A Day in the Capital: Wandering Laugavegur

HON195 Student Post: Jacqueline Langevin, Psychology major; Honors Minor

Career Aspirations: Continue education towards PhD



A Day in the Capital: Wandering Laugavegur

First of all the weather was beautiful. I start out with this because it is a very common conversation starter amongst the Icelandic. I opened my window and the sunlight shone in, leaving gold reflections off of lava I collected earlier in the week sitting on the window still. My day was off to a great start the second I woke up: this morning, we were finally given a chance to sleep in. I quickly got dressed and packed my backpack with the essentials: wallet, sweater, bathing suit. Mind you, I was already wearing a few layers under my raincoat. The bathing suit is an essential item to always carry around in Iceland: you never know when you will find a hot spring or stumble upon a pool. Although the agenda for the day was wandering around the city of Reykjavik I didn’t want to risk not having my bathing suit handy.

The class hopped on our Geocamp bus and started our journey to the city. We were dropped off around 11 at Harpa. Harpa is a famous Concert Hall on the water. Its windows reminded me of my lava rocks I admired earlier this morning. We walked into Harpa and decided to watch a 360 degree film on Iceland. The film was short, only lasting around fifteen minutes. While it didn’t last long, somehow it was able to capture Iceland’s most famous landmarks. What I found most interesting was the segment documenting the eruption of Eyjafjallajokull. We were able to see it up close and personal. Its rocks were bright orange and moving like water that had been mixed with flour. The thick liquidity of the lava was oddly mesmerizing.

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Harpa in Miniature

After the relaxing film I decided I needed some coffee in my life. Luckily I was in the right place for it. I didn’t even have to walk more than a block to find a coffee shop. When it comes to coffee, it is never a hit or miss in Iceland. I went with the usual cappuccino but decided to get an espresso shot. I thought it couldn’t hurt.

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A little Rose Lemonade to wash down the Cappuccino

With caffeine in my hand I walked down Laugavegur. Laugavegur is the main shopping street in Reykjavik. I did some shopping, stumbling upon lava rock jewelry in almost every shop. You can really see how the Icelandic use common resources to their advantage while looking at what is sold. The second most common thing that came to my attention was the abundance of clothing made from Icelandic wool. After about ten shops I was done with the commercialized shopping scene and wanted to try out a more authentic shopping experience. I decided it was time to wander the Reykjavik Flea Market. It was about a ten minute walk from where I was. My mind was set on finding souvenirs at a good price and a flea market is the place to do so. I felt as if I were in the Old Port walking while the smell of the ocean breeze blew by.

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Flea Market with Reykjavik Port Reflection in the Window

I didn’t realize how close to home I was until I stumbled upon a street performer from New York City. His skit was quite funny and his outgoing intrusively funny humor was very American. He gathered quite a crowd, all the while showing off some amazing basketball tricks. He gained a huge audience and it was easy to tell who the Americans were because they were laughing the hardest at his jokes picking fun at Trump and racial stereotypes. After watching his street performance, I felt more comfortable among the Icelandic since they seemed to love the American street performer as much as I did. I made it to the flea market with confidence, feeling less out of place. It was amazing. I found so many things while also mastering my bartering strategy. Bartering in Iceland is not normally appropriate, but the flea market holds its own rules. The part I found most strange was the food section. I was told this was the place to try fermented Icelandic shark, or how it is said there Hákarl. I am a very adventurous eater and find it fun to try new things, even if they have a very bad reputation for taste. Luckily they were out of free samples of the shark. I was content not going out of my way to find any more. Hey, it’s an excuse to come again!

Leaving the flea market, I was onto my last adventure. I wanted to get to know Icelandic culture on a deeper level. I thought to myself, what is an important part of any culture? The local art scene! I knew if this town was anything like the cities I was used to, there would definitely be some underground galleries that really revealed the local culture. Reykjavik is also home to beautiful street art with murals that span across entire buildings. You can check out more about the street art here. My city thinking paid off. I found a beautiful exhibit presented by the Icelandic Printmakers Association. It was a small gallery with one lady sitting in the corner. One attendant is the norm among small galleries.

The art was simple and beautiful. I talked with the lady about what the art scene was like here and she said it was booming. I told her where I was from and she said it was much like Portland, Maine. It was a funny coincidence I decided to stumble upon this gallery because her daughter was actually going to college at RISD in Rhode Island. RISD is an extremely prestigious art school. I was glad to be familiar with it because it provided amazing conversation. It is always good to explore the unknown, even in a completely different country you can find the most fortuitous connections.