london you got me thinkin
i already know ya
but you don't know me
and i don't know you
even though i see your people on the green
what does it really mean... anything?
for all your parks
and all your roses
what do you have to show
but for your masses of gray
transporting, mowing through the jungle
concrete in the main
There are no words coming
No words to fill that hole
They are gone like a skeleton
Crashing to the floor
A bone crawls
See it in the darkness
It is the littlest of bones
A finger perhaps
It crawls across the floor, skriitch-skraatch
Trying to make purchase on the wood
Grasping for others, an answer, a word
Skriiitch, it comes to a stop with one hollow tap
And then silence engulfs it, no words surround it
No words ever come, gone with the bones
A skeleton that just can't take form
Listening to Untitled #8 by Sigur Ros, I am overcome with a feeling of oneness. Unity. This is Iceland – for me. Icelandic music is inexplicably tied to the landscape, and modern artists take inspiration from traditional folk songs, creating a truly ethereal experience. Simply by closing my eyes and listening, I am transported to that expansive land of green moss, rock, icy blue water. One long straight asphalt road dissappearing into the flat horizon. The streets of Reykjavik, the murals, cats, rainbow sweaters and rainbow pavements. Fresh fish and lamb. The Hidden People; a culture that hasn’t lost its connection to myth and nature . The Harpa, blue glass perfectly offseting the blue ocean and inspired by the basalt columns of Reynisfjara. A waterfall cascading down in it’s angry, behemoth froth. The sun making its first peeking appearance from an overcast sky. Standing on the edge of a cliff overlooking the endless, endless sea.
As the sea, so are we, endless.
This is the beauty and the hope of life.
I could get lost here for a lifetime. Let me wander that stark, beautiful world forever, ever connected to nature.
The last chance I have to talk about Iceland before I move onto new horizons and actually talk about my life. Are you ready?
Day 4 – June 3rd- South Coast of Waterfalls, Glaciers, and Puffins
Before we start, I have to tell you that you should click each photo to enlarge it, when you can. If you don’t, you’ll not only be missing out on more detailed photos but also humorous and informative commentary.
Perhaps you’ve heard of Eyjafjallajökull Glacier? It experienced a volcanic eruption back in 2010 that brought Iceland to the forefront of international attention due to the closure of international air space over Europe for six days. It also brought havoc to the Þorvaldseyri farm, which I have a picture of here.
Here’s a nice video of the eruption, coincidentally set to a song from my favorite band, Sigur Rós, who is from Iceland and probably the image of the Icelandic music scene, along with Björk (though the Icelandic music scene is much larger than Sigur Rós and Björk; if you would like to talk more about that, hit me up).
And then a photo stop, in which I snapped one of my favorite photos from the trip. It’s literally just clothes hanging on a fence in the middle of nowhere but it speaks to me.
But the real reason of the stop: waterfall!
Now we have Skógafoss, probably my favorite waterfall:
A guy on the bus had this bill (the same guy who gave me a bite of his Icelandic chocolate when I asked him if it was good – it was) and I asked if I could see it so I could take a picture… I didn’t ever end up exchanging any cash in Iceland, so I kinda wanted to see it. When you travel, you must have no shame (but also don’t be rude).
Then came the lunch stop at Vik. I got the traditional lamb soup, for the third, and certainly not last, time that week. It was cheap and there were free refills (pretty sure I got three). You can’t go wrong with lamb soup. I sat with a family from Singapore who had also been on my Golden Circle tour. The daughter Sophie was 16 and went to boarding school in London. She didn’t know what she wanted to do with her life yet.. or did she know exactly what she wanted to do? I can’t remember. It was one of the two. She may have wanted to be a doctor. Her dad was a businessman who worked in London. Both of them had British accents. The mother didn’t have a British accent, at least she said she didn’t. I’m not very good with accents. All three of them were some of the nicest, and best dressed, people I have had the pleasure to meet. I found myself with the desire to visit Singapore; maybe I’ll run into them again someday…
I actually got a picture of them at Seljalandsfoss, totally unintentionally:
More on Seljalandsfoss later. In Vik, or very near Vik, is Reynisfjara Beach, which is famous for its black sand and basalt rock columns. Those columns are actually what inspired the hexagonal shape of the walls of the Harpa Concert Hall.
My love, again. May I never leave you.
