After a previous big day and a late night out searching for the at times elusive Northern Lights, I had a free day ahead of me with which to spend exploring the city of Reykjavik on foot.
I walked down the main shopping streets at first, but quickly became bored, so I ended up walking down the back streets until I came out at the incredible Hallgrímskirkja church.
The church looks like nothing else in the world from the outside, and it is just as strange on the inside. The interior decor can only be described as nineties minimalism. It is by far the strangest place of worship I have ever seen in my life! The best part of the experience is the views from the top of the church. It is seriously windy up there, but such a visually appealing and colourful cityscape I had never seen.
After spending a while withstanding the freezing cold winds I had worked up a bit of an appetite. I had heard that Cafe Loki (conveniently just across the road) made traditional Icelandic food, so I figured I would give it a try. As it turns out, I am a pretty adventurous eater, but some Icelandic delicacies may not really be compatible with my Westernised palate. The first thing I ate was fermented shark. Not only did I feel incredibly guilty for eating it (I love sharks and it just felt wrong), it tasted awful! Imagine rotted flesh and then add about a tablespoon of salt. It definitely was not for me.
So after my not so pleasant shark encounter, it was time to try a few different types of fish on the traditional Icelandic rye bread. I am not going to lie, it didn’t exactly appeal to my tastebuds, but heck, I had to try these things!
Something that was actually really damn amazing, was this little rye bread ice cream. It was so strange, and so unlike any ice cream I had ever had before. But it was delicious and I ate it so quickly I practically unhinged my jaw and inhaled it.
As I was leaving the cafe to go continue my exploration of the city, I made a quick stop in the restroom, and I discovered that Iceland wins the award for the greatest toilet paper ever made.
Next I managed to stumble across something that I will admit was 100% on my Iceland ‘to do list’. The Icelandic Phallological Museum, also known as the Icelandic Penis Museum, and arguably the strangest museum in the world. I only spent about 45 minutes inside, but about 90% of my energy was devoted to trying my absolute hardest to not spend the entire time in an uncontrollable fit of giggles.
The penis phone was a personal highlight. As were the penis golf clubs, the penis iron, the penis walking stick, etc etc. Something that did however cause my extremely valiant effort to not laugh to fail, was the little plastic man with a big penis under his coat. There are no words, so here is a video.
Something I had really wanted to buy whilst in Iceland was a Lopapeysa, which is the traditional Icelandic knitted sweater/jumper. I had looked in a few stores and they were just far too expensive for an el cheapo backpacker like myself to afford (approx 25000ISK or $230AUD), however, much to my surprise and delight, as I exited the Penis museum, there were literally two different thrift stores within about 20m of each other.
I looked in the first one but there wasn’t much that caught my eye, but in the second store it was an entirely different story! There was an entire rack filled with Lopapeysa’s, as well as so many other gorgeous vintage clothes that made me wish I had extra room in my increasingly heavy backpack. I managed to score a jumper for around 3000ISK or $23AUD, as well as this incredible pair of huge red tassel earrings for only 1000ISK. I was absolutely ecstatic that I had stumbled across this store!
Walking down along the oceanfront area was a lovely walk back towards my hostel. The Sun Voyager statue was absolutely beautiful, and I understand why it is the most photographed sculpture in Reykjavik.
On the way home I stopped off to get a quick dinner at Bæjarins Beztu, also known as the best hotdog stand in all of Europe (there is actually an award for this), and they are truly amazing. They don’t look like much but WOW! I think it is something to do with the sauce combo and the crispy onion but who knows really. That was some Icelandic food I would definitely eat again (and again and again).
So what do you think? Would you try fermented shark? Or would you prefer to spend an afternoon in the Penis Museum?
Getting to Reykjavik: This is a major hub between Europe and North America, but I highly recommend Iceland Air for reliable flights and connections
Loft Hostel: This is my favourite backpackers in all of Reykjavik, click here for more info
Camera: Images captured with an iPhone 4S
Remember: When I wrote this post Iceland was still very under the radar. It has now grown into a hugely popular destination for tourists – to avoid the crowds, I recommend visiting in the winter months