Saying good-bye is never easy, regardless of whether you are doing it with people, or with a city.
I walked to the coffee shop we like, close to the swimming pool and next to the bakery. The morning was crisp and the ice was covering the pavements making them very slippery. The colours of the foliage seemed brighter this morning, brighter yellow, brighter red. I decided to stay inside and take a coffee to go for Bonnie on my way out. The place was already full. It seems it never lacks visitors. I found my seat at one of the central long tables as all individual ones were taken. I watched people coming in, enjoying their time, having breakfast, families…
A little guy, I would say less than a year, was smiling at me from his tall chair and showing me his mother’s cell phone. She gave it to him to keep him occupied, and I think the home page with colourful icons had done the trick. That was what he wanted to show me without realizing that the screen went into a sleep mode and turned black. In the meantime, he was done with his juice, the straw was out and lost, so the remaining juice was dripping on the table though the small hole. The mother and the father were preoccupied with breakfast and the other toddler. He had a show on his own that he so joyfully shared with me. He was dipping the phone in the tiny juice pond on the table, and happily licking the telephone screen. I had fun, too.
Time for summing up the visit to Iceland: what I wanted to see? where I wanted to go? was it more? was it less? And sadness that it is over so fast. At least I feel i have a better sense of Reykjavik and it won’t be hard to find my way around, if and when I come again.
Playing with my camera: what is in the window?
Final walk up and down the streets
Our day went into the long night. We had dinner at Islenski Barinn (Icelandic Bar), then went to a play in Harpa and after that – our last attempt to see the Northern Lights.
Sometimes it is nice to wonder through the city with no plan in mind. You go where you eyes or your heart takes you and you never know where you will end up. Comparing to our first day where we had to kill those eight hours, we are in control of our time today. We walked around Tjörnin, the city pond, coming on the other side. It is very nice and we could imagine how beautiful it is during spring or summer when everything is green or in bloom. There it was, next to the statue of Jónas Hallgrímsson, an Icelandic poet, a bench with a QR code. I was getting excited thinking that we would hear the sound of the poem, but the site was 404 – dead end.
We stopped at the bakery where I had my coffee with klena, Icelandic twisted doughnut.
Just like many other tourists, I thought the Sun Voyager (Solfarid) is a Viking ship, but it is “a dream boat and an ode to the sun. It represents the promise of undiscovered territory and a dream of hope, progress and freedom”. The day on the seashore is perfect for taking photos: foggy, misty, mysterious, just like you can imaging Iceland. We dropped by Harpa again, which was in the vicinity, for a break.
On my way out from Harpa, I caught a glimpse of this girl carrying her instrument. We followed her for a short bit, and then went our separate ways. As we were crossing the street, we noticed that this misty rain that just started was not rain, but snow! It didn’t last long, but it was my first snow this year, and in Reykjavik!
When you search for “what to eat in Iceland”, they definitely recommend Icelandic hotdog. So, we couldn’t leave this country without testing it. It was worth it!
The stroll took us to the museum that had two parts: the oldest Reykjavik house and the settlement. It seems that the latter was build on the actual archeological dig with the discovered settlement (built similar to turf houses). I like museums as they are often ahead of everyone else in terms of using technology for display or interaction. This time, in the first room, there was a model of the part of the city and two viewers mounted on a stalk. Just like with those used in the city, the device magnifies objects seen through its lenses, however, it is not just magnification. Another layer of images is added to what you can see. So, even though they are not in the model, you can see people interacting on the streets and hear them talking. The second interesting way of using technology was with long illuminated strips of images, and small digital squares embedded into them with short videos. I also spent time with no-tech objects, like this loom or a board game that looks like chess.
I did find the ways to spend a bit more money on souvenirs and something for myself: I wanted to find true Icelandic yarn. I couldn’t buy a lot. The prices here are so high that I had to limit myself in my desires. I don’t know yet what it will turn into, but it will be a part of Iceland that came (and stayed) with me.
Most of the day for me was resting. In the evening, we joined the tour for Northern Lights which we booked on Monday (today is Thursday), cancelled every day since. We walk around the lake to the bus stop. A couple of shots on the way.
Despite the very optimistic guide in the bus, and apparently clear sky, the nature decided not to cooperate and present us with the Northern Light show. It was really shy this night.
We got home after midnight. The temperature was around 0, so we were almost running from the place we got off the bus to the place we are staying.
This day was a day of travelling to reach glaciers and ice caves. We had to get up early as we had about 5-hour drive to Skaftafell on the south-east side of Iceland, right under the glacier. This gave us a chance to experience sunrise in Iceland. Today, it was at 8:51, 10 minutes later than three days ago when we arrived. How many photos can you take? We stopped so many times as the next scenery “picture” in front of us seemed always different and better than the last one.
