Iceland, Reykjavik City Tour, 13th August 2012

Today was the day for a Reykjavik city tour.  The city is not an old city with lots of old buildings, tombs or the like.  This is partly because the Icelanders built stone and thatch or sod roofed dwellings.  These, we were told, had a life of around 35-40 years after which they started to fall apart.  Once this started to happen it was easier to build a new one rather than repair the old one.

The oldest building in Reykjavik is wooden and was built in the late 1800’s.  With a distinct lack of forest trees on the island today, most buildings are corrugated iron clad or cement block in construction.  Many are painted white, cream or varying shades of grey.

View over part of Reykjavik, Iceland  (P1000855 © DY of jtdytravel)

Buildings often have blue, green, red or grey painted roofs.  Collectively, they present a much cheerier landscape than the rather dull greys of the Shetlands and Orkneys.

We saw the President’s residence. He has just been re-elected for the 5th, 4 year term by an overwhelming majority.

An old stone church   (P1000856 © DY of jtdytravels)

This old stone church is near the front entrance to the President’s home.

Hallgrimskirkja from the Perian Complex  (P1000852 © DY of jtdytravels)

There are a couple of really very striking modern buildings around town including the main Lutheran church.  This church has dramatic, clean lines and is stark but beautiful in its simplicity.

The imposing Hallgrimskirkja  (P1000827 © DY of jtdytravels)


Another view of Hallgrimskirkja and a planter tub  (P1000828 © DY of jtdytravels)


The front facade of Hallgrimskirkja  (P1000832 © DY of jtdytravels)


Looking towards the main entrance door and organ loft  (P1000843 © DY of jtdytravels)


The simple alter  (P1000840 © DY of jtdytravels)


A side aisle  (P1000837 © DY of jtdytravels)

The clean architectural lines make for some interesting patterns.


One of two icons towards the front of the cathedral  (P1000841 © DY of jtdytravels)


The other icon  (P1000842 © DY of jtdytravels)


Some of the only colour in the Cathedral  (P1000844 © DY of jtdytravels)

The city centre is also interesting with its corrugated iron clad buildings, many painted in strong colours.  The docks and harbour are an important part of the city because the island has always depended on the sea for fishing and the transport of goods. It was good to wander around even though it was a showery day – but with a coat and hat, it was not unacceptable for getting around.

We ate dinner at a restaurant at the Hilton which is just a 5 minute walk from our hotel. It was a beautiful meal which was served by an attentive staff which obviously appreciated their surrounds and took pride in their jobs.  Whether this is because of training or not, I don’t know.  It is so different from the Grand Hotel Reykjavik, which is grand only by name.  The staff was sloppy, don’t clear plates or replenish coffee pots as they empty.  Chairs are not placed neatly at tables and one chair I can see from my window has been lying on its side since I arrived 3 days ago.

There are only 2 of 3 soap dispensers working in my bathroom, one bracket is there but nothing on it, and the spare toilet paper holder fell off the wall yesterday.  On returning to my room yesterday afternoon, it had been picked up but just placed on a ledge.  I wonder how long before it will be reattached to its rightful place?  Attention to detail is all it takes – and a pride in your work.  Perhaps I’m getting picky, but when you are paying for the ‘best available’…

I decided I would opt out of the afternoon’s activities. The flu/cold that took over the African bus had caught up with me – or was it the overly hot buildings and vehicles in Iceland, compared to the cold outside, that caused my demise?!  Hot and sweaty one minute, then quite cold the next- it was not good for my constitution.  D

Iceland, Golden Circle Tour, 12th August 2012

Our all day Golden Circle tour was a drive of around 350km – a long but, what turned out to be, a very interesting day. On this drive we only touched the bottom SE corner of the island of Iceland which has a total area of 103,000 square kilometres – that’s a bit under half the size of the State of Victoria.

Unproductive land, Bláskógabygg, Iceland  (P1000745 © DY of jtdytravels)

The day began with not a lot to see. Much of the land we passed through was totally unproductive – weeds and not much more grow here in the short growing season.

  View in Bláskógabygg area , Iceland  (P1000770 © DY of jtdytravels)


The original Geyser  (P1000717 © DY of jtdytravels)

My interest level changed quite dramatically when we stopped off to inspect some geysers. The Icelandic word ‘geysir’ has been adopted into English as the word used for ‘a hot spring in which the water intermittently boils, sending a column of water and steam into the air’.

Litli Geysir  (P1000730 © DY of jtdytravels)
More spectacular is the Geysir Strokkur  (P1000730 © DY of jtdytravels)

The hot springs have been harnessed to provide inexpensive hot water, heating and electricity.

Small waterfall with salmon race  (P1000706 © DY of jtdytravels)


Gullfoss Waterfall  (P1000733 © DY of jtdytravels)

The Gullfoss waterfall is quite impressive. Some of the rivers and waterfalls are used to provide hydroelectric power.  But this falls was designated a nature reserve in 1979 and so is now a protected the area allowing access to the public.

 Subsistence farming  (P1000705 © DY of jtdytravels)

Harsh conditions make growing anything almost impossible. The soil is poor, the climate is unforgiving and volcanic eruptions have devastated the country on a number of occasions.  Subsistence farming has been the only way this society has survived.

The volcano crater lake, Kerid  (P10006721 © DY of jtdytravels)

As if volcanic activity was not enough to put up with, the weather is a bit daunting as well. During the summer, temperatures can range between 10 to 13ºC.  In the warmer south, a top temperature of 30.5ºC has been recorded.  I don’t want to think about winter when the sun only just rises above the horizon for a matter of minutes during the shortest days.  Temperatures of -25 to -30ºC are normal for winter in the north whilst the coldest temperature ever recorded is -39.7º – and this is in a country where the North Atlantic Current moderates the climate!

Tough Icelandic horses  (P1000804 © DY of jtdytravels)

The Arctic fox was the only mammal on the island when humans first arrived. (The chieftain Ingólfur Arnarson arrived in AD874 and became the first permanent Norse settler.)  Occasionally bats have been seen when they are blown off course by strong winds and polar bears sometimes arrive from Greenland.  Neither have ever been known to breed on the island.

The gentle face belies the tough horse beneath  (P1000812 © DY of jtdytravels)

Both domestic and pest animals now inhabit the island.  The sturdy Icelandic horse, Icelandic sheep and the Icelandic Sheepdog are welcome as are goats, chickens, and cattle. However, as in most countries, mice and rabbits are not so welcome.

Mink and reindeer are hunted and many seabirds make the island home.  Puffins, skuas and kittiwakes are a very important part of the island’s wildlife.

We had much still to see on this long day of exploration – next musings for more.    D