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In Reykjavik, The Dude Abides (at Lebowski Bar)

Menus and an Icelandic flag at Lebowski Bar, Reykjavik

When we returned to our lodging and reported that we’d just been to the Lebowski bar, my dad laughed. He’d just read that Reykjavik had previously gone through a phase where all the bars were themed.

The others are gone now, but The Dude abides. I’m so glad!

Why This Movie is special for us

The time: Summer 1998.

The place: Trnava, Slovakia

Erik and I were on a 14-week backpacking trip from Beijing to Paris. We had booked a few nights in this small Slovak city. A night or two too many. We’d seen the sights. We’d gone for Chinese food. We were bored. Then we noticed a movie theater and wandered over to see what was playing.

A movie by the Cohen Brothers that we’d never heard of was about to start. (We were a little behind on culture, since we’d been living in China where American movies arriced months late, if ever, in the 90s). And better news: The sign said Angleski. This would not be dubbed into Slovak! We practically threw our koruna at the box office attendant and ran inside.

We spent the next two hours practically falling out of our seats laughing. We laughed so much and so loud that the Slovaks around us — who probably came here for an English lesson — shushed us. I don’t remember hearing many other laugh in the theater. I mean, is that really surprising? How could that movie possibly translate to another culture? Am I wrong?

And yet, here we are in Reykjavik

The sign for Lebowski Bar, Reykjavik

To fans like us, checking out how Icelanders embrace The Dude seemed a natural, zesty enterprise. There seemed to be plenty of Icelanders eating and drinking here in addition to tourists. But I couldn’t tell if they come to feel closer to The Dude, or if maybe they just enjoy the burgers. But whoever made this place was clearly a good man (or woman), and thorough. Because the details are spot on.

Outside, the sign is adorned with drawings of bowling balls and pins. Inside, a fringed oriental rug really pulls the place together. Posters proclaim familiar lines such as: “Yeah, well, you know, that’s ust like you’re opinion, man.” Items on display include a Folger’s coffee can and lots of bowling paraphernalia. There were also a number of plants, although unlike The Dude’s, they were alive. It was, in a pair of words, far out.

A scene from the movie "The Big Lebowski" at Lebowski Bar, Reykjavik

And then of course, there are the screens on every wall, playing the movie on what I assume is a nonstop loop. (I mean, what else would they play?)

Erik and I passed the bar in front, and proceeded past a sitting area built to look like you’re on an extended front porch of a “typical American house.” Not The Dude’s house, by the way. Just a house. We ended up in a diner-themed area with high-top bar tables, which it’s clear could be used for dance floor or performance space.

The menu at Lebowski Bar, Reykjavik

Here we opened the beautifully designed menus to decide what kind of White Russian we wanted to order. What? Did you think we were going to order mojitos? We aren’t fuckin’ amateurs.

Besides a standard vokda/Kahlua/cream white russian, they have the “El Duderino” (tequila, Kahlua, triple sec, whipped cream and cinnamon), the Jackie Treehorn (vodka, Kahlua, something called Mickey finn chocolate, white cocoa and cream) and several other variations. They also had classic American cocktails like Long Island iced tea, pina coladas, etc.

A woman and a ma drinking White Russians at Lebowski Bar, Reykjavik

We went with the classic White Russian, which did not disappoint. While we sipped, we perused the burgers, although we didn’t eat there. “The Lebowski” was a classic cheeseburger, while “The Other Lebowski” was a steak burger. “The Walter” was a bacon burger, “The Donny,” a Bearnaise burger with mushrooms.

A scene from the movie "The Big Lebowski" at Lebowski Bar, Reykjavik

And of course, we watched the move. Just like the first time we’d ever seen it, back in Trnava, it had subtitles. We saw the part where Walter and The Dude try to spread Donny’s ashes.

Napkins at Lebowski Bar, Reykjavik

Before we left, we made sure to grab some adorable napkins, with a line drawing of the dude on them. (Personally, I think they should have added the words: “Careful, man, there’s a beverage here!”)

Because we were in a hurry to get to dinner with our family, we didn’t spend enough time perusing the merch menu posted by the front door. Now I regret not buying a magnet. But that’s how travel is sometimes. Strikes and gutters, ups and downs.

This was a quick, enjoyable interlude, and it “only” cost us 30 bones, or clams, or whatever you call them. And hey — now that I’m back in the States, I just spent $16 on a cocktail in Oakland yesterday, and I didn’t even get a souvenir napkin. So I’m not gonna be a fucking crybaby about it.

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