestly, I think Iceland should be visited for at least a few days which would allow trips around the country to see the landscape. We were there for just a couple days so we missed the most fabulous reasons to visit.

#12 ::: SummerStorms is still gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2013, 01:23 PM:

And the gnomes have drunk all my coffee.

#13 ::: SummerStorms is no longer gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2013, 01:24 PM:

and is making fresh coffee in case of future encounters.

Scone, for the trouble?

#14 ::: Andrew Plotkin ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2013, 01:30 PM:

I hear the cathedrals are unusual.

#15 ::: dancingcrow ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2013, 01:48 PM:

I was surprised how lovely the Blue Lagoon is. Even though we were there on the edge of summer, being warm all over as well as being able to swim in the middle of this absurd volcanic landscape was fun. Most of Reykjavik seems to visit it, although clearly tourists are courted and welcomed.

I really needed to ride an Icelandic pony, because ponies, but not everyone needs to do that thing. If you do, there is a short half-day ride from a place close to the edge of the city that goes out into (again) an absurd volcanic landscape.

Clearly the landscape made an impression on me! Coming from the glaciated New England countryside it was really different. I'm sorry in retrospect we didn't go see the Mid-Atlantic Ridge where it is visible above sea level, but we couldn't in good conscience inflict that much bus time on the kids.

#16 ::: Andrew Wells ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2013, 01:48 PM:

Andrew Plotkin @14, Reykjavik cathedral isn't that unusual, although the Hallgrimskirkjar is definitely unusual (and also well worth seeing).

And I need to correct my earlier comment. Reykjavik airport chiefly handles domestic flights, but it does have occasional international flights. To Greenland.

#17 ::: JohnC ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2013, 02:34 PM:

The Icelandic settlement center, Reykjavík 871±2 is probably the best place for a history/culture nerd in all of Reykjavik. It features an excellent subterranean exhibit set amidst an excavated ancient structure and recounts the history of the settlement in great detail. Also, the Icelandic Phallological Museum is worth it for the ticket alone. It's small (hah!) and must contain more formaldehyde jars of whale penises per square foot than anywhere else on the planet.

As others have said, a visit to the Blue Lagoon is very much worthwhile. It is near the airport on the Reykjanes peninsula, and although nearly all of the pictures on the web make it look gaudy and gross, it is quite wonderful, and the perfect respite in cold weather.

Food-wise, you are wise to skip hakarl (it is overhyped and underwhelming and tastes not unlike a very bloomy cheese rind), but you can find horse, puffin, and (if you are a horrible person) minke whale on menus in Reykjavik.

#19 ::: Bjorn ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2013, 03:04 PM:

"The reason it's a cliche is because it's true." This applies to the Golden Circle. It does take all of the day, but if waterfalls, geysirs and landscape hold any interest, it is seriously a thing to do.

The Blue Lagoon is somewhat more overrated I think, but it is certainly a unique experience.

If you are spending the time in town, Reykjavík 871±2 is probably high on a list of things to do, and the Phallological Museum if only to have been there. As a local, I've obviously been to neither.

Since it was revamped a few years back the National Museum is quite good. Both the Reykjavik Art Museum and the National Gallery of Iceland are downtown, but probably not that interesting unless you're into art. The Einar Jónsson Museum sculpture museum is much more interesting to me, and the sculptures have historical and mythological references. Plus it's right next door to Hallgrímskirkja which you may want to visit.

As for 'pretty brisk', it'll be... somewhere in the region of -5°C to +10°C. Not horribly cold, but chilly. We just had our first snowfall, but forecasts for 8-9°C for the rest of the week. You could have snow, hail, rain and nice sun in the space of about an hour.

I'd recommend the puffin over the minke whale, on grounds of taste. Puffin may be hard to find, since its population has dipped seriously (ocean conditions, lack of food) and catching has been severely curtailed.

Enjoy the day!

#20 ::: Lloyd Burchill ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2013, 03:09 PM:

Here are my haunts around downtown:

Bookstores: Eymundsson on Austurstræti and Mál go Menning on Laugavegur.

Cozy café: C is for Cookie on Týsgata.

Stroll: Make a circuit starting in Austurvöllur (the square in front of Parliament and the site of the 2008 protests), then enter City Hall and hope they've got the colossal topographic map of Iceland out that day. Duck into the Reykjavík Settlement Exhibition (multimedia extravaganza about the 9th century, built directly on top of the sites it discusses).

