Reykjavik

Velkomin! Newly returned from the most recently formed land mass on the globe, I’m anxious to share photo galleries and anecdotes from my trip to Iceland. A few photos of Reykjavik will speckle this post, but the rest of them can be found in the photo gallery section of The Blog. Photo documentation of the day trips out of the city will follow.

The first thing I learned about Reykjavik is that, despite the immensely tall average height of Icelanders, their bus seats make most airlines’ legroom look generous. They probably don’t care though – I certainly stopped paying attention to my knees’ pleas for mercy when I learned the second thing about Iceland: the landscape is as variant and as beautiful as the colors of the aurora borealis. From my window seat view, I could see fields of moss-covered lava rock stretched from the road all the way to the sea, offering a hazy view of the Westman Islands. Then the landscape subtlety changed from untouched lava rock to softly rolling hills blanketed in lush grass and populated by the occasional sheep or random house. On longer bus rides to the east of Iceland I enjoyed the privilege of viewing mountains, volcanos, glaciers and glacier lagoons in a single breath, but that must wait for another post.

Reykjavik itself is a relatively small city. It felt like someone had taken samplings of Williamsburg, midtown Manhattan, and the Upper West Side and dumped them on top of Anchorage, Alaska. Many of the buildings boast underpasses leading from the sidewalk to a backyard or back alley, which were frequently enlivened by street art. During my 2.5 days in the actual city of Reykjavik I hit a respectable number of recommended destinations, and spent some quality time wandering lost and aimlessly (the best way to wander). Some of the highlights:

The “Making of a Nation” at the Reykjavik National Museum, which begins with the Settlement of Iceland in 870 AD by the Vikings and carries on to present day. Maybe I’m just a history nerd, but I think the Vikings were super-cool.

Harpa Concert Hall: the building’s exterior appears rather imposing from a distance, but up close one learns that the tinted glass panes actually form a honeycomb structure that gives the building a whimsical, lighthearted feel inside.

Harpa Concert Hall

Harpa Concert Hall

Sea Angling: my mother and I repped hard for the ladies on an otherwise all-male fishing tour. In three hours we caught enough cod, mackerel and haddock for a week’s worth of dinner. Our captain had a charming manner of dealing with inadequate catches: he deftly unhooked any fish under 18 inches, and before tossing it back he spit in its mouth and chided the lucky beast “Bigger next time!” The first mate (who confessed that he had never fished prior to 2 months earlier and that he did not even eat fish) and the captain filleted and grilled our haul on the deck, and our group of ten dined on the freshest oceanic bounty together in the cabin.

Dinner!

Dinner!

City Hall and Tjornin pond: I heard a rumor that you are not considered a real Reykjavik resident unless you’ve fallen into that pond at some point. This remains unconfirmed but makes me worry for the the general health of the city, since the pond served double duty as an avian wash closet as well.

Someone about to become a new Reykjavik resident.

Someone about to become a new Reykjavik resident.

Beautiful street art: Many of Reykjavik’s buildings reflect the city’s creativity and culture. My amateur eye and camera could not capture all the street art I saw, but here is a link to an article from The Grapevine, Reykjavik’s sardonic periodical, that gives some context to some of the more recognizable images I encountered. The photos I did take can be viewed in the Reykjavik photo gallery.

I took a couple of day trips from Reykjavik to the glaciers and volcanos on the southeastern coast of Iceland. In the coming days I hope to add the photos and stories from each of those excursions as separate posts to do them justice.