Thursday, August 1, 2013

Iceland Day 1: Arrival in Reykjavik

As seen from Hallgrimskirkja.

Disclaimer: I won't be spelling any Icelandic words with their proper accents due to a useless keyboard, and I'm really sorry about that.

The flight to Iceland marks the first time I have ever seen the sun sort of halfheartedly "set" and then pop right back up again. My circadian rhythms were all like, "Wut?" And my mystical ability to fall asleep almost anywhere, anytime, abandoned me. Tyler and I stayed awake for the whole seven hour flight - which departed Seattle around 4:30 PM and arrived in Keflavik at 6:45 AM, Iceland time - and as a result we were rather less charming than we might have been when we met our AirBnB host, Konrad, at his apartment two hours later.

"My gawd, he's tall," I thought to myself as he deposited us in our room, where he had thoughtfully laid out a breakfast of fruit, yogurt, and buns, with little packets of odd Icelandic spreads (cheese and bacon, for example). He politely hurried out, perhaps sensing that we were on the brink of total exhaustion, and we fell into the best of naps.

Two hours later, we were confused by the unholy robotic bleating that woke us up. Scrabbling at the source of the noise, we were able to snooze our portable alarm clock again, and again, until we had only ten minutes to hop into clothes and rush to downtown Reykjavik to meet Herdis, to whom I had been introduced through email by an old coworker.

We arrived at Ostabudin (literally "cheese shop," but it has a nice lunch cafe tucked away downstairs) ten minutes late - incredibly rude by Scandinavian standards. Herdis looked amazing, with her high cheekbones, huge blue eyes, and cool short hair. She was also wearing hip red pants. (I decided after that day that if I saw someone in Reykjavik was wearing red pants, s/he was probably a true Icelander.) I had a rich and utterly marvelous fish soup and some springy, salty bread. It was a very pleasant introduction to Icelandic fare.

When we finished our lunch, we asked Herdis - who is an emergency management consultant - what her plans were for the rest of the day. It turned out that she planned to drive us around Reykjavik, as sort of an informal tour. (After spending more than a week in Iceland, I can safely say that it is a quintessential characteristic of most Icelanders that they will go well out of their way for visitors. They are crazy generous and kind. As a typical Seattleite, I can't really fathom donating most of my day to a couple of sleepy, tardy strangers.) It was cold and rainy outside, so we accepted with even more delight than we would have otherwise.

First, we visited Hallgrimskirkja, the tallest thing in Reykjavik. It's pretty easy to find your way around the city with this church as your guide post.

We saw the viking ship statue (also known as Solfar, or the Sun Voyager)...

Slipped into Slippbarinn (known to the Reykjavik Grapevine as a "bar for nerds," and to me as "my favorite bar in Iceland," which I guess makes me a nerd, but I knew that already)...

Everything in Slippbarinn screams "dream home!" to me.
Did a little shopping at Farmers Market...

I swooned (and not only at the prices). Beautiful, well-made things.

Grabbed a snack in Perlan's cafeteria...

The aptly-named "Pearl" of Reykjavik.

And visited the new opera house, Harpa, which was beautiful inside and out.

Left: Interior of Harpa. Right: Trying on a beard in the gift shop.

We also ventured a little outside of Reykjavik, to Alafoss in Mosfellsbaer, land of plentiful sweaters.

Each sweater is handmade, so every one is unique. (Every sweater is also very itchy, since they are 100% pure, new Icelandic wool. It's worth it.)

Each sweater has a tag that tells you the name of its knitter.

It was hard to choose, but eventually I settled on a simple brown cardigan. Mine was made by Anna Gudlaugsd.

Eventually we made it back to Reykjavik. The last stop we made was Baejarins Beztu, the famous pylsur/hot dog stand.

I ordered mine with everything (except onions - never onions).

Watch out - these are really, really addictive. I wish I had one right now.

We wandered back to our apartment for a brief rest, then took to the town again, this time for a more substantial dinner at Kaffi Loki.

I gave some serious thought about ordering the Icelandic Braveheart...okay, not really. I had my heart set on plate three right away, even though I had my doubts about "mashed fish." But it turned out that the mashed fish was my second favorite part, after the totally delicious and unique rye bread ice cream. It had bits of crispy rye bread mixed in. Even Tyler loved the ice cream, and he's not really a dessert person.

Traditional Icelandic food - not whale, reindeer, or puffin.

We celebrated our first night in Iceland with a shot of Brennivin and went to bed.

In Iceland, even the shot glasses wear sweaters.
Go to Day 2: Reykjavik

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