Continue up scenic Tjarnagata and enjoy the pond, then stroll through Hólavallagarður and marvel at the old gravestones amid the trees. Exit at the southeast corner and maybe dart into the National Museum ("Þjóðminjasafn": historical artifacts and folkways).

Continue around the pond, and end up at the Culture House on Hverfisgata where you can behold the original manuscripts of the Icelandic sagas.

And last, do try Appolo brand liquorice and blueberry skyr: your tongue will thank you.

I'm a local -- just ask if you want more details.

#21 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2013, 03:14 PM:

Hey Lloyd, long time no hear from! You live in Iceland now? I hadn't heard.

Great to see your name again.

#22 ::: Bjorn ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2013, 03:16 PM:

Whoah. Two Fluorospherians in Reykjavik??

#23 ::: Bjorn was gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2013, 03:21 PM:

Probably for the double question mark *shamefaced*
I have some skyr for the gnomes. It's quite tasty

#24 ::: Lloyd Burchill ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2013, 03:47 PM:

Yup, I took a language class for fun and the next thing I knew I was a married expatriate.

Hey Xopher, do you want a good scare? Go read the Wikipedia page on Icelandic grammar.

#25 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2013, 03:56 PM:

Congratulations! Your spouse is a lucky person.

As for the grammar...I can well imagine.

#26 ::: marek ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2013, 05:14 PM:

I can't help you with what to do when you get there, but I can recommend a book to read on the flight. Names for the Sea by Sarah Moss is a beautifully written account, by a woman who spent a year in Reykjavik as a lecturer in English, of the physical and cultural shocks she experienced in a country which turned out to be more alien than she had bargained on.

#27 ::: marek was gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2013, 05:18 PM:

And can't for the life of him work out why. Unless the Icelandic elves are quantum entangled with the gnomes of the Fluorosphere.

[Your email address resembled the sort of random letters-and-numbers favored by spammers. That filter has been adjusted since you are an Honored Guest. -- Corient V. Plotckin, Duty Gnome]

#28 ::: marek was gnomed was gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2013, 05:20 PM:


#29 ::: eep ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2013, 05:54 PM:

I've been to Iceland once, but it was a lot of years ago. The time of the year was about the same. Our first full day was warm and sunny, and the next day, wintry and snowing (yay for layering). The landscape was breathtaking (we did the Golden Circle and South Coast tours; either of these would preclude any other activities except dinner, though, I think). I couldn't resist getting a copy of The Hobbit in Icelandic. :)

Some folks in our party tried the hákarl (the shark); I did not, but, I kid you not, could smell it as soon as the waiter appeared in the doorway with it. With the caveat that this may be horribly outdated information, dining seemed to happen at a much more leisurely pace than in the US (I found this refreshing, but some in the party were vexed by it).

I'd tried to learn a little Icelandic before the trip, and did some research with the aid of that shiny new thing, the internet (cue the little green guys from Toy Story going "oooooo"). One quirky little page in particular stuck in mind after all these years. It had long since disappeared last I checked, but, just for giggles, I tried Duck Duck Go, and look, it lives again: Learn To Speak Icelandic Like A Restless Native!

#30 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2013, 06:16 PM:

Lee @ #18, cute! (You HAVE seen Dorkness Rising, have you not? I have yet to see the first and third in the Gamers series, but I love me some Dorkness.)

#31 ::: thomas ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2013, 06:50 PM:

I'd recommend the wandering around Reykjavik (cathedral, museums, interesting new concert hall) and going to the Blue Lagoon. When I was there, a lot of the guys in the group were a bit dubious about a spa as a tourist attraction, but the Blue Lagoon is actually really good.

Thingvellir is impressive (both the history and the mid-Atlantic ridge itself). On that same tour, the waterfall Gullfoss is even more impressive, though Geysir is a bit disappointing. But, as Sica says, that's your day, and most of it is spent sitting down in a motorised vehicle.

#32 ::: Alan Hamilton ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2013, 07:09 PM:

Even if you don't try the rotten shark, you still need to try the Bervinin scnhapps.

I was in Iceland for a week a few years ago and loved it. The Golden Circle is a must; I highly recommend the Blue Lagoon too.

#33 ::: Alan Hamilton, gnome bait ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2013, 07:10 PM:

Hey, the gnomes took my schappes!

#34 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2013, 11:47 PM:

Patrick put an earworm
in my head...
of "Things to do in Denver

But I have always enjoyed Warren Zevon, so it's not really a bad thing.

