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Published: January 27th 2013
Snow + candy + hot dogs + beautiful snowy mountains + amazing architecture and design everywhere + pickled fish + kind people = one amazing trip to Iceland.
There wasn’t one big event, one huge tour, one main sight that made me love Iceland – it was all of it smooshed together that created an amazing experience – one that I hope to repeat as soon as possible.
We landed, took a bus to the hostel and then sat there at about 8:30am in the dark of night staring at the ground in a jet-lagged haze wondering what to do until we could check-in at 2pm. Not being afraid of the dark and not wanting to waste any of the four days we had in Iceland, we layered as much as possible while slightly feeling like Ralphie from A Christmas Story and headed off to explore Reykjavik – the northern-most capital in the world.
We first ran into Harpa, an impressive concert hall on the waterfront downtown. Exhibit number one of the beautiful architecture in Iceland. Not only is just about every building beautiful, it’s lit up magnificently, giving something wonderful to look at during the 19 or
so hours of darkness every day in the middle of January. Also in the darkness I happily walked past many houses still donned with Christmas lights and a Christmas tree in the window. This is my kind of place.
We then wandered the deserted streets downtown until daylight arrived around 11am. We stopped into almost every shop if only to get out of the cold weather made colder with a biting wind chill. The shopping streets of Reykyjavik are charming and the city is compact enough to walk everywhere.
Saturday we woke up a bit less delerious but still hours before daylight arrived. Our first stop was the Saturday flea market where we had one item on our list of purchases - hakarl - shark that has been buried in the ground and left to ferment for four to five months. We found what we were looking for in the form of a small cup with five cubes for $1. We both tried one cube. At first it tasted a bit like cheese, but that quickly faded to tasting like a strange fish. It wasn't awful, but not especially good. Bob had another cube while I chugged some
Coke. The remaining two cubes went in the garbage. When in Rome...
On Saturday all candy in Iceland is 50% off. Of course we...with a stronger force of I took advantage of that! We had guesses at what some of the candy was but others were a mystery. We ended up with a lot of licorice candies and a few strangly sour and salty. The salty, sour black licorice gummy bears were interesting! But all of it was great. We left Iceland with about five bags of candy, and I'm already trying to figure out how to go about getting more.
Still jet lagged I woke up on Saturday night at midnight to see snowflakes outside my dorm window. I watched about an inch fall while enjoying some Belgian chocolate.
Sunday morning we awoke too early, once again. Seven AM breakfast of skyr, the most amazing Icelandic yogurt. It's thickness is similar to Greek yogurt but the flavor is the best yogurt I've ever had.
We set off for a long, snowy walk before sunrise. Our intention was a shopping area labeled on a map we had. What we found was that everything was closed on
Sunday. Everything except a grocery store. So our two hour walk took us to a grocery store. We didn't leave unhappy though. We bought pickled mackrel in a mustard and dill sauce which we ate with our fingers on the snowy walk back toward town.
On the way back we stopped at Laugardalslaugh Geothermal Pool - Iceland's largest pool. With snow still falling we darted around from the numerous hot tubs, into the pool, back into the hot tubs. Icelanders love their pools, espeically during the cold, dark winters so this was a little bit of local life and a fun experience.
Sunday night, tired from our long day, once again we went to sleep way too early, and I woke up around 8pm. I looked outside and saw what I thought could be a strange low cloud - or could be the Northern Lights. I read for a bit, looking up to see what the "cloud" was doing every few pages. And then the cloud turned a magnificent shade of green and started dancing. This definitely was not a cloud. I shook Bob awake and outside we went. From right outside our hostel doors we saw a
Northern Lights display of green and blue for about ten minutes, varying in intensity. The one thing I had desperately wanted to do in Iceland was see the northern lights and we got to without any effort. The next morning we talked to some people in our hostels who had been on a tour to see the lights that night. Their guides said they had not seen that intensity in about 10 years, which explains why we saw it even in the light of downtown Reykjavik.
I should have known I would fall in love with Iceland upon boarding the Icelandair flight to Reykjavik when the flight attendant welcomed us onto the plane with an entire bottle of water before we had even seated. Twelve ounces of water, rather than four ounces in a dental-office sized rinse-your-mouth-out cup. It was destined to be a good experience.
Similar to Japan, Iceland left me with an infectious feeling I can't describe. It was charming, friendly, efficient, beautiful, a great walking city to explore and left me incredibly happy to be there, even in the middle of winter and missing it the moment I left. I'll be back. Next time for
much longer than four days.
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