Tuesday, 31 January 2012

New Year's Eve in Reykjavik

It's a month since my New Year's Eve Reykjavik style. It's a quite a traditional thing to do to go to a bonfire and there are about a dozen big bonfires at various locations around the city. Luckily when I went for a walk to the animal park from the City hostel I happened to notice a rather large bonfire being built up just at the back of the hostel.

The snowy hostel

New Year's Eve fell on a Saturday and in the morning I ploughed my way through high piles of snow to walk into town. I'd wanted to go to the flea market but it was closed, so I just ended up having a bit of a wander and then going for coffee. The buses all stopped running early afternoon and I didn't fancy walking back so I made sure I was at the bus stop in plenty of time. I thought the bus might have been full, but there was hardly anyone on it.

A lazy afternoon with a bit of a snooze followed. In the evening I joined other hostellers in the common area for chat and vodka. We also tried a traditional Christmas and New Year soft drink that is made by mixing a malt drink with fizzy orangeade. It wasn't nearly as bad as it sounds. There was what sounded like a Mass in Icelandic being played out over the TV speakers. This in itself wasn't so interesting, but instead of showing the Mass itself on the TV there was just a very long series of slides picturing lots of wonderful shots of Iceland in winter.

Cosy and Christmassy inside the hostel

At about 8.30pm, through the large living room windows we saw the bonfire start to flame and so all wrapped up and drinks in hand we walked over to it. It was huge and wild and hot with great reflections in the puddles of melting of snow. People of all ages were out lighting fireworks and flares and waving sparklers. We could see fireworks all around Reykjavik from where we were so had a great show. Bits of hot ash, some still aflame, wafted from the fire and the fireworks and flares were going off in all directions. It would have been a health and safety officer's nightmare, but luckily there didn't seem to be any present.

Bonfire and a view of Reykjavik

Bonfire reflections

As the fire started to die down people drifted away. This was the time every Icelander heads for a TV set to watch the same programme: Áramótaskaup, a satirical look a year just gone. We watched it and it did seem quite funny, but as it was in Icelandic and as we hadn't spent the previous year in Iceland, we didn't get any of it. Apparently this programmed will be the main topic of conversation for Icelanders over the next week or so.


Red hot ash flying everywhere

At midnight the sky exploded with fireworks. We went upstairs and got a great view. They were going off all over Reykjavik and went on for ages. Around New Year the law allows anyone to purchase fireworks and around 500 tonnes are imported each year. They are sold in benefit of rescue charities and are a great money-raiser for them. There had been plenty going off ever since I arrived, but this was just practice for the real bonanza.

And fireworks

Once the sky started to quieten I went to bed. There were still plenty of fireworks going off, but they were more random. Some people in the hostel walked into town to hit the bars, but I had an early start as I'd booked on to a Golden Circle tour for the next morning so decided to be sensible. And I didn't fancy getting all my layers back on to trudge through the snow again.

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