I was expecting a lot from this beach. It’s one of those images that pops into my head every time someone asks the dreaded question, “so, why Iceland?” with that quizzical, slightly confused look on their face.
One of my favorite photos! The dark side of the ocean
You can really see where the Harpa inspiration comes from
It was pretty, but it was windy and cold, and I just wasn’t feeling it. I went into the cafe and listened to the girl I was hanging with complain about how she’s so addicted to technology she’d rather sit there where there’s WiFi than be out seeing the nature. But to be fair, it was windy and cold I was in there with her.
After that our tour guide drove us up to a cape, where we got the real view of Reynisfjara:
Our tour guide also treated us to the Dyrhólaey Puffin Colony, since we hadn’t seen any puffins yet. I for one was very excited to see these little guys/gals. Ever since my grandparents went to Alaska when I was a small child and brought me back a puffin bank, I’ve thought puffins are pretty cool. I had never seen one.
Your eyes may tell you otherwise, but there are puffins in both these photos. Click to enlarge (and press the “esc” key to get out).
I promise he’s there; you just gotta look closely. Like, real closely. Get those wizard glasses on!
He’s slightly easier to see here. Look to the left, closer to the top… He’s directly North West of the center of the photo. To the left of that fuzzy right thing (I don’t THINK the fuzzy white thing is a puffin…).
And nooow *drum roll* we have Sólheimajökull Glacier! Probably THEE coolest thing you’ll see today (sorry puffins).
He’s a good looking man okay (yup, the one from Singapore).
Looks like that glacier done ran off again! ahaha…hah.. get it? Because this is glacier run-off, where it melts into?
Here is a video I uploaded. Starring Oskaar, ft. Sophie.
And now we have some troll houses:
And no drones:
We have finally arrived at Seljalandsfoss!
I will not give you even a fraction of the pictures I took of this. That would just be ridiculous.
But I’ll give you a fair amount.
And then straight to the house in Reykjavik where Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan had their historical peace speech. I guess you could say the Cold War ended in Iceland? (Probably not; that’s probably an overstatement).
Eleven hours later, the tour was over! I believe it was that evening that I was walking around the streets of Reykjavik and ran into a woman who was staying in my hostel room. We went to dinner together at Fish & More (the second time I’d been there; the first time I had dinner there was with three hot girls, one of them a model from New York who passed around a photo from a nude photo shoot she had done on the lava fields of Iceland, one an infectious redhead from Portland who has the most amazing curly hair and has never asked anybody for money, and the other a Canadian who has an amazing career in investment banking; and then there was me, a small town girl with nothing to show for herself except for the fact that she was there, halfway across the world). Anyway, to recover from that tangent, the woman’s name is Dami. She’s originally from the Netherlands but has been living in Oregon for a long time now. She loves it there; she loves the nature. She’s a writer and a life coach, and dang, it was nice talking to her. She’s one of those people who you feel like you’ve known your entire life, and can talk about anything with, and you’re not sure if you’ll ever meet someone like that again. We talked about writing and life and working. She told me I might have to get a job as a barista or something before I find a marketing job, to tell those interviewers “look, there are so many marketers out there, I had to do what I had to do to provide for myself.” That is exactly what I’m trying to do now, so I thank her for giving me that push I needed. Check out her blog! She ended up paying for my meal, which I’m sure hoping was her intention. I believe she said, while we were eating, “let me take you to dinner”, so I took that to mean she wanted to pay my bill, so I said, “are you sure?”, and later asked again if she was sure she wanted to pay for me. She said yes, but there will always be part of my brain that tells me that was never her intention and I’m a massive letdown to polite society. Ah well.
Oh, another thing about that evening. Before I ran into Dami I had gone into this Vegetarian joint that ended up having the best dairy-free, sugar-free brownies. I got two- a raspberry mocha one and a “Snickers” one. I ate more than half of both of them at Fish & More while Dami had tea and cake. I will dream about that Snickers brownie ’til the day I die, and after I die, I hope I’m surrounded by those things. I hope heaven is in that restaurant (it’s called Glo, if you ever find yourself in Reykjavik).
