A Travellerspoint blog

Chasing more waterfalls.

Skogar Hostel is ranked at the bottom of our accommodations list currently which is mainly due to the poor WiFi. The WiFi master informed Megan the connection was very weak. We are millennials. We don't do well without Internet. The restaurant we ate dinner at had free WiFi, but they kicked us out at 9:30 pm. Our options were:
A. Stand outside to finish up our instagraming, blogging, emailing, imessaging, etc
B. Go to our hostel and sleep
C. Drive our car 20 feet to park right outside the restaurant and steal their WiFi signal
I am not ashamed. We went with option C, so we could finish googling our plans for today.

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Today was our last day in the south of Iceland. We drove 30 minutes west to the Seljalandfoss waterfall. There is a cave behind the waterfall, so you can walk behind it. A little Googling will inform you to wear a rain jacket and waterproof pants if you walk behind the fall. So many tourists walked behind it in jeans and flip flops. A. Who wears flip flops in Iceland, especially when climbing around a a slippery, rocky path by a waterfall? B. Who thinks cotton sweatshirts and denim are waterproof? Total amateur hour at Seljalandfoss. Luckily we were outfitted appropriately.

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There are 3 waterfalls within a 5 minute walk from Seljalandfoss. The final waterfall along the path is Gljufrabui (I promise I am not making up these names). It is 40 meters tall and partially hidden behind a cliff. You have to walk through a stream to get inside the cave. We were drenched by the time we left the cave, but it was well worth it.

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We drove an hour to Reykholt to stop at Cafe Mika. Cafe Mika is known for its chocolate truffles. Since sweets are my main food group, we had to stop. If you ever find yourself in Reykjolt, Iceland, go to Cafe Mika and get the blueberry truffle. Tell them Laura sent you. They will have no idea who Laura is, but it will sound cool.

Right down the road from Cafe Mika is Geysir--1 of the 3 attractions in a loop known as the Golden Circle. Geysir is a, you guessed it, geyser. It was the first geyser written about in print and from which the word geyser derived. Geysir erupts infrequently and usually after earthquakes. It last erupted in 2000, and it's eruption is taller than that of Old Faithful. In the same park as Geysir is Strokkur. Strokkur erupts every 10 minutes. There is an area roped off around it; however, the splash zone Mother Nature produces cannot always be predicted. Strokkur went a little crazy, and it's spray exceeded the roped off area and drenched a guy from head to toe. Poor guy probably smelled like rotten eggs the rest of the day due to the sulfur in the water. Shout out to Geysir for having a super nice visitors center. It was reminiscent of a nice ski lodge in Utah. Even my mother would approve of it.

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Next on the Golden Circle route was Gullfoss. Gullfoss is two waterfalls with a total height of 31 meters. The last stop was Thingvellir National Park. Thingvellir is the site of a rift valley that marks the crest of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge (ridge between the Eurasian and North American continental plates) and the largest natural lake in Iceland that is the only lake in the world to house four species of trout. The plates drift apart at 2 centimeters a year. Yikes. We walked along the ridge and met a friendly lady from Weatherford, Texas. Then we headed to Hjardarból Guesthouse in between Selfoss and Hveragerði- two towns you have never heard of. We have a three person room and wonderful WiFi. We are happy millennials now.

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We are even happier because Selfoss is a big town relatively speaking. It has a population of about 7,000 people which means it has a bigger variety of dining options. No sandwiches and French fries for us tonight! We ate at Tryggvaskali which is God's gift to American tourists who travel in the south of Iceland. Maybe we were just really hungry, but it ranks as one of the best meals we have had in our lives. Tryggvaskali is housed in the oldest house in Selfoss built in 1890. The interior looks like it came straight from Pottery Barn with mason jar lights, mixed matched plates, and drift wood tables. We got the salmon with broccoli, barley, cheese and blueberries--all locally sourced. The waiter informed us the salmon came from under the bridge on the Olfusa River that we could see from the window. He also informed us salmon has been the local dish in Selfoss for 120 years. We ate our every bite of our salmons and barely made it home before sinking into the food coma we are currently experiencing. Hope we get out of this food coma by tomorrow morning.

