Monday, January 14, 2019

Iceland: Day Two

On day two of our Iceland adventure we would have been on a Lava and Ice tour but, to our relief, it was canceled so we slept in.  We woke up to the chirping of the birds.  It was around 10:00am and the sun wasn't up yet.

We missed breakfast service but we did have a good lunch at the bar/restaurant in the hotel.  We walked to Bus Stop 1 to catch the shuttle to our tour of the day.  We had rescheduled the Reykjavik city tour that we'd missed thanks to the cancelled flight.  It left the bus station at 1:00pm.

The tour was in a small tour van which we shared with an English couple.  The driver/guide gave us a history of Iceland and Reykjavik as we drove around the city.  The population of Iceland is only about 350K with 200K of the people living in or around the capital of Reykjavik.  Reykjavik is not only the smallest of all the world's capitals but it is also the northernmost.  By comparison, Omaha is over twice the size.

Hallgrimskirkja Lutheran Church and a Viking.
The driver stopped several times so we could get out and take pictures and to see some things up close.  The first stop was the port where we'd been the day before for whale watching.  Fishing used to be the number one source of income for Iceland.  This changed a few years ago when one of the island's volcanoes erupted disrupting air travel to and from Europe (2010 eruptions of Eyjafjallajökull).  The eruptions sparked interest in Iceland and tourism soon surpassed fishing as the largest source of revenue for Iceland.

Next stop was the largest church in the city: Hallgrimskirkja.  Before I talk about the church, you may have noticed that Icelandic names are a wee bit hard to pronounce.  Even the Icelanders joked about that.  Hallgrimskirkja is a Lutheran church,  is the largest church in the country, and is one of the tallest structures in Iceland.  You can go to the top of the tower for the views but the line was too long during our visit so it will have to be saved for a future visit.  The inside of the church is very plain except for the pipe organ.

The third stop was the Perlan , also known as the Pearl for its white, domed shape.  The building is a museum built over water tanks than provide hot water to most of Reykjavik.  Hot water is plentiful for geologically active Iceland.  Again, we didn't have enough time to actual go through the natural history museum but we did have time to take in the panoramic view of Reykjavik, buy some magnets in the gift shop, and use the snyrting.

A Panorama of Reykjavik from the Pearl.
The fourth stop was the president's residence.  It is surprisingly remote from the City but the Presidency is only a ceremonial position in Iceland.  The real power sits with the parliament.

Another picture from the Pearl.  It seems like most Reykjavikers live  in apartments/condos instead of single family homes.
Fifth stop was Hofdi House where President Reagan met with Gorbachev to ... unsuccessfully ... talk nukes.  I remember seeing the leaders leaving this building with a disappointed look on their faces live on TV.  There is a piece of the Berlin Wall installed near the house with a moai painted on it.

Hofdi House where they tried to reduce nuclear arms.
The last stop of our tour was the Sun Voyager sculpture.  The sculpture is a stainless steel skeleton of a Viking ship.  It's kind of cool and very photogenic.  Sadly the artist died a year before the sculpture was unveiled.

The Sun Voyager, mountains in the distance.
I learned a lot about the city and country on this tour.  We talked politics with the driver (who answered our questions reluctantly and very politically neutral).  We talked about the lack of an army in Iceland (too few people for an army).  It is always the small details that you don't normally think about that makes a place interesting.  I enjoyed this tour.  Too bad this wasn't the first tour of our trip like it was supposed to be (damn you Icelandair!).

After dinner we walked around the central part of the city admiring the lights and checking out shops and bars.  At one place we saw the Christmas Cat.  The Christmas Cat, according to legend, would eat people who did not get new clothing for Christmas.  Note the yule lad projected on the building behind the Christmas Cat and the Reykjavik collar around the cat's neck.  This sculpture would become another landmark to help us navigate the central city.

The Christmas Cat prowling for people without new clothes for Christmas.
That evening the Clemson v Notre Dame playoff game was happening so the Wife found a bar not far from our Hotel that would put the game up on some of their eighteen screens.  The Wife pulled out her Notre Dame flag that she'd carried from home and we watched the game with five other Americans (all Notre Dame fans) while we taught a couple of locals about the game of American Football.  The Wife even gave her Notre Dame sweatshirt to one of the local guys.  We would run into the guy again a couple days later at Bus Stop 1 (he was a tour guide) and he gave the Wife a big hug.

One of the main downtown streets lined with stores, restaurants, and bars.  I loved all the holiday lights.
We went to bed late that night (the game had started at 9:00pm local time and went after midnight).  We would be getting up early tomorrow.  It was a good day and we both learned a lot about Reykjavik and Iceland during our tour.

Pictures can be found in my 2018-2019 Iceland Google Photos album.

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