“Always be yourself. Unless you can be a viking,
then always be a viking.”
The feeling of coming home after a trip consitutes some type of closure. It’s quite strange to be in a country one morning different than the country you end up in that night.
You don’t want to leave and yet you must – because it’s not your daily life, it’s not where you were born, it’s not who you are.
It’s an awkward goodbye, a tragic heartbreak. You wonder if it really even happened, as you naturally fall back into a routine, feeling empty and scared you’ll faze out of the wonderment you felt so close to before.
Rainy Reykjavik allowed us to sleep in late Friday morning after an impromptu night out with our roommates. It started with Gull beer and small talk at the hostel and turned into Einstock and in depth-drunken conversations at the bar. We learned that the gorgeous Icelandic girl of a bartender behind the counter was recently divorced and moved from Hawaii and one of our roommates owned his own pizza place in NYC.
Because of the rain, Beans and I postponed glacier climbing on Friday- yet again – with Raggi. We used the day as an excuse to explore the city’s shops and peruse souvenirs.
First, we indulged in an American breakfast at The Laundromat Cafe, which was suggested to me by more than a few people, but to my slight disappointment had mostly American-style plates. We were craving eggs and bacon anyways though, so we hitched a table with an older Belgium couple since it was so packed and the only table available was for no less than 4.
The couple was visiting their son who is in a death metal band and was performing that night. We shared pictures of our adventures and talked about how many languages they knew; how we only know one, and how sad it is that we don’t learn other languages growing up like European countries do. I mentioned that even though I studied Spanish for 8 years, I still can’t even speak one sentence fluently.
Everywhere you go, people will understand you if you’re English. But you won’t understand what everyone else is saying. As Americans, we are the minority in this regard when we’re supposed to be the most advanced.
After breakfast, we also climbed to the top of the Hallgrímskirkja church, (which was $7 for a ticket but could’ve easily been achieved without buying a ticket and just walking straight to the elevator – no one is at the top). This church stands overlooking the city with a unique design that protrudes from the ground like a pencil, adorned with a statue of the great son of Erik the Red, Leif Erikson, the ACTUAL person who discovered and made a settlement in America 500 years before Chris Columbus. (And yet, we have a holiday in his honor.)
From the top of the church you can view the city’s coastline over a sea of colored rooftops and feel the chill of Iceland’s air on your face.
After returning to a mundane crowd at the hostel later, we were stumped on how to spend the rest of our day. After poking through museums listings and geothermal pools, we hit the road to find the Secret Lagoon (Gamla Laugin).
It was a two hour drive to Flúðir,but we had the day to spare; passing yellow fields of dry grass accompanied by frolicking horses, and houses plopped below mountains without miles of civilization, a familiar route from the day before.
The secret lagoon is set back off a sodden dirt road, past a greenhouse glowing with a string of lights and behind a small building with changing rooms and a cafe where you pay $20 to swim.
Before entering the hot spring you must shower – so Beans and I undressed along with the rest of them, including a woman sweeping nude who apparently didn’t feel the need to dress herself before performing this act – and then kept our stuff outside with us on a plastic chair.
This hot spring is different from the tourist-filled tendency of the Blue Lagoon. It’s like swimming in a lake – on the countryside, with rolling hills and a smoking geyser beside you, and instead of the chilling summer lakes we’re all used to – it’s like a hot tub, but crystal clear and bubbling with heat and smoke.
It felt a lot more sanitary than the Blue Lagoon.
Here, you can purchase beer and glasses of wine to bring into the pool, float on noodles and admire the geyser which erupts nearby every few minutes. It wasn’t that crowded. Foreign languages were heard all around us and we laughed at everyone who slipped on their way into the pool with uber- excitement. The rain had subsided, at least in this part of the country, so we floated until we pruned.
We wrote our names in a little notepad at a store on the corner of Laugavegur. It has cute sheep magnets and adorable postcards there.
On the way home from the Secret Lagoon, we pulled over on the side of the road so I could take a picture with this Erik the Red tree stump.
We then stopped in Selfoss to grab some hot dogs for the rest of the ride home. We were in a line for the drive-thru and a worker came out to our window to take our order. Check out the menu in Icelandic below.
Once we got back to the hostel, we got our favorite Einstock white ale at the bar. It closed at 11 so we threw our jackets on and made our way to the Lebowski bar, obviously named after the 1998 movie with John Goodman. The entrance, bar area, dining area and dance floor were packed. We ordered two beers before a girl came up beside us and ordered “The Cocoa Puff drink.” The bartender smirked and grabbed a glass, poured in a concoction of alcohol and placed it on the counter before pulling a box of Cocoa Puffs from underneath and cascading the chocolate puffs into the glass. Me and Beans looked at each other and laughed. What the hell was that?
We ended up ordering two of the cocoa puff drinks. When we ordered them, the bartender winked at us and the people behind us were wondering what it was. After sitting down, we noticed people carrying trays of them onto the dance floor.
It was de-freaking-licious; like a bowl of cocoa puffs and chocolate milk that got us drunk. A sweet, milky cocktail we guessed consisted of Bailey’s, milk and vodka.
