coming full circle: return to reykjavik

Wednesday, August 24:  We arrive back in Reykjavik at 3:00.  After our amazing circular 11-day trip around Iceland, we’re back to the beginning.  When we first arrived, we had gray and dreary weather; today we’re blessed with impossibly blue skies and crisp but comfortable weather.  What a perfect way to end our trip.

We missed Jón Gunnar Árnason’s The Sun Voyager when we were here before, so this is our first stop.  The work is constructed of quality stainless steel and stands on a circle of granite slabs surrounded by so-called “town-hall concrete.”  It sits along Sæbraut Road, looking out over the Atlantic Ocean.

Sun-Craft
Sun Voyager

It is commonly thought that The Sun Voyager represents a Viking ship, sitting ashore as it does in the land of the sagas, but this was not the artist’s original intention.  It was essentially seen as being a dreamboat, an ode to the sun symbolizing light, hope, progress and freedom (Wikipedia: The Sun Voyager).

Jón Gunnar Árnason was ill with leukemia at the time that the full-scale Sun Voyager came to be constructed, and he died in April 1989, a year before it was placed in its present location.

We do enjoy the sculpture, but there are so many tourists posing in every manner possible – climbing on the sculpture, hanging up side down on it – that I can’t get one decent photo without people.

Sun-Craft
Sun-Craft

We then drive directly to the OK Hotel/K Bar to check in to our apartment.  It’s right in the center of busy Reykjavik along Laugarvegur, and, oddly, has an automated check-in system.  A doorphone to the left of the front door is connected to a remote reception.  They buzz me in through the K-Bar restaurant, closed and undergoing renovation (without a person in sight), and then check me in from a phone in the lobby.

Our room is fancifully decorated in what looks like old American encyclopedia pages.  An angel is drawn overlooking the beds with the words: “Does an angel contemplate my faith?” written among the folds of her robes.

our quirky room at OK Hotel
our quirky room at OK Hotel

You can see some close-ups of the encyclopedia pages by clicking on any of the images below.

Mike finds a parking spot, surprisingly, right outside the door of K-Bar.  We have to pay for parking until 6:00 and it’s free after that.  It seems too good to be true. Because of this unlikely good luck, I worry all night that we’ll wake in the morning to find our car towed.  Of course, all my worries are for nothing.

After dropping our stuff in our apartment, we go out for a walk.  Immediately we come across a Bonus market, where we buy some breakfast food and some snacks for our flight home tomorrow morning. After returning to our room and depositing our food in the refrigerator, we sit on our balcony and enjoy the rooftop views and a glass of wine.

view from the balcony at the OK Hotel
view from the balcony at the OK Hotel

After our wine, we head out again for a walk.  I’m excited to find a shop full of puffins.  This is my one and only close-up view of puffins in Iceland!

puffins in a Reykjavik shop
puffins in a Reykjavik shop

We’ve already seen many of the sights in Reykjavik, and as it’s late in the day anyway, we simply enjoy walking up and down the shopping street, Laugarvegur.

streets of Reykjavik
streets of Reykjavik
Rekjavik street art
Reykjavik street art
artsy building in the city
artsy building in the city
quirky Reykjavik
quirky Reykjavik

I’m so excited to get some beautiful views of Hallgrímskirkja with a blue-sky backdrop.  We saw this amazing church on our second day here (exploring reykjavík: hallgrímskirkja & old reykjavík), but it was gray and spitting rain on that day.

view up the street to Hallgrímskirkja
view up the street to Hallgrímskirkja
approaching Hallgrímskirkja
approaching Hallgrímskirkja
Hallgrímskirkja
Hallgrímskirkja
Hallgrímskirkja
Hallgrímskirkja
statue of Viking explorer Leifur Eriksson
statue of Viking explorer Leifur Eriksson
Hallgrímskirkja & Viking explorer Leifur Eriksson
Hallgrímskirkja & Viking explorer Leifur Eriksson
Hallgrímskirkja & Viking explorer Leifur Eriksson
Hallgrímskirkja & Viking explorer Leifur Eriksson