#35 ::: Kevin Riggle ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2013, 01:26 AM:

Reykjavik is a wonderful walking city. I quite enjoyed the long weekend I spent there with a friend who had spent the summer interning.

There are apparently a number of excellent fish buffets -- the one we went to, Fiskfélagið (Fishcompany) on Vesturgata, had a huge variety and was quite pleasant. (The hákarl was not in evidence.)

I'll second the recommendation of the Brennivín. I've told the story here before of the fate of the two liters we ended up with. (Long story short: coordinate with your friends who are going through duty-free ahead of you which alcohol you will each buy.) There are lots of other fun things to try as well -- birch schnapps, berry cordials, stuff like that.

If you like licorice and menthol, try Topas or Opal. (I do, in small doses.)

The baths were wonderful -- I went to Laugardalslaug. Blue Lagoon is probably easier on a quick trip, as you can catch it to or from the airport.

I'd really like to go back at some point.

#36 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2013, 02:48 AM:

Skip the Blue Lagoon for the simple reason that you enjoy sitting in water about as much as most cats seem to enjoy it.

Definitely get a hot dog. From that stand. (I suspect there's an Anthony Bourdain comment about it somewhere that will specify the exact stand.)

Find the Icelandic Handknitters' shop and get yourself a cool hat. Well, warm hat. You know what I mean.

If the Kulleportid (the flea market thingie) is going, go check it out.

Go to the public market and buy curious sorts of bread and other edibles. Enjoy the interestingness that pretty much all public markets seem to possess.

Brennevin is interesting and worth a try. If you're flying Icelandair, they may offer you some on the plane. (I made the mistake of trying Brennevin before trying hakarl, the latter of which I have not yet tried and am now afraid to, on the grounds that they say it makes Brennevin taste good.)

Walk around and enjoy the straightforwardness of Icelandic naming. (Hey, they have a pond called Pond. Well, OK, Tarn. And they have a geysir called Geysir. Well, THE Geysir called Geysir.)

#37 ::: elise is disappointed not to be gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2013, 02:48 AM:

... because she was all ready with Brennevin and hakarl. Heh heh heh.

#38 ::: cd ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2013, 09:43 AM:

elise: If memory serves, re: the simplicity of Icelandic naming, the Icelandic phone book is still sorted by first name.

#39 ::: colin roald ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2013, 11:56 AM:

Thesis: hot tubs are to Iceland what pubs are to Britain. You don't have to go to the Blue Lagoon to experience one: Reykjavík has got iirc seven large, inexpensive public swimming complexes with hot tubs and outdoor heated swimming pools open year round. On a cold day, great clouds tower into the sky above the city, marking not power plants, but the locations of the city pools. Icelanders hang out in them at all hours. There's one downtown, Sundhollin, with lovely 1930s tilework and a series of hot tubs on the roof where you can watch the sun set (slowly!).

Second thesis: there is nothing better you can bring with you to Iceland than a book on volcanoes. The earth is on fire there -- you can't get away from it.

#40 ::: Priscilla Olson ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2013, 01:32 PM:

Skip the Blue Lagoon.
Drink coffee.
If you like nasty salty licorice, buy some at the airport.

#41 ::: Bjorn ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2013, 01:33 PM:

cd @ 38: Not due to the simplicity as such, but because our patro- or matronymics aren't our primary means of identification, our full name, or our given names are. The surname (even if a family name) is never used on its own.

Patrick: Re: the water which fazes many foreigners: It's only the hot water which smells a bit, the cold water from the tap is as good as any bottled water.

#42 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2013, 01:38 PM:

And patronymics, unless huge changes happen in naming conventions, are no more distinctive than personal names, for obvious reasons. Could become less distinctive as names fall out of fashion.

I had thought surnames were not used in Iceland at all, Bjorn. I've learned something today. You say "even if a family name" - what other kinds of surnames are there?

#43 ::: Andrew Wells ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2013, 02:02 PM:

I can't vouch for the truth of this, but I have heard that immigrants to Iceland have to take a name of Icelandic form. However, an exception is made for a few famous people, including the musician Vladimir Ashkenazi.

A later immigrant then petitioned to change his name to Vladimir Ashkenazi, as this was now a name of Icelandic form.

(Even if it's not true, I'd like it to be).

#44 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2013, 02:14 PM:

Lloyd, did you have to take a name of Icelandic form? Are you willing to share that name with us?

#45 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2013, 02:51 PM:

The hot dog stand is called Bæjarins beztu pylsur, which means "The best hot dogs in town."

