Arrived back home in Connecticut last night around midnight, officially concluding my first English tour after a 43-hour door-to-door return travel from London.
The biggest surprise of the whole trip was Iceland. I'd been to England once before, plus I'd researched all the Beatles hot spots in both Liverpool and London, so I knew more or less what to expect in both of those locations. Not so with Iceland.I had an 18-hour layover from 11pm to 5pm local time, so I slept in the terminal for a few hours then caught a bus from the airport to Iceland's capital, Reykjavic. Wandering around, I was struck by how colorful the architecture is. In that regard, it strongly reminds me of the La Boca neighborhood of Buenos Aires, Argentina.
One house even had grass growing on the roof.
Being in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, Iceland (like Liverpool) is dominated by maritime culture and history. Downtown Reykjavic is centered around the "Old Harbor".
In the harbor I found the museum Aurora Reykjavic, dedicated to the famous Northern Lights, one of the island's main tourist attractions. On display were some pretty impressive photographs of the phenomenon.
In the museum's gift shop I found a variety of aurora-inspired jewelry known as the Von Collection, a series of unique homemade bracelets and necklaces. Since Natalie is fond of both auroras and necklaces, I kept an eye out for a necklace, but instead purchased this bracelet because of the iridescent aurora-like color of the stones.
Reykjavic is also home of The Icelandic Phallological Museum - yes, an entire museum dedicated solely to penises. According to their brochure, the museum "contains a collection of more than two hundred penises and penile parts belonging to all the land and sea mammals that can be found in Iceland", including 17 different species of whale, 6 species of seal, and polar bear. My personal favorite was the walrus (goo goo k'joob), displayed with an accompanying poem. (Click the images below for full-sized pictures.)
The gift shop featured lollipops, bottle openers, and candles among other souvenirs.
But despite being one of (if not the) largest collections in the world, there was little more to the museum than the displays - no explanations or stories of why the specimens are significant or unusual in the animal kingdom. While humorous, I didn't find the museum enlightening or inspiring.
Amusingly, the Phallological Museum is very near Hallgrimskirkja, probably the most famous building in Iceland and at 240 feet easily the tallest. Coincidence?
I also visited the Reykjavic city library to see if they would be interested in a Beatles program. John Lennon is particularly popular there, largely because of Yoko Ono, who established the IMAGINE PEACE TOWER just north of the capital city on 9 October 2007 (what would have been Lennon's 67th birthday). The tower isn't a building but rather a very bright beam of light that shoots straight up into the sky, dedicated to John's memory. Since I was visiting during the daylight hours (at this time of year, Iceland gets about 21 hours of daylight and only 3 hours of darkness) the tower was not activated. On the second floor of the library was a display case filled with Lennon memorabilia. Normally I reserve my "The Beatles & The Avant-Garde" program for academic rather than public audiences, but given the circumstances it might be a particularly good choice if/when I'm back in Iceland.
From there I flew back to Boston Logan, shuttled to South Station, and caught a bus to Hartford. Thus concludes English tour number one; and all the pieces are in place for round two in the not-too-distant future!
This blog is a workshop for developing my analyses of The Beatles' music.