Iceland Recap- 3 days of glorious freezing sunshine or the importance of layers

Unlike Paris or Rome and now Glasgow, Reykjavik does not give me the feeling of being old.  Mostly I think this is because this entire country has 300,000 or so people and now depends so heavily on tourism. While it has been settled since the 9th century, even locals told us that prior to the British Invasion of WWII, people were still in many ways completely dependent upon the land and the sea. Life was extremely hard, people just disappeared into the ground or into the mists. (The reason why is the tectonic movement creates deep fissures sometimes these fissures are covered with moss, if people sink into them there are no way out.)

My first day here, felt similar to Cancun. I landed, went through customs, had breakfast as I awaited my tour to the Blue Lagoon to begin.  I wandered around the hiking trails alone with a crowd of other Americans, paid to go swimming. (This was an excellent idea, the warm water relaxed my back and shoulders  from the long flight and yes, I smeared some of their mud on my cheeks and floated around. They also have a waterfall that one can stand under for a h20 massage.) I hopped on the scheduled bus to take me to my hotel, checked in and went looking for a super market. Wandered alongside the harbor which is full of large scale artwork.

Churches dot the skyline and they are new, living churches. We slipped into one during a service –which was standing room only—and watched as people took communion.

The most impressive sight is the Hallgrímskirkja which began construction in the 1940’s and ended construction is 1986. You cannot imagine the scale of it by the pictures, but it seems to be something that should have been constructed in the middle ages. That statue in front of it is Leif Erikson

While there are ultra modern buildings in Reykjavik they are interspersed with buildings that seems to be failing. Deep cracks and peeling paint over concrete is very common. Many were covered in painted aluminum siding. While Icelandic blue is a common color, many pretty much painted whatever color people want. This picture is of some of the nicer buildings. 

There is also less urgency as in the States.  I don’t know how to explain it. Interesting enough, that is not the case for tourists. They seem to be jumping from one adventure to another and that lifestyle is very catered to. Even people who don’t want a tourist experience will find it hard to distance oneself completely away from it—especially if they want to see the countryside at all.  An American can rent a car and they do drive on the right however due to the cost of fuel, it is very expensive and while the main roads are well maintained, you are cautioned about driving on the back roads which are not.

It was my second day and missing my ride to go ride ponies that I saw more life around the city. I saw another woman who looked kind of lost and struck up a conversation. She invited me to wander around Reykjavik with her and meet her other friend for lunch.We had a wonderful time. However, after I parted ways with my new friends, I wandered into a residential area. Many of the nicest houses had a tourist bus or Land Rover displaying a company name parked in front of them.

While I did not notice recycling bins, there are measures in place to use less energy. My hotel room had a system that made you use your room key if you wanted to use the lights or plug in anything. It took me a while to figure that one out.

Interesting fact, Icelandic has no word for Please, though they will say it in English.

Takk is Thanks

Hae is Hi (pronounced Hi)

Also everyone speaks English. Except for the occasional Takk, if I walk into a shop, even a grocery store they are speaking to me in English. Why? Because in WWII they were invaded by the British. Then until 2006 the US military was there to protect them. Icelanders seem to feel that is for the best.

 While they have no ancient buildings, they do have ancient manuscripts from the middle ages and that is where they feel their value is.

One problem is that I had to go nearly vegan here. Every restaurant has fish cooked along side meat that I must be very careful what I eat. I have been eating lots of fruits and vegetables. I did buy a little cheese and crackers to satisfy some of my craving for protein and chocolate I kept–actually make that keep buying stuff that isn’t made or available for purchase in the states while I chose what to send home for Dennis.

Ok back to some more pictures

This next one is the Gullfoss waterfalls

This next one is Gunnuhver Hotsprings

 Now finally: though the sky was blue the entire time it never got over 15 degrees Celsius. Which even is Fahrenheit is cold. Night time temperatures were between 6 and 8 C.

And FYI: My last night there I went on the Northern Lights mystery tour…and I saw them. 2 hours of silver and green light dancing in the sky. However my pictures don’t look like anything so I am not posting them. Someone took my email address and offered to send some to me, so I hope I get some that way, but either way, I was glad to experience that. If anyone else tries to do it know that:  jeans, t, long sleeve t, hooded sweater, windbreaker and ski cap are simply not enough clothes. Wear everything that you can.

2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Mariann Krizsan on September 18, 2011 at 5:02 am

    Iceland is my secret (okay not so secret since I’m going on about it here) dream destination, so I ate your blog post up with a serving spoon. Thank you sharing your adventures. I especially liked the Leif E. church, it looks like a church you would build in minecraft, or out of giant legos.


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