From Wikipedia:
It is believed that the majority of Icelanders have eaten at Bæjarins beztu. Foreign visitors are often brought to the stand by locals to introduce them to the hot dogs there, which are often called "the Icelandic national food." Among famous people who have eaten at Bæjarins beztu are Bill Clinton, former president of the United States, and James Hetfield, vocalist of the popular heavy metal band Metallica. This hot dog stand also appeared in the first season of Anthony Bourdain's TV show No Reservations.

Knowing what I know of your food tastes, I think you might like the remoulade.

#46 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2013, 02:52 PM:

Oh, yeah, and that hot dog stand has been operating since the 1930s.

#47 ::: Lloyd Burchill ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2013, 03:03 PM:

Xopher, there used to be a law requiring immigrants to Icelandicize their names, but it was relaxed in the 1990s. But I toyed anyway with the once-in-a-lifetime chance to become Logi Vilhjálmsson; this was met with enough giggles from the in-laws that I quietly dropped it.

Locally born kids must still be given names from a long list of grammatically-viable options. Recently a girl named Blær fought to have her grammatically masculine name added to the list. Until she succeeded, her name had officially just been "girl."

#48 ::: Bjorn ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2013, 03:08 PM:

Xopher: About 10% of people used to have family names, mostly those of posh people who 'danicised' patronymics so as to sound even posher (changing Þ to Th, son to sen) in the 18th and 19th centuries. This was banned early in the 20th century. I used surnames to mean 'patronymic, matronymic or family name'

For a long time foreigners taking Icelandic citizenship indeed had to take a fully Icelandic name complete with patronymic, Mr Azhkenazi being excepted. There is a register of Icelandic names, and for a long time additions were only grudgingly allowed.

The most famous name protester took up names meaning 'Eternal Peace', both of which were on the accepted list of names, even if rare. He is known by friends by his original name.

This has now all changed, I am not entirely sure whether you need not change at all on taking citizenship, or take one Icelandic middle name. I'm not certain what the rule is for passing on the family name, but I'm fairly sure it's allowed.

The additions to the name register are also fairly free as long as the name can take a reasonable declension and spelling is consistent with Icelandic traditions.

As the Eternal Peace example shows, the descriptive nature of many Icelandic first names can lead to some very humourous combinations, some of which have actually been used, because as we all know, some parents just...

My name? Bear Peacespear. Now stop giggling. The peacespear bit is old, so no-one stops to think about what it actually means.

#49 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2013, 03:33 PM:

Bjorn @48, if I encountered an ursine spear-wielder, you can be assured I would devoutly wish for peace...

#50 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2013, 04:38 PM:

Lloyd 47: Any idea why they giggled? Is that a silly name in some way?

Bjorn 48: That's really fascinating. I never knew any of that. Thank you.

If you literally translate most names they wind up sounding pretty silly. I certainly don't think Bear Peacespear is sillier than Desired Helmet Shakespear, or Path of a Wolf Godlover, or Bearer of the Anointed Son of the Devotee of the Great Cat (which is what my name translates to).

#51 ::: Debra Jess ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2013, 05:19 PM:

I arrived in Reykjavik several years ago on a bank holiday so there was nothing open except for the Reykjavik Botanical Gardens. I enjoy strolling through gardens so this was quite a treat. I don't remember anyone biking along the paths, but there were many joggers.

#52 ::: Soon Lee ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2013, 05:31 PM:

Xopher Halftongue #50:

Mine would be "Plum of Peaceful Confluence".

(Can we keep playing this game?)

#53 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2013, 05:40 PM:

My name translates from a couple of different not-very-related languages to "Manly Merchant". I'm a woman, and I don't sell stuff, though there are shopkeepers in my ancestry.

#54 ::: Bjorn ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2013, 05:49 PM:

The point about the meanings of the Icelandic names is that many of them haven't been obscured. As in, lots of them (the ones neither Christian nor related to pagan gods nor having mostly forgotten meanings of which there are a lot) are right there in the dictionary. So it is a little bit more in-your-face than having to look them up on a What Your Name Means website

#55 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2013, 06:03 PM:

I do see the distinction, Bjorn. I just don't think it justifies laughing at you.

With you, sure. If you want us to laugh, I'm sure I'll be happy to! Just saying it's not a cause for derision.

I've known people named Constance, Verity, things like that. And plant names like Rose and Heather. Can't think of any on the male side (tempting to consider Jack an example, but no). Heard of someone the other night who's naming her daughter Harmony (clearly not a Buffy fan).

