Iceland in Words – Day 1
As many of you know, I had planned and booked a trip to Iceland and after nearly year of planning and waiting the time finally came to board the airplane and get my adventure underway. After thinking long and hard about it, I decided on making the journey to the land of ice and fire a solo one. However, the freedom I’d have travelling on my own was just too enticing. Being the first time I’d done such a thing, I was extremely nervous: had I rented the proper car? had I packed everything I’d need?
Flying out Thursday evening meant I’d arrive in Reykjavik at the nice and bright hour of 6am. Thanks to a pillow and blanket provided by Icelandair, I was thankfully able to get some sleep on the flight over and save myself from a sleep-deprived day of sight seeing. Overall I was really impressed with the airline, and would definitely consider using them for future trips to Europe. It was a little odd having to go through a second metal detector upon entering the country, but better to be safe than sorry I guess.
With 2-3 hours to kill waiting for my hotel room to be ready (and for it to become light out), I found myself planning and redrawing my day’s route at least a half dozen times. Though as it was, I didn’t end up following any of my plans.
What started with a trip to the Sun Voyager, a journey full of backtracking and additional stops eventually led me back to the same iconic sculpture. Starting out, I had five particular sights I wanted to see: the Sun Voyager, Hallgrímskirkja, Iceland’s National Museum, their Settlement Museum, and Lake Tjornin (with City Hall on its shore). However, over the course of the day I found myself stopping at statues, and other lesser visited landmarks.
Deciding that Reykjavik’s most pronounced church, Hallgrímskirkja would provide its best lighting in the morning, this became my next stop (where as it was originally supposed to be one of the final stops of the day). This was before I realized that the sun seemed to both rise and set in the south than the east and west. A trip up its tower provided me with a great view of the city I would spend the rest of the day walking through.
From here it was back to Reykjavik 101 (downtown) to visit the National Museum, where the Icelandic people have documented their entire history: settlement, their conversion to Christianity, right up until today. The Settlement Museum on the other hand focused on the excavation of one of the city’s first houses. Located completely undergound, the exhibition used (among other mediums) motion activated videos, and a unique interactive map to identify and explain different parts of the ancient house as well as how the settlers would have lived back then.
Originally under the impression that it was closed this time of year, I was pleasantly surprised to find one of my most up to date guide books tell me that Perlan (The Pearl) was open. This led to me making a trek halfway across the city, and up a large hill to visit the structure consisting of five water storage tanks, and a building connecting them. This included an observation deck which provided a great view of the city. Additionally, one of the storage tanks has been converted into a Saga museum to tell those stories that are part history, part lore, with possibly a teaspoon of myth in them. This is done via an audio tour winding through some VERY realistic wax figures. There was even one dressed as a tourist watching a movie, which I wasn’t even 100% sure was wax until I googled it when I got home (I thought it would be rude to stare and/or poke the guy). Overal, it’s pretty impressive.
The day concluded with a quick stop at the Hofði House, where in 1986 Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev met and put an end to the Cold War. Although I didn’t go inside, it was interesting to see the house still standing amongst the many office buildings surrounding it.
All in all, it was a great day of seeing the capital, and learning a bunch of Icelandic history. A great start to an amazing adventure yet to come.
Highlight of the Day: This is probably the toughest day of the trip to choose a favourite part, however I have to lean towards Perlan. From finding it unexpectedly open, to the view of the city it provides from its observation deck, and the Saga museum inside is quite spectacular and informative.
Dinner: Lobster soup and a cod skewer at Saegreifinn (Sea Baron). They claim to have the “World’s Greatest Lobster Soup”, and based on those I’ve tried I think I would have to agree.