On our second to last day in Iceland, our mission was to find me a lopapeysa, the traditional Icelandic sweater. We had stopped at one of the Handknitting Association of Iceland stores just down the street from where we were staying the day before, just to see their prices (~16000-19000 kronur). We had also checked out the two Red Cross thrift stores in Reykjavik, just in case I could find a previously loved lopapeysa I liked, but no luck there. The lopapeysa section looked pretty picked out.
Anyway, back to our mission that day, first thing in the morning we headed out to the Kolaportið flea market by the harbour where I heard you could buy lopapeysur for a lot less than what the stores charge, as well as rotten shark (an Icelandic delicacy!) and just about anything you could think of. We got there about 15 minutes before it opened for the weekend (it's just a weekend thing and it was a Saturday). There was already quite a gathering of people outside the flea market door (queuing seems to be an unfamiliar concept all over Iceland, I noticed). When the door was being opened, they played a loud alarm over the PA, so if at the time you were, say, standing in line at the busy hotdog place across the street getting some tasty hotdogs for breakfast, you'd hear it and know that the flea market is now open for business.
The flea market looked like a big, indoor garage sale. Some vendors practically just piled up their stuff on the table and let you do the job of digging for whatever you're looking for. And there were a lot of lopapeysur for sale. They generally cost about 3000 kronur less than the regular store price. Not bad but I couldn't seem to find one that I liked because, well, I'm picky.
After the flea market disappointment, our last hope was a tiny little store called the Thorvaldsen's Bazar. The store is one of the oldest stores in Reykjavik. It has been around since 1901 and has been on the same spot since 1905. It's run by a team of volunteers (mostly elderly ladies, who likely knitted the sweaters being sold in the store) and the proceeds from the sales go into supporting children in need. We happened to be there on the store's anniversary. To celebrate, they were serving free coffee and cake to visitors. I thought the place would be busy, but it was quite the opposite, which made me a bit sad.
The Bazar had a good selection of lopapeysur organized by colour. One of the elderly ladies who manned the store approached me and offered her assistance. After I filled her in on the kind of lopapeysa I was looking for, she fished out a selection and one of them happened to be just what I was looking for! I was more than happy to pay them the regular store price (a little more than 17000 kronur) knowing that the proceed was going to a good cause.
When we were paying for it, another elderly lady asked the lady who helped me where the lopapeysa we were buying was because she was looking to pack it up. Both ladies looked at me and giggled. I was wearing it already. Apparently it was unusual. So I wore my lopapeysa straight out of the store and was wearing it while walking all over downtown Reykjavik in a drizzling rain. And that was when I found out that the 100% pure Icelandic wool sweater smells a lot like sheep when damp.
So here is a picture of me in a restaurant on Reykjavik's main shopping street, Laugavegur, smelling like sheep in my damp lopapeysa, hoping nobody would notice the stink, but still quite happy with my purchase. I can see the sweater getting a lot of use this coming winter!
TIP: Avoid main street souvenir stores at all cost if you're looking to buy a lopapeysa as they charge up to 15000 kronur more than the stores I mentioned above!