Day 5 – June 4th- Reykjanes Peninsula & The Blue Lagoon
So, my last full day in Iceland was spent on one last tour – the Reykjanes Peninsula. I was mostly in a daze and just along for the ride on this one. I was so tuckered out from the day before. Oskaar was my tour guide on this day as well (he had done the South Coast tour; my Golden Circle tour was done by a younger guy named Baldwin (I am impressed that I still remember that name, wow)), so I spent a lot of time hanging around and talking to him. We were kind of like buddies by this point (“so, how is my friend doing today?” he asked when we pulled up at the lake; I had been watching a guy climb up the bluff that was on the other side of the road and was so out of it I thought Oskaar was talking about that guy so I just shrugged; but then he asked again and I realized he was asking how I was doing and I was just wow, Oskaar is so nice and I’m so dumb; embarrassing).
The first thing we saw was the Perlan, which is in Reykjavik. It offers a panoramic view of the city and is actually a restaurant rotating on top of the water tanks that provide the city hot water. I’m not kidding. They held a contest for the most creative way to turn water tanks into something beautiful. Characteristically Icelandic.
Then we saw the house in which the president of Iceland lives, which was super cool. It’s about a ten minute drive out of Reykjavik. We saw one security guard but other than that the place was deserted. Not exactly the White House, aye? I love you Iceland, I love you so much.
Then we stopped at this viking village which was super lame and touristy; kinda wish we hadn’t stopped, but here’s a couple pictures anyway for the sake of documentation:
Then we saw some dried fish spines and heads, which they ship to Africa to be used for soup.
Here’s the lake I mentioned earlier, Kleifarvatn:
Next up was Krýsuvik geothermal area, where I fell in love with the textures and contrasts of Iceland (as a side note, sulfur reeks; if you’re wondering what the smell of Iceland it – it’s seafood and sulfur; most of the hot water in Reykjavik actually smells of sulfur, but not the cold water since that come from a completely different source):
After that we saw a shipwreck in a lava field, which was pretty cool I guess. I just wish I has been wearing better shoes, but sadly, my Doc Martens had torn up my feet and I couldn’t wear them that day.
My climb up the hill was rewarded though by a good view of the ocean:
Lunch was in Grindavik (which, fun fact, is the setting of the video for Sigur Rós’s new song Óveður). What was for lunch, you ask? Why, lamb stew, of course! And again, free refills. The guy who was working at the place said it was his grandmother’s recipe, and he seemed very proud of it (or was he talking about the lobster soup?) Anyway, the place was serving two different kinds of soup – lamb and lobster, if you haven’t gathered- in gigantic pots that you served yourself from. The lamb soup, almost gone, was mostly just broth, so the aforementioned guy personally brought me out a bowl that had an appropriate proportion of meat and vegetables and broth. I thought that was nice. People are so nice in Iceland.
Have some little lambs smelling flowers
And a clump of dirt and grass that was apparently carefully removed from the middle of a highway because it’s a troll residence. Don’t fuck with the trolls or you will be cursed. Is it trolls or the hidden people? I always get those mixed up. Maybe they’re the same thing.
Next on the schedule was Gunnuhver geothermal area. Rad stuff.
It was actually named after a ghost, Gunna:
Next on the tour was my favorite part of the day, the tip of the Reykjanes Peninsula, where you can walk right up the cape and look out over the ocean and sea cliffs. It was serene and magical. The ocean always puts everything into perspective for me. Sadly, the camera on my phone decided it was completely done with taking decent pictures. Well, for the most part. I still got a few good ones. God I love the ocean.
love, love, love
I did not do this; Rovy is not my secret lover
My one and only
My dear ocean
The tour also included a stop at the Bridge Between Continents, which is honestly just embarrassing.
The last part of the tour was the Blue Lagoon, the most famous of sites in Iceland. I heard over 70% of visitors to Iceland go to it, which makes sense since it’s about 25 minutes from the Keflavik airport. You can arrange for your airport transfer to stop at the Blue Lagoon. GeoIceland gives you the option of either just sightseeing the place or paying for a ticket to use the amenities, which you have to book days in advance. I’m not a big fan of being in water (kind of ironic since I’ve been going off about how much I love the ocean, right? I like watching the ocean) so I didn’t particularly feel like paying the $40 to get the true Blue Lagoon experience, which is really just an overpriced, man-made tourist trap anyway. Sorry guys, but unless you’re the spa-type, it probably isn’t worth it. A better option (in my opinion, of course) would be dipping into the local swimming pools, where you can also apparently catch up on the local gossip (I, sadly, never got time to go to one, but they’re all the rage; pools are very important in Icelandic culture).
They actually invited us to come in, so I wasn’t *just* being a rude tourist. This restaurant was super cool, though. Someday I’ll eat there.
