Sirkus is a Circus


Sirkus. Address: Klappastígur 30. Size: small. Number of stories: 2. Music selection: excellent. Hipster level: very high. Ventilation upstairs: one letter-sized window angled open exactly one inch. Likeliness to develop symptoms of emphysema if there over an hour: high.

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I may catch some flack, but I’ll venture to say that Sirkus is Reykjavík’s favorite watering hole. Or at least one of its favorites. Ask anyone here where it is, and they’ll tell you. “You can’t miss it: look for the palm trees painted on the boxy house, and/or the mostly burned out lightbulbs illuminating its sign on the roof.”

Even Wikipedia has a picture of the bar on its “Reykjavík” page.

People talk about their first sojourn to Sirkus like they’re talking about losing their virginity. And for some regulars, it’s not impossible they may have lost theirs in the hovels, I mean, Sirkus’ filthy bathrooms.

Well, I waited a month before I paid a visit to this mainstay. I walked in and thought to myself ‘oh, what’s the big deal.’ Despite its hype, Sirkus feels pretty down-to-earth. In fact, it sort of resembles any of my go-to’s near my former apartment in <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />New York’s East Village – that is, minus the offensive and ubiquitous haze of cigarette smoke. If you get there early enough, you actually sit around a real table with your friends, and forget that you paid ISK 600 for your beer. In today’s dollars, that’s $8.25, which is less than it would’ve been two weeks ago with the falling currency.

Like any bar in Reykavík (or in the world, for that matter), you can find any number of predictable scenes. Think having to squeeze past the couple making out in the stairwell or watching drunk guy #10 swagger across the floor, knocking over someone’s ISK 1000 gin and tonic.

But it’s a fun spot. Instead of a big burly bouncer checking IDs at the door, there’s a woman who stands at the entrance with a key. You are physically locked inside. That’s because they’ve tightened up the reins on the number of people allowed inside. I guess Sirkus had one too many fire code violations, and are now under the Logreglan’s (police) microscope.

Okay, but there’s one good thing about a gatekeeper. It means that when that door opens, not only do you get your first gasp of fresh, cold, crisp air, but you also feel like a veritable celebrity. Why? Because there’s a line around the building to get in, and one person out means another person in. You just made someone’s night. SB

Views expressed here are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Iceland Review.