Thursday, March 1, 2012

Reykjavik, Iceland

It's hard to start posting about my experience in Iceland because, honestly, I can't spell like any of the places I saw. But I can tell you that I 100% recommend a trip to this hospitable country. It is one of the most unique places you may ever see.
This first photo is just a sample of what homes look like in Reykjavik. I loved this red roof. Architecturally, the homes are relatively simple. The remind me of Puritanical homes in early Salem. Hey, we all have a frame of reference!

So this is the statue of Leif Eriksson. The statue was a gift from the United
States in 1930, as Eriksson was an Icelandic/Norwegian explorer who set foot in America before Columbus but gets less glory. Behind him is Hallgrimskirkja, a beautiful church and the tallest building in Iceland. You can ride an elevator to the top and get a glimpse of the whole (small) city. We couldn't figure out how to get in so we were happy to just take pictures outside.
Does this really need a caption? Where's Waldo? Apparently he is visiting Iceland.
One of the activities I enjoy most wherever I travel, near or far, is to visit a local market. On weekends, Reykjavik has an indor flea market so, of course, I had to check it out. This picture shows bags of dried fish. Being an island, the seafood industry is huge here. One of the local delicasies is petrified shark, which they chase down with an alcohol dubbed "black death". I assure you I tried neither, thank you very much. I didn't go home with any dried fish, either but I did score some yummy cinnamon chip rolls at the market. They really came in handy, too, since food prices are kind of nuts there. There was legit no way to have a meal for less than $20 per person so I was happy to have the sweet rolls to tide me over. That and skyr, which I came to love. It's an Icelandic "yogurt". It's actually a soft cheese but it has the consitancy and flavor of a creamy yogurt. It's a nutrional powerhouse, too. Luckily, I can get it here in the States at Whole Foods!

A remarkably clean city, Reykjavik has these free, self sanitizing public toilets. They really amused me.

One of the places I was most eager to see was the "Ice Bar" as one of my life list items is to visit an ice building. I was picturing something more like the Montreal hotel that is built entirely out of ice and melts each Spring. Iceland's version was not that. First, it was pretty hard to find. Even when we asked people, they didn't know what we were talking about. That's hard to believe in such a small city. It turns out it's in a restaurant, actually. And it's only one freezer of a room. You pay a fee, something about $15 to go into the room and get one free drink. I was disappointed that even the room had regular furniture in it and just had blocks of ice stacked up to add ambiance. However, it was still a unique experience, as we slid across the floors trying to navigate and it was a good opportunity to talk to other tourists.

Overall, Reykjavik was a quaint, adorable city. It's super walkable and I always felt safe. The food is pricey, the nightlife starts really late, like midnight late. There are lots of tours you can take out of the city to see more of the country, which you should definitely take advantage of because 1. the landscape is diverse and gorgeous and 2. the city doesn't have so much going on that you need to spend more than a couple days on it, alone.

Locals are very friendly. We made friends all over the place! One guy even gave us his phone number in case we needed to call for directions or tourist tips. Thanks to some inside connections, we even had some local friends and friends of friends become greeters and tour guides. I will share more of the off the beaten path photos and experiences that yielded but suffice it to say that everyone from the hotel staff to strangers were gracious, helpful and welcoming. I really can't say enough good things about this fabulous city and it's people!

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