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Cultural intoxication



One of the very best things the current municipal government has done is to launch the annual event known as ‘Reykjavík Culture Night’. It started off ten years ago as a moderately-sized end-of-summer diversion, but has morphed into the biggest bash of the year, outshining even the 17 July Independence Day celebrations and the 23 of December downtown party. Yesterday, around 100,000 people were expected to hit the city centre – one-third of Iceland’s population.

It kicks off with the Reykjavík Marathon at 11am [and before you ask, no, I did not take part] and progresses into an action-packed day, filled with just about anything and everything that can possibly be classified as ‘culture’. [Which of course being a highly elastic category, means virtually anything.] Just about every venue in the downtown area has something going on – and I mean every venue. Banks transform into cultural institutions, shops into concert halls and galleries, balconies into stages, streets into theatres… in short, there is something going on wherever you turn. Restaurants set up grills and tables outside [and in the event of rain, put up party tents], or alternatively have topless young ladies peddling beer; there are stages for live music performances on practically every corner, and everywhere there are people mingling and having a great time. Some years there are flight shows, and yesterday’s main attraction was a poltergeist house that featured famous ghosts from Iceland’s history. The whole thing ends with a flashy fireworks display down at Reykjavík harbour at midnight.

[The downside is that, in recent years, there’s been a lot of drunkenness and disruption after the fireworks finish and the family people go home. Last night was no exception – evidently the police were kept super busy and there was at least one stabbing downtown. There was also a murder in Reykjavík yesterday morning – thankfully such incidents are rare in this country, but evoke all the more horror as a result. That had nothing to do with culture night, though, I hasten to add.]

YT and EPI didn’t get into town until around 9pm, as we were invited to a lovely wedding in the afternoon. However, we did catch a lot of the action, as well as the fireworks display, which was spectacular and also extremely wet. Just when it started, a torrential rainfall hit, so the masses were absolutely drenched. Lucky for us Icelanders, we’re used to that sort of thing, so people just sort of ignored it and kept watching.

Today’s weather is much the same as yesterdays: intermittent sunny spells [very intermittent!], some showers, and wind. Fall is just around the corner – no doubt about it. Current temps are 12°C and daybreak was at 04.37, nightfall is set for 22.21.

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