Today has been a long day! It started at 4am when we woke up to head to the airport to catch out flight to London and it’s currently almost 7pm and we just finished our first day in London with Lisa and are now back at her house, resting and watching her cook us dinner. It’s been rough for sure! However, I want to go back and catch you up on our last evening in Reykjavik after Crossfit.
Once we got back and showered, we decided to go out exploring even though there were hurricane winds and sleet. In Iceland, this is somewhat typical, and there is just as much foot traffic as if it were a sunny day. So we took our hooded jackets and set out to find city treasure and Reykjavik is full of it. P.S. don’t carry an umbrella here if it’s raining- it a sure fire way to identify you as a tourist, and your umbrella would wind up a flimsy flag on a broken handle anyway; they are no match for the winds here! There is art everywhere; if anyone of you is artistically gifted, you would get so much inspiration from this city and surrounding country so I encourage you to visit for this reason alone. Some of these pictures were taken from the front seat of a car, through the window, so excuse the little drops of rain. Eventually we parked in the city center and walked on foot up and down taking in the sights and poking into little shops. The following pictures were all taken walking up and down the same street in the center of town. You can imagine my delight when I spotted a Christmas store!! Did you know in Iceland that reindeer are not native? Several hundred years ago they tried to import them once, to act as farm animals. However, this didn’t go as planned and they all died. Many years later they decided to try again, and it worked, but they all only live in Eastern Iceland at higher elevations. The highlight of the afternoon was driving down a street and spotting a bakery! I hopped out of the truck and ran inside, because…bakery! It was a marvelous wonder inside. This is the outside of the bakery- every building here has so much character but you an see why it caught my eye. He was preparing different types of sweet rolls, and there were vanilla ones hot out of the oven when I walked in. So I had to buy one of course. Imagine a cinnamon roll, but vanilla gooeyness instead. I also bought a little sourdough loaf and a liter of organic whole milk. It was the perfect rainy day snack! We gobbled it up in the truck very quickly. After a few hours of walking around we went back to the guest house to get ready to meet Bjarki for dinner. We let him pick the place, as we wanted a way to say Thank you for all he had done for us while we were here. He really went above in beyond in making sure we felt taken care of and safe and comfortable; from giving us one of his vehicles to use while we were there, to personally driving us around for three hours our first night trying to find the Northern Lights. He is kind and extremely smart, and I loved listening from the backseat while he and Rob talked cars, politics, life and everything in between. A truly good conversationalist is hard to find, and we sure found a gem in Bjarki. I cannot imagine Iceland without the comfort of friendship that he showed us.
The restaurant we went to was called Grillmarkadurinn (The Grill Market). They did not have a reservation open, but Bjarki managed to pull some strings and we were sat down within 15 minutes. (Having a well connected native speaker with us felt so cool!)
Fun fact, while we were seated and eating, we saw “The Mountain” from Game of Thrones (Hafþór Björnsson). We haven’t started the 4th season yet to know his character, but we just finished season three so we will soon!
They take their bread baking very seriously in this country and it’s always served with fresh whipped butter with black lava salt on top.
I ordered the fish gourmet and it was awesome! Cod, salmon and red fish with veggies and red potatoes. Rob ordered just the red fish, the plating here was spectacular. That’s a grilled caramelized orange on the side and it’s topped with wrapped and baked crab. Can you find where Rob messed up my picture? Insert your own funny joke here. Green salad!When dinner was over, our waitress asked if I wanted coffee so I took my own advice and said “Yes!”. A lovely Americano to end the meal. Also, every cup of coffee here so far has come with a little Icelandic chocolate too which is a nice perk! I have decided if I ever open a coffee shop, I will follow this custom.
Here we are with our dear friend! After several photos with his face looking the same in all, I laughingly asked him he if knew the word “curmudgeon”and he said no. So we were able to teach him something very small and insignificant, but appropriate for his picture face. Bjarki, you will definitely grow into an old curmudgeon one day 🙂 Embrace it!
It’s hard to sum up everything I think and feel about Iceland, but I will summarize with some bullet points in no particular order below things we learned and observed.
- Everything is sensible and practical here. From the road signs to the traffic signals, it all is very logical and easy to navigate. The cars they get here are way cooler and practical too.
- I never once saw someone texting and driving and only one time did I see someone actually speaking on the phone while driving.
- There is no tipping in this country and money is not the object of desire. Everyone is paid a living wage.
- Bjarki says everyone in Iceland just wants to strive to be the best possible version of themselves. So everyone tries, everyone wants to succeed at whatever it is they are doing. Pride and unity are a big deal.
- From what I understood, the welfare system here works and is not meant to be a lifestyle and it cannot be preyed on. There are very few homeless people, and there are tiny container houses for them down by the harbor that they can stay in if they need a safe and warm place.
- The people here are so very kind to others (like Americans or any other nationality).
- There is no military, the country is unarmed in that regard. Not even police officers have guns, however citizens are armed (mostly for hunting purposes) however there is virtually no homicide rate.
- It’s very safe here. In fact, it’s common to leave your baby in a stroller outside of your home or a business, unattended for a few hours and let them sleep. Bjarki says this is totally normal, and that babies need fresh air to build their immune system up. So parents can just leave them and do what they need to do around the house or while they shop in a store, while the babies nap in the fresh air.
- Drugs are not really prevalent, and neither is crime. Mild forms of both do exist, but it’s not a widespread epidemic like we are accustomed to in the states.
- Before our last day I asked our guest house lady how we checked out and she said, just leave your key in the lock when you leave, nothing else was needed. I asked her to clarify what she meant because I couldn’t believe it- leave the key in the outside in the lock? She said, what do you think would happen? And I said, someone would come in and steal something! She said, Oh that would never happen here. So we left at 4:30 in the morning, and left our key in the lock of our apartment.
- Maternity care is guaranteed and paid by every company for 6 months of leave for Moms. You can take the next 6 months unpaid if you want to have a full year off. Paternity is also guaranteed paid leave for 3 months for Dads. Also, every company generally gives 4 to 5 weeks of paid vacation for everyone. Every job, every company.
- Iceland is expensive, so just close your eyes when you want to pay for something. Alcohol is more than expensive. 🙂
- There is nothing out to get you here. This includes natural wild predators like mosquitos or scary animals. Polar bears are not native to Iceland, and the only way they get there is if they accidentally float over on an Ice Cap from Greenland. If they make it to Iceland, they are shot on sight to avoid them hurting or killing any people or other animals.
- Someone mentioned if you want to get a pet for your house, like a dog, you have to get permission from your direct neighbors to ensure everyone is okay with that. I didn’t ask Bjarki about this so I cannot confirm.
- We plan to come back to this awesome place one day, to see our friend again and visit a Volcano and an Iceberg. Until then, it’s off to London!