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Posted by lsto90 14:37 Archived in Iceland Comments (0)

I can see Antarctica from my hostel

After our day of glacier hiking, we felt like decrepit elderly people, and we voted to sleep in a bit to recover. We left our hostel around 9 am to explore Vik. Vik is the southernmost village in Iceland.

We first ventured 30 minutes to the Dyrhólaey peninsula which means door hole. It got its name from the massive arch that the sea has eroded. Dyrhólaey is the southernmost point of Iceland. It has black sand beaches and basalt columns. The cliffs are covered with cairns (man made piles of rocks) that visitors leave as their mark. I felt like a kid because we had a lot of fun watching the giant waves crash along the beach and running from the tide. I also felt a little like Sarah Palin when she said she could see Russia from her house. There are no land masses in between Iceland and Antarctica, so I kept saying I could see Antarctica from Dyrhólaey. Luckily, I have no plans of running for public office, so this excerpt won't surface and be misconstrued by the media.

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We then went to Reynisfjara which is a beach on the other side of the bay. You can see basalt columns in the ocean. The columns are named after two trolls who tried to tow a ship to shore, but the dawn came and turned them to stone. Oops.

At Reynisfjara, we saw puffins finally! Also, the cliffs feature basalt columns resembling a rocky step pyramid, called Gardar. We scaled the cliffs for some photo ops, and then hit the road for about a 30 minute drive to Skogar.

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Skogar is home to Skogafoss (they get real creative with these names). Skogafoss is one of Iceland's largest waterfalls. We disobeyed TLC's directions of "don't go chasing waterfalls" and went to Skogafoss where we saw a beautiful rainbow in its mist.

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We climbed 527 to the top of the waterfall, and we decided we will never climb Mount Everest since we nearly died climbing the stairs. We felt completely inadequate when old people traversed the stairs like gazelles. I don't even know if gazelles traverse things, but I am sticking with this analogy. I justified their skillful scaling by saying these old people all grew up in the Alps.

After an American lunch of chicken sandwiches and French fries, we jumped in the car to check into our hostel. We drove .2 seconds when we realized the restaurant we ate at was right next to our hostel. How embarrassing. We are staying at Skogar Hostel in a 3 person room. 98% sure Charles Manson (or "Charlie Mansion as Erin calls him) is staying there with us.

We attempted to walk to the Skogar Folk Museum. We walked in a circle around a restaurant-a very scenic route full of dumpsters. We realized walking was not the best option and hoped no one saw those dumb American girls circle the restaurant just to hop in their car and drive 3 minutes down the road. The main attraction of the Skogar Folk Museum were the reconstructed buildings you could enter. There was a school house, church, small farm houses, and turf houses. Fun fact: old farm houses also housed the cows. So you could open your living room door and hang with the cows.

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After a quick nap, we ventured to find
Seljavallalaug. This is the oldest swimming pool in Iceland built in 1923 and at the foot of Eyjafjallajökull (the notorious volcano that erupted in 2010 and disrupted air traffic for 10 days). Note: we have been practicing how to pronounce this word since we have been here. It's tough.The pool is filled with geothermal water, so we aren't complete crazies going swimming in Iceland. To get to the pool, we drove down a gravel road, and our GPS directed us to "navigate off-road" for the second time today. Um, what? The Help is not equipped for off-roading. We parked our car and hiked 15 minutes through what looked like a barren wasteland, crossed a river, and followed it to the hidden swimming pool. The pool is surrounded by mountains with 15 waterfalls. We made it to the pool and jumped in. We thought this pool was a "secret one" that only locals knew about, but apparently, 30 other tourists did some intense googling before their vacations and found the pool too. We swam for an hour and had a great time until we had to get out and hastily throw our winter clothes on over wet swimsuits in a mud covered changing room.

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Now, we are eating lamb sandwiches with French fries. Seriously, what is up with Iceland's love of French fries?

Posted by lsto90 14:47 Archived in Iceland Comments (0)

Fact: Iceland has ice.. Lots of it.

"What's cooler than being cool? ICE COLD!" -OutKast

Today was Erin's 24th birthday, and we started our day with a 1.5 hour drive west to Skaftafell through rain and sun and then more rain. Weather in Iceland is crazy.

