Friday, August 31, 2012

Ireland/Iceland Trip, day 8: Visiting Kjartan at Kólus factory, Sightseeing in Reykjavik

Our dear friend Solveig, who was born and raised in Iceland, helped us with so many suggestions for our trip.  We were thrilled to hear that her father, Kjartan, was available during our visit and was interested in showing us around the Kólus candy factory that their family has owned and operated for decades.

Lauren discovered a love for the saltier Icelandic licorice, and she also rediscovered a love of factories in general.  Kjartan told us all about the candy-making process, and he regaled us at length with facts about Icelandic history and culture.  It was a joy to start our first full day in Iceland in the company of a local, and we are very grateful to Kjartan and Solveig for making this happen.  [Oh, and thanks once again for the staggering amount of candy we got to take home.  We're still munching our way through it now!]

We drove from the factory to the base of The Pearl, where we could take in a great view of the city...

Then it was on to lunch at Cafe Paris, followed by some shopping and museum-hopping in Reykjavik...

...and then it was time to make the mandatory stop at Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur ("The Best Hot Dogs in Town").  One of our guidebooks estimated that the vast majority of Icelandic citizens have had a hot dog from this little stand at one point or another.  They've got a picture of Bill Clinton chomping on a dog hanging behind the cash register.  And they claim to have the best hot dogs in the world.

I'm from Chicago.  I take such claims seriously.  I was going to find out for myself, and rain wasn't going to stop me.
Conclusion?  They were darn good hot dogs, in a very different style from (say) the classic Chicago-style hotdog or a Hot Doug's creation.  Best in the world?  Could be, depending on how your tastes run.  I will say that just thinking about the sweet mustard and crunchy-onion topping is making my mouth water a bit as I write this.

While we were standing and eating our hot dogs, some Icelanders on a work scavenger hunt approached us, and asked me to read an Icelandic sentence aloud on camera, then shout "woohoo!"  I happily played the hapless tourist and obliged.  Two words, roughly 20 syllables total, and I still remember that the first syllable was "Þer," but after that I quickly fell into the glossolaliac gibberish they were hoping for.  All in good fun, of course.  To the foreign ear, the Icelandic language has a beautiful sound, but it's notoriously hard to pick up.  Our guidebook recommended that we not even try: "Icelanders learn English from an early age and most speak it well, albeit with a charming and quirky accent.  You are only likely to find a language barrier if you were to speak in Icelandic since Icelanders are not used to foreigners trying to speak their language and usually just reply in English." :)

After that, more shopping(!), some sightseeing at the Hallgrímskirkja church, which Lauren said was the most beautiful church she'd ever seen, but which I found to be a bit blocky and imposing:

Cool statue of Leif Ericsson out front, given by the US:

We stumbled into an impromptu concert from local band Tilbury in the well-loved local 12 Tonar music shop.  Lauren is now their biggest fan (seriously):

...and then we finished the day with a romantic, fancy dinner at Perlan (The Pearl), which is a rotating restaurant on a nearby hill offering great views of the city.

So ended our big "city" day in Iceland, with a tour around the countryside to follow on the morrow...