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Weekend in…..Reykjavik?

It was a rainy three case day in March when Craig Phillips proposed the idea. “I’ve never been, and I hear the…. [sights] are beautiful.” So as the masses of January students flooded to the New England coast to kick off May long weekend festivities, our adventure-seeking fearless foursome headed for the Icelandair check in at Logan. Armed with one copy of the Lonely Planet, two pairs of wool socks and three digital cameras, we embarked on an historic adventure.

As we boarded the plane, we pondered the impact on the balance of payments of the British chewing gum we had purchased in the US but would consume in Iceland. As these and other mind-numbingly circular questions faded from thought, new and clearly more relevant ones emerged: “Where the $&@ is Iceland?” I asked Ed Jen.

The plane touched down in Keflavik at 5:30am on Saturday, after less than 5 hours in the air. Half an hour from Iceland’s capital, the airport is a former NATO base now used for international travel. By 7am we were in Reykjavik, the world’s most northerly capital city, located just north of the 64th parallel. The weather was cool, somewhere in the 50s. Thanks to the Gulf Stream, Iceland’s temperature is cool in summer but fairly mild in winter (30s).

The IKEA-like Nordic d‚cor of the restaurants and hotels was indicative of Iceland’s history. Settled by Vikings of Norwegian decent in the 9th century, legend has it that beautiful women were `stolen’ from Norway and brought to Iceland where the Vikings could keep them for themselves. Smart thinking, guys!

After a short nap at the Radisson and lunch at McDonalds, we felt completely immersed in local culture. We headed for the Blue Lagoon, a geothermal hot spring open year round, the energy from which most of the country’s power is derived. We found that renting a car was an inexpensive and efficient way to see the country and that the faster you drive the more `efficient’ your tour becomes. And given there is almost 24 hours of daylight in the summer months, a morning sleep-in will definitely not `waste your day’ as your mother would have you believe.

So upon reflection from our experiences I leave you with some information that you may find relevant while planning your next trip to Iceland.

1. The national bird of Iceland is the puffin, but none of the locals seem to know this. It’s a cute bird with a colorful beak and, according to culinary correspondent Mark Cicirelli, “it tastes good too”.

2. Despite the lack of Greenpeace influence in Iceland, avoid ordering the dolphin. Unfortunately it does not fit the classic `tastes like chicken’ description. We recommend the reindeer instead.

3. According to International correspondent Ed Jen, “the Chinese food was on par with America, nothing a good dose of sweet and sour syrup can’t fix. But the blond waitress did detract somewhat from the authenticity of it all, not that I’m complaining…”

4. Don’t stand too close to an active geyser that shoots boiling hot sulfur water 40 feet into the air. There are signs (in English) that warn you of this. Pay attention to them.

5. If at all possible, be well connected in Iceland before you arrive, preferably through someone in the Media and Entertainment industry. Have personal tour guides show you around the country, take you to the best restaurants and escort you in one of Iceland’s six stretch limos to Astro, the hottest night club in town. Ensure that the top floor of the bar is reserved for you and your party and that drinks are free flowing for the many friends you are sure to meet that night. This strategy seemed to be successful for us. And in keeping with the longstanding HBS code-of-honor, what happened in Iceland stays in Iceland, I’m ut.

June 4, 2001
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