#56 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2013, 06:09 PM:

Xopher, #55: The only reason I can think of is the Loki reference in the first name, since the last name is clearly cognate to "Williamson".

#57 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2013, 06:10 PM:

Whitmore is apparently from the Anglo-Saxon wid marr, meaning "handy with the spear" -- which makes for a great set of canting arms if I'd wanted them in the SCA, a semme (sp?) of hands with a countercharged spear.

#58 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2013, 06:14 PM:

Ah! Loki! Of course. I figured out the Williamson part, but Logi evoked nothing to me, I'm afraid.

#59 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2013, 07:15 PM:

My name translates to Bitter Light Forest*. That has possibilities.

*I'm not 100% sure of that last name.

#60 ::: Cheryl ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2013, 08:26 PM:

My full name translates (in three different languages) to "Darling Star [of the] Hollow". Hmm.

My mother apparently wanted to name me "Melody", to which my father, thankfully, objected.

#61 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2013, 10:15 PM:

I am Crown, Goodlooking, Descendant of the Son of the Furrows.

#62 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2013, 12:23 AM:

Cheryl (60): My father allegedly wanted to name me Priscilla. I'm sure my childhood tormenters would have nicknamed me either 'Prissy' or 'Silly'; I can never decide which would have been worse.

#63 ::: Cheryl ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2013, 01:25 AM:

@62 Mary Aileen

Considering that when I was in school the only Melody I had ever heard of was that character from the Archie comics who apparently only ever spoke with musical notes, I'm very thankful to my father.

#64 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2013, 02:03 AM:

Etymologically speaking, I'm "honeybee descended from the dark stranger."

In actual fact, I'm named after my father, whose given name was Larry -- but whose family nickname was Bee. (When he was very young, apparently, that was how he pronounced "me", and in the way of such things, the nickname stuck with him forever after.)

#65 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2013, 03:18 AM:

They say my name means "God's promise, grace, inkeeper, the son of Matthew." Which rather sounds like the prompt for some interesting fanfic.

#66 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2013, 07:51 AM:

I'm "Lame, favored by grace, merchant on the seashore."

(Note: favored or graced or favored by grace, NOT graceful. Which would actually be pretty funny, given the "lame" part...)

#67 ::: cd ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2013, 09:00 AM:

These days I'd be Freeman King Deer-Binder; previously it was Freeman King Forest-Mountain.

#68 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2013, 09:30 AM:

My given name supposedly means "beloved of God" -- my last name was adopted by my grandparents (in Dad's childhood) after a local landmark. (Their prior name indicated a German city, which was Not Cool in the wake of WW2.)

#69 ::: jessica ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2013, 10:23 AM:

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#70 ::: Jeremy Preacher ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2013, 11:43 AM:

Ooh, I like this game. My given name amounts to "industrious peasant of the city in the valley" (a slight change in nomenclature, and a very substantial one in ancestry, would mean "industrious ruler of the city of the valley.")

My taken name is much less subtle, and parses neatly to "Exalted preacher of the Lord." Which is hilarious and totally unintentional, but the name itself is totally unintentional.

#71 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2013, 12:23 PM:

I'm loving the fact that "translate your name" has become a game. I'd like to start another one, though: names that are also improper nouns that are in the dictionary. It's easy to think of girl-names in that category, mostly flowers (Heather, Rose, etc.), but male names are harder to think of. Robin can be either; Heath is rare but still used; Rowan, again, can be either. Met someone named Stone recently.

Pagans do this a lot more. I'm not sure if my friends' kid Merlin is named after the famous wizard or the eponymous blackbird.

Any others?

#72 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2013, 12:36 PM:

Xopher @70, if one wishes to include vulgarisms, there's "Peter" and no doubt several others not coming to mind...

#73 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2013, 12:41 PM:

Xopher, isn't a merlin a hawk?

My name ought to mean "darkness French-person strawberry Ralph's-settlement" but actually in my case "Lila" was the nickname of the person I'm named after; her given name was Eliza. So "God's-oath French-person strawberry Ralph's-settlement".

#74 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2013, 12:52 PM:

Lila: No, a merlin is a falcon, Falco columbarius (there's a difference between hawks and falcons), although "hawk" is closer than "blackbird".

#75 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2013, 12:56 PM:

Yeah, I got confused, or maybe remembered something wrong from some Arthurian retelling.

