New Year's Eve in Iceland. Gamlaárskvöld. (Old years night)
I had decided that I wanted to spend new years with friends, and not with my family, much as I love them. Icelandic new years is quite a family event, with lots of icelandic humour, and a show on tv wrapping up the years events with a good dose of satire. I decided that it wasn't a night I wanted to play with my nephews and nieces and try and piece together bits of language here and there as much as I could. And besides, I would have had to go out to Grafarvogur!
Instead, I ended up with a bunch of germans. Oh well :) We were all familyless for the night anyway. We started off with a good spread of meats and cheese and things which we all cooked up on a table top grill. Raclette I think it was called. Basically a western ripoff of japanese bbq, but a good social way of dining anyway.
Then it was down to the local bonfire. There's about 8 or so of these, spread out around town. Very big, very hot. And lots and lots of fireworks. at about 8:30-9pm. Then back home for some desert, a bit of wine, and even watched a bit of the icelandic tv wrapup. Even understood parts of it, and had a good laugh. Some of them were visual gags, and it's always cool when you can recognise all the locations used.
The fireworks had had a lull here, as pretty much everyone in the country was watching the same tv show, but it was now 11:30, and time to go outside and join the throngs of people walking around with 3-400 AUD worth of fireworks. Fireworks are only available in iceland between christmas and new years, and are sold purely for the purpose of raising funds for the various rescue and emergency response groups.
And they sell serious fireworks. Not little bitty firecrackers. If you've seen it in an offically organised fireworks show, you could get it here. Cakes of fireworks as big as my desk shootting off 2" rockets in batches for a full minute. Things that look like anti tank weapons, only brightly coloured, and everything in between, and of course right on down to tiny little crackers and gimmicks, like model tanks with a rocket engine motor and a firecracker canon.
Of course, it can be a bit hard getting exactly what you want. They have names like "Luna", "Lion", "Everest", "Thors Hammer", "Saturn V" and although the guys selling do their best, have you ever tried describing your favourite firework?
So we walked up onto the hill, near the weather office, where we could see in just about every direction. I'd spent my money getting a few big things, and Ute had spent about the same amount and gotten a great big pile of small and medium things. Worked out well I think.
So I had lots of fun shooting off big rockets on sticks, watching out for people launching up similar things all around me, and passing around a bottle of champagne at midnight someone brought with them.
No photos :) It's an incredibly fantastic experience, with beautiful fireworks being launched off all over the place, all around you, and as far as the eye can see. But it's also completely unorganised. You would never know where to point a camera, unless you decided to do just that. But I wanted to take a more active part in it. Waving sparklers around, lighting things up with "firework matches" (great big fat windproof matches they give away with the fireworks) and looking at the pretty colours and admiring the noises and deciding which ones I wanted to buy next year, and that I should have spent more money!
Around 1am, it had pretty much died down, but even today, Jan 7, someone was still setting off big cakes a few times a night. I headed into town afterwards, to one of my old favourite bars, Sirkus, and had a lovely evening. Everyone was extremely friendly, met a couple of very nice English girls who had only arrived that day, and were having a blast.
Got kicked out of the bar about 7:30, 8am, and into bed around 10am. What a night. New Year's in Iceland is definitely worth coming too.