Saturday, November 30, 2013

Iceland – Kex Hostel

Adorable kid in a traditional Icelandic wool sweater.
Why would I want to go to a country that just suffered a major financial collapse, whose weather ranges from “it could be worse” to “HOW DO PEOPLE LIVE HERE”, and whose staple foods are red meat, herring, and potatoes (I love all foods, but I also love not having gout)? Because of this, this, and this!

The pictures I have look nothing like these, but trust me, Iceland is picturesque and quaint and totally worth the trip – and I say this despite the blizzard and rain and cloudy skies we had through our whole trip.

My travel buddy, Christina, and I arrived in Iceland at around 6am and took the very convenient FlyBus which drops you off right in front of your hotel. We didn’t rent a car because Reykjavik is totally walkable and you can get to all the sights via guided tours. Also neither of us drive stick and, as we later found out, it’s probably better to put your lives in the hands of an experienced driver when it’s blizzarding on the very narrow, unpaved rocky roads leading to the country.

When we first arrived at the Kex Hostel I got a little nervous. The nondescript door on the cold, dark, empty street made me look back at Christina and think….I should let her go in first. But, it actually turned out to be super cute!  Kex means “biscuit” in Icelandic - something locals adorably told me whenever I told them where we were staying.  The building itself actually used to be a biscuit factory. I don’t know how you could possible be scared of a place after hearing that.
I couldn't help but stalk his cute family. 
The hostel itself was super clean, there were no TVs (because hostels are meant for people who want to socialize), and each floor had its own spacious kitchens with tables usually filled with residents drinking, eating and chatting. They have the option of communal showers, but I prefer to do my socializing fully clothed. Speaking of showers - the water will smell a little funky (rotten egg funky), but that’s just the sulfur, and it goes away pretty quickly.

The hostel also has a bar in its restaurant/dining room/main lounge that even locals come to for drinks (apparently Bjork and Of Monsters and Men have hung out here). The bar also hosts live music on some nights and, while we were there, showed “the big game” which was Iceland vs. Croatia in the World Cup qualifier game. They were all very excited because Iceland had never made it so close to the World Cup before. That game ended in an anti-climactic tie of 0-0. Womp womp.
If, like us, you get to the hostel super early and are waiting to check in and for the sun to come up (which happens around 9am) buy your first Icelandic breakfast. You MUST try the skyr which has been a part of Icelandic cuisine for a thousand years (according to Wikipedia). It’s very dense and yogurt-like and is high in protein and very low in fat, if it has any at all. It tastes kind of like sweet sour cream. If that sounds gross, ignore what I just said and just trust me that it’s very yummy.
I’m not a big coffee drinker, but their coffee was pretty darn delicious too. I wanted to take some home, but when I asked what brand it was and they just showed me the blank grey economy-sized packets they get delivered in bulk. It was devastating.

So if you’re going to Iceland and don’t mind bunk beds, shared showers, and do want to meet other travelers from all over the world, I would definitely recommend this place. And the skyr. And the coffee. The view when the sun finally comes out, isn’t too bad either:

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