We left for our European vacation on a warm, muggy Memorial Day afternoon with a walk down to the bus station. That’s the nice part about downtown living – less driving. Although, lugging suitcases isn’t quite the same as a stroll to get some ice cream. Everything went smoothly on the ride down to Boston. The traffic was a bit heavy at times because of the holiday, but I snoozed, so it was fine with me.
To make the trip more affordable, we booked our flights with some budget airlines like WOW Air based in Iceland. The airplane seemed new, all shiny and clean. But it was like being in a sauna for five hours. They had the heat cranked up and I can’t stand being in a hot, enclosed space like that with no fresh air. I did manage to sleep some, though.
We arrived in Iceland at 4:45 on a chilly, damp morning (the sun is up by then that far north). The airport in Keflevik would be hard to get lost in and it didn’t take any time at all to go through passport control, customs – which consisted of a one guy watching everyone walk by – and to get our luggage. They have buses waiting to take people to Reykjavik, so you’re on your way quickly.
The bus dropped us off in downtown Reykjavik by about 6:15. Which is, of course, before anything is open. We walked the few blocks to the place we rented through Airbnb, but had trouble getting the keyholder open to get in. Luckily, by then there was a restaurant in a hotel open, so we had breakfast while waiting to hear back from the owner of the rental on how to get in. The breakfast buffet was fabulous. I guess if I’m going to be doing some travel blogging, I should think about taking photos of the places we eat and the food.
With satisfied bellies, we went back to the rental place, got in this time, settled in – and then took a nap. A couple of hours later, feeling somewhat refreshed, we headed out to explore the city. The architecture reminded me a bit of Eastern Europe in that it’s simple, blockish, and a bit stark. There are some nice, old buildings sprinkled around and I like the look of the overhangs on the corners of the buildings. We walked along the main road and stopped into a few shops to look around. One interesting thing they have here is fish leather – in a variety of colors.
One thing I noticed was that Icelandic has words that are similar to German. They’re pronounced differently (and difficultly), but I was able to understand bits and pieces of things I read better than I expected. Also, when I was in college I took a class called The History of the English Language. It was interesting to see how language developed through its origins in German, through the Scandinavian languages, to English.
By this time, we were ready for lunch. We heard that a cafe called Loki was a good place to eat. It’s named after a Norse god and has authentic, homemade Icelandic food. It can be fun to try different things in other countries, so I had the Loki tea that’s made especially for that cafe. It’s made with Icelandic birch, tundra thyme, and Icelandic moss. It was mild and tasted similar to regular green tea. I finished the meal with rye bread ice cream with caramelized rhubarb sauce. Rye bread ice cream? It was delicious and had a nutty flavor.
After lunch, we headed across the street to Hallgrimskirkja (kirkja = kirche in German = church in English), the famous church that dominates the Reykjavik skyline. It was built in 1945 and has a very austere design. Although I wasn’t impressed overall with the design (besides its size), the pipes of the organ were quite a sight. We went up into the bell/clock tower to get a panoramic view of the city. Naturally, it happened to be at the top of the hour and the bells blasted our ears.
I continued my wanders through the city while the others went off to do their thing. My stopping all the time and running here and there to get photos isn’t always the most exciting thing for people I travel with. One thing I wanted to photograph was the Harpa building on the harbor. It’s quite stunning with its facade of angled glass. Some of the panels are coated so they reflect different colored light from different angles.
The day was wearing on, so I continued along the harbor in the general direction of where we started the day. I met back up with the others about 6 pm. We made dinner in the small apartment we rented. Although we had only been in Iceland for about 15 hours, it seemed like we’d been there two days already. We were exhausted, but sleeping can be a bit of a challenge here. The sun sets at about 11:30, rises at 4:30, and it doesn’t get totally dark all night. However, we’re ready to get going on another fun day.