feast seven - reykjavik

I’d never seen so much white.

Snow stretched to the horizon, icy crystals twinkling under the bright blue Arctic sky. It was so damn cold it actually hurt to breathe, my lungs aching from the effort of inhaling, my hand over my face to stop the stench of sulphur from the underground springs slamming into my nose. It stank and shone and stung, and was without a doubt the most beautiful place I’d ever seen.

But lord, was I hungry.

I would wake each morn to a breakfast of blackberries dropped into a pot of Súrmjólk, a curdled yoghurt that I pretended made me a true Icelander, if only for a week. In reality it was about the only thing I could afford. Iceland was hideously expensive, and the fare from Australia had knocked all the kronur from my wallet. It was gloriously, stunningly worth it though, for the land of fire and ice was custom made for a solitary winter wench like myself.

I’d always longed to visit Iceland; always. I’d studied the language at university and fallen in love with its ancient alphabet and bloodthirsty sagas, knowing I would find my feet and spill my ink in this most pagan of lands…even if I shivered while I did so. And I knew that for a woman as attuned to her own company as I am, that the tiny population would present me with my blessed solitude and privacy.

I could walk for hours without speaking to anyone. Reykjavik was sprinkled with tattoo parlours and porn stores, vintage clothing stores and tourist shops filled with puffin keyrings and Viking horned hats. It was quirky and icy and just a little eerie, as though elves were hiding behind corners with one pointed boot out, ready to trip me. Steam from the underground springs poured into the sky, and if I stood still, I swear I could feel the water boiling beneath my feet, like forbidding pagan drums deep in the belly of mother earth.

I’d wrapped my red riding hood coat around me and headed down Snorrabraut to the wharves, slipping on the snow in my weathered army boots. I found Saegreifinn without hesitation, a cosy fisherman’s shack with a stunning view over Reykjavik harbour, and perched myself on a fish-packing container disguised as a stool. I’d read about the delectable humarsupa, a thick soup of sweet Atlantic lobster with cream and cinnamon, and I’d be lying if I said the prospect of devouring it hadn’t woken me up that morning.

I watched the sun fall over Iceland that night, my red notebook open on the table and my spoon dipping into the broth with blissfully slow movements. The Black Death schnapps kept me warm and the feast kept me smiling and if the man who served me was just a little bit alarmed by my deep sigh of serenity as I pushed the bowl away, I would totally understand.

As I pushed open the door and let in an icy blast of cold air, I turned and flung over my shoulder one of the few Icelandic words I knew, that of goodbye. I meant it with every fibre of my frozen, feasted being.


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All our words are but crumbs that fall down from the feast of the mind.
Kahlil Gibran


bellmusker, bellsfeasts, bliss, feast, food, iceland, icelandic, nourishment, reykjavik, solitude

I love the words that fall between the cracks; where I have to roll my sleeve up, jam my arm down into the darkness, and yank the stories up by their hair.

I write with black coffee, and bare feet.

Both seem to help.

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  • lazydaze
    lazydazeover 5 years ago

    great story!! just wondering do u still hav blackberry’s n yohgat 4 breaky?? ;)

  • Afraid not….just lashings of coffee. There’s very little that caffeine can’t cure :-)

    – bellmusker

  • anya
    anyaover 5 years ago

    I love puffins. They infected my childhood.

  • Anya, I was tempted to eat a puffin steak, but once you’ve seen their cute little faces staring at you from a thousand postcards, it just isn’t possible!

    – bellmusker

  • berndt2
    berndt2over 5 years ago

    Magnificient – I’ve GOT to go there!!! (I’m wavering at present, but your writing is convincing me!)

  • Oh please, please go…I would LOVE to see your photos of this glorious place! They would make mine absolutely pale in comparison :-)

    – bellmusker

  • Leith
    Leithover 5 years ago

    I loved reading your Arctic adventures Belzibub but then I got too damn cold and hungry with all these amazing dishes you mention (you gotta stop that).
    I’m off to Angelika’s Kitchen now to warm up with a feast of a different kind.. here, you can have your red coat back…

    ice ice baby..

  • Belzibub…Leith, you damn near slay me! Priceless.

    – bellmusker

  • Jaredemic
    Jaredemicover 5 years ago

    That does it, I’m getting on a plane!!

    fantastic language as usual, you’re amazing

  • Go, go, go!!! Jared, just think of the photos you’ll take…no place like it on earth :-)

    – bellmusker

  • PintaPinta
    PintaPintaover 5 years ago

    i think i’m even more in love with your army boots now that i know not only have they traversed dripping asphalt on a fifty degree day but that they have slid along the slick of icy streets in your world of frozen bliss. bell… bell… my girl of bells, you could seduce the coldest of hearts with the lure, rapture and luxury of your words. i am so glad you’ve posted your feasts… i’m off to brew another coffee (ahem, with the addition of my recently purchased french vanilla creme) and then am coming back to tuck in and devour. it’s cold (?!?) and rainy in the Boondocks here today (helen’s name for my place of residence) and my day of preparations for tomorrow night is going to be laced with the beauty and flavour of your words. thank you xxx

  • Holly, sometimes I think I should have been a food writer – tucking into a feast should always be a reverential act, whether it’s with loved ones or by your blissful self. And don’t think for a moment that I’ve forgotten how exciting this week will be for you…..will be in touch! x x x

    – bellmusker

  • berndt2
    berndt2over 4 years ago

    Oh, WOW (insert biggest grin ever). Now that I’ve been there, I love this piece even more! What a place… what a country…. so understated and quiet and yet so incredible

  • I love that you’ve been here, and so understand the magic and beauty of this incredible place: it’s near impossible to describe. But lord, how I keep trying!

    – bellmusker

  • berndt2
    berndt2over 4 years ago

    I’ve pretty much been adamant to everyone that’s asked me that it is, in fact, the greatest country in the world 8))

  • berndt2
    berndt2over 4 years ago

    And you know, sadly, I never got to try puffin when I was over there (I did have Gull, though). And while I bought some duty-free Icelandic ‘Brennivin’ Schnapps, I’ll be honest I haven’t yet opened it… it just kind of sits on my desk, and all green and primal and snarling-like!

  • all green and primal and snarling-like!

    Now I want some!! Can never resist something that snarls at me, hehe. Oh, that Brennivin was toxic, but it sure did keep me warm at night. I’d say you’d be needing something like that with the cold snap over there lately, hey? It’d almost make Iceland seem balmy :-)

    – bellmusker

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