The water is literally the waste from that power plant right there, but it’s clean and has a ton of minerals (it’ll wreck your hair though, so don’t get it wet)
No humans allowed
The tour is done, and I’m back in 12 Tonar! Surprise, Surprise! I had to go in there one last time before going home. It took a lot of self control not to buy another CD or a t-shirt or something.
I also caught the back of Hallgrimskirkja, finally.
I forgot to mention I had quiche that morning, only notable because that was the first quiche I’d ever eaten.
I also forgot to talk about these awesome fruit and nut bars I found at the 24/7 market in Reykjavik, which are made in Britain and are delicious and ridiculously healthy, like so healthy I could actually eat them. I need to scour America for these goodies….
Day 6 – June 5th – Going Home
My flight left at 11:30, so I had to wake up relatively early to catch the 8AM FlyBus out of Reykjavik to the airport. I luckily made the 20 minute walk down the streets of Reykjavik to the bus terminal, suitcase rolling, with no problems. The bus ride went much better than the one to Reykjavik, thank goodness. All was well!
More than 9 hours after starting this post, I kind of never want to hear mention of Iceland or see a computer ever again… only kidding…. but seriously, why do I write such long blong posts all at once? I mean, I can’t even write “long blog”… did you see what just happened??? I’m not even sure what life is right now.
To say this blog post is long in the making would be a gross understatement. I apologize to the one person who’s been bugging me for months to finish it. So, onto the matter at hand, and hoping that there is a smidgen of interest left in the topic and enough memory left in my brain to serve it…
Day 2 – June 1st – Golden Circle
My second day in Iceland was spent touring the Golden Circle, the most popular day tour out of Reykjavik. While renting a car may give you freedom to explore the way you want to, and I certainly want to go that route for my next trip to Iceland, taking tours will give you more time to actually enjoy the scenery (cause, you know, you don’t have to look at the road, or maps and street signs, for that matter). Tours will also give you background information on what you’re seeing, and possibly new friends! I booked all my tours with GeoIceland and I had a wonderful time on each tour, so I would definitely recommend them. The tour guides were friendly, kind, and fun to talk to. I can proudly say that I’m friends with Oskaar, tour guide of GeoIceland and father to three young daughters.
The Golden Circle is a popular loop northeast of Reykjavik. Most tours include stops at Þingvellir National Park, Geysir hot spring area, and Gullfoss waterfall. My tour also included Faxi waterfall and a few unplanned photo stops.
The first stop on the tour was a photo-op of the largest lake in Iceland:
And then it was on to Þingvellir National Park, an important historical site for Iceland (but I’ll let you google that yourself; I’ll just give you the pretty pictures):
The view overlooking the water was absolutely stunning; definitely one of the prettiest vistas of the trip.
After Þingvellir we drove on to Geysir, but not before a quick stop to say hello to a few Icelandic horses, who ran up to the fence as we pulled up! They are very friendly and hardy creatures, and definitely not ponies. Do not call them ponies to any Icelander. Also don’t feed them Cheetos. To be serious though, the Icelandic horse is the only breed allowed in the country, making it one of the purest breeds in the world.
Highlight of the day- getting nibbled by these sweet horses
Onto Geysir… In short, Geysir is a geothermal area, one of many in Iceland. What makes it a top tourist attraction, though, is the Strokkur geyser which shoots water up into the air. I’ll spare you the 5 minute video I took capturing the phenomenon and trust you can imagine it yourself. Think Yellowstone (though Yellowstone is actually a different type of geyser… something to do with the length of time in between the bursts and how high they get; Yellowstone is much more consistent; the geyser here typically goes off every 5 to 15 minutes and can go off in extremely short or high bursts). If you really want to get into the Geysir action, check out this YouTube clip.
I bet you can’t guess what the Icelandic word for geyser is!
I found this beauty in the gift shop. It’s a can of air. Fresh Icelandic Mountain Air.
Next up on the tour was Gullfoss waterfall, arguably the most famous waterfall in Iceland. Sadly, the day was cloudy and foggy so visibility was low, but it was still beautiful. I’ll let the photos do the talking here.
The last stop of the day was Faxi waterfall, which was much smaller and simpler than Gullfoss, but still majestic.
Riding back into town, I finally caught an infamous site… the penis museum, at last! Is a trip to Reykjavik ever truly complete without at least a glimpse of it?