#76 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2013, 12:58 PM:

Cassy, indeed, but I'm primarily interested in the ones that are actually derived from the common nouns or adjectives. So 'dick' is in the dictionary with a couple of meanings, but the name 'Dick' is a nick for Richard.

Though I've certainly known some Dicks who were dicks.

#77 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2013, 01:01 PM:

dcb, thanks! **files info away for next time**

#78 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2013, 01:12 PM:

Xopher @75, males are more likely to have names that were once occupations, then surnames, then given names. So, Mason, Cooper, Tanner, Miller.

#79 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2013, 01:17 PM:

Yeah, surnames as first names, especially in the Southern US. So Miller as a first name would technically qualify, albeit by a somewhat circuitous route. I'm more interested in names that have not been through that process, but I'm not sure how we'd tell for sure.

#80 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2013, 01:17 PM:

Xopher Halftongue @70: Merlin is named after the famous wizard or the eponymous  blackbird  falcon.

#81 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2013, 01:18 PM:

And here I was going to mention Chuck for Charles -- definitely a common word, both noun and verb. There are lots for nicknames.

The number names are mostly in different languages than English, but would certainly count in a generalized form (Octavus, Septimus and the like). Tyler is a real possibility (different spelling, same pronunciation, and probably derived from the common noun). I've seen Cooper used as a first name, but not often. (Goes off to think a bit more....)

#82 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2013, 01:19 PM:

I should know better, with this crowd, than to chime in with a point of trivia before hitting Reload.

#83 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2013, 01:20 PM:

I went to school with a guy whose first name was Chandler (he was the third or fourth - don't remember how they distinguished them at Thanksgiving, etc.)

#84 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2013, 01:25 PM:

There are also the "religious quotation" or virtue-type names. Which aren't particularly common, but do exist (Praisegod for a locally-occurring chosen nym).

#85 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2013, 01:37 PM:

Lila @ 76: You're welcome. They're both birds of prey (raptors), but different families. Falcons have an all-dark eye while hawks have a pale outer ring (the actual eye, not just the surrounding skin or feathers. There are differences in the shape of the bill and in the wings as well.

Jacque @81: Ah, but you did provide a link, not just a scientific name.

#86 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2013, 02:11 PM:

Tom Whitmore @83, virtue names seem to be more common for women than me. Constance is still pretty common, Prudence and Temperance less so. Although, come to think of it, I do know a man named Justice.

#88 ::: Auke ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2013, 03:56 PM:

I second (fifth?) the Golden Circle tour - it will mean some time in a bus, but you'll get to see some great natural as well as historic / cultural sights. As an alternative, just strolling through Reykjavik's centre is very nice - and yes, the Hallgrimskirkjar is worth a visit (not that you would be able to miss it...)

Regarding food, I'd also like to mention Harðfiskur, or dried cod/haddock. The last time I was in Iceland, they also sold it as chips and it appealed to me much more than the Hakarl's distinct ammonia flavour. Don't leave it in your bag for too long, though, or all your clothes will smell of fish. For a restaurant, I can recommend Laekjarbrekka, which has very good seafood.

#89 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2013, 04:48 PM:

Hm, I'd like to visit Iceland someday... As a vegetarian, will I starve?

#90 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2013, 06:59 PM:

I know a man whose middle name is Beryl. And my mother once had a male student named Hope--in the same class as a female Hope. My (male) high school Latin teacher's first name was Parker, but I'm sure that's the last-name-as-first-name thing. 'Martin' is another bird and a very common male name.

Will, Bill, Jack...

#91 ::: Janni Lee Simner ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2013, 10:38 AM:

I'd skip the Golden Circle tour but rent a car for a half day and spend more time at Thingvellir (Þingvellir) than the few minutes the tour allows. Site of the worlds oldest parliament and of deeply compelling rift valley geology, it's one of those you-can-feel-the-past-breathing-over-your-shoulder places.

Seconding 871±2 and ordering a hot dog from one of the hot dog stands with everything on it.

#92 ::: Lloyd Burchill ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2013, 11:52 AM:

Loki and Logi are actually distinct from each other -- the second one sounds something like "loy-ih". The Norse-god names are in any case totally fine; if you went out in the street and yelled "Óðinn!" or "Freya!" you'd be killed in the rush.

Propitiously for visitors, Street View for Reykjavík just went live today.

