Iceland

Reykjavík – Part 2: Pilsners, Penises and Padres

We were very focused and responsible tourists on our first full day in Reykjavík…which could only mean trouble was around the bend.  For the next two days we managed to drink, see a lot of penises and have dinner with my parents to round it out. There’s no better way to write that sentence; I tried.

We were still adapting to the time difference….some of us better than others.


After a late start on Friday, we managed to leave the house around 3pm and walk into town.  First stop of business was to have a look around Lucky Records, the largest record store in Iceland.  We didn’t find anything we couldn’t live without, although it would be fairer to say we didn’t find anything that was worth the exorbitant cost and hassle to ship back to the States.


We did find records that we had never seen before – including an original 1989 pressing of “If It Don’t Kill You, It Just Makes You Stronger” by Bruce Willis. Yep, that Bruce Willis.

As we were moseying back down the main shopping street, we bumped into my parents, which is not as happenstance as it might seem.  They had arrived in town earlier in the day, after spending a coupe of months in the UK visiting family and friends.  They took advantage of the amazing Icelandicair deals, and were starting their three day stopover before heading back to the States.  We chatted in the street for a bit then went on our separate ways – that’s not harsh, I promise – we were scheduled to have dinner the next night.

Our plan for the evening was drinking-themed.  We were joining a Nomadic Matt meetup at the Dubliner for happy hour.  Nomadic Matt is a travel blog that kept me sane during our RTW trip planning.  Matt happened to be passing through Iceland on his way to Scotland and was hosting a meetup, that eventually got absorbed into the local Couchsurfing meetup.  Happy hour in Iceland is hilariously expensive, and I stopped trying to keep count of the pints after John brought me my fourth.  It’s was weird, the more we drank, the less I cared.  That ever happen to y’all?

Anyway, the evening was great fun.  We met a lot of fellow travelers and a few Icelanders, who amused us with tales about inadvertently dating your cousin.  As the population of Iceland is so small, it’s almost a given that you are related to everyone else if you go back far enough, however, the threat of getting cozy with someone a little closer on the family tree is so prevalent that everyone uses an app that’s designed let you know whether that cute guy at the bar is in the ‘family zone’ or not.

One thing to note about the Reykjavik boozing scene is that it’s very, very raucous, debacherous and happens much, much later than John and I can stay up these days.  The only people drinking in public from 7pm-11:30pm are tourists.  The rest of Reykjavik’s population are busy getting lit at home, preparing to hit the town around 12pm-1am.  The bars here close at 5am and the city is chock full of restaurants that cater specifically to the drunken mob.  That greasy, nasty food you are craving when you’ve tipped the elbow a little too much?  Well, you are spoilt for choice in Reykjavik.  For example, we ate at a restaurant that specialized in french fries with 10 dipping sauce options.  Genius.


Now, we ate at that restaurant for lunch.  We made a far worse decision at 11:30pm (which is when we finally called it a night).  On the way home, we patronized a brightly lit hut that served us enormous sub sandwiches.  The only thing I remember about mine was that it contained an illegal amount of crispy fried onions, the smell of which has permanently permeated my raincoat.  John’s sandwich seemed to have constituted of pepperoni and mayonnaise.  Surprisingly, we walked the mile home without incident and fell into to bed, which is where we remained for the next 12 hours.  You guys, I can not drink as much beer as I used to.

The touristy hightlight of the following day was…and I can barely believe I am typing this…the Icelandic Phallological Museum. Per the brochure, this museum houses the world’s largest display of penises and penile parts. The collection of 280 specimens from 93 species of animals includes 55 penises taken from whales, 36 from seals and 118 from land mammals.  

From the left: John Levy, Sperm Whale

I’m not making this up, but Sigurður Hjartarson was always interested in penises, ever since he was a child and was given a bull’s penis for a cattle whip. Now the museum, run by his son, has lots of them…including a donated human penis and 3 more promised human penises on the way.

Ladies and Gentleman, it’s not as fun as it sounds.  It looks like this multiplied by 280.

Harbor Seal. Bonus Fact: All the signs were written in Esperanto

I realized our mistake about 45 seconds after handing the cashier our 3000Kr…which I think is exactly what they want to happen.  The museum consists of 3 rooms that contain many, many jars of pickled penises.  The particular penis pictured above is from a Harbor Seal.  I was nauseated for the entire 45 minutes.

I will let the amazing crowd-sourced TripAdvisor fill you in on the public response…and you can sign our names on any of these.

“Not that big; doesn’t last very long.”

This museum came highly recommended by several sources; friends, fellow travelers, guide books. Lonely Planet even called it a “Must-visit recommendation.” Well, I hate to say it, but the Iceland Phallological Museum just didn’t satisfy. For what you got, the price was steep – the museum isn’t all that big, and doesn’t take long to tour (not enough bang for your buck, if you will). I didn’t really learn much, but did get the privilege (and sheer shock value) of seeing multiple members from all types of animals. Some might get a kick, but for me, this place just didn’t impress me much.

“Just not really my thing…”

My friends and I were expecting something a little more kitsch and funny… but this was literally just a room full of pickled penises.

“What a bunch of Dicks!!!!!”

Don’t bother going to this weird and not funny museum. It is a gross mix of sea-world willies and some rather poor taste lampshades made from animal scrotums. the guy who runs it was not at all welcoming and once inside it is somewhere between a really bad 70’s horror show of various pickled whales phalli to some not funny at all “joke” items. I think it would be better if it came down on the side of humour, forget the “science” and get someone on the front desk who looks interested. On the plus side you can just go to the shop and get a “Phallus museum” T Shirt.

Collect Call for Deez Nuts

We managed to class up the evening a bit by having my parents over for dinner.  They are a lovely pair of people, and since they have been touring around the UK for the past two months, I haven’t been able to chat with them.  


It was lovely to catch up, and they gave us a great preview of things to come, as that day they had seen sights we are due to visit when we wrap up our trip.

In closing – Reykjavik is an excellent town, from it’s historic center to it’s seedy outskirts (I am looking at you, penis museum).  John successfully navigated many round-a-bouts, we bought groceries for our road trip, I hugged my delightful folks and we saw the Northern Lights.  You don’t get much better than that.

For the next two weeks we are touring the country via car – first stop on the itinerary: the Snæfellsnes Peninsula.  SPOILER ALERT – it’s freakin’ beautiful.

Reykjavik 360!

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Categories: Iceland

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