The tour was over! I got off the bus with my friend Nicole and we decided to explore the city together. We walked over to the Harpa, and I got my first good look at it – outside and inside.
I have entirely too many pictures of this building. I do not apologize.
The Harpa sits on the harbor, so naturally that was our next destination. Besides the ocean, it wasn’t all that impressive. I had my most expensive meal here, at a restaurant called Kopar. It was very tasty, but disappointing since I couldn’t eat half of it. For some reason I wasn’t expecting the duck spring rolls or the chickpea balls to be deep fried. Icelanders love their rich food!
Kopar was just next door to this building, Hofnin
After dinner, we called it a day and I walked back to my hostel and got a good night’s sleep (at least, I think it was good; it was a few months ago after all).
Day 3 – June 2nd – Museums, the symphony, and the best dinner
I had bought tickets months in advance to go to the symphony at the Harpa on June 2nd, so I knew I had to stay in Reykjavik that day. No way was I going to miss the Icelandic symphony performing Shostakovich and Profokiev (anyone who knows me fairly well knows I have a thing for all things Russian).
I got a bit of a late start that morning. I ate some fruit for breakfast and ran (not literally) to the Bonus grocery, by far the cheapest in town, to buy a pack of disposable razors. I shaved my lady beard on the street (no way was I walking back to my hostel just to shave a few chin hairs) and waited around Hallgrímskirkja for Nicole to show up. We had decided to meet up and go to museums together. When she finally arrived, we checked out the inside of Hallgrímskirkja and the view from the top, which we managed to avoid paying the 900 krona (~$7.59) fee to see .
We started the trek to the National History Museum and totally got misdirected along the way. When you’re in a foreign city, do not rely on an offline app to give you directions. The location trackers are not all that accurate, come to find out. Anyway, after getting back on track, we saw the Nordic House not far away. I really wanted to see it (I actually said I was going there in the cover letter of the job I applied to at the Seattle Nordic Heritage Museum, so I felt I should really do it, as an honor thing) and I knew I wouldn’t be that far out again, so I convinced Nicole to step inside. It was a sort of motley collection of a building, containing a cafe, library, and art exhibit. The exhibit that was showing at the time explored the “influence of traditions and the natural environment” (read this article!) in Greenland, Iceland, and the Faroe Islands. The library contained books in all the Nordic languages (Icelandic, Swedish, Finnish, Danish, etc). I find Scandinavia infinitely interesting, so of course I wish I could have spent more time in that place. Alas, things to do, people to see…
I won’t bore you with pictures of the National History Museum, but it was the coolest museum I have ever been to (well, the Phoenix Art Museum is tough competition, what with Leonardo Da Vinci’s manuscripts and everything). I love history. I could have spent all day in that building. I could have spent all week in that building. As it was, I had about two hours. Nicole was starving, and so was I. I will say that my favorite part of the museum was the exhibition about women in Iceland. The feminist movement/scene in Iceland is honestly one of my favorite things about the country. It is beautiful to see, and to be in such an empowered environment is a grand, empowering feeling. Actually, I will bore you with a couple pictures, because that exhibit was just visually stunning, even if I didn’t have time to read almost any of the plaques.
After buying some post cards and gifts at the museum gift shop (actually, we did that first, but what are details, really?), we went for lunch at this brunch place called Bergsson Mathus. I got lamb stew with brown rice and salad; I don’t know if it was exceptionally good or if I was exceptionally hungry. Either way, I do love lamb.
So the symphony.
Oh how lovely, how absolutely perfect it was. I had never been to the symphony before. It was a beautiful live performance. I want to a see classical performances every night. It’s something that everyone should experience, at least once. I am, admittedly, a slut for classical music. I jam to that on the radio, and let me tell you, driving 80MPH to classical music is a next-level dramatic experience. Anyway….
I actually got a picture of the guy that ended up sitting by me, as a random aside. He had a cold.
Back to pertinence…
I found an official clip on YouTube from the performance. Please, listen to it:
I forgot to mention that Nicole went to the symphony with me. She sat in the chair behind mine, and sitting by her was this guy called Herbie that we ended up going to dinner with after the show.
