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Reykjavík Goes Gay for a Day

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Jürgen and I have been to our share of pride parades around the world: Boston, Berlin, NYC, Spain. But we’ve never seen a Gay Pride quite like Reykjavík’s, held annually in August. Led by its mayor, the entire city paints itself in rainbow colors and puts on an astonishing celebration of gayness.

Gay For A Day
Well then, this is my lucky day.

As we walked down to the parade route, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Reykjavík had truly gone all out! Rainbow-colored crosswalks, rainbow flags in every store and flying high above city hall. Girls passing out merchandise and guys wearing shirts which identified them as “Gay for a Day”. Families with small children dressed up in rainbow-colored gear.

We could hardly get to the parade route through all the baby strollers. It was a far cry from the raunchy, sexually-explicit parades of Berlin. The guy standing in front of me wasn’t a leather-thonged bear daddy, but a ten-year-old kid with buckteeth, who had made a bracelet out of some rainbow-colored ribbon and was clapping excitedly for the “Dykes on Bikes” roaring past on their hogs. There was even an appearance by Reykjavík’s flamboyant mayor, Jón Gnarr, dressed in Iceland’s traditional women’s costume and tossing out roses to the crowd.

After the last float had passed, we followed the crowd to Arnarhóll park, sat on the grass and listened to a concert. Again, completely different from the wild, drunken block parties that would ensue after Boston’s pride, but just as wonderful.

It was an incredible feeling to be in a place like Reykjavík, where homosexuality is so completely accepted that it’s almost become blasé. We felt the support of the entire city, from its mayor to its institutions, business and people. It’s the kind of unconditional acceptance which I had never experienced before. And it means a lot. So thanks, Reykjavík… we love you, too!

Book your hotel now for the upcoming Gay Pride in Reykjavik NOW!

Rainbow Street Crossing
Gay Flags Iceland
Kids At Gay Pride
In Drag Mayor Reykjavik Jón Gnarr
Mayor Jón Gnarr
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Lesbians in the Wild rocked — the most energetic group in the parade
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August 11, 2013 at 3:04 pm Comments (6)

The Icelandic Phallological Museum (NSFW?)

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It was my birthday, and Jürgen had thought of the perfect present: a trip to the Penis Museum! After all, what could possibly delight a birthday boy more than a building full of animal dongs?

Penis Exhibition

ne of Iceland’s most bizarre attractions is the Phallological Museum in downtown Reykjavík, near the Hlemmur bus station. For reasons of his own which I’d rather not dwell on, Sigurdur Hjartarson of Húsavík decided to start collecting animal penises in 1974, eventually turning his passion into a museum. It was an immediate hit, and in 1997 the collection was relocated from Holmavík to the capital, so that even more of the country’s citizens and visitors could bask in its virile glory.

Sing along with me, kids: Whale penis! Bear penis! Walrus, goat and hamster penis! Dog penis! Cat penis! Giraffe, bear and human penis! ♫ All in formaldehyde jars

What’s that disgusted look you’re giving me? Why yes, I most certainly did say “human penis”. You see, an Icelandic man by the name of Páll Arason so appreciated the mission of the Phallological Museum, he bequeathed to it his equipment upon death. I can only imagine Mr. Arason looking down from heaven as visitor after visitor peers into his jar, trying to puzzle out what this mysterious pickled lump of skin and hair might be. It’s not an attractive sight, but I shouldn’t judge. I would hate to see what Li’l Mikey might look like after years in a jar. But then, I would hate for anyone to see that. Which is why there will be strict instructions for my jar to be kept under lock and key.

I’d like to say that the museum was as instructive as it was entertaining, but I can’t. But that’s only because it’s extremely entertaining. I’m sure there are some penis scholars out there who take this stuff seriously and would huff at the sight of us taking selfies in front of the massive walrus penis (well done, Mr. Walrus!) But it’s hard to apologize. It’s a penis museum, for the love of God. If you can tour it with a straight face, you’re probably a weirdo.