Most of it still covered by lava rocks, but then patches of cultivated land, farms with sheep, cows and many, many horses (which we didn’t stop to pet and I didn’t take photos of). Some powerful waterfalls and some less, but still so pretty to see shooting out of the mountain. The closer we were getting, the more of white peaks we could see, calling… We had to stop and walk on that green moss. The rocks are very sharp and hard, but the moss is actually so soft and our feet were just sinking into it. I took a short video as I was so surprised to of how soft all that was.
What did this whole island look like when discovered, with no roads and no human settlements? Thinking about Floki (from “Vikings”) who, when thrown by the waves on the shores of Iceland, thought that he died and that that was Heaven (or their version of heaven). Then he walked and walked to try and find someone but Iceland was completely uninhabited.
Finally, the hike up and I was walking on ice! We were immediately divided into smaller groups (I was blue) with our own guide. I named him “Elf” but, I didn’t share it with him. I couldn’t wait to go down the ice steps into the caves where glacier’s water drips from the cave ceilings – the cleanest water on Earth. I had a sip from my hand, while some were filling their water bottles.
The next was a walk on the glacier which ended with a spectacular view of the sunset.
The drive back to Reykjavik was long and very quickly through the pitch black
If I was wondering what Iceland’s gift to me would be this time, this was it, this journey today, destination – ice.
Anything more fascinating than nature and our mother Earth? From volcanic crater, to Thingvellir National Park, to Geysir, Gullfoss waterfalls and Secret lagoon for another hot pool soaking. The landscape changes as we drive around, red rocks, black rocks, green moss covered rocks…
Good that everything is well marked and the signs are easy to read. We still liked our GPS more.
The colour of the Kerid volcano lake was dark green today. The crater was created by a volcanic eruption some 6,500 years ago. Iceland is one of Earth’s most volcanically active areas. On average, Iceland experiences a volcanic event every four years. There are about 130 volcanos (most of which inactive, luckily) that are visited by many tourists. Kerid, being so close to Reykjavik is probably the most famous. We walked around the rim of the crater. It is also possible to walk down to the lake itself, but we moved on to our next destination.
Thingvellir National Park is theonly UNESCO World Heritage Site on Iceland. They say that “looking upon the face of this cliff is to literally look at the edge of North America. If you drive through the park, you will ascend on the other side adjacent to another wall; this is Eurasia. The valley in between, in which Þingvellir is contained, is the rift valley.” In some ways, we were touching Canada. Everywhere you looked, there was either water or cliffs. As I am still amazed by the size and hight of trees in BC rainforest, so was I am fascinated by these humongous plates of rocks, full of cracks. They look like they will start crumbling down, but, despite of their shifting and movement due to the tectonic plates, they have been here for ages. Apparently, you can go snorkeling in Thingvellir, which must be a memorable experience.
Due to the numerous volcanos, the whole Iceland benefits from geothermal energy. Over 85% of housing in Iceland is heated by natural geothermal heat from hot springs common in most parts of Iceland, making Iceland one of the least polluted countries in the world. I imagine the boiling lava finding its way through the ground we walk on, trapped in the depth of the Earth, like a giant dragon. Finally, through some holes, it finds a relief – a geysir. I watched this famous one on the field eight years ago, and it still shoots up with equal energy and it seems equal pace, every 2-4 min. I hope you can recognize the people around the geysir, which will help with recognizing its size.
A walk on the dock or Reykjavik, watching the ships in the marina.
The highlight of the day was a visit to Harpa, a concert hall and conference centre in Reykjavík. The exhibition “Circuleght” was on. The installation was a combination of real-time interactive visuals inspired by eight elements: lava, basalt, glacier, water, flora, algae, microorganism and volcanic gas. It is always exciting and inspirational to see different ways people combine new technology and art. The movement of the audience triggers the movement of the visuals on the walls, so you can keep on playing with it.
We spent some time soaking in one of the geothermal pools in the city. I started with a really hot one 43.6 degrees but I couldn’t stay for long. While relaxing in the hot water (there are five hot tubs, steam and sauna) we watched the steam rising from the surface of the water and the stars above us. The temperature on a digital display ranged from 6.1 to 6.4 degree celsius. I used the opportunity to jump into the swimming pool (25m in length) where the water temperature was still pleasantly warm 27-30 degrees and made ten laps. As I don’t swim in the Pacific, this was a nice exercise.
On our way home, we were passed by numerous scooters. Not a lot of people on bikes around, but scooters are fine and it seems good vehicle to get from one part of the city to another. Most of them seemed rental and they were everywhere, against the wall, on the grass, on the pavement… They are just left there, like an abandoned pet for someone else to take them and “adopt” them for a very short term.
