Kleina – friend or foe?

Iceland has many specialities, and the kleina is a particularly delicious one. It essentially a doughnut, but it comes in an interesting twisted shape and is found in all good cafés and coffee bars in Iceland.

Last time I was in Reykjavík, I had a busy day planned with lots of walking around and one of my planned highlights was going to be for the end of the day, to have a hot chocolate and a kleina – bliss! I was really looking forward to this.

At the end of the day, laden with bags, I began my search for the perfect kleina, only to find a fundamental flaw in my plan. As it was the end of the day, they were sold out everywhere! None of the cozy places I wanted to sit in had any left. Lugging my bags up the hill of Laugavegur, it was starting to look grim.

Then I remembered a little bakery type place that I had seen that was pretty much around the corner from where I was staying. I burst in, catching the attention of a group of old man who were obviously regulars and completely camped out in one corner. And…victory! They had a kleina – one left and it was dipped in chocolate! And – free back copies of gossip magazines that I can’t actually read but like to flip through and spot the celebs I can recognise. Lovely.

I ensconced myself in my own corner. The hot chocolate was going to be an issue as there was some sort of problem with the machine. Now ideally having the kleina WITH the hot chocolate would be better than having the two separately, but I could tell from the drama happening around the machine that I was going to be waiting for a while and I’d worked up an appetite. Feeling majorly geeky, I took a photo of my kleina with my phone, hoping the old men weren’t looking:

I know! Embarrassing! But it was a magic moment and I had to capture it.

I started nibbling away, flipping through magazines, thoroughly content. Finally, my hot chocolate came after about 10 minutes. The kleina was pretty much gone. I started sipping the hot chocolate and noticed that actually, I didn’t feel so good. My eyes felt a bit itchy, I started wondering if they were bloodshot or something, having not looked in a mirror all day. Then I felt a bit…hot. Really hot. Feeling suddenly both ill and self-conscious, I left 90% of the hot chocolate it had taken 10 minutes to make and made a very rapid exit past the group of now startled old men.

When I got back to my room I couldn’t believe it – my eyes were nearly swollen shut, and having taken my coat off I could see my neck was covered in hives. I was also getting really wheezy breathing and was boiling hot.  I started frantically removing layers while doing a Google search for “what does it mean if your eyes are swollen and you have hives and can’t breathe” – basically, it means an allergic reaction to something that is nearly always food  if it comes on so quickly, which means it must have been the kleina. I had only had a very small amount of hot chocolate and I was already feeling the symptoms by the time I was drinking it.

To cut a long story short, I became very British and rather than possibly disturb the receptionist with my problems, I burst out into the night searching for somewhere to buy antihistamines. At least it was dark and no one could see my ugly eyes and hives.  I couldn’t find anywhere still open, but walking around in the cold air felt better than being inside and the more I walked around the more my symptoms were going down. After a couple of hours I was back to normal except for the breathing problems which continued for the rest of the night. Strangely enough I would have found it really embarrassing to get a doctor involved at any point, although if it got to the point where I couldn’t open my eyes or breathe I would have swallowed my pride!

I’ve never had any allergic reaction to food before or since so I don’t know what the problem was. Apparently kleina are cooked in tallow (animal fat) and I’m not sure how much of that I eat normally but I must have eaten things cooked in this way before, and I had eaten many a kleina with no problem before. I don’t know why I had such a strong reaction but it’s made me wary of ever eating one again, which is really annoying. If you go to Iceland, please have one for me!

Have you ever had any ridiculous medical episodes when travelling??


22 thoughts on “Kleina – friend or foe?

  1. Maybe something was cooked in your kleina’s tallow, before your kleina, and that’s what caused your reaction.? Strange!

    I’ve had no medical issues while traveling. The worst thing that ever happened was when I was trying to get ready in the dark and brushed my teeth with Vagisil instead of toothpaste.

    Bleah! 🙂

  2. The Kleina look lovely and with hot chocolate sounds wonderful! I am glad, sort of, you found that one. Not liking what happened to you tho!

    I am sorry about your reaction! I have had that happen, is how I found out I am allergic to sulfa medicines. Those symptoms can be dangerous! It is scary, isn’t it? I now have to keep benadryl around. Amazingly enough, Zantac, the medicine for heartburn I think, also works. I had a reaction a few years ago in the middle of the night and had to go to the ER. (My throat was swelling shut) They tried benadryl, some other with a name I can’t think of, and finally the Zantac, which surprised me. The Zantac was the only one that worked after four hours of sitting in an emergency room bed. 😦

    • It’s whether I’m brave enough to try one again when I next go! I have had them before “without incident.”

      I just bought some very basic “allergy” tablets, which are actually for the days when I feel allergic to the cats. I think I’ll bring them when I travel now just in case! Allergies are horrible, scary that your body can react so badly.

      • Have you made up your mind about trying it again? Maybe that particular shop made them differently that one time? Did you have them at that shop or another?

        Bringing the allergy tablets with you is a great idea! Can’t hurt any!

        Very scary!

  3. How can anything so delicious looking really hurt someone?? Man, what a disappointment. Hopefully one day you can find out what exactly set you off so you can eat this deliciousness once again!

  4. Surely you’re wrong….chocolate never hurt anyone except Count Chocula. What a bummer, and these look so good. I think it’s scary when things like this happen when traveling. good luck.

  5. OMG.. never heard of anyone that had allergies for Kleinurs!… hummm.. i hope it was just this one time, maybe you can try one without the chocolate next time.. And it has to be from the old bakery on Bergstadastræti.. 😉 its the BEST one 😉
    P.s. i did not enjoy reading about your pain, but your funny kind of way of describing things really made me laugh 😀

    • I know, only me, how ridiculous! Ooh, thanks for the tip – I will add that to list of places to check out/get sick at. 🙂

      This was my first attempt at trying to write “funny”…glad you liked it. I will think of some more embarrassing incidents to write up!

  6. It is not a very pleasant feeling to get sick while traveling! Sorry about your first experiences with kleina. I had one quite scary accident in Morocco: I had one serious stomach disorder after I have eaten some expired sandwiches on the good-bye party when all of our group were leaving home an me and my girlfriend stayed for one more week (It was a shame, because everybody thought I was drinking too much!); and then another accident on the same trip after eating strawberries from the local market (very well washed!). It was horrible!

    • Oh, that does sound horrible. It’s so easy to just fruit and vegetables in non-European places without thinking about it. I had a bad incident in India like that, and that was even after eating only in nice places. When you are sick like that, you just want to be at home and miserable in your own bed!

  7. An incident like that is how I found out I was allergic to blackberries & olives (though not at the same time). Deathly allergic to blackberries & olives, as it turns out! While you did write a funny story (you have a real way with the written word!) you really really should have gone to the doctor – sudden food allergies like that can be fatal!

    I’d be inclined to tell you to try one again the next time you are in that particular shop (also with chocolate on it), but make sure you have an antihistimine with you to take should you start feeling funny. Hope it turns out it was a one-off as they sure do look yummy!

    • Ooh, how scary. OK, I will bear the “fatal” bit in mind should that ever happen again, although part of me can see the humour in a chocoholic like me dying while enjoying food I love. 🙂

      I never heard of anyone being allergic to blackberries or olives. Our bodies are very unhelpful sometimes!

      Thanks for following!

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  9. whoa! never had that experience before. my kleina was delicious. have you attempted to have anymore after that unfortunate episode?

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