My flight to Reykjavik landed 45 minutes early, so my Girl Scout preparedness of wearing long underwear under my layers was unnecessary. I had plenty of time to put on my water repelling pants in the luxurious airport bathroom, which was about the size of a mock apartment in an IKEA store. To my surprise my shuttle driver was already waiting for me, and I was thinking paying the extra $10 to be dropped off at my hotel instead of the bus terminal was a smart move. As we exited the terminal, I nearly fell on my ass.
“Watch out,” my female driver said. “We had our first snow of the season earlier.” Sleet and ice covered the parking lot. I was really not expecting this weather change. It was 65 degrees when I left New York.
I arrived at my hotel at 7:30 am. The check in time was not until 4:00 pm. Eva the receptionist handed me a key attached to something resembling a cutting board to access the luggage storage. I was not keen on leaving my unlocked carry on bag in a room that surely every other guest would be accessing given that all flights arrive early in Iceland. I was not feeling warm and fuzzy about my hotel, despite my cute new hat and scarf combo. I had no choice but to lock the room, bring the cutting board back to the desk and venture out into the darkness. Fun fact — the sun doesn’t rise until 9 am. I had 90 minutes of walking in the dark ahead of me.
When you’re in a foreign country by yourself, it’s very unnerving to be walking in the dark. The streets were empty, despite it being 8 am. Don’t people work here? When I did pass someone, they were either a tourist also locked out of their hotel, or the occasional person taking out their trash. I nearly burst into tears thinking this was a horrible mistake. I wasn’t feeling exhilarated, or peaceful. I was thinking this is not safe, and you are insane. I could hear Miss Daisy in a soundtrack in my head. “You could be kidnapped!” I’m pretty sure ISIS isn’t in Iceland. They really wouldn’t blend with the locals. I pressed on, mostly because I didn’t have a choice.
I wanted to be near the harbor at sunrise, thinking that might be picturesque. That was still an hour away. Instead I headed in the opposite direction up the hill toward the most photographed site, Hallgrimskirkja. By the time I got there, it was still pretty dark. But at least there were a couple of photographers there setting up a tripod, and a pack of Asian tourists waiting to be picked up by a tour bus. I took some photos, and then it started to rain. Awesome. Because being lost in the dark isn’t fun enough, let’s add some rain. And I don’t have an umbrella with me. Church and Leif Ericsson statute checked off my list, I decided to head back down to the harbor.
Along the way I realized I left my credit cards in my unlocked carry-on in the hotel closet of theft. Now I was cold, wet, lost, worried about my credit cards being stolen and still freaking out being alone. One of the things I noticed is that Reykjavik is a lot like Portland. It seems like everyone has a makeshift patio for the 38 minutes of sunlight they see. There is a lot of street art, bakeries and cute boutiques from what I could see in the dark. I’ve also never seen Portland, so I’m just guessing. Maybe it’s like Burlington, VT, but it doesn’t really smell like patchouli.
When I thought I was back at the harbor near the Viking ship sculpture behind my hotel, I realized I wasn’t even close. I appeared to be in downtown Reykjavik, if there’s such a thing. I was lost, without my map that was still in the Closet o’ Theft. I would be forced to use my emergency roaming cell phone data when I’d only been in the country two hours. This trip was not off to an auspicious start. So there I was, standing on a street corner where everyone kept stopping for me to cross the street and I’d have to wave them on. At least people were polite. I tried to find a street sign but everything looked like Ejkyaulakafjukinlostalready. I was a little disheartened that no one mistook me for a prostitute, because that would probably be a good way to find an Icelandic husband. But while my water repellant pants were a good choice for the climate, sexy they were not.
Eventually as the rain picked up, I found myself in the general direction of the hotel and by sheer luck, standing across the street from the Viking ship sculpture. It was finally daylight, but raining, so I didn’t get my sunrise photo. It was still pretty surreal when I walked up to the edge of the harbor.
In my Amazing Race style of vacation planning, I only allotted myself about 5 1/2 hours to see Reykjavik. I did some souvenir shopping on the main shopping street and worked my way toward the one museum I absolutely had to see — the Icelandic Phallological Museum. The only penis museum in the world.
It was a little anticlimactic though, since it was only in a storefront in the ground floor of an office building. From the outside, you could see a lovely display in the gift shop. Penis scarves, penis dolls, and t-shirts saying “It’s All About Dicks” or “I’m Not a Donor.” I hesitated to go in because I felt like a total pervert, but I knew my faithful readers would expect me to. There was an American guy standing in front on his cell phone and I heard him say loudly, “Which direction are you going–toward the Penis Museum or away from the Penis Museum?” Oh I’m going toward it, sir.
There was a creepy Icelandic guy at the ticket counter, which one would expect in a penis museum, but I had higher hopes for Icelandic men. I paid my $14 US admission. He motioned behind him: “There is lit-er-a-tour in 13 languages on the wall. Enjoy the Penises.” Well, I could enjoy them a lot more if they weren’t preserved in jars. Maybe Reykjavik should be more like Amsterdam. Preserved penises are pretty repulsive. They have snail penises, bull penises, red penises, blue penises. You name it. And the signs are even written in Esperanto, which might make this also the only Esperanto-friendly museum in the world.
To my surprise, the place filled up after I went in. Everyone was playfully posing next to a petrified penis. I immediately gravitated to the silver castings of the Icelandic handball team, which is just delightful irony in that it was the handball team and not the soccer team. For one thing, they weren’t decaying, and stood like proud silver chess pieces mounted on the wall. How does one get a job taking casts of penises? Is there a market for that sort of thing? Do I need a degree? I was especially a fan of the guy in the back row, and pondered if they were really organized to match the photo accompanying it, because if so, the poor guy who leans left would never get a date in Iceland.
There is only one human specimen on display, although there are two others under contract pending their owner’s demise. The human display was in parts: foreskin in one jar, scrotum in another, and shaft in a third. Unlike the animal displays, the jars were quite pink from blood. I nearly vomited. All that went through my mind was Lorena Bobbitt. It suddenly became less like a science museum and more like a serial killer’s basement experiment. The animal scrotum light fixtures didn’t help the ambiance. The lawyer in me started to wonder if they were a fire hazard and I might die in the penis museum, which would make for an epic obituary for me. I bet someone sells scrotum lamps on Etsy. Christmas is coming, my friends!
[Coming up in part 3– still in Iceland, I make friends with a horse (non-museum related) and hunt for the Northern Lights.]