Thursday, March 1, 2012

A day or three in Reykjavik

For those who enjoyed Iceland Vacation 2012 Photo Dump Day 1, you are in luck! Today, I'm posting some photos of Reykjavik the capital city that has a population of about a third of the metro area of Little Rock, Arkansas (I can't find accurate demographics for Astoria or obviously I would use that as a better measure). For its small size though, it is a vibrant city with delicious foods and great views across the harbor. If I was a Viking in the 870s, I might have been tempted to give up marauding and settle there too.

The tallest building in Reykjavik is a church called Hallgrimskirkja. I didn't realize that Iceland had an official state religion, but apparently they do and it's called the Church of Iceland. As you can also see in this photo, it rains a lot, but (not that you can see from the photo) only for about 10 minutes at a time. I'd read that no one in Iceland really cares if it rains, and they just go about their business as usual. This is why when we attempted to shield ourselves from the rain with dollar store ponchos (like the coddled Americans we are), we overheard a confused Icelandic child asking his mom what our deal was.

As the highest point in the city, the church tower offers unparalleled views of the city. Also note that is now much sunnier than the previous picture and yet they were taken very close together. Icelandic weather is nothing if not mercurial.

Another view from the church tower, this time facing downward. I had to include this photo because I actually took it, and I think it came our rather well. You really need to see it larger to appreciate it, but note the hundreds of little footprints in the snow. Artsy, no? I might have a future in photography after all.

The city looks out on a harbor as well as some pretty awesome mountains. There is also a modernized version of a Viking long boat, as seen above.

The aforementioned awesome mountains across the harbor. One of the mountains in the area, Esjan is almost 3,000 feet. Our guide said it was a popular hiking spot, but also that people were frequently having to be rescused. Our guide was apparently part of one of 80 different rescue teams in Iceland and actually on our tour he got a call from his rescue team to see if he could come rescue someone. Obviously he didn't because he was leading the tour, but presumably someone else on his team came through. I'd hate to think someone didn't get rescued because of my touristing.

A building in the harbor where they have symphonies and concerts and what not. It was a cool looking building both inside and out, although this particular photo is from the inside.

We went to a flea market in Reykjavik which had a lot of interesting things for sale. However, my favorite part was the food. There were tons of different kinds of dried fish and links of sausages that had a picture of a horse on them that I chose to not ask too many questions about.

Not a great picture (okay, fine, I took it)--but it's hard to take photos in museums without flash. It's of a Viking door from early in the Settlement Period though, so surely that makes it worthwhile in any case.

There was a popular hot dog stand nearby that I had read about. Apparently, Bill Clinton once ate a hot dog there. Naturally, we had to as well.

The Pearl is a fancy restaurant that sits atop hot water storage tanks. Incidentally, Bill Clinton also ate there so we had to include it in keeping with our official "Bill Clinton Eats Iceland" tour. We had made reservations, but then after accidentally sleeping through our original tour (by failure to properly set hotel alarm system, as mentioned in previous post) we had to reschedule and cancel our reservations. We did have coffee and cake at the lower rent restaurant/cafeteria one level down, so we still enjoyed the view and proximity to the true Pearl.

A model of an early Icelandic settler as part of the Saga Museum in the Pearl building. This guy (or rather the cost) scared us off from actually going inside, but it's apparently a wax museum telling the history of Icelandic settlement. Definitely something for next time.

We ate a fair amount of seafood while in Iceland. I took this photo of my artfully plated mashed fish, herring, and rye ice cream. In the background, for the more adventurous Icelandic eater: smoked trout, dried fish with butter, and fermented shark. The latter is apparently a delicacy, but I'm not sure why as the women who served it to us said it was best to not smell it too much when eating it and also to not really chew it.

A parting shot of Reykjavik. Truly a lovely little city and a nice change of pace from the hustle and bustle sidewalks of Astoria!

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