Later on, I followed the Lewboski bar on Instagram and a Reykjavik bar crawl account who post pictures of the drink all the time. I couldn’t believe I had missed it with all the researching I’d done but was so glad we found them!
We went to a few other bars after Lebowski and then ended up at the bottom of Laugavegur where the cobblestone courtyard fills with food trucks after midnight. We got thick Belgium waffles smothered in crispy sugar (like the ones you get skiing from the waffle houses on ski slopes), Nutella and whipped cream from the Waffle Wagon (which is located beside the church during the weekdays); lobster rolls from a Lobster Hut truck managed by a rambuqtious woman in her 60’s. She assured us that lobster in Iceland was better than New England seafood, and handed me a roll filled with chunks of pink lobster in a fresh lemon sauce with peppers, lettuce, and TORTILLA CHIPS. It was the strangest mixture of ingredients but it was out-of-this-world-good. The flavors were mind-blowing.
I dropped a piece of lobster on the ground as soon as I went to take my first bite – and the woman in the truck yelled that I’m not supposed to drop the food on the ground, I’m supposed to eat it! I said, “Don’t you worry lady” and picked the lobster off the pavement and into my mouth.
Beans and I laughed and yelled like drunken fools the whole walk home, but not without stopping at another food truck called Prikid Matvagn selling what were called Wutang Burgers. Underneath the advertisement for the burger, it read “Ain’t Nothin to Fuck With.” How intriguing.
I stopped and asked the man in the truck what a Wutang Burger was, and he said matter-of-factly, “It’s a Wutang Burger.” So I ordered one.
You’re going to laugh but – such a good burger, holy crap: Icelandic beef, peppercheese, bernaise, lettuce, onions and hamburger sauce on a thick, doughy bun. A perfect way to end the night.
The next morning, Raggi told us he couldn’t take us glacier climbing because he was spending the weekend with family at their vacation home. We were sad we wouldn’t see him again before we left, and despite the fact that we had cancelled our glacier climbing tour, and now had no guide to bring us to the glacier and take us to the hidden ice caves, we had to see it.
We made Pb&J sandwiches, packed our last skyrr yogurts and bananas, and made our way down Route 1 past the waterfalls, back to the narrow winding road we swore we’d never drive again after driving it multiple times on Tuesday to catch the original tour. You can park your car and walk a rocky path to the glacier without a tour- the only thing you really can’t do without risk of falling to your death into an icy crevice, is climb the entire glacier to the top.
But, boy, was it beautiful. The pictures don’t even capture half the magnitude of the beautiful beast that was set before our eyes. The sun shone like heaven over two green mountains, and as we walked on, the glacier emerged like an ancient dinosaur; something I never thought I’d see but only read about in history books.
Beans and I followed a path of black sand that covered the glacier to safely climb it. She was a bit apprehensive on climbing too high, but I had to. It was a steep mountain of ice, slightly blue in color with various gapes that you could look into ever so slightly to witness a powerful rush of water flowing through.
I climbed and climbed and my breath was heavy, legs turning to jelly. Beans was a little black dot waiting in the middle. I was so close to the top, climbers with crampets in sight, hacking away at the ice. So close, but I was scared to climb any further. My body felt like it was closing in on me, and my eyes teared up. I wanted to see the top, it was causing my heart to ache a bit. I tried to picture it – the top – so vast and majestic; standing atop a piece of Earth that was thousands of years old, that fed the Earth, that was slowly melting, that was wealthy in years of wisdom. But it wasn’t in the cards. Maybe next time.
I knew I was so blessed to see what I had already seen.
After climbing the glacier, we trekked back to our car. There was a fish & chips food cart on the way home, in the entrance to the Skogafoss waterfall, so we stopped there to relinquish our hunger. We ate blissfully and dreamed of what it’d be like to retire in Iceland and maintain a little food truck.
On the way home, we blasted Miley Cyrus and country music, belting out the lyrics and talking about memories from college as we drove through Iceland. Can you believe it? We could not. But it was pure joy.
We drove back into Reykjavik two hours later and went straight to the Vöffluvagninn (Waffle Wagon). After indulging in our last food-gasmic waffle topped with a cloud of whipped cream and dripping in hot Nutella, we drove down past the cobblestone courtyard mentioned previously, towards the coastline where all the boats and whale-watching tours are to eat our last Icelandic hot dog from the famous Baejarins Beztu hot dog stand (read about it here, as well as many other places). We had to park illegally on the side of the road while I ran out of the car to grab them – there was a crowd of people there. The owner in the cart was smiley and topped the hot dogs speedily and swiftly like a pro: raw and fried onions, remoulade sauce, ketchup and mustard. I paid and ran back to the car, where Beans and I shoved the delightful dogs into our mouths like we hadn’t just eaten fish and chips and waffles.
Below: the view from our hostel while waiting for the Northern Lights tour.
After we go back to the hostel, it was late afternoon. We rushed to the reception desk to see if our Northern Lights tour which was rescheduled from Wednesday (it was Saturday at this point) was still on. It had been cancelled every day since.
But it was still on for that night. We were ecstatic. That’s coming next!