Saturday, September 30, 2017

[REYKJAVIK] Of Whale Steaks and Wiener Warmers

Aside from Wikitravel, at times I would normally just look at Google Maps and see whatever attractions are in bold letters. If they are prominent on the map, they are probably worth the visit, right? This place called Hið Íslenzka Reðasafn was quite prominent on the map and not that far away from Hallgrimskirkja, and so I thought why not give it a shot? I don’t speak Icelandic, so after seeing the English translation at the door, I found out that it was the Icelandic Phallological Museum. In short, a museum for dicks.

Sometimes when friends find out that I am abroad and they ask me to buy souvenirs for them, I usually bring home a key chain or a ref magnet. They are cheap and easily fit in your luggage. However, I don’t ever recall someone asking me, “Hey dude, can you buy me a knitted sweater for my dick?” Two reasons: 1) Why the need to incubate your manhood? 2) What the fuck? But this is the North Atlantic, not the tropics. Perhaps it’s a necessity here up north? Why are we talking about wieners anyway? Blame Iceland.

And yeah, they do sell those “penis warmer” thingies, the purpose of which is self-explanatory. Now that’s not something a friend or relative back home would usually receive as a souvenir. Do I think the people of Iceland are weird? Nah, if you think this is weird then you haven’t been to Shinjuku at two o’clock in the morning. The Japanese are strange. Icelanders? They are fine, although I did raise an eyebrow seeing Mink Whale Steak on a restaurant menu. Why would you want to eat Free Willy?

They also eat horse meat, maybe because they have a lot of horses here, like one for every three people. Talking about food, it’s just so freaking expensive in Iceland. A waffle/hot chocolate combo in front of Hallgrimskirkja costs almost ISK 1,000 (~PHP 500). It was yummy but I could have bought it for 1/3 of the price back in Manila. Do try Nesti’s bacon-wrapped cheese dog sandwich while you are here. It is indeed tasty and relatively cheaper at just around ISK 500 (~PHP 250). That’s enough food talk for now.

Reykjavik is a small city but quite picturesque, perhaps because of its location by the harbor. Hallgrimskirkja seems to be the most popular landmark thanks to its imposing height and striking architectural style. You can climb all the way to the top of the tower for a fee but I opted not to being the cheapskate that I am. Almost every other attraction is walkable from there. The park facing the city hall, for example, is but a mere ten-minute walk away. Walk some more and you reach the port area.

Personally, I liked HARPA better. This one, if I recall correctly, was where Riley’s dad had his concert. Sense8, remember? Or am I not getting my facts straight? The façade of the building will leave you awestruck because of the way the glass panels reflect the rays of the sun. With some of them sporting a different color than the rest, the entire thing comes across as a big glass illusion worthy of the photo-op. Of course, its juxtaposition with the bay makes the picture even more postcard-ready.

Walk a little bit more and you will end up at the Solfarid, a piece of modern sculpture bravely facing the sea. Shaped like a post-modern Viking ship, it serves as a perfect symbol for the country as well its long history and shipping tradition. The only caveat is that it’s always cold in Reykjavik, so make sure that you keep yourself warm by layering appropriately. Overall, I think the city center can be explored in two hours or less if you don’t stop by to visit museums and the like. Reykjavik is, true enough, very layover friendly.

Unless you drive, the best way to explore the surrounding areas is by joining a group tour. I highly recommend Reykjavik Excursions which arranged all of my tours for me. The itineraries were interesting and most of the buses provide WiFi and USB ports for charging as well as a knowledgeable tourist guide. Convenience! Just make sure that you book accommodations at the city center so that you can qualify for free pick-up and drop-off. Public bus schedules here are rather erratic. I so love Iceland!!!

[REYKJAVIK] Of Whale Steaks and Wiener Warmers

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