Dinner was great. It really was. My tour guide on my last day there (Oskaar) actually said that was his favorite seafood restaurant in Reykjavik, and I didn’t even prompt him. It’s called Sjávargrillið, which is “seafood grill” in English. They made my dish two times. To keep a long story short, they made me a special version of the dish with boiled potatoes instead of mashed potatoes, grilled cauliflower instead of cauliflower puree, and sugar-free, dairy-free sauce over the fish. The service was excellent, and the cashier taught me how to say yes in Icelandic, after he noticed me pronouncing it wrong (it’s já – pronounced yow- the j is pronounced like a y and the a with the accent is pronounced like “ow” – that letter alone actually means river, something Oskaar told me later).
After dinner, Herbie and I walked down to the harbor to take a look at the Sun Voyager statue, something that was high priority on my list. We also sat down on the rocks by the water and appreciated the peaceful ocean vibes for a while. Nothing like that midnight sun!
Herbie walked me back to my hostel, which was nice. It was about 1am by this point, so I needed my beauty sleep.
The next day I toured the South Coast and took about 500 pictures of the South Coast, so that is definitely something for another day. Thank you for hanging around with me while I retell my Icelandic adventure months after the fact!
Maybe going to post soon a half-formed poem I wrote a while ago, so bet you can’t wait for that.
Stories provide a vehicle for expressing grief, and grief expressed is grief reduced. – Eric Weiner
Iceland’s literary culture is one of the most beautiful things about the country. It’s so dark and depressing in the winters (and boring, according to most Icelanders) that people express themselves through art, including literature and music. It is absolutely lovely to see!
Many Icelanders I talked to said they don’t complain about the high tax because they receive so many benefits (more or less the same thing I heard in Copenhagen). They know they will be able to survive if anything ever happens. There are no homeless people in Reykjavik (as a generality) because the government takes care of their citizens. Of course, not everyone will be able to live as comfortably as others, but their basic needs will be met.
I don’t know if this is simply a good front put on for foreigners or if it’s the truth – it’s certainly something I’m interested in spending more time in Iceland finding out.
The company is in Phoenix and sells life insurance. It’s not exactly my dream scenario but it’s a job (until I hear back from the Nordic Heritage Museum in Seattle, I’ll take what I can get). There’s nothing I detest more than job interviews, but I need a job so we’ll see how it goes. I have high hopes!
Where do I begin?
I suppose it all began with the flight across the ocean, but then that started with the purchase of tickets, and that began with a discussion. So, the discussion. How did I come about the decision to go to Iceland? It happened in a day, in a matter of hours. My parents and I were planning a trip for after I graduated NAU in May. I wanted to do a road trip up the West coast, through San Francisco, Portland, and Seattle, and possibly up to Vancouver, but that was looking a bit expensive so we started talking about just flying to Seattle. I looked up flights to Seattle. I looked up flights to Iceland. It turned out that me flying alone to Iceland would be cheaper than the three of us flying to Seattle, so I went for it! I didn’t have to hear “that’s okay with me if that’s what you want to do” more than once to book the flight (so, really, this all started with a road trip being too expensive…. whoops).
This was the beginning of April. I graduated May 14th, and my flight was May 30th.
Iceland had been at the top of my list for years and I was giddy with excitement, so for the next month I had fun spending countless hours researching restaurants and attractions… a slim margin of which I actually ended up going to, of course.
Day 1 – May 30th & May 31st – Two Days for the Price of One!
I can never sleep the night before I travel, and I can’t sleep on planes, so bare in mind everything I’m about to tell you was done on two hours of sleep.
I left Phoenix at 6 AM on May 30th and got to the Keflavik airport at 7 AM on May 31st, after a 7 hour layover at JFK which very nearly killed me.
The airport is a 45 minute drive southwest of Reykjavik so they have buses that you can book in advance (or when you get there). Luckily, I caught my bus, but, unluckily, the bus driver was terrible. I actually thought I wasn’t going to see Reykjavik after all. But I survived, and met a guy from Canada on the bus. He had a really cool nose ring, beautiful eyes, and long hair. He was a musician and we talked about instruments, and languages, and travel. After Iceland he was going on to Norway and Sweden. I told him how beautiful Sweden is, and wished I was going with him.