Location on our Iceland Map
Icelandic Phallological Museum – Website

-Penis Books

Phallological Museum Reykjavik
Penis Museum Iceland
Penis Collection
Penis Museum
Penis In A Jar
Phallological Museum
Penis Bones
One thing I learned: humans are among the few mammals without penis bones
Animal Penises
Unique Horn Penis
Penis Slice
Snake Penis
Rekjavik Phallological Museum
Cute Penis
God only knows. Demon penis?
Dog And Cat Penis
Dogs and Cats
Horse Penis
Human Penis Museum Iceland Reykjavik
The glorious member of Mr. Páll Arason
Missing Member Phallological Museum
Rolled Up Penis
Giraffe Penis
Elf Penis
A rare specimen: Elf Penis
Iceland Sport Team Penises
Casts of the silver-medal winning Iceland Handball Team
Penis Souvenirs
Penis With Wings
Penis Statues
Swinging Dick
Antique Condom
Penis Donation
Different Penis Drawings
Penis Tray
Penis Trophy
Signing Off Penis
And that’s the creepiest thing I’ve ever read.
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August 4, 2013 at 10:36 am Comments (11)

The 871±2 Settlement Exhibition

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Iceland welcomed its first permanent resident in the 9th century, when Ingólfur Arnarson landed on the shores of Reykjavík. Today, most physical traces of early Viking culture have vanished, so it was a big deal when, in 2001, a longhouse was discovered in the center of the capital. After careful excavation, it’s been opened to visitors as the the 871±2 Settlement Exhibition.

Settlement Exhibition Reykjavik

The strange name of the exhibition refers to the year the discovered settlement has been dated to, plus or minus the two-year range of error. And since Ingólfur was thought to have arrived in 874, it’s safe to say that the remains found on Aðalstræti are among the very earliest traces of humanity anywhere in Iceland.

Apart from the longhouse itself, there isn’t a whole lot to see within the exhibition; just artifacts found around the grounds like an axe handle or a flint stone. But the house itself is interesting and there’s an incredible amount of information about the settlement era. It can be rewarding for those who don’t mind taking time to read. The exhibition is fairly high-tech, with multimedia exhibits recreating life in the era, and interactive programs that illuminate early Icelandic language and culture.

The Settlement Exhibition is perfect for a rainy day in Reykjavík, when you have time to kill and are in the mood for some history. A comprehensive visit takes about an hour, and provides a nice overview of the Vikings who settled Iceland.

Location our Iceland Map
The Settlement Exhibition – Website

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August 2, 2013 at 6:47 pm Comments (0)

A Concise History of Iceland

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Geologically speaking, Iceland is one of the Earth’s newborns. The island didn’t even exist until after the age of dinosaurs had passed, and it was the last European territory to be settled. Iceland continues to grow, still firmly in its adolescence, but its short history has been a volatile one. Whether they’ve been dealing with abusive Danes, glaciers, the plague or volcanic ash, Icelanders have had it rough. Here’s a rundown of the biggest events in the country’s history.