We want to take home some Icelandic music, and luckily we happen upon the perfect music store, where we can sit in comfortable chairs and listen to various CDs.  The owner recommends a couple of CDs, which we buy to take home.

a stop in a music store
a stop in a music store

Reykjavik is such a quirky town with great street art, decorative and artsy shops, and cute houses.  I’m charmed by all of it.

streets of Reykjavik
streets of Reykjavik
if you're not SHAKING you need another cup of COFFEE
if you’re not SHAKING you need another cup of COFFEE
streets of Reykjavik
streets of Reykjavik
streets of Reykjavik
streets of Reykjavik
streets of Reykjavik
streets of Reykjavik
streets of Reykjavik
streets of Reykjavik

I love this admonishment to forget the Wi-fi and to actually “Talk to each other and get drunk!”

SORRY NO WIFI - TALK TO EACH OTHER & GET DRUNK!
SORRY NO WiFi – TALK TO EACH OTHER & GET DRUNK!
streets of Reykjavik
streets of Reykjavik
bicycle in Reykjavik
bicycle in Reykjavik
tying a necktie
tying a necktie
streets of Reykjavik
streets of Reykjavik

After our walk, we stop at Salka Valka fish & more, where we enjoy a great yet simple meal accompanied by beer. We have a long chat with four young Scandinavian ladies, who have done some major treks, glacier hikes and camping.  They are treating themselves to a restaurant meal tonight.

me having a beer
me having a beer

I have really loved our Icelandic fish dishes on this trip.  This one is Traditional Plokkfiskur: “Our signature dish, oven-baked plokkfiskur (haddock and cod mixed with potatoes, onions, spices and herbs in a casserole like fashion) topped with béarnaise sauce and served with root vegetables, Icelandic sweet bread, butter, Basmati rice and our in-house red sauce.”

fish + more
fish + more

After dinner and drinking a beer, we go out to walk some more, but of course, after a beer, I shortly need to find a bathroom.  As finding a bathroom anywhere in Iceland is like finding Waldo, we walk around in vain with the situation getting increasingly desperate.  Finally, we find a pub where the only available restroom is a men’s room.  Mike checks it out to make sure it’s empty and then guards the door while I find some relief!

Back at our hotel, we enjoy another glass of wine on our balcony and then pack up all our stuff.  We have an 10:30 a.m. flight tomorrow.

Total steps today: 15,986, or 6.77 miles.

Thursday, August 25:  We get up at 6:15, eat breakfast, shower and drive our rental car back to Budget at the airport. Luckily, there are no extra charges on our rental car.  We’re relieved as we were never clear as to whether our rental included insurance!  Our flight back is uneventful, with less turbulence that we’ve encountered on many flights, arriving back in Washington at 12:30 p.m.

All told, we drove 2,700km around Iceland’s Ring Road, with many detours along the way. 🙂

I loved Iceland!  I would love to go back again on the Icelandair Stopover because there was still so much we missed that I’d love to see!

 

southwest Iceland: icelandic horses & keldur

Wednesday, August 24:  After leaving Seljalandsfoss, we continue west on the Ring Road until we reach the unsurfaced Rt. 264, which we take north through the Rangarvellir valley.  Our destination is the medieval turf-roofed farm at Keldur.  On the way, we see a sign for horseback riding and follow the directions down a long private dirt track through fenced pastures.  At the end we find a strange farmhouse that seems to have no entryway, and though we look around for humans, we don’t find a soul.  Feeling defeated in our attempts to ride the Icelandic horses, we at least stop to visit with them and take some photos.

