Location: Reykjavík

GoBeyond Iceland 2019 is off to a fantastic start! After collecting everyone from the airport and rendezvousing at our hostel in downtown Reykjavik, the adventure commenced. Those of us who arrived on the earlier flight embarked on a walking tour of the city with the one and only, Gigja Svavarsdottir. Among the many noteworthy sites was a monument celebrating the establishment of women’s voting rights in 1915. The group also visited Menntaskólinn, one of the first schools in Reykjavik, erected in 1846, and boasting not one but two Nobel laureates. Later on, Gigja told the story of the non-violent protests that took place in the ’70s which prevented urban developers from demolishing some of the oldest buildings in Reykjavik. These buildings have been transformed into restaurants and the tourist information center. Once the walking tour wrapped up, we all met at the Tin Can Factory for an Icelandic language and cooking class. While sipping on herbal teas from Gigja’s harvest, we learned that Icelandic is derived from Old Norse and is most closely related to Faroese, the language spoken in the Faroe Islands. Egil, our language and history guru, explained that all Icelanders are named after their mother or father, so their last name has the suffix -dottir for females (meaning ‘daughter of’) or -sson for males (‘son of’). Egil also enlightened us to the fact that our days of the week in English are named after Old Norse Gods: Tuesday = Tyr’s day – god of war , Wednesday = Odin’s day – god of wisdom, Thursday = Thor’s Day – god of thunder, Friday = Freyja (Odin’s wife) – goddess of fertility. We then snacked on traditional Icelandic fare which included lots of buttered up Rugbraud (brown bread steamed for 12 hours in geysir water!) with pickled herring and toasted angelica leaves, and a few classic Christmas time snacks. The brave souls among us sampled all different parts of a sheep’s head, including eyeballs!!! These are considered a true delicacy. Next, we tasted homemade Skyr yogurt drizzled with all sorts of syrups made from birch bark, mosses, and crowberries, to name a few. These syrups were made by a local woman who, feeling the effects of ageism during the financial collapse of 2008, drastically altered her career path and now employs elderly individuals to harvest herbs and berries to make the syrups. Later Gigja taught us how to make ponnukokur, traditional Icelandic pancakes. We learned that the eldest child inherits the family pancake pan, which is a great point of pride. We each tried our hand at “listening to the pancakes speak” and then “tickling” them into place. There are some professional pancake ticklers amongst us, and others, like myself, who were… ahem… not particularly skilled in the field of Icelandic pancakery. The pancakes, filled with rhubarb jam and a hefty dollop of whipped cream were delicious. Upon completing our cooking class and language lesson, Egil and Gigja granted us Icelandic names and diplomas. We returned to the hostel with full bellies and some choice phrases in Icelandic to practice during the rest of the journey.  Bae for now! Patrekur Súsönnusson and Katla Jöhannasdottir (Patrick and Keeley)