This incredible topographical map of Iceland can be found in the Ráðhúsið (City Hall) in Reykjavik
20 million BC Iceland is formed by a series of volcanic explosions along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, where the North American and European tectonic plates are pulling away from each other.
847 AD Norseman Ingólfur Arnarson settles down in present-day Reykjavík. For the next 150 years, scores of his countrymen follow, driven out of Norway by the harsh rule of King Harald the Fair-Haired.
930 The first annual Alþing, or parliament, is convened to govern the fledgling country, and the Saga Age commences. The exploits of Iceland’s founders are passed down orally, and eventually written out in magnificent manuscripts which would become the country’s greatest treasures.
1000 At the millennial Alþing, leaders vote to adopt Catholicism as the island’s sole religion, abandoning the Viking paganism of their ancestors. There are a few fights, but the conversion is remarkably peaceful.
~1000 Around the same time as the Catholic conversion, and five centuries before Christopher Columbus’s voyage, Icelandic explorer Leif Ericson discovers North America, which he calls Vinland.
1262 Iceland cedes its sovereignty to Norway and thus begins a 682-year period of vassalage to foreign powers. In 1380, power shifts to the Danish Empire.
1402 The Black Death arrives in Iceland. Half of the island’s population succumbs, just shortly after a massive volcanic explosion in 1386 which had devastated crops. Unhappy days in Iceland.
1602 Denmark squeezes its vice-like grip on Iceland with the introduction of a trade monopoly. Until 1786, Iceland is only allowed to trade with Denmark, and at absurdly unfair rates, leaving Icelanders in a perpetual state of financial misery.
1786 Laki erupts. What, never heard of Laki? The deadliest volcanic eruption in history, Laki spews clouds of sulfur dioxide that cause famine as far away as India. 25% of Iceland’s population is killed, and Laki is credited with over six million deaths across the globe. The crop loss attributable to Laki is one of the main factors which led to the French Revolution.
1944 World War II may have devastated Europe, but it’s a boon to little Iceland. British and American forces use the strategically-situated island as a base, and introduce roads and airports. On June 17th, 1944, Iceland is finally able to declare independence from Nazi-occupied Denmark.
1975 Iceland engages England in the closest its ever come to a military skirmish, after unilaterally extending its territorial waters to cope with dwindling cod stocks. The Icelandic coast guard cuts nets and rams foreign vessels, and the Brits send in the Royal Navy. The Cod Wars end only after Iceland threatens to close a NATO base on the island, forcing England to back down.
2008 Iceland’s banks had been deregulated in 2001, and suspect banking practices ensued almost immediately, setting the stage for the dramatic financial crisis of 2008. The stock market falls by 90% and customers across Europe find their accounts frozen. The government resigns, and all of the nation’s banks collapse.
2013 and Beyond… Iceland has emerged from its financial crisis just as strong as before, and with a pragmatic vision for its future. Using the landscape to its favor, Iceland has developed its natural geothermal and hydroelectric sources and is nearly energy independent. With one of the world’s most highly-educated populations and lowest crime rates, the country is well-poised to prosper in the future… at least until it’s ripped apart by volcanoes.

Read About The History Of Iceland (Books)

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August 1, 2013 at 6:59 pm Comment (1)

A View of Reykjavík from the Hallgrímskirkja

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A light-gray concrete space shuttle pointed to the stars, the Hallgrímskirkja is Reykjavík’s most instantly recognizable landmark. Set atop a hill, the Lutheran church is visible from miles away, and its tower offers one of the best views of the city.

Church Blog Iceland

Construction began on the “Church of Hallgrímur” in 1945, just after Iceland won its independence, but the fledgling country had to wait for 41 years before their new place of worship was ready for business. The architect, Guðjón Samúelsson, took his sweet time, but the result was worth it. Geography is an important part of Icelandic identity, and the Hallgrímskirkja is meant to resemble a volcano, with walls that are modeled on the hexagonal basalt columns formed by cooling lava.

Outside the church is a heroic statue of Leif Eriksson, who landed on the coast of Newfoundland around the year 1000 and became the first European on North American shores, half a millennium ahead of Columbus. The statue was a gift from the USA in celebration of the 1000th anniversary of Iceland’s parliament, the Alþing. The placement of a Viking statue in front of a church might seem strange, but in fact makes sense. Leif was among Iceland’s first Christians, having willingly converted in the year 1000. And it was during a mission to proselytize the new religion that he accidentally discovered North America.

The church is named for Hallgrímur Pétursson, a 17th-century reverend and Iceland’s most noted hymnist. Surely, he would have been proud to see the gigantic organ inside the church which bears his name. Standing at 50 feet, with over 5000 pipes, it’s the church’s only real interior feature, and lures the world’s most accomplished organists to Reykjavík for special concerts throughout summer.

But the best reason to visit the Hallgrímskirkja is for the incredible view over Reykjavík. An elevator takes you straight to the top of the tower, where you can enjoy a 360° panorama. Reykjavík might not be particularly impressive in size, but it is quite beautiful. From the tower, the colorful houses look particularly quaint against the majestic backdrop of mountains and ocean.

Location of the Hallgrímskirkja

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July 25, 2013 at 12:26 pm Comments (4)

Reykjavík: Iceland’s… City

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Reykjavík is more than just Iceland’s biggest city. It’s Iceland’s only city. Really, even calling it a “city” feels like an affront to its spirit. Despite claiming two-thirds of the country’s total population, Reykjavík is closer to an overgrown village than a major European capital.

