Travel Date: Thursday, February 16, 2017
Almost there to Keflavik, Iceland.
We finally land.
After passing through immigration, we are welcomed at the Duty Free Shop.
While admiring the Icelandic Whisky, I notice a sampler option. And I decide to bite.
We pick up our bags.
And meet up with two other travelers who flew in from Baltimore, Maryland: Ben and Saboor.
After walking around the entire airport looking for our Airport Direct pickup, we call them, and later find him. If you are coming to Keflavik, be prepared to call your pickup vehicle. Using my phone, I signed into the free airport Wifi, and used Skype to make international calls.
He has a sign for us with ALL our NAMES. Everyone is here, including Dionna, whom we met randomly at the airport just a few minutes ago.
He walks us to our bus. It is the yellow one, all the way at the end. As we walk outside, I realize that it is not really that cold. The weather is quite warm for winter, and feels just a little colder than Virginia.
It is quite early in the morning, and the sun is not out. But we are all excited!
It is 7:53 AM. Sunrise is around 9 AM to 10 AM from what I hear.
And then we hit morning traffic.
Look at that line of cars heading into Reykjavik, Iceland.
Reykjavik is about a 45 minute drive from Keflavik International Airport. But it does take us a long time to get there due to the rush hour traffic. We are supposed to meet two other travelers at Reykjavik Roasters, so we re-route the bus away from our apartment to the coffee shop.
We walk into Reykjavik Roasters. Jon and Astrid are no where to be seen. And then we find out there is another location about 10 minutes away. Shit!
It is time to walk.
Turns out the other Reykjavik Roasters is exactly where our apartment is. But at least we learn a little about Reykjavik on foot.
We walk in and find Jon and Astrid. This place is wonderful!
I get some overpriced but delicious treats.
And some pour over coffee.
The entire group is now here. We just sit, relax, talk, and get to know each other.
After 11 AM, we go up to our rooms and drop our bags off. My room is being cleaned, so many of us head over to the girls room. And linger around until we have to head out for lunch.
It is time to be hopeless wanderers, walk about Reykjavik, and explore on foot. As we walk downhill, I begin to notice the various colored buildings, and artwork and graffiti.
And just like real tourists, we walk in the median.
We were supposed to make a left here. But we decide to walk ahead to the coastline and enjoy the view of the ocean, and smaller islands nearby.
The water is so clear!
And the views of the smaller nearby islands are impressive.
Lots of picture taking opportunities. First Jon.
Then Jon and Katie, with our entourage in the background.
We pass by this structure. It looks like a Viking boat made out of forks. Forks, really? Well, that was my first thought. A quick Google search indicates that it is a Sólfarið: Sun Voyager. It is a huge 1990 stainless-steel sculpture of a boat by Jón Gunnar Árnason, set on granite beside the sea.
Iceland also has a fascination for murals, which I appreciate.
We pass by the world famous Harpa concert hall: It is a modern glass honeycomb concert hall & conference center, home to the national opera & symphony.
Nearby, there is a large set of stones stacked, one of top of each other. I find out (a couple of days later) that it an Icelandic tradition. Before there were roads and markers, the locals would leave markers as such to indicate safety. Obviously, these markers were quite large and visible from far distances. This is the miniature version.
More Harpa stuff from the outside: Velkomin (Welcome)!
We continue walking to the Reykjavik Old Harbour.
Cassie made reservations at the Hofnin Restaurant.
They serve fish. Lots of it!
We are fashionably late, due to our long walk and picture taking. But we are also on vacation. And we literally have the entire restaurant to ourselves.
I wish I remembered what I ordered. It was fresh, had bite, and was delicious.
We are off to a good start. Smiles everywhere!
After a wonderful lunch, we walk towards the around the city, and look for a coffee shop. There is one in a store, all the way up at the third level. I love the signs on the stairs. A brilliant idea!
After our coffee fix, we head out to the Parliament Building to meet our guide for a “free” City Walk tour.
A crowd of people begin to gather from various countries.
Our tour guide Ehri (I think that is his name) gives us the local history.
The Parliament building: Alþingishúsið. Notice the four symbols on the top level windows. It can also be found on the Icelandic coins. And the Danish crown on the top. Icelandicers don’t like the Danes very much.
We walk down the colorful streets.
A statue of Skúli Magnússon: considered as the Father of Reykjavik.
This area is also where the celebrate LGBTQ rights. I believe out of the 330,000 people who live on the island, 60,000 celebrated the last time.
Behind Skúli, is the oldest tree in Reykjavik.
