We had the pleasure of visiting our friends Brad and Fiona, as well as their son Silas, for a week in Reykjavik, Iceland. We were there from 12/31/07 to 1/6/08.
Icelandair has a monopoly. I think that pretty much says it all. One amusing tidbit: the creamer that comes with coffee claims to be a "long-life blend of glucose syrup and vegetable fat."
New Year's Eve is quite an event in Iceland. Pretty much anyone can get their hands on municipal-grade fireworks.
Brad and Fiona had a fireworks catalog on hand. Here we have the Snorri Sturluson, named after an important Icelandic saga writer. At only 2.3 kg of powder, it is relatively small. I'm not sure what the American equivalent would be -- a William Faulkner? A Jonathan Edwards?
- Only 300,000 people.
- Everyone speaks English. It's embarrassing to be a very monolingual person there. It's also an interesting experience to know that you can't understand anything being said around you, but that anything you've said that's overheard will be understood.
- "According to studies based on Y-chromosome and mitochondrial polymorphisms, 75% of males who settled in Iceland were Norwegian and 66% of females were Celtic."
- "Krap" is the word for half-thawed snow. (They don't plow much in Iceland.)
- Tourists are still a bit of a novelty. We were looking at our guidebook and a person actually stopped and asked us if we needed help.
- Public pools and "hot pots" are like Zippy's or the mall -- lots of high-schoolers hanging out.
- All the kitchens and bathrooms we saw seemed to be straight out of IKEA (though I think most came from other furniture companies)
On New Year's Day, Brad and Silas took us on a tour of the Golden Circle.
This is a picture of the continental rift, Almannagjá, at Þingvellir. This is an important site because the Alþingi, Iceland's parliament, began meeting here in 930. Now they meet in a nice building in Reykjavik.
More Golden Circle:
This was taken near Geysir, for which all other geysers are named.
The next day we went to the Icelandic Settlement Center in Borganes (where Ed discovered his love of rugbraud) and later had tea with Brad and Fiona's Icelandic teacher, Ingunn, near Reykholt. Borganes:
Fiona set up some great tours for us at deCODE and the Reykjanes Geothermal Power Plant. The power plant tour was one of the highlights of the trip, as we got a personal tour from Thorgrimur (he rode along with us and showed us the bore holes, the pipes, the outflow area, the turbines, the partially complete museum, etc.). After the power plant, we had a great time at the Blue Lagoon. The Blue Lagoon is filled with geothermal seawater that runs off from a nearby power plant.
Here's Ed at the Bridge Between Two Continents:
We also spent some time getting to know downtown Reykjavik. Here I am planning our day in a bakery over coffee. (We usually had some time to kill, as places tended to stay closed until sunrise at 10:30 a.m. or so.) Ed said, "Coffee and strategy: my two favorite things."
Graffiti is a problem in Reykjavik, though vandals generally leave murals alone. We particularly enjoyed this one:
Ed the viking at the National Museum:
In addition to the National Museum, we also really enjoyed the Culture House, especially the exhibits on Surtsey and very old manuscripts of the Icelandic sagas. Other unpictured highlights include the Grótta Beach lighthouse, the Aurora Borealis (breathtaking but hard to photograph), and dinner with a Norwegian diplomat and his family. (His Swedish wife was familiar with Uppsala, from which some of my ancestors hail.) We also ran into a college classmate of Ed's at a party. His name is Seth Sharp and he's competing to represent Iceland in Eurovision!
Leifur Eiriksson was Icelandic:
Two views of Reykjavik from the bell tower at Hallgrímskirkja:
The amazing pipe organ at Hallgrímskirkja:
View of Reykjavik (including Hallgrímskirkja) from Perlan:
Brad, Fiona, Silas, and I, also at Perlan:
Ed photographed this Yule Lad, the Sausage Swiper, in the gift shop at Perlan:
On our last day, we got to watch Brad race in the Kringler Mall parking garage criterium. During the race, we randomly shouted out Dick Ring-isms: "Lord love a duck!" "It's a whale of a race!" "Katie bar the door!"
We brought back approximately 3.5 kilos of Skyr. You can only get vanilla at the local Whole Foods; pear is my favorite. Ed said to Silas, "Vanilla, blueberry, and plain are the manly skyr flavors. Oh, and 'banana splitti' is also manly."
It was a wonderful trip and a super fun time with friends.