Day 1.5 of Iceland started with a refreshing four-hour nap to prepare us for the exploration of the capital city, Reykjavik. Hey, we aren’t as spry as we used to be. It was a fairly easy 20 to 30 minute walk from the hotel, and the cool 50 °F temperature was a nice change compared to the stifling heat of the New England summer. It’s nice not to be a human puddle for once. Iceland also loves their bike and foot paths. They have bridges over their highways just for pedestrians which makes crossing a breeze. #weatherpun
Our first stop was the giant church, Hallgrímskirkja, which sat at the top of a hill and served as a great landmark. If you can see the church from wherever you are in the city, you can always find your way around. Unless of course you’re like me. I can barely GPS my way out of a paper bag. Hallgrímskirkja is a Lutheran perish church that stands an impressive 244 feet tall, and took 41 years to build (1945 to 1986). Needless to say it was the largest church I’ve ever been in! Plus, I didn’t burn up on entry! #browniepoints
We continued to be typical tourists and went in and out of shops looking at various cultural trinkets such as lava ceramics and wool sweaters. Wool is everywhere. No matter where you turn, wool-dn’t you know, it’s always there. #pun-ished Since sheep are a large part of Iceland’s history and culture, their wool is always “in your face” and guaranteed to see you through an Icelandic winter.
Reykjavik is a combination of eccentric, mix-matched buildings that carry their own quaint charm. Many streets are blocked off to cars on a regular basis and made for pedestrians only. Bicyclists are welcomed for the most part and many streets have actual bike paths built-in. However, if they don’t stay in their lane and try to use the street, they get fiercely honked at. Ah, just like home.
The city is splattered with random graffiti and psychedelic murals that could rival that crazy Willy Wonka tunnel. Historical statues and monuments are proudly displayed throughout the city. One such figure is Leif Erikson, who was an Icelandic explorer who discovered North America before Christopher Columbus. #1492late
We stopped at a quaint little bookstore in search of an Icelandic phrase book, you know, for those important questions like “where is the bathroom” or “where is the beer.” Oddly enough they only had dictionaries, and since mostly everyone in the country spoke English, we abandoned that mission. However, we did partake in their quaint little coffee shop above the store. Mmm, mama needs her caffeine…
After our small pick-me-up we found The Settlement Exhibition, which covers the history of how Iceland was first, well, settled. #thankscaptainobvious There was no flash photography allowed and no one was taking pictures inside, so we didn’t want to be “those people” and followed suit. I can describe what we saw though. Rocks. Lots of rocks. And wooden “fossils” that archaeologists theorized were parts of common tools like shovels or pitchforks. How they came to those conclusions I’ll never know (until Google tells me later). The process probably involves carbon dating and the use of the legendary scientific Magic 8 Ball. #outlookgood
After our quick dip into history, we had dinner at Uppsalir Bar and Cafe where Mike had his first Icelandic beer called Gull. It was very light and refreshing. Even I enjoyed it, and I am so not a beer person.
After dinner we walked it off around Tjörnin which translates into “The Pond.” The running joke is that it’s “50% water, 50% something else,” which might just be true. I’d rather not know what the green mystery sludge was.
Besides the questionable pond water, we took in the nice weather, contemplated life, and watched the ducks and geese go about their day as if we weren’t even there. #notgivingaduck
Once we returned to our hotel we turned in for the night (“night” being used…lightly). During Iceland summers, it doesn’t get dark until around midnight and the sun rises around 3:30AM. Basically, Mother Nature is a troll. “Sure, I’ll give you infinite daylight in the summer, but you’ll also have to deal with infinite darkness in the wintertime.” Some say that that’s a good price to pay for long summer days. All I can say is thank goodness for exhaustion and blackout curtains.
Our first true night’s sleep was abruptly interrupted by the fire alarm. Everyone evacuated and huddled outside in their pajamas as firemen went in and out of the kitchen. We suspected that it was a grease fire from the smell alone. Remember kids, “grease is tough so it gets snuffed. If you wet it you’ll regret it.” And yes I made that up. I should sell t-shirts.
About 20 minutes later they let us back inside, but we couldn’t go back to our rooms yet. The hotel was nice enough to give us free juice boxes, cookies, and carrot cake, and tried to make us as comfortable as one could get in a hallway. Mmmm, carrot cake. Finally, we were allowed to return to our slumbers to prepare for our next journey into the Icelandic frontier!