We arrived on time for the Glacier Grand Slam tour led by Glacier Guides. Our Aggie friends from yesterday were on our tour too, but they didn't want anything to do with us and purposely went with another guide. We got our crampons, ice picks, harnesses and helmets. When we realized harnesses and helmets were involved, we started wondering what we got ourselves into. After our tour, we found out we signed up for the advance hike, and we mastered it like champs.

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Our guide, Mike, led our group of eight, including 3 guys from Spain and a couple from Italy, on a 30 minute hike across dirt and volcanic ash to the base of Falljokull which is an inlet of Vatnajokull. Falljokull means falling ice since the glacier looks like it is falling. Vatnajokull is the largest glacier and national park in Europe and covers Bardarbunga, the volcano that global news stations were freaking out about while all the Icelanders were hiking on the glacier per the usual.

We cramped on (the verb I created to describe the action of putting on out crampons. The antonym is cramp off). We spent three hours hiking on the glacier, and Mike told us the following tidbits:
-An ice screw (screw you screw into the ice to hold ropes while ice climbing) can hold 3 tons. Mike screwed one into a little ice cave and let us swing off of it.
-6 feet of the ice melt off the glacier every month.
-Mike joked the white box in the middle of the glacier was for wifi with the password "glacierguides." The box was actually a GPS monitoring the movement of the glacier. Such a jokester, Mike.
-A moulin is a hole in the glacier formed by a stream of meltwater. Moulin is the French word for windmill. We looked over the edge of a moulin, and it was a long drop down. Jokester Mike pretended to push me in.
-Volcanic ash and sediment cover the glacier and acts as a sunscreen. It blocks the sun and prevents the sun from melting the glacier. Volcanic ash is also a good exfoliant for your skin, and it is also currently coating us head to toe. Is this what it feels like to be a coal miner?
-We drank glacial water by slamming an ice pick across a stream and using it to help us do a push up (for us, a push up in poor form) in order to drink the water.
-The biggest risk related to volcanic eruption is flooding. For instance, the Amazon River flows at 103 cubic meters per second. If the Krafla volcano in Iceland erupted, it would release water at 300 cubic meters per second.

It rained the entire time we were hiking. I had been wanting to test how waterproof this rain jacket and pants were, and they both passed the test. By the end of the hike, we had forgotten it was even raining. We successfully made it up and down the glacier without any mishaps, thanks to our crampons. Megan almost lost her water bottle when it fell out of her backpack and took a ride down a little stream. Our Spanish friend was determined to retrieve it, and he did just that.

After we cramped off, we walked to a small ice cave and then jumped on a bus for a 30 minute ride to the second part of the Glacier Grand Slam. We went to Fjallsarlon lagoon for a Zodiac boat ride in the lagoon. When we arrived, it was beautiful and sunny! Such a nice change from our rainy hike. We put on these cozy thermal suits and life jackets and hopped in a boat with Cody, an Icelandic sheep farmer, as our captain. We cruised around the lagoon. People in Iceland are nuts. We saw two people paddle boarding in the lagoon amongst all the icebergs. And you thought you were cool paddle boarding on Town Lake...

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Cody gave us some good facts on our ride:
-Sheep travel in packs of 3-- a mom and two of her lambs. If a mom has more than 2 lambs, she gives them to moms with only 1 lamb, so they can have a posse of 3.
-Lambs are born in May, and farmers shave the sheep around the same time. The farmers let the sheep roam freely during the summer to eat off the land. In September, the sheep farmers band together and head to the hills to round them up. It takes about a week to gather all of them. Then they return the sheep to their owner based off the branded tag that was put on their ear at birth. The sheep head back to the farm for winter where they are kept inside.
-There aren't any seals in this lagoon because there is no food source for them.
-Cody has a girlfriend who is a sheep farmer in case you were curious.

On our drive back, we saw a giant rainbow, and Judy Garland appeared and began singing "Over the Rainbow." Ok, maybe not considering Judy is dead.

After the Glacier Grand Slam, we drove 1.5 hours west to Vik. On the way, we stopped in a moss covered lava field. The moss is a line green color and feels like a memory foam mattress. Legend has it that gnomes and trolls live under these mossy lava rocks.

