"The trolls keep on changing the street signs:" An Icelandic hot dog adventure

A "troll" and I in Reykjavik during my visit to Iceland in May 2017.
Lauren J. Mapp

While writing a personal statement for a scholarship recently, I realized that I had yet to write a blog post about the anecdote that I began my essay with. This story is from my first trip to Iceland while traveling through Europe in fall 2014.

Exhausted after weeks of backpacking through Europe, I shivered in my thin leggings as I walked through the streets of Reykjavik. Though I had brought too many bags on my trip, I had somehow worn almost every piece of clothing I carried before making my way to the coldest destination on my itinerary. 

Unprepared for the 32-degree weather, I took photographs of the brutalist-style Hallgrímskirkja church before heading to the infamous Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur, an Icelandic hot dog stand previously visited by Anthony Bourdain, former President Bill Clinton and Metallica’s James Hetfield.

Since I only had a 26-hour layover in Iceland, I was determined to make the most of my visit. Weeks before leaving San Diego, I printed directions to get from my hostel to Hallgrímskirkja, and then to Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur. 

I reviewed the directions before going out, yet after leaving the church, I walked in circles, desperately looking for my next turn. Several friendly locals told me, “You’re very close, just turn there,” but as I followed their advice, I somehow continued to miss the restaurant. Eventually I ended up in front of a large public map, trying to make sense of the complicated street names, when two incredibly tall men approached me.

“Are you lost?” one asked as the other chuckled.

“Yes, I’m trying to find Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur,” I replied.

“Oh, you’re very close,” one of the men said with a thick, Icelandic accent. “We’ll show you the way. It’s not your fault that you’re lost – the trolls keep on changing the street signs.”

Although I was worried about being alone in a foreign country – in the dark – with two strange men, I was cold and hungry, so I followed them as they showed me the way. We arrived at an intersection where we parted ways, and one of the men pointed at a street and said, "Turn there, and it will be right around the corner. You can't miss it."

Well guess what? I did miss it, yet again.

Eventually I meandered around the block and found it, realizing my mistake in that I was looking for an indoor, sit down restaurant since it was only 43 degrees. In fact, it is actually an outdoor hot dog stand with picnic tables.

Without further intervention from “the trolls,” I tried the hot dog that I’d heard so much about. After walking for what felt like hours in the dark and cold, I was starving and ready for the sweet mustard and crispy onion-topped hot dog. 

Made from a mixture of lamb, pork and beef, the combination of meats is slightly different than what is offered in the United States. It tasted fine, but left me hungry enough for a meal of fish and chips at a restaurant after.

The most memorable aspect about that night was not the meal, but the friendly interactions with the local community. Because of all those who (attempted) to guide me to the hot dog stand, I hold very fond feelings for the northernmost capital city in the world. 

Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur's infamous hot dog in Iceland during a trip to Reykjavík in 2014.
Lauren J. Mapp


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