Monday, August 05, 2013

Iceland 2011, Part 1

Joan's taking off for Iceland has inspired me to write about Kathie's and my trip there in late August 2011.  We actually stopped there on our way back from Ireland.  Here are some notes from our first day in Reykjavik.

On Tuesday, August 23rd, 2011, we left the Mystic Rose in Killarney and parted ways in Limerick with Kathleen.  She left for home and we took off for Iceland – a place I had wanted to visit for a very long time. 

We were greeted at the airport by a tall young Viking employed by the tour company through which Kathie had booked our Iceland day tours.  We chatted as he drove us to Reykjavik through the dark; he told us he had lived for a short while in the town where Kathie lives.  We arrived at our apartment at 2 in the morning.  Even though exhausted from the long day of travel, we still noticed how nice our apartment was – it had a kitchenette, big screen TV attached to the wall in the small living area, and was essentially white on white – even the stone outer wall of our basement level bedroom was painted white.  It was very Scandinavian, yet homey and calming.  We brushed our teeth, threw ourselves into our white duvet-covered twin beds, and fell fast asleep.

On Wednesday morning we grabbed some breakfast at a bakery on Bergstathastraeti, hit up an ATM for some kronur, and headed for the 871+/-2 Settlement Museum.  Along the way we passed a tree wearing a sweater…

…and the parliament house with this lovely garden across the street.

About 871+/-2 in Frommer’s Iceland guidebook:

“In 2001…workers excavating an underground parking garage stumbled upon the remains of a Viking longhouse.  It turned out to be the oldest known evidence of human habitation in Reykjavik, dating from 871 plus or minus 2 years – thus the name of this engaging new museum.  The excavated ruin lies amid a large room, surrounded by high-tech panoramic displays that tackle the larger questions of why the Vikings came to Reykjavik, how they adapted to the conditions, and what the landscape originally looked like.  The ruin itself is basically just a wall foundation, and the museum’s greatest feat is to bring the longhouse back to life using digital projectors.”

I thought it was pretty cool to be right there where the early settlers actually lived and to be able to imagine their everyday lives with their families.

After that, we did lunch at the Sea Baron in the old port area, where we had some yummy lobster bisque with bread and some vegetable kebabs.  Of course, we followed all of this with ice cream before hitting the streets to do some sightseeing.

Hard to miss along the harbor is the huge national opera house that opened in May 2011.  Harpa is home to the Icelandic Symphonic Orchestra and the Icelandic Opera, and it hosts conferences, art exhibits, and small concerts.  Wouldn’t it be cool to go to a conference or concert here?

Of course, that last photo - the artsy one - is Kathie's.

On to Hallgrimskirkja, or Hallgrims’ Church.  If you’ve seen the movie “Thor”, you have a pretty good idea of what Hallgrimskirkja looks like.  Such a cool place but you can’t appreciate it fully until after you’ve been to Reynisfjara.  The architecture is striking, both inside and out.  That day, the light reminded me of Ohio in the winter.  I meditated in a ray of sun as we listened to an older gentleman practice on the massive (50 feet tall) organ, which was built in Germany in 1992 and has over 5,000 pipes.  Heaven.

After picking up some groceries at Bonus, Kathie and I had dinner at Salon, which was not fabulous.  Kathie developed an MSG headache.  Major drag.


Katharine said...

Just like living it all over again. Wow.

And what was our young Viking's name. I have a couple in my book. Ellert was the landlord, Michael Stefar another, and I think Hoskulvur Husey was our older guide.

Pat said...

I think our young Viking's name was Ulfar, pronounced Oolvar - or maybe it was the other way around.

Love that place.