I am writing this post several days after returning home to Oregon. It has taken me several days to get back on the Pacific Northwest time clock.
We drove into Reykjavik early in the morning on the 26th and took our luggage to the Airbnb where we were staying.
It is a lovely home with 100-year-old pine floors, a nice kitchen, and a place to sit at a dining room table.
What a pleasure to actually each have a bed of our own.
Finding the van rental place took a bit of an effort. I told them all about the dent in the side of the camper and gave them the young women’s information. It did take a long time to go over all of the paperwork, but everything worked out great.
Then we had to get the 1st cash withdrawal from an ATM (less than 10 ISK for both of us) in order to take the bus back into the city. Traveling for 15 days without getting any cash has been great. After we found the bus stop, Elaine checked out the schedule.
We stopped at the tourist information office in Reykjavik; register for the free walking tour; and bought our bus pass to get to the airport on the 27th.. The young woman told us about places she would choose to eat in town.
It was a great choice.Elaine and I shared a falafel wrap and a lamb wrap. Both of the were very delicious.
We wandered around the city for a while. I liked the signs on the windows of this bar.
We found our group tour with Jóhannes as our guide.
I usually don’t like tours, but this one was great. He had a wonderful sense of humor and was very informative. I wish I could remember all of the things he told us.
I do remember:
- What the colors of the flag and shield symbolize. Red stand for the volcano; White for the glacier; and Blue for the color of the mountains in the distance.
- Much of Icelandic history has been based on Sagas which have been told over and over. Jóhannes said that Icelandic people were actually mostly farmers. So the Vikings who are often referred to as Icelanders where actually from many other countries. The pillaged and robbed.
- Building wooden housed in Reykjavik were banned after the great fire of 1915. After that houses were either concrete or corrugated iron.
- There are only 627 police officers in Iceland. Prisoners do not attempt escape because there is no place to go. Sometimes they play football for recreation. When the ball goes over the wall, one of the prisoners climbs over the wall to get it and returns to the game,
- The system of education in Iceland is divided in four levels: playschool, compulsory, upper secondary and higher, and is similar to that of other Nordic countries. Education is mandatory for children aged 6–16. I think he said this has been extended to 18 years old, but I am not sure. Most institutions are funded by the state; there are very few private schools in the country. Many, many students take a “Gap Year” before entering higher education.
- The murder rate is an average of 1.5 per year.
- The Reykjavík Cathedral is a cathedral church in Reykjavík, Iceland, the seat of the Bishop of Iceland and mother church of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Iceland, as well as the parish church of the old city centre and environs.
- I took some photos of buildings as we toured the city.
- The old prison, located at Skolavordustigur, was built in 1874. Originally it was also used as a courthouse and housed max. 23 inmates. In 1989 the number of cells were reduced to 19 and today the prison houses 18 inmates at any given time, there of two isolation cells. It has been operated for over 130 years. The prison is a two-story building with a basement, which is not used any more. The prison cells are on the ground floor as well as the rooms of the wardens. There are no recreational facilities but there is a rather large outdoor recreational area in the back.
- Jóhannes showed the beer mitten (Bjórvettlingur)which people knit in Iceland.
There is an orange soda drink inside this mitt which is designed to keep the drink cold and my hand warm. I enjoyed drinking the soda.
- This sculpture is called the Unknown Bureaucrat. It honors — and lightly satirizes — the thankless, anonymous job of the bureaucrat. The 1994 sculpture by Magnús Tómasson depicts a man in a suit holding a briefcase, with his head and shoulders subsumed in a slab of un-sculpted stone.
Jóhannes told us so much more information, but I don’t remember the rest.
After our tour we explored Reykjavik and found the restaurant that was suggested for dinner. It was called Sægreifinn – The Sea Barron. We ate lobster soup and way too much bread. After dinner we found the ice-cream store, Valdis. I had a double scoop of ice-cream. This was actually only the second time I found hard ice-cream in Iceland. All of the other ice-cream places had only soft ice-cream.
Elaine discovered that there was going to be music at noon at Hallgrímskirkja. So we walked to the BSI where we were able to store out suitcases and headed back to the church.
Located atop Skólavörðuholtið hill, it towers over downtown and giving its striking presence to the Reykjavík skyline.
Skólavörðuholtið is 745 meters (244 feet) tall and is the tallest building in Reykjavík, the second highest building in Iceland. The church was designed by the State Architect of Iceland, Guðjón Samuelsson in 1937, after years of discussion about where to build a church named after and in the honour of Hallgrímur Pétursson, one of the best known poets of Iceland. However, the war delayed the start of construction, which only began in 1945. Work proceeded slowly, as the church was a monumental undertaking. The crypt beneath the choir was constructed first, being consecrated in 1948. The steeple and the wings were then consecrated in 1974, while the construction of the nave was only completed in 1986.
The organ in the church is beautiful I wish we could have heard it.
A woman we were sitting near pointed out that the foot in each of these art depictions seems to be stepping out of the frame.
We felt very lucky and thoroughly enjoyed hearing a wonderful choir performance by Schola Cantorum, as our last experience in Iceland. The acoustics in the church were fabulous.
After the performance we were invited to have tea/coffee and treats so we could meet with the choir members.
Elaine and I had a fabulous time in Iceland. We spent 15 days exploring and definitely could have spent more time. The campervan was a great idea because it gave us the flexibility to choose each day were to go and how much time to spend in each place. Traveling with Elaine was so much fun. Perhaps I will return one day to see the Westfjords.