Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Iceland - Part 2

Roaming in Reykjavik

Viewing the aurora borealis was the primary reason for our Iceland trip, but we also spent every day touring southern Iceland where there were many interesting things to see. Upon arrival we had a free night and day in Reykjavik. Our hotel was located next to the harbor, and we had this view from our room.
Outside, it was cloudy, wet, and chilly. Inside, the hotel lobby was warm and inviting.
We walked away from our hotel on the first evening to find a place for dinner.
Streets near the hotel looked like this.
My pre-trip food anxiety was unjustified. Aside from an early error mistaking thick sour cream for milk during the first breakfast buffet, all meals in Iceland were great. We had grilled lamb skewers for our first dinner at the restaurant below.
Lamb was frequently on the menu. I ate more lamb in Iceland than I've eaten in the past 20 years, but I had no complaints. I skipped the more adventurous choices available on this sign.
We began our free day in Reykjavik with a visit to the 871 + 2 Museum. (The date of the first settlement of Iceland is determined to be 871 with an uncertainty of 2 years. I absolutely LOVE the statement of numerical uncertainty here! I wish this was more commonly done whenever numbers appear, particularly in news articles.) This museum houses remains of a tenth century hall dwelling, about 20 meters long, inhabited between approximately 930 and 1000 AD. The stone foundation remains in its original location, about 2 meters below street level in 2013. It was excavated in 2001, and is now displayed in an exhibit illustrating how early inhabitants of Iceland lived.
The long hall had a front porch partly paved with stones seen below.
After reading the informative displays in the museum I had a better appreciation of the hard life lead by early Viking settlers - like this giant guy with his handy axe.
We spent a good portion of our rainy free day strolling the length of a street called Laugavegur, looking in many shops along the way. Here are some scenes from along Laugavegur.
So many syllables!!
We stopped and browsed in many nice shops. Prices were high, often outrageously high. One U.S. dollar equaled 117 Icelandic krona. I continually divided krona prices by 117 to judge costs. Cheap refrigerator magnets were selling for $8 with 22 percent tax added! I saw children's books for $30. Small, mass produced pewter Viking ships were $25. Rounded volcanic stones the size of a nickel, found by the billions on Icelandic beaches, were sold for $25 as "Icelandic Meditation Stones". Eventually, the high prices disgusted me and I refused to buy anything.

After a warm lunch of soup in bread bowls we continued walking down to the waterfront where the Opera House is located. It was a colorful modern building as you can see below.
From the Opera House we walked a short way in the gloomy, rainy afternoon along the waterfront bike path to the beautiful Viking ship sculpture.
The scene in front of the Viking ship looked like this. Click on the image for a larger view.
The next day, before heading out to rural Iceland, we stopped at an iconic Reykjavik landmark, the Hallgrimskirkja Church, seen in the distance in the following picture.
A dramatic statue of Leif Ericson stands in front of the church.
Not everyone in Iceland is stern and hard like Leif Ericson. These children had fun walking along inlaid stone lines in the plaza behind the Ericson statue.
Reykjavik was interesting, but we spent most of our time outside the city. I'll describe our adventures in the countryside in future posts. 

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People say I'm crazy doing what I'm doing
Well they give me all kinds of warnings to save me from ruin
When I say that I'm o.k. well they look at me kind of strange
Surely you're not happy now you no longer play the game

People say I'm lazy dreaming my life away
Well they give me all kinds of advice designed to enlighten me
When I tell them that I'm doing fine watching shadows on the wall
Don't you miss the big time boy you're no longer on the ball

I'm just sitting here watching the wheels go round and round
I really love to watch them roll
No longer riding on the merry-go-round
I just had to let it go

John Lennon