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We cruised into Vik and checked into Puffin Hostel. Here we have two rooms- a 1 bed room and a 2 bed room. We then ate at Sudur Vik where we tried the Gull beer (another Icelandic brand) and the steak bernaise sandwich. Both were delicious and exactly what we wanted after our long day.

Posted by lsto90 15:58 Archived in Iceland Tagged iceland_vatnajokull_skaftafell Comments (0)

RAM-bunctious Day

Caveat: writing and posting these blogs from my iPhone. Ignore any grammatical errors please.

Yesterday, we saw a tourism advertisement with the slogan, "get lost in Iceland." We took the tourism bureau's advice and accidentally got lost on our way out of Reykjavik.

Knowing we aren't Walter Mitty and able to navigate Iceland on a skateboard without a map, we rented a GPS with our car. All was fine until the GPS's battery ran out and we discovered the fuse for the power outlet in the Help (rental car) was broken. We stopped at a gas station to ask for directions which is when we met Mohawk man. Mohawk man had a Mohawk (duh) and about 9,000 earrings. We showed him the Hertz brochure that listed a location in Reykjavik but didn't provide an address. Mohawk man called Hertz and then told us, "it's over there" while pointing in a vague direction. At the comedy show last night, one of the jokes was that Icelanders only give general directions. We held back our laughter when we realized this joke was a reality. He gave us directions, and we hit the road.

We got a little confused with the directions and stopped at another gas station. We pulled out our map, and they showed us where the Hertz was on the map. The following exchange then ensued:

Guy: "Oh, it's in the city."
Me: [pointing to map] "uhhh Where are we now?"
Guy: [very matter of factly] "In Iceland."
Megan and Me: [giving man ice daggers with our eyes]
Me: "Uhh. Where in Iceland?"

It is true. Icelanders give general directions. We found the Hertz by the Reykjavik airport finally, and they fixed the power outlet. We had intended going all Steve-Barb-and-Bonnie (our parents who are masters at arguing their ways into good deals when something is wrong), but we didn't have it in us.

Finally, we headed east of Reykjavik on the ring road with Of Monsters and Men as our background music. The ring road (road 1) circles the entire country, making it easy to travel the country. It is like 610 in Houston, so we were comfortable we could navigate Iceland. Along the way, we saw a ton of hitchhikers. Hitchhiking is a popular form of transportation. We have yet to offer a ride to any random strangers. The ring road also has 1 lane bridges and informal sheep crossings which are a little frightening.

During our drive, we learned that you pay for gas inside the store after you pump it. We also learned that PWC has an office in the boonies of Iceland. Seriously, who needs an audit out here?

We drove 3 hours to Fjaðrárgljúfur which is a river gorge that was "gorge" as in gorgeous. To get to Fjaðrárgljúfur, you have to drive down an F road. In the highlands, there are gravel roads that traverse various types of rugged terrain. You must have a 4 wheel drive SUV in order to drive on F roads. If you get caught in an inappropriate vehicle, you will get fined. Well, the Help isn't an F road approved vehicle, but we had read the drive wasn't to Fjaðrárgljúfur wasn't too rugged. It was a quick 10 minute drive up a hill, and we noticed a lot of other non-F-road cars had made the journey too. We have decided against future F road journeys.

I thought this was the land of ice, but nope, Fjaðrárgljúfur is surrounded by green hills on which sheep and rams graze. We hiked around a bit, and then went down by the river to have a picturesque picnic. While I am eating the sandwich Megan so skillfully prepared, I heard Megan and Erin scream, "oh crap!" .2 seconds later, Megan was in flight mode and fleeing the scene as I looked up to see a herd of ram barreling toward us. I gathered up our picnic supplies and salvaged the leftover block of cheddar cheese. In the frenzy, I grabbed a rock too which we laughed about hysterically later.

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We also ran into two mores Aggies (class of '06 and '07) at Fjaðrárgljúfur. They were geologists from Houston who are hoping Bardarbunga explodes while they are here. Oh those geologists.