#93 ::: Anne Sheller ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2013, 12:38 PM:

I have for several years had fun at SCA events flying falcon kites, and carrying them to and from suitable flying spaces on a gloved hand, as though they were real birds. Started with a cheap and oversized peregrine. After a few years, it was faded and battered. I went on line and found a better one, somewhat 3D and realistically sized. The company selling that also sells a "Create a Bird" kite - blank white Tyvek, generic bird shape, 27" wingspan. One of those became my merlin. A little trimming of the wings and tail got them much closer to the right shape, and the bits I trimmed off the tail were just right to convert the generic beak triangle to a raptor's hooked bill. That, and some acrylic paint, and I had me a fine merlin. Now if I only knew where the balsa wood and tissue paper larks flocked....

I have recently acquired a large sheet of Tyvek. The old worn-out oversized peregrine will eventually get a species change and be reborn as a gyrfalcon. Can't wait to carry her through the Pennsic market.

#94 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2013, 01:11 PM:

Anne @ 92:

#95 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2013, 02:04 PM:

Then what was funny about the Icelandic name, Lloyd? Was it just the idea of you having it, being really not Icelandic, that was so amusing?

#96 ::: Anne Sheller ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2013, 04:02 PM:

Carol @93: None online. I still take pictures with film, and there's only one of the merlin flying. I was holding the kite string with one hand and pointing and shooting with the other, and the merlin is less stable in flight than the peregrine.

#97 ::: Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2013, 04:13 PM:

When I was a young kid, I knew a girl who had 4 older siblings. The siblings were close in age, then there was a few years gap before this girl. I don't know if was her legal name or a nickname, but her family and everyone else called her "Folly". At the time, the word wasn't really part of my vocabulary, so I just thought of it as an unusual but pretty name for a girl. It sounded vaguely archaic to my ear; I may have been unconsciously associating it with the old virtue-based names, like Faith, Hope, and Charity.

#98 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2013, 04:27 PM:

One time a bunch of my D&D buddies and I sat around rolling characters based not on Strength, Intelligence, Wisdom etc., but on Pride, Envy, Wrath, Sloth, Avarice, Gluttony, Lust. It was fairly amazing how easy it was to come up with a character's personality based on those stats!

I'm not going to talk about the character with a 17 Lust...

#99 ::: dm ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2013, 05:26 PM:

I echo Lloyd's #20 comment.

At the top of the hill near the Hallgrimskirkje is Cafe Loki. It's not too expensive and it has a nice variety of platters of Icelandic food. You can even get fermented shark there (they serve it as small cubes, carefully segregated from your other food, with its own toothpick). The smell is horrendous, the taste and texture are okay --- the taste is pretty mustardy and spicy. It's possible you would be willing to eat it again.

At the bottom of the hill is Icelandic Fish and Chips --- excellent fish, ridiculously inexpensive.

I do think the trip to Thingvellir is worth the time it will take, if only to contemplate the American and European plates separating beneath your feet. Return five or six years later and you may be able to see the difference. I think renting a car to get there, so you have the freedom to explore, is a good idea.

I think the Blue Lagoon is rather touristy, and agree with the recommendation that you just find one of the municipal pools with their hot pots. I'd certainly do Thingvellir instead of the Blue Lagoon. The Blue Lagoon is almost as far from Reykjavik as is Thingvellir.

Don't rent a car at the airport. You will want to be able to stare at the landscape as the bus takes you from Keflavik into Reykjavik. It is a lava-field, and is a remarkable sight.

#100 ::: Lloyd Burchill ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2013, 08:21 PM:

Xopher #95, I'm ultimately unsure what the answer is. Perhaps I just don't look like a Logi.

#101 ::: Anne Sheller ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2013, 12:33 AM:

I have restrained myself for too long. The questions must be asked.

When should I expect to be Patrick? When are the rest of you going to be Patrick? What are we to do if we find ourselves in Iceland and we're not Patrick?

#102 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2013, 01:29 AM:

Have you read John McFee's The Control of Nature? One of the sections is an effort to change the flow of lava from a volcanic vent, in order to save a town and its harbor. He is, naturally, mainly interested in the people who think this is a reasonable thing to try to do. It was originally published in the New Yorker, and later published as a book.

#103 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2013, 07:53 AM:

Anne Sheller @101 <snork!> Well, I for one, would be most perturbed to find myself Patrick. Although I'm sure that finding Patrick would be pleasant.

#104 ::: John D. Berry ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2013, 03:34 PM:

#7 Andrew Wells is right, Keflavík is a long way from the city. There's a bus that's reasonably priced; a taxi will eat your budget (and still take just as long).