Icelandic horse
Icelandic horse
Icelandic horse
Icelandic horse
Icelandic horse
Icelandic horse
Icelandic horse
Icelandic horse

We continue bouncing down this dirt road, seeing Iceland’s usual grand views spread out before us.

scenery along the route to Keldur
scenery along the route to Keldur
Icelandic views
Icelandic views

We arrive at Keldur and park our car, walking past a picturesque stream and what looks like an ice house.

at the entrance to Keldur
at the entrance to Keldur
farm at Keldur
farm at Keldur
icehouse at Keldur
icehouse at Keldur

Keldur is the site of a unique cluster of turf farm buildings from bygone centuries.  Most of the buildings date from the 19th century, although they include timber from older structures, some with decorative moldings. A sill in the hall, for instance, is carved with the date 1641.  A tunnel which leads from the hall down to the brook has been excavated; it was probably built for defensive purposes in the 11th-13th century, a period of conflict and unrest in Iceland.

Keldur
Keldur

Keldur and its inhabitants make appearances in various Old Icelandic sagas, such as Njáls saga, Sturfunga Saga and the Saga of St Þorlákr. The farmhouse was inhabited until 1946, since when it has been part of the National Museum Historic Buildings Collection.  The farmhouse contains domestic articles from the Keldur family.

Church at Keldur
Church at Keldur
turf houses at Keldur
turf houses at Keldur
church at Keldur
church at Keldur
cemetery at Keldur
cemetery at Keldur
turf houses
turf houses
turf house at Keldur
turf house at Keldur
Mike at the Keldur church
Mike at the Keldur church

After completing the loop that brings us back to the Ring Road, we stop to enjoy our last Icelandic gas station hot dogs.

me eating a hot dog at a gas station along the Ring Road
me eating a hot dog at a gas station along the Ring Road

The rest of our drive back to Reykjavik is uneventful except for one stop to wash off all the gravel and volcanic ash that coats the underbelly and wheels of our little red VW Polo rental car.

southwest iceland: drangshlíð, eyjafjallajökull & seljalandfoss

Wednesday, August 24:  At the Hotel Vik, our room with its volcano pebble floor has a small terrace that we can see out the window.  That terrace came at an additional cost, but we had no choice; it was the only room available in Vik when we booked our holiday. In an attempt to go out to this terrace, we have taken turns wrestling with the key in the lock to no avail; the door has been almost perpetually stuck.  Mike did manage to get out there one or two times, mainly to put our beers outside to chill, and to retrieve them, but other times, we’ve been frustrated by that doggone lock.  I suppose it doesn’t matter: the inaccessible terrace offers a questionable view of the back of a neighboring building and a sloping hill piled with a jumble of junk.  It’s also been too cold and windy to sit out there.

This morning, as we prepare to check out of the hotel, we are finally able to unlock it and walk out for a moment. I wonder if all that struggle was worth it.

the balcony at the Puffin Hotel
the balcony at the Puffin Hotel

We take off for our final day in Iceland and our last leg of the Ring Road.  We’re heading back to Reykjavik, but we plan to see several places along the way.  We fly out early tomorrow morning, our too-short trip coming to an end.  Below are some of the views as we leave Vik.

view along the Ring Road
view along the Ring Road
Ring Road views
Ring Road views

We happen upon the sight of a few turf-roofed buildings tucked up into a tuff rock formation, Drangurinn, and we quickly pull off to explore. According to a sign on the property, these are the old houses of Drangshlíð 2.

Drangurinn in Drangshlíð
Drangurinn in Drangshlíð

Drangurinn stands alone underneath Drangshlíð farm in the foothills of Eyjafjöll.  A folktale tells of a strongman named Grettir Ásmundsson who was showing off and ripped the giant boulder right out of Hrútafell cliff, leaving a chasm which is now above Skarðshlíð. Under these rocks are caves and passages to which additional buildings have been added throughout the centuries. Most of them are still standing. These buildings are a good example of what is called ‘fornmannahús’ or ancient habitations, according to Katla Geopark: Drangurinn í Drangshlíð.

Drangshlíð
Drangshlíð
Drangurinn in Drangshlíð
Drangurinn in Drangshlíð

If you’d like to know more about the folklore surrounding these cow sheds and turf buildings, you can check out this post:  Guide to Iceland: Drangshlíð Rock and the Elves in South-Iceland, by an Icelandic native.

