Iceland. This sparsely populated island far out in the Atlantic Ocean is probably the single most exotic location in Europe. Linguistically Iceland is like a refrigerator, where their Nordic language has been preserved in its most primeval form for thousands of years. The nature is also primeval and it is the most common reason why tourists go to Iceland, to look for clear mountain lakes, knee-high birch forests, and the rainbow colors of volcanic mud. Sometimes this nature is awe-inspiringly powerful – during earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, or killer snowstorms.
This book contains the experiences of a musician living in Iceland: his adventures with avalanches and sheep herds, swimming in underground rivers, bathing in the hot steam of a mountain, baking bread in the hot ground, and other stories. The author is part of a group of local Estonian music teachers called the ‘Estonian mafia’ that has come direct a number of Icelandic music schools.
I put the piece of shark meat in my mouth, bite down once or twice, and swallow it all at once – the taste and smell in my mouth are indescribable. I get a flashback of chemistry lab experiments from my school days. At that moment, for some reason I feel like a test tube where different substances have been mixed together. In order to prevent the chemical reaction that is about to happen in this me-shaped test tube, I quickly pour in a shot of anise vodka. All or nothing, right? I hope the shark and the anise don’t react like water and carbide.
Next to me Kaire, who also took a bite, is contorting her face – it’s like in a hall of mirrors at an amusement park, where the mirrors distort the image of your face this way and that.
“Well? What’s it feel like? Is it going to stay down?” I ask Kaire and, from the corner of my eye, I see those who offered us the shark meat, their eyes gleaming with joy, waiting for our reaction.
“Fuck!” says Kaire, her eyes welling up. “At first it tasted like regular fish, but as soon as I bit in, I got this rush of ammonia at the back of my head and it felt like my head was about to split. If they didn’t have that shot of anise vodka, it’s very possible that I would’ve made another addition to their menu”.
“Valmar, where the hell did you bring me? Be a man and give us some sauerkraut,” I say while gasping for air, because of the unknown tastes and foods mingling in my stomach.
Valmar translates what I’m saying and our table gets a good laugh. However, when they get a look at the sauerkraut, they get quietand seem hesitant.
“God, I hope I can buy my daily bread in the stores around here too,” I think, looking at a mountain that really looks like an enormous oven or caldron, because everything is hot and steaming. The slope of the mountain is gentle and right at the foot you can see round metal lids, as well as square plates and coverings of all different shapes, all of them with rocks on top for weight, so that the wind won’t blow them away. The colors of the ground are incredible and the soil is multicolored – red, green, yellow, white. There’s a strong smell of sulfur in the air, and looking around we feel like we’ve just arrived in hell: everything is steaming, smoking and rumbling. All that’s missing is the character with horns and a pitchfork, or maybe a bread ladle instead.
“You probably wouldn’t dare come here in the dark?” I ask about the eerie place.
“Well, you can try that at some point,” my hosts answer almost in unison.
Since the ground is hot, there isn’t any snow here. The flakes melt as soon as they land.
“This is how bread is made? You just put the dough in milk cartons somewhere in a hole in the ground and the mountain does all the work?” I ask. I feel like a schoolboy who is being told for the first time that, yes, the world is round indeed.
- ISBN 978-9985-9931-5-6