Notes from the Field: 27 September 2015


Today was my urban day. All told, I walked about 10 miles around Reykjavik today, checking out downtown, the docks, the Phallological Museum, public swimming pools and bars selling locally crafted brews. Things I learned today, in no particular order: Greenpeace is in Iceland. Most mammals, humans being one of few notable exceptions, have penis bones. Beer in Iceland is uniformly good, and really strong. Public pools are the community center.

Reykjavik is a totally walkable city. The population is about 200,000 and it’s fairily compact, making it easy to get around. It’s clean and has a decidedly European flair, with some interesting public buildings. It is still, for a small city, remarkably quiet like the rest of the country. Going to a public pool today was interesting. Pools are common here in communities of any real size, but I was often outside even those and so didn’t have much opportunity to visit them. Unlike the Myvatn spa where most of the patrons were obviously tourists, this pool seemed to be where local Icelanders go to hang out with friends and family: multigenerational families, fathers with their babes and small groups of college-aged kids were there, all seeming to know one another and moving frequently from the lap pool to the “hot pots” to the saunas and back again.  Instead of the English, French, German and Spanish polyglot I’ve heard for the last two days, most of conversations I heard were in Icelandic.

Dinner tonight was at Sægreifinn, a little hole in the wall on the docks. There is family style seating for perhaps 30 people, at three long and closely packed trestle tables. Customers included quite a few locals, some tourists and a Brazilian film crew eating their way around the world. The menu is simple: lobster soup, fresh bread, and skewered items of your choosing. Skewers available included cod, redfish, salmon, char, Minke whale, vegetables and potatoes. I opted for soup, bread, veggies and yes, Minke. I’ve had mixed feelings about eating puffin, pony or whale but decided my Iceland adventure wouldn’t be complete without trying at least one of those meats. And I have to say, it was pretty damn good. Not so good that I will become an ardent proponent of whaling for commercial food purposes; not so good that I’ll go,out of my way to eat it again… But it was damn tender and mighty tasty.

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