Reykjavik Belt

Found in the southwest corner of the island, Reykjavík became Iceland’s first permanent settlement in 874 when Viking chieftain Ingólfur Arnason landed on its shores. According to legend, he came upon the location using the conventional method of the Vikings: throwing the pillars of his high chair off the longboat and settling wherever they drifted ashore. After arriving at his new home and, probably with some trepidation, noticing the steam issuing from the ground, he named it “Smoky Bay”. Or Reykjavík.

Throughout most of its history, Reykjavík was a provincial village, dedicated to farming and fishing. It wasn’t until WWII and the arrival of British and American troops that the city truly entered the modern age. Eager to take advantage of the strategically-situated island, the Allies built airports, paved roads and helped Reykjavík expand. Soon, rural Icelanders began seeking out jobs in the only urban setting their country offered, and the capital’s population exploded.

Despite the rapid development, downtown Reykjavík has maintained its small-town charm. Colorful, small houses are the dominant construction in the city center, with business centers and apartment blocks kept to the outskirts. At the city’s heart is the Tjörnin, a naturally-occurring pond on whose shores sits the City Hall (Ráðshúsið). The harbor, which has always played a pivotal role in the city’s fortunes, is just a couple blocks away. Really, everything in tiny Reykjavík is just a couple blocks away from everything else.

The downtown area can comfortably be covered in a single day. But to really become acquainted with the city takes far longer — a good thing, since we would be based here for 91 days! Given its size, Reykjavík offers a lot to do: museums, boat tours, hikes in the surrounding hills, excellent restaurants and cafes, cultural exhibitions, and a famous nightlife which ranks among the best in Europe. With its easy-going pace, the almost nonexistent traffic and appealing quirkiness of its inhabitants, Reykjavík is an instantly lovable city.

Location on our Iceland Map

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July 17, 2013 at 2:16 pm Comments (7)

Halló Iceland!

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Iceland, a small island stranded in the freezing waters of the North Atlantic, was our home for 91 days. The country’s 300,000 citizens lay claim to some of Europe’s most remote and beautiful terrain. Massive glaciers, simmering volcanoes, geothermal pools, puffin colonies, Viking sagas, whales and nerve-wracking road trips conspired to provide us with an exhilarating summer.

Reykjavik Travel Blog

We had spent the previous three months in Istanbul, which although technically on the same continent as Iceland, couldn’t be further apart in spirit. Istanbul is one of the Earth’s biggest cities and, upon leaving, we felt the need to reconnect with nature. In Iceland, we would experience the outdoors at their most extreme. We’d do a lot of hiking, participate in adventure tours, and bathe in hot springs. We’d visit frontier fishing villages, scale glaciers, and get to know a sizable percentage of the country’s population on a first-name basis (the only such basis Icelanders know).

We rented an apartment in Kópavogur, just south of Reykjavík, Iceland’s capital and by far its biggest city. Our apartment would serve as a base while we set off to explore the country, using buses, cars, hitchhiking, and even planes. About the size of Kentucky, Iceland isn’t big in terms of area, but the harshness of its terrain makes getting around a tricky proposition. Almost the entire interior is covered by glaciers and mountains, and is nearly impassable, let alone inhabitable. Icelanders live and work almost entirely around the coast.

After exploring Reykjavík and the surrounding southwest corner of the island, we would make our way up the west coast, to the Snæfellsnes Peninsula and the Westfjords. We’d spend time in the north, visit Akureyri (Iceland’s second city) and lounge around picturesque Lake Mývatn. We’d see the stunning Eastfjords, the glaciers and waterfalls of the South, the vast and barren interior, and even ferry out to a couple outlying islands.

Amazingly, we were able survive all of this without going broke, finding ourselves stranded on a glacier, or falling into a raging river of lava. It was an incredible 91 days.

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July 16, 2013 at 5:29 pm Comments (2)

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Reykjavk Goes Gay for a Day Jürgen and I have been to our share of pride parades around the world: Boston, Berlin, NYC, Spain. But we've never seen a Gay Pride quite like Reykjavík's, held annually in August. Led by its mayor, the entire city paints itself in rainbow colors and puts on an astonishing celebration of gayness.
For 91 Days