By Karlie Marrazzo
As soon as I arrived in Reykjavik 101, I felt like I was in a familiar place. I had been dreaming and visiting Iceland for such a long time that it’s sights and even it’s vibe were already imprinted on my minds’ eye.
The bus ride from the airport into town was mildly surreal, driving through lava fields on an overcast morning, but nowhere near as surreal as the days and the scenes that were to come.
We arrived at our gorgeous Airbnb apartment* shortly before 9 am and immediately had to nap. The bed was so soft and cozy it was nearly impossible to wake up. Located near the harbour and the awesomely named street ‘Burgerjoint’, it was close to everything. After our nap, we took a stroll into downtown and just wandered. Every street and building felt so cozy and cute, so cool and artistic. Bright colours on every wall, flower pots on every cobblestone street, beautiful street art and fascinating sculptures everywhere. It’s almost like a living art installation that we were all a part of, Icelanders and visitors alike.
After a lunch of a soup for me and a sandwich for Dave with the high price tag of $20 – first meal in a new place always gets a pass – we ended up at the iconic Hallgrímskirkja church (kirkja means church). Jagged, breathtaking and beautiful, it does not look like a typical church from the outside. It is made of concrete and represents columns of volcanic basalt. The inside is no less beautiful, and reminded me of the interior of Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. We paid 700ISK each (about $6CAD) to go up in the 75m high tower to see those postcard views of Reykjavik. The city looks just as cute from above as when you’re in it, like a colourful little Lego town.
It was about 2 in the afternoon at this point and I was dragging. I don’t generally sleep on flights, so I had already been up for about 25 hours and was still going to be awake for another 12. We sat down in one of the pews to have a rest. At first we thought it a bit odd that none of the pews were facing the front of the church, but were all turned around. We sat for a few minutes, relaxing. An unassuming man wearing slacks and glasses walked in with a stack of papers in his hand. Could it be? He sat down at the organ, organized his papers, opened up one of his music books, and began to play. I don’t know what pieces he played. One of his books said Bach on it but that’s all I saw. But I didn’t need to know what he was playing to be in awe. It was so powerful, the way music is supposed to make you feel. Most of the songs were strong and a little scary, like something you would hear if you were walking through a haunted castle. We listened for half an hour before grudgingly heading back to our apartment for another much needed nap.
Tonight we were finally going to meet Inga. We had first been in contact through her website Tiny Iceland all the way back in November and were looking forward to meeting her in person. She arranged dinner reservations for us at a sushi and seafood restaurant called Rub 23. We lingered for a couple of hours and had great conversation over lobster starters and delicious local fish. Sometimes I get nervous to meet people that I’ve met online first, but hanging out with Inga felt like hanging out with an old friend. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that our birthdays are only two weeks apart.
Friday and Saturday nights in Reykjavik are famous for the nightlife. Icelanders usually have a little party at home before going out since alcohol is so expensive, and then hit the bars around midnight or later. Being slightly jetlagged tourists, we headed to the first pub significantly earlier. We started at an English pub, appropriately called Enski Barinn (The English Pub). It was quite like English pubs around the world – except they had a spinning wheel behind the bar that you pay the bartender to spin. You can win a beer or a drink, but the most awesome thing you could win was a meter of beer! I was picturing a meter tall container filled with beer, but later I found out it was just the equivalent in regular beer glasses. Unfortunately we didn’t win anything, but the bartender pitied us and gave us a round anyways. Inga was meeting up with a few friends from Twitter, and they ended up being fellow Canadians. We had a nice little polite laugh over that. There were two musicians playing acoustic guitar and singing covers of American songs, with a couple of Iceland songs thrown in as well. It was fun and surreal to sing along to American songs in an English pub in Iceland.
Later on we wandered down the street to Lebowski Bar, a bar I had heard about and was excited to check out. I loved the ’50s American diner style décor. It’s not exactly what you expect to find in an Icelandic pub. The checkered floors, the wall of Playboy covers from the ’50s and ’60s, and hamburgers on the grill took me back to that era, even though I was born 45 years too late. I’m a bit of a bowling nerd at home, so my favourite thing about the bar was the bowling lane ON THE WALL, complete with pins and a ball rolling down the lane. We had a drink there but it was quite busy so we decided to move on. We chatted with some Americans Inga knew that we ran into on the street (small country, Iceland is), and headed to Den Danske Kro, a Danish pub. There was another cover-playing-duo at this pub, who were also very talented and fun to sing along with.
After lots of laughs and a few drinks, we had to pack it in around 2 am and finally get to bed. I’d have to say we were pretty proud of ourselves for making it that late with that little sleep! As we were walking down Laugavegur in the midnight sun, we couldn’t help but notice the huge lines forming outside of bars and clubs, filled with beautiful people in amazingly stylish outfits. Next time we’re in Iceland, we’ll definitely have to get the full experience and stay out even later.
* Click here to earn a $25 credit when you sign up for AirBnB!