After dropping off the rental car and checking into our hostel in Reykjavik, I had a few hours to spend before the backpackers from Akureyri would be back in town. I took the opportunity to wander and see more of the streets of Reykjavik. I wanted to get a better feel for Iceland's largest city and pick up a few small souvenirs to bring to my hosts in Germany from the shops along Laugavegur. Here are a few highlights:

Side streets stretch down from the main shopping strip to the western shore with mountains looming in the distance, and colorful buildings can be found along the way.

Just in case you forget this is the land of trolls, these figures are found at the intersection of Laugavegur amd Skólavörðustigur.

Colorful graffiti and intricate murals are everywhere. Some of these were found on side and back streets.

Souvenir shops are all over the shopping strip. Many of them have t-shirts with different sayings for sale. There were too many good options to choose just one to buy so I took a photo instead!

The American influence is pretty strong throughout Iceland (alongside an equally as strong European influence). While there are all kinds of restaurants and little eateries everywhere, I have to give a shout out to this place for representing an American icon: the Chuck Norris Grill on Laugavegur.

The connection between the two largest cities in Iceland was clear when I found footprints reminiscent of those I captured in Akureyri. I wonder if it was an elf or a troll who made them…

Reykjavik is home to the infamous Icelandic Phallological (Penis) Museum (Hið Íslenzka Reðasafn). If you’re not bashful about these things, it’s worth visiting. I did not pay to walk around the museum, but I had a look around the gift shop. I think this is a great option if you're on a budget and want to see some comical and unique items all in honor of the human and animal penis.

On my way back from the museum, I saw Lee (Wales) standing with his guitar outside of the hostel. We hugged and made our way inside together.

Saying goodbye through song

As I sipped a beer, a chill breeze swept around the legs of the table at my feet. Across from me was Lee, and next to me Cam, Lao and Harold—just half of the group I had spent the night partying with in Akureyri two nights before. Fabrice was just entering the front hostel door with Sam and Will. They had all gone to the tattoo parlor long before I bumped into Lee on the street. The three Canadians got matching tattoos of a volcano to commemorate their experience in Iceland. When they noticed us sitting next to the door, everyone stood up and embraced like long lost friends reunited at last. As travelers, two days can feel like two weeks from seeing and doing so much. This was the truth for us all.

 

Photo courtesy of Sam Locke

 

Sam and Will had nothing but great things to say about Sam (from England) who had kindly driven them south and freely offered resources along the way. They also raved about a friendly Spanish couple who picked them up while hitch-hiking and did not charge them a penny for the ride. Dropping them at their destination, the couple even gave them a bag of food since they were on their way to the airport and would not need it anymore.

Lee, Lao, Cam, and Harold all had exciting stories to tell, too. They saw multiple rainbows, camped next to a waterfall getting themselves soaking by morning, and even slept in an old barn one night during their journey in the northwest fjords. Their stories described adventures I envied just as much as I smiled back on my own experiences from the last two days.

We had made our way up to the fourth floor by now. All of us sat in the lounge area with access to the balcony overlooking Laugavegur. We sang and jammed and attracted the attention of other backpackers staying in the hostel. There were two guys from Arizona who joined our party, two young women from Germany, and others. We spent the whole night partying and playing music together—about twelve travelers from all around the world.

Lee had written lyrics for a new song so we spent a while composing and coming up with the melody. We also sang a few of the songs we all knew from the other night, including “Invisible Man” and Will’s song “Annalee.” These pieces have easily become a source of nostalgia for me as I reflect back now on my first week of travel. Here is the final time we all sang Annalee together before saying goodbye one last time:

The next morning, I was humming to myself as I boarded my flight to Frankfurt.