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!

 

reykjavík’s old harbour, the roman catholic cathedral, & reykjavík 871±2: the settlement exhibition

Monday, August 15: After lunch, we continue our walk around Reykjavík, heading toward The Old Harbour and the glittering Harpa Reykjavík Concert Hall and Conference Centre, designed by Olafur Eliasson, Henning Larsen Architects and Batteríið Architects.

Harpa has won multiple awards for architecture including Mies van der Rohe in 2013, Best Public Space – Arkitekturmassan Awards 2012, and the World Architecture Award 2010. (About Harpa)

Harpa Concert Hall and Conference Centre
Harpa Concert Hall and Conference Centre

According to the Harpa website, the name Harpa has more than one meaning. It is an old Icelandic word that refers to a time of year and is in fact a month in the old Nordic calendar. The first day of that month is celebrated as the first day of summer and marks the beginning of a brighter time where nature comes to live and the colours of the environment sharpen. Harpa also refers to the instrument that refers to the activities and operations within. To some people, Harpa looks likes a drawn harp from a certain angle. 

A statue of Danish cellist Erling Blöndal Bengtsson (March 8, 1932 – June 6, 2013), by sculptor Ólöf Pálsdóttir, sits atop the reflecting pool in front of Harpa.

statue in front of Harpa
statue in front of Harpa

We walk along the Old Harbour, built from 1913 to 1917.  Previous to its construction, which was the largest project to date in Icelandic history, most ships dropped anchor well offshore and transported goods in by rowboat.  Today, most boat traffic has moved east to Sundahöfn port (Frommer’s: Old Harbor (Hafn)).

The Old Harbour
The Old Harbour
The Old Harbour
The Old Harbour
The Old Harbour
The Old Harbour
The Old Harbour
The Old Harbour
The Old Harbour
The Old Harbour

We spot the Óðinn, a grey Coast Guard vessel with a blue, white and red diagonal stripe. The Coast Guard ships “defend the country’s territorial fishing waters. They were sent out to slice British fishing nets in the so-called ‘Cod Wars,’ which date back to 1432 but culminated in the 1970s, when Britain broke off diplomatic relations” (Frommer’s: Old Harbor (Hafn)).

The Old Harbour
The Old Harbour
The Old Harbour
The Old Harbour
The Old Harbour
The Old Harbour
The Old Harbour
The Old Harbour
The Old Harbour
The Old Harbour
The Old Harbour
The Old Harbour
The Old Harbour
The Old Harbour
The Old Harbour
The Old Harbour
The Old Harbour
The Old Harbour
The Old Harbour
The Old Harbour

After walking around the Harbor, we walk back up hill into Old Reykjavík, where we pass more colorful street art and buildings with funky rooftops.

Old Reykjavik
Old Reykjavik
street art
street art
buildings in Old Reykjavik
buildings in Old Reykjavik
Old Reykjavik
Old Reykjavik

We stumble upon Dómkirkja Krists konungs, or the Roman Catholic Cathedral of Christ the King.  Though Iceland is primarily a Lutheran country, the number of Catholics during the 20th century grew slowly. In 1960 the members of the catholic congregation constituted about a half percent of the population (897). In 1994 the number reached 1% (2535) but is now about 3% of the population (about 11.500). These are mainly immigrants from Catholic countries, especially from Poland (Brief History of the Catholic Church in Iceland).

The Roman Catholic Cathedral of Christ the King
The Roman Catholic Cathedral of Christ the King
door of The Roman Catholic Cathedral of Christ the King
door of The Roman Catholic Cathedral of Christ the King
inside The Roman Catholic Cathedral of Christ the King
inside The Roman Catholic Cathedral of Christ the King
candles in The Roman Catholic Cathedral of Christ the King
candles in The Roman Catholic Cathedral of Christ the King

Mike wants to see Reykjavík 871±2: The Settlement Exhibition.  We find the building and go inside.  Though I try to take pictures, none turn out because it’s too dark.

Reykjavík 871±2: The Settlement Exhibition
Reykjavík 871±2: The Settlement Exhibition

This exhibit about life in Viking times showcases archaeological remains excavated in 2001 in Aðalstræti.  These have turned out to be the oldest relics of human habitation in Reykjavík, with some of the fragments dating to before 871 AD. A  longhouse from the tenth century was also discovered. The hall and a wall fragment are now both carefully preserved at their original location at this museum (Visit Reykjavik: REYKJAVIK 871 +/-2 THE SETTLEMENT EXHIBITION).

The name of the exhibition is such because a layer of tephra was deposited all over Iceland around 871 AD from an eruption in the Torfajökull area, about 400 km to the east; this layer has made it possible to determine the exact dates of many archeological finds in Iceland.  The tephra layer has a possible two-year, + or -, range of error (Wikipedia: Reykjavík 871±2).

Across from the museum, we see the attractive Salvation Army building as well as an interesting statue surrounded by flowers.

Salvation Army
Salvation Army
statue near the exhibition
statue near the exhibition

We continue our walk through Old Reykjavík, up the main shopping street Laugavegur.  Our destination: a very strange, and risqué, museum.