We continued our drive east with a 2.5 hour drive to Hofn. Along the way, we stopped at Jokulsaron glacial lagoon which is filled with icebergs. Megan immediately screamed, "ICEBERG STRAIGHT AHEAD"-- a very appropriate Titanic reference. We completed the ALS ice bucket challenge with water from the lagoon. Hope that counts as ice water!

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We are staying outside of the small fishing village of Hofn at Hafnarnes Guest House. Hafnarnes is located on a working farm by the ocean. We have a 3 person room which is nice and cozy. Plus, they provided free towels. Win.

We milled around the town of Hofn and stopped by the harbour. We visited the visitor information center before eating at Pakkhus Restaurant. The restaurant is housed in a warehouse from 1932. The interior is made of wood scraps from other houses and has a rustic vibe to it. Hofn is known to have the best langoustine in all of Iceland, and Pakkhus sources their langoustine locally--very locally-- as in the boat docked in the harbor that you can see from the restaurant. We got the langoustine pizza, and it was delicious. We also sampled the local beer- the Vatnajokull. It's slogan is "frozen in time" just like the glacier after which it is named. For dessert, we split the skyr volcano. Skyr is similar to yogurt and has been part of Icelandic cuisine for 1,000+ years. The skyr volcano had merengue, pop rocks, vanilla, and brown sugar caramel. I was scared of skyr after watching a "Bizarre Foods" episode but was pleasantly surprised by how delectable it was.

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Now, we are gearing up for our glacier hiking adventure tomorrow for Erin's 24th birthday. It will be wild like the wolf shirts we may or may not have bought for this trip.

Posted by lsto90 16:27 Archived in Iceland Comments (0)

Iceland will be a blast of volcanic proportions

Our dear friend Kelly drove Megan and me to the airport in enough time to eat a breakfast taco (all adventures begin with breakfast tacos) and get acquainted with the super friendly and helpful JetBlue staff. I have never flown JetBlue, and I am now a fan after their hospitality, water bottles upon boarding, and free tv on the plane.

We landed in Boston for a five hour layover. We fled the airport for Harpoon Brewery which is a quick bus ride from Logan International Airport. Fun fact: the bus from the airport is FREE. The line at Harpoon Brewery was super long, and we didn't have much time to waste. Thus, we ate at Yankee Lobster--a hole in the wall, Zagat rated seafood restaurant that was featured on the Food Network's Diners, Drive Ins and Dives. I ordered the fried clam strips which reminded me of the good ole days of Long John Silvers' presence in Beaumont. They were delicious, and we got Harpoon's UFO beer which made up for missing the brewery. Even better, Yankee Lobster is right by a concert venue. So we got to hear Matt Nathanson's and Gavin DeGraw's sound check for their concert. Overall, our Boston outing was a success!

Back at the airport, the passengers for a Turkish Airlines flight were on the verge of an uprising since their flight was delayed 24 hours. Megan and I were overjoyed to escape the potential coup d'état and board our Iceland Air flight. We were especially happy to board our flight because a few hours earlier, the Bardarbunga volcano started exploding. We were worried if it exploded more, we wouldn't be able to fly into Iceland and would get involved in the Turkish Airline riot. We knew Iceland would be a blast, but we weren't expecting it to be a volcanic blast.

After a quick 5 hour nap, we landed at Keflavik airport and waited 3 hours for Erin's flight to arrive. You know when you see tourists wearing striped shirts, plaid shorts, a fanny pack, toe socks with sandals, and a bucket hat and you think, "that outfit is hideously touristy!" Erin arrived in her Icelandic version of this outfit--a vest and flannel shirt over a t shirt with shorts, leggings, wool socks, and chacos. Who wears shorts to Iceland? Answer: only Erin.

While waiting for Erin, Megan and I had stared outside but were too afraid to experience the Artic weather. We saw people walk in wearing full out winter coats and others wearing short sleeve shirts, so we had no idea what to expect. Once we got our rental car, we walked outside. It was about 50 degrees which wasn't bad, but the wind was nonstop. We put on a few layers and met our car. We have a Skoda Octavia. Know what that is? Doubtful. Skoda is a Czech brand, and the Octavia is like a station wagon. We nicknamed our car "The Help." Octavia reminds us of Octavia Spencer who starred in The Help, and goodness knows we will need a lot of help while traveling across Iceland.

