64.1446 N, 21.9426 W
The most northern capital city in the world is Reykjavik. It has a population of over 200,000 people living within the great Metropolitan area, in a country of only 366,425 people. (2022 stats) Threads of Viking heritage, a love of food, the arts and its Medieval literature, (the Sagas and the Arnermagnean Manuscript have been added to the UNESCO memories of the world registry) makes for a facinating city. The word Reykjavik means Bay of Smoke, and it was founded by a Norseman named Ingolfur Armarson in 874. It was a small fishing and commercial center under Danish rules, until Germany occupied Denmark in 1940, At that juncture Iceland began to take control of its own government, and became a republic in 1944. Reykjavik is now home to the seat of parliament. The main industries of Iceland are; tourism, fish processing smelting of aluminum, geothermal power and pharmaceutical production. The city of Reykjavik reflects the prosperity of these industries with modern infrastructure and a clean tidy city.
Seated in the Thai restaurant
“I would really like to go for a walk-about after we finish dinner.” I put the thought out to the table as we sit in a cozy Thai restaurant just a short walk from our Airbnb on Briertartun Street. Tracy nods her head in agreement while she chews a mouthful of her meal. Monique says, “Sure, sounds good,” then she spoons her way around a platter of spicy fish stew. Mary takes a sip of her Viking lager, she and Tracy have ordered the same meal – a pad Thai
I continue selling the idea. “This is our only night in Reykjavik and I really want to get out and see some of the city.” Then I take another forkful of my curried noodles, closing my eyes to enjoy the flavors. “This is so good,” I say, pointing at my meal. “Very rich but excellent.” Then I return to close the deal on the walk. “We start our self-drive tour tomorrow and we wouldn’t be returning to the city.” Everyone is in agreement: we will go back to apartment change and go have a look around.
It is September 1st and Reykjavik still has over twelve hours of daylight this time of year so the sun wouldn’t be setting till 8:40 P.M. The temperature is only about 13 degrees Celsius and the weather forecast is calling for rain. I dress in layers and pull on a my gloves and flip the hood of my fleece up over my head to retain some heat. The four of us stride down Laugavergur Street. Within a couple of minutes we find our first art installation: The Icelandic Horse monument. We pause at the statue briefly to take a picture then keep going.
Laugavergur is the main street, with lots of shops to pop in and out of. Mary is looking for some fridge magnets to give to a few friends back home. We go into the first souvenir shop we come to . It is a very tactile experience, we touch woolen sweaters for their softness and pull on mittens to asses their warmth. I pick up a lava rock and judge its weight, there are dangling key chains etc. Mary choices the fridge magnets she likes. There are lots of novelty trinkets shops on both sides of the street but, I am not ready to carry extra stuff with me just yet.
It is starting to sprinkle and Tracy’s hands are pulled up into the sleeves of her coat and Monique is zipped up tight to her chin. Both are expressing discomfort at being plunged into late fall weather, after the scorching hot summer temperatures we left in Canada.
We come to an outdoor store and get our first look at ICEWEAR, a company that started in the early 70s as a knitting factory. It is now a corporation creating beautiful practical clothing for Iceland’s harsh climate. As we walk around the store Monique says, “The jacket I brought is not going to do.” She slips on a sassy red rain coat and twirls around in front of a mirror. We all give our approval, the fit is perfect and the style is gorgeous. She has to buy it. Our way of figuring out how to convert from Icelandic Krona- to Canadian is by moving the decimal back a number. For example when a tag shows 11.990 ISK it is about $119 Canadian. Tracy found the quintessential woolen mittens and we leave the store with our purchases and continue on our walk. We can’t resist going into Vinberio, a chocolate shop. I buy a couple of champagne truffles that are divine. Tracy picks up a couple of chocolate bars for her family.
We passed a few pubs but it was still too early to have any crowds. We admire the architecture of the homes and building. On the horizon we could see the steeple of the Hallgrimskirkja, one of Reykjavik’s best known landmarks and we make our way there.
At the Promenade in front of the church is a statue of Leif Ericsson. It was a gift to Iceland from the United States in commemoration of Alpingi – the 1000 anniversary of their Parliament. Leif Eriksson is widely accepted a having discovered North America 500 years before Columbus. I have stood holding his hand at his other statue located L’Anse aux Meadows, NFLD. So I have to get a comparison keepsake photo. A another look at the man that possibly engraved the letters on a rock at Cape Forchu, Nova Scotia
Inside of the church is a great hall and above the entrance is an impressive organ. The Hallgrimskirkja church was undergoing renovations so we couldn’t access some areas. I can tell you it is a Lutheran church and it took 41 years to complete and was consecrated in 1986. At 74.5 m it is the tallest church in Iceland, and one of the tallest structures in the country. Its style is Neo-gothic and was inspired by basalt columns and mountains of Iceland.
Back outside on the plaza, I spy a couple of statues; one of a knight and one of a man. I want to have a little fun. ” Can you take a picture of me please?” I ask Tracy as I pose like I am breaking up a fight. I review the photo and giggle, this will be my first post I make on my social media page.
We head back the way we came stopping at another cute building decorated in butterflies.
It is starting to get dark, the rain has set in hard and our feet are sore. We collectively agree to make our way back to our apartment. Down a side street I get a glimpse of the Sun Voyager sculpture, I have seen a lot of pictures of online. I take a long distant shot and hope it isn’t too grainy to see. It was nine hours ago we visited the Blue Lagoon, but well over 36 hours since I left my house and headed to the airport. We will all sleep good tonight.
Please join me again as we drive up the Snaefellsnes Peninsula. Happy travels from Maritimemac.
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