November 8, 2013
We had a great time in Akureyri, but it was time to head back south to Reykjavik. We boarded an early morning flight with our tour mates, who had now become our comrades.
The view from the plane as the sun rose over the surrounding fjords and glaciers was heavenly. Literally. It looked like how heaven is depicted in every painting that I’ve ever seen. It was over quickly though. As soon as we reached cruising altitude, we started making our descent. Jeff didn’t enjoy his view too much, because it involved the back of my head.
When we arrived back to our hotel in Reykjavik, our room was not ready so we stored our luggage and hit the pavement. Again, literally. The hotel is near the domestic airport but not exactly convenient to the downtown area. The bonus to walking was that as we wandered through the cold, we came upon the city pond, Tjörnin. It was frozen over and dotted with swans, geese, seagulls and ducks. We happened upon a young girl and her father feeding the birds. It was super cute and made me miss my girls. One of the guidebooks called it “the world’s biggest bowl of bread soup.” As we watched, one of the city’s many stray cats stalked the birds but was never brave enough to go in for the attack. Those swans were easily five times the size of your average cat! Adjacent to Tjörnin was city hall. Ráðhús Reykjavíkur was a concrete moss-covered love-it or hate-it structure built in 1994. Before that, Reykjavik had no Ráðhús. Can you believe it? It looked like a big block of frozen moldy cheese.
Next, we visited The Settlement Exhibition Reykjavik 871+/-2, an interesting museum that gets its name from the year that it is believed the Vikings settled in Reykjavik. The museum is situated around an actual 10th century Viking long house that was excavated by archeologists. They built a building right on top of it and created a museum around it. Super cool. The museum had interactive displays about the the Viking settlements in Iceland ranging from 871+/-2 through about the year 1000. I learned lots of cool Viking facts for upcoming party conversations. There was also an active excavation site across the street, but we skipped it and headed to Icelandic Fish and Chips for lunch.
In Iceland they are absolutely giddy about this yogurt type cultured dairy product, “Skyr.” It has been part of Icelandic cuisine for over 1,000 years. The restaurant had a half dozen “gourmet” skyr based sauces. We tried mango (my favorite), basil garlic (too heavy on basil, not enough garlic) and tartar (yawn- needed relish). Jeff had wolf fish and I had cod. No fries though. We had quartered “crispy potatoes” and greasy onion rings. Swanky, but it should have been called “Icelandic Fish and Skyronnaise” because there were no “chips.”
From lunch, we headed to Volcano House, a theater that shows two short documentaries. One about the 1973 eruption on the Westman Islands and another about the 2010 eruption of Eyjafjallajökull in South Iceland.
The 1973 eruption occurred in the town of Heimaey when a fissure in the volcanic island burst open unexpectedly in the middle of the night. Really! 5,000 people, the entire population of the island, were evacuated immediately using the island’s fleet of fishing vessels- which were miraculously in the harbor due to high winds the previous day. The eruption grew into the volcanic cone coined Eldfell. It spewed ash and lava for several months before, in an effort to save the harbor, which was close to being buried by the lava flow, islanders came up with the genius plan of dousing the angry volcano with sea water. They pumped it from the sea firefighter-style. The plan worked and the flow cooled and stopped before the harbor was destroyed. The residents returned, dug out their town and went back to fishing. Awesome.
Eyjafjallajökull is most well known for its ashy eruption in April 2010. The glassy airplane-engine-unfriendly ash shut down European air traffic for six days at a cost of $200 million per day. Frankly, I was tired and slept through most of this film. It was no where near as devastating as Mt. St Helens and I don’t care about air traffic unless I have a flight scheduled. Presently, the eruption makes a good tourism gimmick for selling t-shirts and magnets throughout Iceland. Win for Iceland.
Feeling refreshed after what Jeff calls “our $40 nap,” we headed for the main drag in Reykjavik. Jeff found a bar for what I call his “$10 beer” and I cruised the shops. Things began to close up around 6 pm so we met back up and took a frigid walk back to the hotel for an overpriced dinner in the hotel restaurant. Once we were back in the room, we stuffed everything into our suitcases and, because we couldn’t figure out how to turn the TV on, went to sleep.
Good night, Reykjavik.