When I awoke this morning, I looked out my window to see low clouds hiding the tips of the green mountains. It was a beautiful sight! So were my dorm mates – they’d managed to fit in a single bunk bed and had their arms around each other in their sleep.
After a feast of tea, muesli, and skyr (I was trying to use up all my dairy products), I had a shower and returned to my dorm. My dorm mates were packing up and we got chatting. They were from France and were driving back to Reykjavík that morning. I said I was too, and later when I met them at the top of the stairs to catch my Stræto bus, they offered me a free ride!
I offered them money but they refused to take any – even for parking! We made small talk in the car, mostly in English. The drive was beautiful. It was a lot faster than the bus too. I think next time I’m in Iceland I’ll have to bite the bullet and rent a car. You get to see a lot more that way. Its very much a car culture kind of place too.
The AirBnB Saga
I had great difficulty finding my AirBnB. It wasn’t too far from downtown, but the building did not have a house number and I didn’t have Internet access on my phone to look up the host’s pictures online.
Eventually, I found a mailbox that had my host’s first name on it. I remember her saying something about a key and a mailbox, but it was stuffed full of newspaper. An old man came to the door and spoke to me in Icelandic, but we couldn’t communicate to one another.
I wandered around for a bit more, my back aching from my luggage. In desperation, I went to the map and stationary store on the corner. The staff there were extremely friendly! The woman looked up the address on her computer, then her colleague went with me outside to help me search and eventually found the place. I gave him a jar of maple syrup as a token of my thanks.
My AirBnB host was quite peeved that I’d got a neighbour involved. She said it was quite clear in the listing. I’m sure it was, but really, if you’re renting out rooms, you should at least have a house number, especially if your entrance is down an alley, facing a courtyard with many doors.
Once I dropped my bags, I went into the kitchen to fix myself a simple linch of gravlax, cheese, and bread with a hard-boiled egg. One if the other renters came in to say hello and remarked how Nordic my meal was! I was proud.
We got chatting. He was from Berlin on his way to a digital nomad conference in San Francisco. I said I worked in accessibility and user experience, and he said he had done that too for 4 years, but now ran his own consulting company where he answered emails all day.
Lunch eaten, I headed back out to the streets. I went into the map shop to deliver my maple syrup, then delighted myself looking through all the maps of Iceland that the shop had in stock. I love maps!
I bought a beautiful map for about 1250 ISK of Laugarvatn and surrounding areas. I now have an insane surplus of Icelandic maps, what with the 3 I’ve bought and all the free maps I picked up in tourist information centres. So, if anyone needs a map…
There were two thrift shops near my AirBnB. They were more what I’d expect a thrift store to be, just everything was 2000 ISK+. There was also a lobster food truck and a grocery store. I noted both for later.
The Icelandic Phallological Museum
My AirBnB was very close to the Icelandic Phallological Museum, more commonly known as the Penis Museum. I remember when I was first planning my trip, a friend had forwarded me information on this place with glee. So, I went in.
It was a very small, casual museum. I think I spent about 10 minutes there after spending 1180 ISK to get in. All the glass jars of preserved whale and other mammals penises were rather nauseating. There was a small box of erotic artifacts, covered by a black cloth. I thought it was rather odd to hide such things away in a room full of penises, especially as they weren’t very pornographic by today’s standards. But then, I guess there were families with children at the museum who might disagree with me.
I found the anecdotes on donors to the museum interesting. Apparently the bulk of the artifacts were collected by an Icelander born in 1911. There was also a plaque commemorating the first (there were more?) pagan wedding at the museum. Various men around the world had donated casts for the museum, and one World Record holder had agreed to have the museum preserve his after death!
I found my way back to Reykjavík Roasters, which I had spotted when I first arrived in Reykjavík.
There was a lineup out the door, Mac users on their laptops, and attractive young people sat outside sipping drinks. It was your typical stylish cafe that 20-30 somethings like me hangout in Toronto or Montreal. Its interior was rustic and vintage with unfriendly, hipper-than-thou baristas. It felt like home!