Ehri tells us about the Settlement Exhibition. The first settlers are estimated to have arrived around 871 AD. Notice the 871 +- 2 on the building. Why +-2? A layer of rock fragments and particles ejected by a volcanic eruption was deposited around 871 AD. This layer, which was deposited all over Iceland, had been dated to 871, with a possible range of error of two years either way, so 871 +-2!
We walk by the oldest part of Reykjavik. The corrugated houses that protect the old house structure from the weather elements.
We pass the famous hot dog stand in Iceland. President Bill Clinton tried the hot dog, and said it was the best hot dog he ever had. Apparently, there is always a line.
We walk up the hill to a statue of the first said Iceland Settler: Ingólfr Arnarson
From the top of the hill, you can catch a good view of the Harpa concert hall.
We walk through one of the busiest streets, and catch the Hallgrímskirkja in the distance.
We turn right, and walk by some of the other local houses. I find this mural interesting.
I cannot exactly remember the story behind this landmark, but it was tied to a feminist movement in Iceland. Iceland is a proud feministic country, and is well known as the best place to live for a woman.
We walk around towards the Reykjavik City Hall.
A row of houses and swan greeters.
We meet the monument dedicated to government bureaucrats.
It is time to actually visit the Reykjavik City Hall: Ráðhús Reykjavíkur
The beautiful map of Iceland and its volcanoes.
Do you know what this is? Yes it is what you think it is: a vagina.
To promote their feminism and celebrate it, Iceland City Hall has a vagina painting on public display.
And now for our treat, that Ehri promised us at the start of our tour.
It is a bag of liquorish treats.
Yes. It is was delicious. I took a couple more treats on the second pass. This concludes our free city tour. It is really a donation based tour. You do not have to give any money, but obviously it is encourages. They accept all kinds of currency.
Ehri did mention:
1000 króna will buy his a beer
2000 króna will get help him out a little more
3000 króna will allow him to buy his mother flowers. And he loves his mom. (hint hint)
3000 króna is approx US $30.00 ($27.27)
Other artwork in City Hall: Skuringakona which translates to cleaning lady.
After the tour, we walk back to the Hallgrímskirkja: The Lutheran Church of Iceland.
It is shaped intentionally like a volcano and the basalt lava flows of Iceland’s landscape.
The large pipe organ.
Jesus the Christ.
After a quick tour, the doors of the Church closes at 5 PM.
Some of huddle around outside and wait for all the visitors in the church to leave.
Around 6 PM we head over to 3 Frakkar Restaurant: Þrír frakkar which means 3 french coats.
We settle in.
I order the Hákarl: a national dish of Iceland consisting of a Greenland shark (Somniosus microcephalus) or other sleeper shark which has been cured with a particular fermentation process and hung to dry for four to five months. It has a strong ammonia-rich smell and fishy taste.
Time to get that first bite.
I try some whale meat.
And puffin meat.
And then my entree: grilled fillet of lamb with mushrooms, and bearmaise and pepper sauce.
After dinner we walk back home.
The Hallgrímskirkja at night time is lit, and beautiful.
We pass by the penis museum: The Icelandic Phallological Museum. They have single socks for public display, or should it be called sock.
We make it back to our Brautarholt Apartments #2.
Back in the boys room, we lounge about.
And then it is time for bed. We have to get up early tomorrow for the Golden Circle bus tour.
Things and moments to appreciate:
- Arriving safely in Iceland, and the comfortable ride to Reykjavik.
- The warmer weather. It was quite comfortable and not a harsh winter.
- The good pour over coffee of Reykjavik Roasters.
- The coastline walk and view of Reykjavik.
- A wonderful ‘almost private’ lunch in the Old Harbour.
- An amazing “free” or donation based city tour with a charismatic tour guide.
- Learning about Icelandic history, culture, flags, and the food.
- The magnificence of the Hallgrímskirkja Church.
- A really nice apartment and bigger than I expected.
- A wonderful dinner.
- Good company.
- Hot and clean water, and yes a bed to sleep in.
- Beverages: $36.62 (Samples: Whiskey, Gin, and Brennivín at Duty Free)
- Shuttle Bus: $27.85 (this was just one leg of a round trip fare from and to the airport)
- Apartments: $263.37 (Brautarholt Apartments 2 was for 4 days; approximately $66 daily)
- Breakfast and Coffee: $14.64 (Reykjavik Rosters)
- Lunch: $31.54 (Hofnin Veitingahus)
- Tour: $27.27 (3000 Krona)
- Dinner: $80.62 (3 Frakkar)