This past weekend, I ventured to Akureyri, the unofficial capital of north Iceland for a skating competition. Soon, I'll do a post about the differences in skating between the US and Iceland, but for this post. I'll focus on Akureyri itself. Starting with how to go from looking like an Icelander to the most idiotic of all American tourists within fifteen seconds.
I came across a cute coffee shop called Bláa Kannan café. I started to order in Icelandic, but as we all know, I struggle with the follow-up questions. This time, the barista asked something, which I presumed was "for here" or "takeaway." I said "for here," she said nei and proceed to ask me a question in Icelandic, though she spoke very slowly. The other barista started talking to me in Icelandic too. They could tell that I was trying to learn the language but evidently didn't realize how limited my Icelandic knowledge actually is! Finally, she switched to English and said, "Would you like one shot of espresso or two?" Oh. I wonder how many other times baristas have tried to ask me that only to have me reply, "takeaway!"
I proceeded to pay with this strange bill for 100 kronor. I wondered why I had a bill from 100 kronor, when Icelandic currency has a coin for 100 krona. Though I thought it was strange, I didn't think it was too odd. One time my mom and I went to Canada with $1 and $2 Canadian bills that stopped getting printed twenty years earlier, but still in circulation (my dad does a lot of coin deals). Everyone working freaked out when they saw the currency and a couple workers even bought some of them off of my mom. But that was not the case here. It turns out the bill was 100 KRONOR not 100 KRONA. Which means it was not Icelandic at all, but Swedish. Swedish!? Yes, I've been to Sweden, but that was a year and a half and about five destroyed purses ago. I somehow must have managed to pick up Swedish currency somewhere in Reykjavik, but don't ask me how.
The good news is, I can add this to my list: I do something stupid in every country. And that list isn't even counting the time I face-planted in Oxford, accidentally acting out the scene from Theory of Everything.
The town of Akureyri is Iceland's second biggest city, but it is a tiny town of 18,000 people. To put that in perspective, my hometown of Butler has 13,000 people and is no where near the largest city in western Pennsylvania, let alone the United States! For a small city, it has some gorgeous sites.
We stayed at Skjaldarvík Guesthouse, which is just outside the city and on the water. The decorations are all recycled and handmade. It is family owned and every detail from the decorating to the Icelandic horses to the home-cooked meals they made for my skating club was perfect. Definitely consider staying there if you are in the area!
It's no secret that I love Christmas! I think I was more excited about our group outing to Jólagarðurinn (The Christmas Garden for us English speakers) than my 8-year-old skaters! I've visited such places before, and always love all the festive decorations. The tower in the back is home to the world's largest Advent Calendar, with scenes from fairy tales.
Akureyri is home to Brynja, considered by many Iceland's top ice cream shop (you're never too close to the Arctic Circle for ice cream). After learning that they use pure milk instead of cream to make their ice cream, I was a bit worried. Those of you who remember the Baby Brown Swiss Dairy Cow Incident will know why. Though some questionable red marks briefly appeared on my arm, they quickly went away and I seem to have avoided a Baby Brown Icelandic Dairy Cow Incident.
Akureyri is a lovely city. It's less touristy than Reykjavik, with a vibrant culture of its own and stunning scenery. It is definitely worth the twelve-hour round-trip bus ride. Plus, there is amazing scenery the whole way between cities!
Hi, I’m Crystal! Just like you, I love to travel. You’ll get all the best tips and insights from my experiences as a former ice-skating coach in Iceland and former study abroad student. Of the 24 countries I have visited, a type 1 diabetes diagnosis has been the strangest land yet. Type 1 has not slowed down my travels and you'll learn how to take type 1 with you on the road! You can connect with me further on Instagram @CrystalChilcott, or send me ideas of where I should travel next via email: firstname.lastname@example.orgHappy Travels, Crystal
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