Reykjavik, Iceland – A night in the day

Walking around Reykjavik

As much as I hate being cold and dark, and cold, it’s really hard not to love Reykjavik or any other part of Iceland.  The people are just so calm and friendly.  They established a parliamentary democracy over a millennium ago, and today write, publish, and read more books per capita than any other people on earth. The country is still one of the world’s best to live in,based on life expectancy, education levels, medical care, income, and
other U.N. criteria. And even with barely 4 hours of sunshine a day, you couldn’t help but love the city.

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The view from our hostel allowed us to see the nearby snow capped mountains in the vicinity   Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a cheap place to visit.  A single room at a hostel, not even a motel but a hostel, cost me and Tony about 8,000 ISK (about 35 USD) and a bowl of soup that isn’t even that meaty was about 1,300 ISK (about 11 USD).  But every place we ate at had a certain warmth and coziness that I haven’t felt a lot while traveling.

Compared to the rest of Europe there’s isn’t much old architecture to drool over. It lacks grand buildings and the picturesque old quarters. Instead it has come to resemble American cities with their sprawling suburbs and big motorways, as was recommended by the urban planners of the post-World War 2 era. Essentially a concrete jungle that I normally despise and want to vomit over. However Reykjavík has a charm of its own, quite unique, “shaped by the dualistic nature of this place which still doesn’t seem to have made up its mind on whether it’s a small town or a big city.”

The city is also filled with a lot of really cool street art.  This is one of the bigger areas, I think it’s a kids’ playground.

The Hallgrímskirkja, a Lutheran church is the 6th tallest building in  Iceland and an interesting look compared to the usual grand cathedrals I have seen.   I was however surprised that it was more lit up at night.  There was some lights but nothing too exciting to gravitate towards.

You can take an elevator to the top for a small fee and get an awesome (but very windy) look of the city and the colorful rooftops.

 I highly recommend stopping by for some coffee and Kleina (Icelandic donut) to warm up before more darkness to walk around in.

The pond in the city center was half frozen with ice and filled with ducks.

We walked around the refreshingly crisp cold dusk before returning to walking around Laugavegur, the commerce street with all the cool sheep clothing.

Have you ever been to Iceland or anywhere else that only has four hours of daylight?  What did you do?

Fine Dining in Reykjavik, Iceland

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Saturday was rough for Tony and I, we had a redeye flight from Boston and besides the fact that we got no sleep on the flight and somehow lost 5 hours in the space time continuum that is time zones, we also did not get fed on Iceland Airlines.  I didn’t know international flights came without food and endless supply booze, I thought that was the one trade-off for large baggage fees and little room.  On the bright side, upon boarding you get a nice bottle of Iceland Water.. yum… now where can I get my Jameson?

Aside from the hunger confusion, the flight arrived on time and went perfect.  I say a fair trade-off if it means I leave and arrive on time.  Upon getting to Iceland, we went to pick up our rental from SAD Cars… yes, why would I assume anything but a sad car would come from something called SAD Cars.  Anyways we get into our sad little two wheel drive car only to learn it is manual!  And there are no automatic ignition cars anywhere in the dealership.  Luckily, Tony was a fast learner and we made it to Reykjavik.

After a rough morning in complete pitch darkness, I decided we earned a nice meal for dinner.  Did I mention it was still pitch dark at 10AM?  We know because we couldn’t check in til noon into our Hostel when the sun finally decided to peak a boo a hello.

This was taken at 10:45 AM overexposed on my dinky IPhone.

Anyways, Reykjavik is a super cool city and I’ll post some photos later but my family is dying to know what I ate so I’m starting with that.

What to eat in Iceland?

Honestly, I wanted to skip the entrees and try every appetizer on the menu; however, I decided I was too hungry for that so we only got one, smoked puffin.  I thought the cute national bird would taste like chicken but instead it tasted more like smoked salmon with a tougher texture.  It was yummy, but I couldn’t get the image that I was eating something so adorable out of my head, yet I kept eating.

For my entrée I got the whale steak.  Iceland is famous for its whale meat, and is one of the few places in the world where it is possible to eat Minke whale.  I know, I know, there’s a lot of controversy about ethics of hunting them (it’s cruel), but I was in Iceland and I decided it was worth a try.  The chicken that you got your chicken breast from isn’t exactly killed too kindly either.  Ironically, the whale tasted more like steak than fish with a more gamey taste, maybe if a veal mated with a tuna and I seared it up for dinner?  It was worth a try but I don’t think I would eat it again.

The other entrée we got was a horse steak! This was probably my favorite dish.  It was tender and each little piece had a ton of flavor.  Yes, the horses are cute too and I tried my best to stop picturing the cute animals I see all along the highway frolicking around may end up in my stomach.

Both entries came with those amazing little potatoes and when we got half our food to go (horse and whale steaks are heavy!) they added a bunch more of those potatoes to our to go boxes!

The place we ate was called 3 Frakkar.  It was a super cozy little place on a side street with three small rooms with about 6 tables each.  The staff were super friendly and nice in explaining everything to us.

If you’re ever in Iceland and want a nice dinner, I highly recommend the place.  The prices are not cheap, but not ridiculous either.