I walked to my hostel but couldn’t check in until 3, so I just left my suitcase in their locked luggage room and headed over to the parliament where the free city walking tours meet. It took me a while to find it, as two different people told me it was the grey building in front of the square with the statue, and there is more than one gray building in front of a square with a statue, in the same general area in Reykjavik, so…. Anyway , I found it, and walked around the city for two hours with the tour guide. It was a great way to familiarize myself with the city and get a better idea of where things are located, even if it was freezing cold and I was shaking the entire time. The most notable parts of the tour were learning about a graveyard that was turned into a park, a gorgeous cat I saw (cats are everywhere in Reykjavik. I love it), the city hall, and my first long-anticipated glimpse of the Harpa concert hall. The city hall is located on the edge of a “small pond” that the locals like to visit to feed the ducks. The best part was a piece of artwork hanging inside that was made to resemble a vagina. I think that really says a lot about Iceland and its view of women, which is absolutely refreshing. But more on that later.
So after the tour, and a taste of free licorice (yum!), I walked over to Hallgrímskirkja. For me, this is the landmark of Reykjavik (well, that and the Harpa, which I got a view of from the walking tour), and it’s so much bigger and better in person. It took my breath away when it first came into view, especially since I came from an angle that isn’t as common in photographs.
I didn’t explore the church more because I was starving, so I went on ahead to Cafe Loki which was just across the street. I ordered the traditional Icelandic meat soup, the first bowl of many during my trip. It’s simple, tasty, and healthy with just lamb, potatoes, carrots, and onions.
I started heading in the direction of my hostel, and stopped at the Handknitting Association of Iceland and bought some mittens before my hands froze off. Then I spotted 12 Tonar, a famous record shop that was among my top destinations in Reykjavik.I had a couple hours to kill before I could check into the hostel, so I walked in and immediately discovered my happy place. The owner of the shop, who is also the owner of one of Iceland’s premier record labels, greeted me and asked if he could help me. I was a little star struck so I fumbled a bit as I asked him for recommendations for someone who likes Sigur Ros. He pointed me towards several CDs, and I took them over to the couches where they let you sit and listen to anything you want (happy place!). I didn’t spend nearly as much time in there as I could have because the room was starting to spin (two hours of sleep and two days of traveling, remember?), so I purchased the best CD I heard and went to my hostel. The CD actually turned out to be amazing – I am in love!
Do I look tired?
Here’s one of the songs from the CD. I highly recommend Svanur as well.
I was planning on taking a nap, but when I got into my room (an all-female room with 6 beds), there was a Canadian girl in there who was absolutely adorable and one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. After a short rest I ended up going to dinner with her and two of her other friends. We went to Icelandic Fish & Chips, where I got the baked fish dish. It was the first fish I’ve ever liked. Before I went to Iceland I hated fish, but now I love it! I always wondered if I hated seafood because I never had anything fresh in Arizona, and now I have my answer: fresh fish is delicious! And boy does Iceland have fresh fish…I would live here in a heartbeat.
After our meal we went to the Volcano House (which was actually attached to the restaurant) and watched the movie about volcanoes. As far as movies about volcanoes go, it was pretty cool. It was nice to have some background for the things I would be seeing in the next few days. One of their other friends ran into us after the show and we walked over to the famous hot dog stand so she could get some food (famous because Bill Clinton ate there… I don’t get it either. But apparently it IS pretty good). They were doing a comedy tour after that, but I had to get some sleep. On the way back I stopped by the 24/7 market to get groceries. I needed some produce that I could eat for breakfast and on my tours. There I encountered one of the mysteries of my trip: my receipt says 76 isk for the big bag of apples and nearly 700 isk for one bunch of bananas (that’s about 60 cents and 5 dollars). Typo? It’s anyone’s guess (yes I know, such an exciting mystery).
Anyway, I made it back to the hostel and conked out. I needed that sleep for the week ahead!
The main thing that struck me throughout the day was how I was able to talk to people. Usually I’m very shy and quiet. I don’t typically make friends easily, but I was able to meet some really nice people. It’s an experience I’ll never forget, and the main thing I’ll take from this trip. Traveling really does open me up and make me more confident and comfortable with myself. While traveling I’m not only exploring a new culture but also my own mind, and that’s something I wouldn’t have understood before I left the country for the first time (when I went to Sweden a few years ago). That is why travel is so important, not to mention the empathy it fosters for other people.
Travel far enough, you meet yourself – David Mitchell
Some more pictures from the day:
Day 2 to come! I can’t promise that it will be tomorrow, but it will be soon! I don’t imagine it will be as long as this post was, but then again I can’t promise that either.
Thank you for hanging around and making it this far! þar til við hittumst aftur!