Zipping along a main thoroughfare in Copenhagen, my husband spied a store selling bed linens. How this was possible, given the cars, buses, and bicyclists vying for his attention, I don’t know. But he did. And given the need for a comfortable pillow, we stopped.
Inside we were greeted by a man we’d come to know as BJØRN RUSTAD. I write his name in all caps because he deserves it: he is friendly, funny, helpful, accommodating, knowledgeable, and a great storyteller. He’s Icelandic. He’s a Viking.
The storytelling started when we talked about language. Did you know that there are 249 words for “snow” in Icelandic? The word for computer is tölva and means “give me info from outside”; for telephone, síma, which he said is kind of like “see me”; police is lögreglan, translated as “laws and obedience”, if I remember right.
One thing led to another and then we were talking about the nature of people: agreeable or not. Our friend explained that one thing that makes non-Christian/Catholic folks in Iceland helpful is, if they’re not, Odin and Thor will come after them. For those who believe in them, apparently it’s a pretty scary proposition.
But not as scary for me as the stories of Viking vittles. A Christmas delicacy is fermented shark. Toxic when fresh, preparation entails gutting and beheading the shark and placing it in a shallow cavity covered with sand. Rocks then go on top to press fluids out. After six to twelve weeks, it’s cut into strips and hung to dry for several months. I found a description online by someone who wrote that with the high ammonia content, it’s “like ramming bleach up your nostrils (and) smells like a tramp’s socks soaked in urine.” (Just pass the eggnog, please.)
But it’s a badge of honor to partake of it. Rustad said, “Of course we eat these things. We are Vikings!”
We did finally leave, but not before buying two of the most glorious bed pillows we’ve ever owned. And the beds! Naturally we tested them out. We only wished we could have afforded one (and had a way to bring it home). But I can dream…
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