I ordered the brewed coffee as it was only around 380 ISK. The barista looked at me like I was crazy. I guess it was more of an espresso kind of place…
They had oat milk on the menu, and as I had never heard of that before, I thought I’d give in a go in my coffee. It was rather peculiar – similar to almond milk in texture and aftertaste, but not as palatable. This culinary adventure was a mistake, butiIt was much better on its own – like a nutty soya milk.
National Gallery of Iceland
I meandered down residential streets, finding myself my accident at the bus station before getting back on course to the Pond. I was determined to get to the National Gallery of Iceland this time!
The gallery’s featured exhibition was titled “Narrative Saga”. I was a bit doubtful seeing the paintings at the beginning of the exhibit, but when I turned the corner I was greeted by an audio-visual installation piece: Crepusculum by Gabríela Freðriksdóttir.
The video being played above a pile of sand on the floor was hypnotic, raw and grotesque. The audio went around the room, changing speakers ever so often as illustrations were projected on the floor and eerie music played. My response was a mix of fatigue, horror, and fascination with its content. It ended with “You are human and your tears are blood.”
There were some other interesting pieces, including self portraits and Chinese propaganda combined with American comic book art. I was also a huge fan of the children’s hammock in the basement- a big white sheet with the ends tied up with rope. I swung around in that for awhile when no one was looking – hee hee hee.
The fellow guest at my AirBnB had suggested that I go to the Harpa at sunset and catch a concert. However, as it was in eyesight now, I decided to head over.
The Harpa is a big glass building on the water. Its exterior looks like a green honeycomb. It’s one of the rare times that a contemporary building is more interesting in the inside than out! I didn’t think too much of it standing on the sidewalk, but once inside, I went camera crazy!
The Harpa was really fun to photograph. The windows caught the light and framed Reykjavík beautifully. The combination of organic shapes and sharp lines was thrilling to work with, including the variety of stone, glass, metal, and concrete used in the design. The furniture complimented the building well, and was actually the type of thing you’d want to sit on.
After I’d exhausted the Harpa, I headed homewards. I was a little peckish, so stopped by the Lobster Hut, a food truck at the Hlemmur bus stop.
Half a sandwich was 1090, so I decided to do that. I thought it was going to be Tim Hortons snack size, but it was actually a decent size with lots of lobster meat in it.
The woman behind the counter gave me a smile and an wore an amusing t-shirt that read “Just one moment” in all-caps on the back.
Last Night in Reykjavík
I went to Vinbudin, Iceland’s version of the LCBO. All of the information on the beers was in Icelandic, so I had to bother a cashier for beer advice. I ended up getting a bottle of a wheat beer.
I had meant to save my beer for an evening stroll (because its legal here), but after my lobster sandwich I felt it was fitting.
The problem was, I couldn’t find any nightlife that I wanted to be a part of! I went to one tiny bar down a side street that I’d spotted earlier, but all the tables were taken and there wasn’t even standing room at the bar! I went up and down the side streets, eventually going to the main drag out of desperation. I found one okay looking place, but once again – no room.
I didn’t feel like going home yet, so went into a quirky cafe with mismatched furniture and splashes of colour. It was multi-levels and you had to go to the top floor to order and pay, which was unique. It also had a Star Wars themed washroom, which seemed very random with the bohemian decor!
I ordered a hot chocolate (with whipped cream – they seem to put whipped cream on everything here!) and a gigantic cookie sandwich. It was two sugar cookies, the size of a small plate, with vanilla cream in-between. The combination was so sweet that I felt a bit nauseous after.
To compensate for my poor choice, I went to the grocery store and got a beetroot and blueberry smoothie. The sun was beginning to set, so I made my way down to the water with my camera. It was gorgeous! I hadn’t seen a proper sunset in Iceland what with my ‘early nights’ and cloud cover.
Once home, I curled up in bed, wrapped myself up in a cozy, puffy feather duvet. It was like sleeping on a cloud!