Check out the Harpa, the amazing new opera house & conference center right on the waterfront. That's where we held the ATypI conference two years ago. (The President of Iceland opened the conference and, far from giving an anodyne speech, delivered a short, thoughtful talk about typography and the Icelandic language.) The building is wonderful and bizarre; it's also an excellent venue for an event.

If you'd like a typographic view of Reykjavík, check out the Flickr feed from that conference:

I thought I might do the same thing you're doing, when I flew over to this year's ATypI in Amsterdam, but by the time I booked my flights, it was both cheaper and more convenient to get a nonstop Delta flight from Seattle. Just got back from that trip yesterday.

#105 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2013, 01:29 PM:

Somewhat OT, but do any of you fine folks have suggestions for things to do in Helsinki when you're a seventeenth-century Puritan?

#106 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2013, 01:29 PM:

Somewhat OT, but do any of you fine folks have suggestions for things to do in Helsinki when you're a seventeenth-century Puritan?

#107 ::: Anne Sheller ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2013, 02:22 PM:

praisegod barebones @105 & 106: When am I going to be a 17th century Puritan? And is it likely I'll be in Helsinki at the same time? I'm already having trouble finding time to be Patrick. I don't have enough time when I'm me, much less all these other people.

#108 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2013, 04:05 PM:

Anne Sheller @107: can't help you there. In my case, it was just one of those things that happened when I'd been hanging round the Internet too long. Probably pre-destined.

#109 ::: cd ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2013, 06:39 AM:

Praisegod: Wander around in Eira, visit Suomenlinna fortress, take a high-speed ferry (or helicopter!) across to Tallinn, see the Church in the Rock...

The Wikitravel article on Helsinki has more suggestions.

#110 ::: lorax ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2013, 11:23 AM:

cd @109, are you assuming that the seventeenth-century Puritan is visiting twenty-first century Helsinki?

#111 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2013, 10:37 PM:

A recent mention of Hákarl and the author's pleased and surprised experience of eating it, prefaced with other people's comments on the unwisdom of even being in the room with it. (It's far down in the article; you'll want to either search for it or just read all the enjoyable sections before that one.)

I'll continue to use vegetarianism as an excuse to not have to try it, though of course somebody will come out with a soy-based imitation that's even worse than natto just to make me do so. (My wife, who actively dislikes a fairly high number of foods, finds it surprising that there's almost nothing I actively dislike. But natto is on my short list of Food-like Things That Aren't Food, and durian is teetering on the borderline.)

#112 ::: Mary Aileen suspects old spam ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2014, 01:50 PM:

#69 is ... odd, if not actual spam. No payload, though.

#113 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2015, 03:43 PM:

I'm planning to be in Iceland in September, and this was very helpful!

#114 ::: Bjorn ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2015, 06:01 PM:

janetl @ 113: Just to confirm, ran through the list and the few things that might be outdated aren't (I in fact just met some foreign friends at Café Loki on Friday and the mashed fish met with their approval (as it has previously)

Enjoy your visit.

#115 ::: Pendrift ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2016, 09:00 AM:

I'm planning to be in Iceland in January, and I echo janetl's statement from over a year ago!

It'll be a weeklong trip with two full days in Reykjavik so other suggestions are most welcome. My itinerary currently includes the Golden Circle (Geysir, Thingvellir), Eyjafjallajökull, Seljalandfoss and Skògafoss falls, Skaftafell and Jökulsárlón, and the Blue Lagoon. I'm thinking of doing one or both of these day trips.

If there's any interest, a mini-Gathering of Northern Light would be lovely too.

#116 ::: Mary Aileen sees undeleted spam ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2017, 03:59 PM:

Old spam-like object at #69.

#117 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2018, 01:15 AM:

Yes, this is a reply to a five-year-old post, but if anybody's going to Iceland soon, there are Christmas-tree-flavoured potato chips, and our dear hosts are known to like unusual chip flavors.

#118 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2018, 09:38 AM:

Bill Stewart @ #117:

As I read it, the article is referring to Iceland, the British supermarket chain, not Iceland the country. More frozen peas, fewer volcanoes and opera houses.

(Note that I'm not saying the former kind of Iceland is not worth visiting. I've never tried it myself, and perhaps the world would be a better place if we all gave peas a chance.)

#119 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2018, 02:03 PM:

Makes sense. Sorry for the false alarm :-)

#120 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2018, 10:03 PM:

If there is an Icelandic national crisp flavour, it wouldn't be tree-flavoured, because trees are still pretty scarce in Iceland.

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