We drove about 45 minutes to Reykjavik and stopped by Hlemmur Square Hostel to check in. It is located on Laugavegur which is the main shopping street. We are staying in a 10 person dorm. The hostel is better than some I have stayed in, so no complaints here. Plus, the location is convenient.

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We started our day with a free walking tour of the city led by our Icelandic guide whose real name was too difficult to pronounce. He goes by Lolli, and some call him Lollipop.

Facts about Iceland:
-Reykjavik means "smokey bay" due to the steam from the geothermal activity under the city.
-The Prime Minister's office is just a little house on the corner of the street with no security around it.
-The PM's office was a prison before politicians occupied it. The joke is the crime never left the building.
-Iceland won its independence from Denmark in 1944. No war was involved in this battle for independence.
-Iceland has no navy, airforce or army, but it does have a coast guard. Yet, in 2003, they declared war on Iraq. They didn't really think that one through.
-Iceland has tried to join the EU since 2009 and recently withdrew its application. Iceland wasn't interested in sharing its major resource of fish with the other EU members. Thus, the EU wouldn't let Iceland in.
-The currency is the Icelandic krona which is about 116 ISK to $1.
-There are 320,000 citizens in Iceland.
-The Harpa is Iceland's concert hall with a very contemporary design. Bankers began building it, and then they went bankrupt spurring the worst financial crisis in Iceland's history. The government used taxpayer's money to finish the construction which led to some controversy. Apparently, taxpayers weren't happy about their social security and health care getting cut in order to build this fancy concert hall.
-Iceland has produced 3 Miss Universe winners and 5 World's Strongest Man winners.
-Beer was illegal until 1989. If you drink on a week day, some may consider you an alcoholic in Iceland. However, binge drinking on a weekend is totally normal.
-There are 130 volcanoes in Iceland.
-On average, each Iceland citizen is related to each other by 6 generations or less. There is a Book of Icelanders app which lists every Icelander and helps single people see if they are related to another person before getting involved with them.
-They believe in elves here and have elf psychics who can talk to these hidden people. Elf psychics don't want their identity revealed and hire an elf manager to speak on their behalf.
-Legend has it two trolls had 13 troll kids who were bad kids. They reformed and gave kids presents to make up for their bad behavior. These trolls are now the 13 Icelandic Santa's. Kids receive one present for 13 days. Bad kids get a potato. Really bad kids get eaten by a big cat. The only way to avoid being eaten by the cat is to wear new clothes. I think some clothing store is in on this myth. Really really bad kids are abducted by a witch and turned into stew. Yum?

After the tour, creepy Lollipop asked how old we were and said he thought we were 18. At least our names aren't Lollipop. Then, Erin realized she left her wallet at the cafe where we ate lunch, so we hustled back there to search for it. Iceland has a very low crime rate, and Icelanders are known for being honest. We saw this firsthand when we found Erin's wallet had been turned into the restaurant. Crisis averted. We also ran into an Aggie from the class of 2006 at the cafe. A trip isn't complete without seeing a fellow Aggie.

We then headed to Hallgrímskirkja (try to pronounce that). It's a huge Lutheran church which was designed to look like a geysir or volcano. We paid 700 ISK ($6) to ride an elevator to the top for a good view of the city.

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We ended our day with "How to Become Icelandic in 60 Minutes" which is a one man comedy show at the Harpa. We learned how to pronounce some Icelandic words and a few funny things about Icelandic life. We grabbed hotdogs at the most famous restaurant in Iceland, Baejarins Beztu Pylsur, which is a hotdog stand by the harbor. Bill Clinton ate there once. His picture is posted all over the place. The hot dog is served with ketchup, sweet mustard, fried onion, raw onion and remoulade, a mayonnaise-based sauce that contains sweet relish, are all available as condiments. No wonder Billy Boy had heart disease.

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Time to get rid of this jetlag, so we can venture into the Middle-of-nowhere tomorrow!

Posted by lsto90 16:59 Archived in Iceland Tagged iceland_reykjavik_harpa Comments (0)

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