Sunday, July 5, 2015

Of Vikings and Penises

I've moved my blog back over to my personal blog because for some reason the blog on TravelPod got flagged for violation of their terms of usage? I have no idea why. Whatever.

Today we did what every parent dreams of: slept in until 1 in the afternoon. We were obviously exhausted.

Not to be deterred, we set out quickly, to a quirky little cafe called C is for Cookie. They had delicious sandwiches and their coffee was excellent. In fact, coffee in general is rather excellent in Iceland. In fact, they are the 3rd highest per capita consumers of coffee in the world. And it shows. They make regular drip coffee here as well as cappucinos, lattes, espressos, etc. One complaint I've heard from Canadians when they go to Europe is that "you just can't find a regular cup of coffee anywhere". Well, if that bugs you, go to Iceland. You can find a good regular cup of coffee EVERYWHERE.

After that we decided we just had to visit the Icelandic Phallological Museum. I've been told you can't visit Reykjavik and not go there. This truly unique museum features preserved penises from almost all the species of mammal that can be found on Iceland including, yes, Homo sapiens. A man who died not long ago had willed his penis to the museum and it is on display there in a jar with preservative, just like all the others. Many others have followed his lead and have willed their "specimens" to be given to the museum upon their death. Including one man, Jonah Falcon, who has a rather abnormal specimen, considered the largest known in the world at 9.5 inches flaccid, 13.5 inches erect.

It's hard to know what to make of the museum, because it is simultaneously scientifically serious and utterly hilarious. Regardless, it was well worth the visit.

We then walked along the harbour shore, a path that shows the beautiful Reykjavik harbour, still bustling with marine activity, a massive riverfront condominium and apartment development, the Sun Voyager sculpture, numerous restaurants, the Old Harbour, and Harpa, an enormous and gorgeous concert and conference centre.

Continuing on, we were able to also see a ship being actively worked on by men. It was dry docked, leaving the full body of the ship exposed to passersby. The enormity of the vessel was truly astounding. They look so much smaller in the water that you forget how incredibly massive they are.

Our legs brought us next to the Icelandic Saga Museum. The museum guides you through the ancient history of Iceland using dramatic life like replicas of historical figures. It goes all the way back to the first Norse settler, up to the creation of a functional Parliament, and the arrival of the Reformation. It is an audio-guided tour that took about 30 minutes. The stories were fascinating. A few facts stuck out for me.

-During the Reformation, a Catholic priest was trying to protect the Catholic religion on the island. He was beheaded, but by the time the executioner got to him, he was tired, and it took 7 axe blows before he was fully decapitated.
-Prior to the arrival of the Reformation, leaders in Iceland were trying to figure out whether to govern the country by both pagan and Christian laws. They knew they couldn't do both, but decided that officially the laws would be Christian, but that pagans could continue to practice their religion, as long as it was done privately. That was pretty unique for that era in history.
-It seems like everyone but Americans is fully aware that Christopher Columbus was not the first one to discover the American continent. It is very likely it was Norse Vikings who discovered it first, and also (possibly) that it was specifically Leif Erikson, a native Icelander born to Erik the Red and Thjodhild. Icelanders seem to take great pride in this historical narrative. Whoever it was though, historians agree it was most certainly NOT Columbus.

Finally, we settled down for supper. Sarah came upon a brilliant little restaurant called Islenski Barinn. They had phenomenal burgers, Sarah's of the beef variety and mine of the sheep. Both were delicious. In Reykjavik, you quickly learn to order your main, and skip the drinks, appetizers, and desserts. Otherwise, a meal, even at a moderately priced venue like this, easily runs over $100. Even just with the main, one drink, and a cappucino, it was $70. And that's on the cheap side as far as this city goes.

The day wasn't quite done though. I had an unfortunate mishap with a bottle of shaving cream that decided to erupt in my suitcase. So off to the laundromat we went. The Laundromat Cafe to be more specific. This is a brilliant creation, melding a super awesome restaurant with a laundromat downstairs. Adding to the general family friendliness of Reykjavik, the entire downstairs area also has tables and a giant kids play area for parents with small children. The kids that were down there were just having a ball while their parents ate peacefully upstairs. Brilliant idea.

Sarah had a little cider and I had a delicious bowl of Skyr with blueberries and white chocolate. Mmmm. Skyr.

At the end of the night, we stopped by a bookstore where they sold power converters. But I noticed this awesome little book called Iceland in Figures. Yeah. It's a little pocketbook full of nerdy statistics that I love. So I shall share some of them at the end of each post :-)

I decided it's easier to just post a link to our pictures on Google Drive. Just click on the link and you can peruse through. I don't have descriptions for all of them, but hopefully it'll be mostly self-explanatory. Enjoy!

Nerdy Iceland Statistics
-Iceland is 93% native Icelanders; the second most common citizenship of residents is Polish
-Iceland has the fifth highest fertility rate in all of Europe

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