We are standing in the middle of a packed nightclub that was a decent restaurant a couple of hours ago. People dressed in a mixture of Friday-evening-party-gear and with various levels of intoxication keep on bumping into me and Kai, and I’m not sure if they are dancing, on the way to have a smoke or to puke on the loo. Some cheesy 80s-sound is blaring from the PA, Huey Lewis if I’m not mistaken. Through the half-closed shutters on the windows the sun is shining into the club, illuminating the waving arms of the dancers, empty beer-bottles on the stained bar and two girls kissing. It’s 4 AM and I’m in Reykjavik.
Our Saturday evening had started with another good hamburger at the famous Hamburgerbullan at the harbour, and was – as Kai already knew the local conventions – interspersed with some beery pre-lubing of our gorges at the rented apartment. Around 12 we left towards the centre of town – in what I can only described as bright daylight. The sun was nowhere to be seen, but the light was still so bright that you could read the paper, or spray a tag. While walking around the main street of downtown Reykjavik, Laugavegur, and the side roads, all the while eyeing the very handsome Icelandic crowd, Kai was hailed by a young guy with long brown hair and a green, checkered shirt – Andri from For A Minor Reflection. Kai had met him before, during an earlier trip to Iceland, and we directly nailed Andri down to an interview with us in the coming days.
We then settled for the first beers of the night in the world-famous Kaffibarrin, which did not look so world-famous even at 0.30 AM on a Saturday night. Basically, it was the same laid-back atmosphere with hipster chicks and hipster roosters sipping beer and typing into laptops as two days ago, under the week. At that stage I was not completely convinced that the pub-crawl in Reykjavik would be as legendary as described in countless travelogues from around the world. At Kaffibarrin, we also ran into Dominique and a couple of other Germans, so communicating with the indigenous people was not very likely. After half an hour, the place – nice as it was – still felt empty and boring, so we left, further down the still not crowded street. Some muscle-cars and pumped-up SUV’s with blaring stereos were slowly driving down Laugavegur, and we passed groups of girls in high heels and evening gown a.k.a. short skirts and multiple layers of make-up, but still nothing resembled the debauchery I had prepared myself for.
We joined some of the make-upped girls in the queue for the Boston bar, but after waiting for a while without the queue moving one inch, we settled for more beers in the Dillon Rock Bar next door. After grabbing two cold ones and while allowing Kai a smoke in the outside beer garden, we were suddenly ushered inside by a bouncer, “because it starts to get too loud!” I was on the brink of mouthing “but it’s not even half-full inside”, when I bumped into the back of a dancing couple and into another group of people when stepping back. The place suddenly was packed, and it had filled up in the five minutes we were outside for a fag. Looking out of the window down at the street, I was even more surprised.
A constant flow of cars was inching down the main street, the lights flashing and the occupants shouting obscenities at primed jaywalkers walking between cars. On the sidewalk, large groups of people were walking up and down, sipping from hip flask and plastic bottles filled with clear liquids, while shouting at other groups on the other side of the road, or trying to impress girls by gorilla-like primate behaviour in case of the men. It seemed as if all the participants of the Cologne Carnival and St. Patrick’s Day-parade in Dublin had discarded their funny dresses and washed away the green face paint, congregated on a huge parking lot somewhere near central Reykjavik and then hit the street all at the same time. While Kai was smoking.
We had another round of beer and a quick chat with a couple of Icelandic girls who made us out as tourists quite quickly (and it seemed Icelandic people need some fun juice before defrosting), but soon joined the throng drifting down Laugavegur, queuing again (at the entrance to Kaffibarrin this time), and finally entering another rock bar, this time a place called Bar 11, where I lost Kai for a moment (I think we were dancing…). I found him again soon enough, again in the company of three pretty Icelandic ladies. At that stage I however seem to have become somewhat motorically limited and lost my ability to converse, so I settled for leaning against the nearest wall and eyed the talent for a moment.
The last beer of the night must have wandered down my throat around 6 AM, but soon after I succumbed to my alcohol-induced tiredness and walked home. In the morning sun, which never had really settled. The morning sun also did reveal the states of my fellow revelers in all harshness and without mercy. No wonder Icelandic girls always apply make-up when leaving a club, and carry the biggest sun-glasses I’ve ever seen. It’s the sun.
Go on with: Another day in quicksand – Chapter 4
And here are some real tips by two guys who did everything wrong, so you don’t have to…
Travel: Surviving the Runtur
If you plan to partake in the fantastic leisure activity that is Reykjavik’s Runtur, here are a couple of things to consider.
As this is basically a pub crawl (but not one like you’ve seen before), all the usual rules and regulations for this kind of activity apply:
Drink plenty of fluids before, while on it and after. One pint of beer should equal the intake of one pint of water.
Eat hearty before. Most fried things with cheese will do. Plus a hot dog afterwards.
If in doubt, dance. From approximately 3 AM no one gives a damn.
If you plan to have some drinks at home (whether you’ve been invited by Icelanders or drink solemnly at your hotel room) beforehand, you should go and visit one of the six state-owned off-licenses in Reykjavik preferably before Friday evening. Icelanders tend to forget that the shop is open at other times, and all go there on Fridays.
Pre-drinking is highly recommended, considering the still very high price for a drink in bars in Iceland. Another thing worth considering is Icelandic moonshine or landi, which you can obtain from many a young Icelander once you get to know them. Tastes like shit though.
After a couple of drinks at your place, feel free to hit downtown Reykjavik. From about 2 AM you’ll need to queue at most popular places like Kaffibarinn, Boston and NASA, but we’ve never queued at Dillon, Bar 11, or Karamba. However, most queues are nice for having a chat that can be continued (or not) once inside.
After a night full of shenanigans that most people will only hear about in their lifetime but never experience, consider it your duty as visitor to purchase a hot dog from Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur at the harbour, complete with the works, before you stagger home. Or, in case you made some new friends, stagger to an Icelandic after-party.
After-parties in Reykjavik are strange. Most households will have depleted their stock of alcoholic beverage long before you reach the home of your host, so these parties can be a very dry affair. Taking in consideration that both your host and all other partygoers will however be completely shitfaced after a night in town, these parties do provide some entertainment and/or the occasional snog, given the level of intoxication.