Drangurinn in Drangshlíð
Drangurinn in Drangshlíð

We are delighted to have stumbled across these old abodes.

Drangurinn in Drangshlíð
Drangurinn in Drangshlíð
Drangurinn in Drangshlíð
Drangurinn in Drangshlíð
Drangurinn
Drangurinn
Drangurinn in Drangshlíð
Drangurinn in Drangshlíð

As we continue our drive, we come to a pull-off where people are looking toward a glacier and a farm.  We find from a sign at the parking lot that this is Þorvaldseyri, a farm that sits at the foot of the glacier-topped volcano Eyjafjallajökull; it was impacted by the volcano’s explosion in April 2010.  The farm has been in the same family since 1906. Though mainly a milk and cattle farm, since 1960, it has become noted for grain crops, not usually found in the sub-Arctic.  They also produce canola oil and electricity for the farm, which comes from its own hydro-generator and hot water at 66°C.

Þorvaldseyri with Eyjafjallajökull behind
Þorvaldseyri with Eyjafjallajökull behind

Following several small eruptions in March 2010 and after a brief pause, Eyjafjallajökull resumed erupting on 14 April 2010, this time from the top crater in the center of the glacier, causing jökulhlaup, or glacial outburst floods, to rush down the nearby rivers. Over 800 people had to be evacuated.  This eruption was explosive, due to meltwater getting into the volcanic vent. This second eruption threw volcanic ash several kilometers up in the atmosphere, which led to air travel disruption in northwest Europe for six days from 15 April to 21 April 2010 and again, in May 2010.  By August 2010, the volcano was considered dormant (Wikipedia: Eyjafjallajökull).

Þorvaldseyri
Þorvaldseyri

On April 14, 2011, the Þorvaldseyri Visitor Centre was opened near here, one year after the start of the Eyjafjallajökull eruption.  The dramatic 20-minute film is fabulous; it shows the spectacular eruption and the hectic times and incredible challenges met by the family at Þorvaldseyri, as they struggled to save their farm during the six-week-long eruption; it also shows what life is like living at the foot of an active volcano.

Þorvaldseyri
Þorvaldseyri
The Eyjafjallajökull eruption
The Eyjafjallajökull eruption

Driving further west along the Ring Road, we come to Seljalandsfoss, known for its slippery path that runs around the back of the waterfall.  As this waterfall is near Reykjavik, it is quite crowded.

crowds at Seljalandsfoss
crowds at Seljalandsfoss
Seljalandsfoss
Seljalandsfoss
Seljalandsfoss
Seljalandsfoss
Seljalandsfoss
Seljalandsfoss
behind Seljalandsfoss
behind Seljalandsfoss
behind Seljalandsfoss
behind Seljalandsfoss
behind Seljalandsfoss
behind Seljalandsfoss
Seljalandsfoss
Seljalandsfoss

It’s hard to stay dry on this path behind the waterfall.

the pathway behind the waterfall
the pathway behind the waterfall
the pathway behind the waterfall
the pathway behind the waterfall
Mike at Seljalandsfoss
Mike at Seljalandsfoss

Not very surefooted, I’m wary of these rocky and very slippery walkways.  I don’t take lightly the little sign showing a person falling, and when Mike wants me to pose in front of the waterfall, I opt to stand far from the edge.

me at Seljalandsfoss
me at Seljalandsfoss

After visiting the waterfall, we take a short drive down the dirt road to look for a place to use the natural facilities, as the porta-potties at Seljalandsfoss now have a huge line.

view near Seljalandsfoss
view near Seljalandsfoss
southwest Iceland
southwest Iceland

Back in the car again, we are heading to another medieval turf-roofed farm at Keldur.  We’re also hoping to find a place where we can go horseback riding. I have wanted to do this our whole time in Iceland.  This is our last day, so if we don’t do it this trip, we’ll simply have to come back!