Although we arrived at five in the morning and the bus ride from the airport to Reykjavik was through rain and dark, so we could have been pretty much anywhere, just knowing that I was here again made me tremble. Despite of it being like a humongous rock thrown into the cold water of Norwegian Sea and the “final frontier” of the Atlantic ocean, Iceland still feels like a hug to me. I don’t really know why, but coming to Reykjavik is like coming home. Maybe, just maybe, hundreds or even thousands years ago, there was an ancestor which connects me with these people and this land, someone who gifted me with his gene to carry forward. Most of the visitors to Iceland leave it awed by its natural beauties, but I feel almost physical pain in my chest at each encounter – this is where magic lives.
As I was leading our way up to the church, seeing only its illuminated cross on the top at that moment, I was trying to recognize a street, a house, a wall… from 2014. There, it took me eight years to come back. When it finally revealed itself to us in its full glory, what a sight! It was almost singing. Or it was just my heart glancing down the now familiar street with still sleeping Reykjavik inhabitants? The church was designed to resemble Thor’s hammer, with the handle facing up. I am imagining this giant, the son of Odin, standing on this hill and reaching out to grab the lightning hammer. We came back to it later in the day when it was open. We could hear its bells tolling a number of times during the day.
Was this the coffee shop I liked? Yes? No? Yes! We enjoyed a morning sip with a number of similar visitors, with suitcases, their laptops or phones, warming up, waiting for a sun rise that would eventually come at 8:41 according to the Internet. Everywhere we went, I tried to recognize at least a few words from my short Icelandic language course I took last fall. I was so ready to say “Ég heiti Natasha” but no one asked me for my name.
At some point, we were finally in the “poetry park” where I saw for the first time the use of QR codes for something more than a shortcut to a website, advertising a commercial product. They were on the benches in this park, Hljómskálagarðurinn, giving you access to poetry and literary world. Reykjavík has been designated a UNESCO City of Literature and poets and creative writing students launched the project Wordfrom a Bench publishing fiction and poetry on benches in the public parks. I was going from one bench to another, disappointed, as QR codes were nowhere to be found. Later on, I checked on Google, and discovered that they were there only in September 2014 when I visited Reykjavik! I see it now as a gift for me from the city eight years ago, and I wonder what I will receive this time.
We took our time to check the shops and take the opportunities to warm up inside, killing our eight hours on our feet before we could finally access our Air BnB to rest.
I am not sure we were ready to go out in the evening, but Húrra was the only place, and Sunday was the only day that I could find with open mic for poets. Why not? That would be something to remember. Bonnie was a good sport and said yes, even though we were both longing for that soft bed. I don’t know if I had a half an hour nap since I got up on Saturday morning. Converted, that would mean that I was still awake at lunch time the next day. We got a table too close to the speakers and the music was not what I would listen, so we left during the first break without even waiting to see if there was an open mic at all. Regardless, it was an experience for me for many different reasons, one of them being listening to someone singing in Icelandic and talking to me (as an audience) in this still very incomprehensible bundle of consonants and vowels. I recognized “Takk” (thank you) a few times, and “Bless, bless” (Bye, bye)! The walk from our accommodation adjacent to the University of Iceland (we couldn’t run away from an academic environment) to downtown next to the city pond was beautiful.
The year of the virus has been a unique experience. It seems there is a pattern in their occurrence, at least when they are truly global, real pandemics. If their frequency is every 100 years (the Spanish flue in 1918, the First Cholera pandemic in 1817…), it is less likely for one person to experience such a horror twice in his/her lifetime. It is not like wars, certainly not like wars in Europe or particularly in the Balkan region, where one cannot live without experiencing war (unless dying from a disease or non-natural causes). (more…)
No sleep. My body (or my mind) doesn’t need a rest. It goes on and on. I tried with watching Netflix and it almost worked. But as soon as I closed my eyes, finally falling asleep, my brain was busy again and I was fully awake.
The sun was up, bright outside so I got up. Coffee on the terrace, looking at the water. Beautiful! Everything was nicer at the beginning of a new day.
The beach was so tempting and there was no real reason to resist. I changed and went out through the tiny door and white stairs, crossed the road, got on a narrow pathway that went to another flight of stairs carved into red, volcanic rock down to the beach. And the sea was waiting. Waves crashing on the rocks, sun coming out, still young. I could not smell the salt, but I knew it was there. I took of my shoes and walked barefoot on the the sand and water, timing my pace with waves.
I took photos of the horizon and red and black rocks. I took videos of that power coming in and bursting. I took it in slow-motion to feel the passage of time, wavers rolling in and pulling back. Watching them made me almost sea-sick and I remembered that vacation in Kavala when we kept jumping into the waves, over and over again, playing with danger of being pulled into, down, back to the vast of the sea. We were kids. We didn’t know the split second between being alive and beaming with joy, and being swallowed by a hungry mouth of the Aegean Sea. I lost my footing at some point and I remember that horrifying feeling of primordial fear. When I managed to come up, I stayed closer to the beach, in shallow waters. At the end of the day, when I went to bed, I was still riding the waves up and down, they kept coming at me. For the first time I experienced the sea-sickness, ready to throw up.