Reykjavik, Iceland: Day & Night
For my and Hanwha's annual trip leave, we originally were deciding Japan and Thailand... but we always do beach destinations, so why not change it a bit? Like why the hell not, right? Looking at my enormous life bucket list of things/places I want to see and do, Northern Lights in Iceland was the most extreme opposite of beach destination. 2013-2014 is supposedly the peak season for the northern lights with the peaks coming every 14 years. It is also best seen between Fall and Spring, so this was a perfect time to go! I had no clue where to go or see in Iceland other than the fact that I wanted to party in Reykjavik (heard it was an amazing place to party). It's a fairly small island so we decided to take a road trip around starting in Reykjavik (I know... 2013. year of road trips for me haha). I looked up a local tour guide and requested an itinerary, but I realized it was cheaper to plan things on our own, so I stole the tour guide's itinerary and took it for myself. Oopsie. (Later I realized that it probably was better to go with this tour guide with the amount of car troubles we had later on... Karma's a bitch). I HIGHLY suggest that you take the trip package from a travel agent since it includes insurance and a cell phone. Even with my company's FREE G (free 3G), the service was extremely spotty that it was hard to even call let alone no internet service! I was just too stupid and stubborn that I wanted to do it on my own! NUH UH I DO WHAT I WANT.
We got into Reykjavik early morning, but the sun had not started to rise yet. Since it is November, there is only sunlight between the hours of 10AM - 4:30 PM. So we checked into our hostel, Kex Hostel, (which I may add, is one of THE coolest hostel I have ever stayed at since the decor is awesome!), had our showers, and breakfast. Once the sun started to rise, Hanhwa and I had a walk around the city. Reykjavik city center is the biggest city and the capital of Iceland, but it still very, very tiny! Definitely walkable within 40 minutes.
Even with the sun up, it never full rises... just floating right along the horizon, which gave the quaint city an orange glow, almost like a dream! The sun beams hitting all the unique architecture within Iceland made them even more magical! We walked to Hallgrímskirkja (the Church of Iceland) and admired this expressionist piece of art work. It was definitely something I have never seen before, even with all the traveling I have done (And dat sunlight doe!). On the inside, the low sun beams literally formed an aura of heaven throughout the church.
We also walked over to the Harpa Concert hall which is mainly a steel structure with glass panels cut out in geometric shapes. With the sun rays so low, the building glistened all the colors of the rainbow. This has got to be one of my favorite buildings I have experienced, being immersed within hundreds of geometric patterns and never ending dancing colors floating throughout the whole building. Not to mention the view of the water on the first floor!
Every Saturdays and Sundays, there is a famous flea market called Kolaportid Flea Market right along the habour where locals come and sell hand made things, almost like an Icelandic Etsy market. You can buy anything from traditional Icelandic gloves and sweaters, earrings, hats, books, lanterns, cleaning supplies, and the list goes on. Looking at the merchandise, it was actually quite expensive, especially for a flea market. Little did Hanhwa and I know was that this flea market is the CHEAPEST option for unique Icelandic gifts. Iceland is just THAT expensive, and not to any surprise since it is a Scandinavian country, but shit, seriously?! 90 USD for one sweater?! Fuck.
Right behind the market is the famous Baejarins Beztu Pylsur hot dog stand. We had to try it! It's just a little cart placed inside of a tiny 6 car parking lot with a seating capacity for 8 people (two wooden picnic tables). Honestly, I did not agree with the hype. It just tasted like a damn hot dog haha.
After walking for another hour or so around Tjörnin Lake, the sun began to set. I have actually never seen the sun so large and "close" before. It was great to see! Once it got dark, Hanhwa and I were excited for a seafood dinner and the especially the night life!
We went to one of the restaurants right off the habour where they offered fresh seafood shish-kabobs and lobster soup. We ordered the whale (just to try it once!), grilled Icelandic cod, and lobster soup. The whale was interesting... it had the texture of steak, but with a fishy taste. I'm not sure if I will ever eat whale again. The cod was similar to salmon, but very good! The lobster soup was one of the best things that have entered into my mouth in my entire life. It was so flavorful, creamy, and delicious! Someone actually stole our first order, so we got four beers for free... score! Free beer at the beginning of the night is always a good sign for what is to come!
We had two weekends in Reykjavik, so we thought we would sight see the city more... wrong. We partied so hard throughout the long nights on the weekends, that we could not wake up to enjoy the short day light hours. The first weekend, we met a fellow Texan from Austin named Nick and a French firefighter, Jeremy, both from our hostel. We walked and bar hopped all night until we met some random local Icelandic guy who took us to this random, far place?! To be honest, the bars are unlimited in this city, miles and miles of bars on one street, similar to the durrty durrty Sixth Street in Austin! (Oh how I miss dirty Sixth)
I guess you can say that our first night was quite a success filled with hazy memories, crazy colorful lights, strange statues, electronic music, and a lot of dancing. We woke up thinking, "why the fuck do we smell like hamburgers?!" ... Jeremy apparently went off to eat by himself, and we asked him where he had gone when he came back. He said he went to go eat OMBURGURREE (in French accent), and we were completely and utterly disgusted that HE DID NOT INVITE US. HOW RUDE! hahaha so he took us there to go eat. If you're hungry, Reykjavik has some great night time snacks! Many options along the habour to fulfill your disgusting obese inner drunken cravings. It sure satisfied my fat girl cravings!
The second weekend in Reykjavik, we met up with a huge group of people in our hostel. Some from the UK, some from Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Sweden, and even an Italian professor who studied at Harvard but teaching in Oxford University... This is what I LOVE about hostels... a shit ton of random people in one place with the same common goal: travel and get drunk! Haha just kidding, but seriously. When traveling outside of work, I love to stay at hostels since you meet such amazing, interesting, and different people! We again, went back out on the main shopping street, which is also the main bar street at night and bar hopped all night long. It was great fun! So many different types of music available.
I can now say that I have fulfilled my desire to party in Reykjavik! It was so wild that I came back with yellowing eyeballs (sign of possible liver problems?), a sprained ankle (why am I so clumsy?), itchy rash all over my face and neck from windburn, and clothes that smelled of the traces and craziness of the night before, but mostly hamburger smell. It wasn't the posh, prestigious clubs/nightlife as one would expect from a city so renown in its nightlife, but that is exactly what I like about it! The poofy jackets, the casualness, the friendly people, the variety, everything! When they ask, how do Icelandic people stay warm in Iceland... the true and right answer is simply "Alcohol." Oh and I guess dancing too. ;)