Jess and I are operating on about 4 hours of sleep per night since we embarked on this journey. The days are so long in the north that our bodies have had a hard time adjusting, and we’ve been determined to fill each day with activities since we haven’t had much time in any one place. We plan on stretching out the time in each place after this week so we don’t totally wear ourselves out, but so far it’s been a blast!
A few highlights from the past week- Hilary is writing in regular font and Jess is picking up in italics.
During our full day in Iceland, we stayed within the city limits to soak up Reykjavik. We woke up relatively early on the 24th to catch a free walking tour we’d booked a few days prior. Our tour guide, Erik, was a young history grad student with an Icelandic accent so thick with rolling ‘R’s, it sounded like what you’d imagine a Viking sounding like centuries ago. He was also adorable, evidenced here:
He walked us around the city’s downtown area telling us the history of the region, recounting folk stories about Iceland’s past that may or may not be true, and making jokes picking on the Danes. He also gave us several recommendations for how to fill the rest of our day, a few of which we followed.
Erik pointed out a hot dog cart on the way and told us that they were the best hot dogs that the city had to offer. Obviously, I immediately decided we needed them for lunch. Hilary agreed so after the tour we made our way back to the little hot dog cart a block from the harbor.
Reykjavik was a pretty easy city to navigate because there was always the landmark of a giant church called Hallgrímskirkja to look for. Having heard that this was the best spot for a picture of the city we decided to check it out. It was definitely a beautiful sight to see the city from that view.
We were surprised by the bell in the top of the tower:
Another one of Erik’s recommendations was to visit a local hot pool, a hub the equivalent of a coffee shop or bar in the States where Icelanders meet daily to socialize. He suggested we avoid the tourist trap that is The Blue Lagoon, and instead go for a truer experience and to pay 1/10th of the price at a pool called Vesturbæjarlaug. Me, Jess and our new friend Araba grabbed our bathing suits and walked (forever… we walked forever) to the pool not sure of what to expect. (Once we finally got there…)We handed over our Icelandic Krona and headed to the locker rooms where we were instructed to rinse off- totally naked- in the main shower before getting in the pools. Showering naked in a huge multi-shower open room with a bunch of Icelandic women and some children wasn’t exactly something we’d expected to do that day. We figured, “When in Rome,” as a small, naked Icelandic child showed us how to use the hairdryer.
That night we followed Erik’s final suggestion for us: Tapas. In Iceland their biggest industry (until the recent increase in tourism) has always been fish because they are an island in the middle of an ocean. Needless to say, there was plenty of delicious fresh fish in our tapas selection and it was so good. Hilary enjoyed the blue ling the most while I was busy devouring my garlic butter lobster tails.
We went back to the hostel for some regrouping/goodbyes and got some sleep before our flight to Copenhagen in the morning.
Thursday morning we woke up at the crack of dawn (well… it would be in any other country. In Iceland it was just as light at 5am as it was at 2am) and headed to the airport. We ate a little breakfast at the airport (my 4th, and certainly not last, croissant of the trip) and boarded our Iceland Air flight without issue.
Copenhagen marked our first experience with Couchsurfing, a service where fellow travel-loving locals host you in their homes in exchange for you potentially hosting them in the future. Our host was Oliver, a German scientist who is passionate and endlessly knowledgeable about a myriad of subjects, ranging from forms of sustainable energy to Beethoven Sonatas (he taught himself one of the Beethoven Sonatas as he was finishing his PhD…and here I am trying to tie my shoes). He went above and beyond during our stay, cooking us multiple meals and acting as the best tour guide we could have asked for.
When we first got there on Thursday we met up with him at his apartment and chatted for a bit about multiple topics before he took us on an 8 mile walking tour of the city. He knew so much about all of the statues, the new construction, and the history of the city. When we got back he made us some great little sandwiches and delightful savory pancakes. We stayed up pretty late talking about life until we all crashed.
Friday morning, Hilary and I got up and had a tasty brunch full of every necessary food group and started on our exploration. One of my favorite people in the world, Lacy, just so happened to have been chaperoning a school trip to Copenhagen and had landed that morning. We decided to walk to her hostel to see if they checked in. After some creepy stalking of American accents, I learned from her students that she was out in the city still (which I later found out meant searching for a student’s lost bag). I walked down the stairs to see if I could find her and I ran right into her. It was incredible to see one of my best friends across the world during this trip even if it was extremely brief.
Our next mission was to rent bicycles to try to fully blend in with the Copenhageners. As soon as we got our bikes we were off hitting the pavement in the most bike-friendly city in the world. We meandered a good 6 miles around until we met back up with Lacy for another brief second. Oliver came to meet us there and we were off again!
We biked for the next 4 hours as he took us on a 26-mile bike tour of Copenhagen (“!!!”, said our thighs) and the surrounding areas. What was a marathon of cycling for us was a typical commute for him. The city is a maze of bike paths covering every nook and cranny, and there wasn’t one place we went that didn’t have an area designated for bikes. Oliver told us that the busiest bridge in the city sees up to 40,000 bikers PER DAY in the summer months.
We were sad to leave Oliver on Saturday morning but we had a train to catch in order to get to Berlin for my birthday celebration. We returned our bikes and walked over to the train station. Little did we know we actually had 7 trains and a ferry to catch before we got to Berlin at 9pm.