’22 May: around Reykjavik

Reykjavik, Iceland

Welcome to Reykjavik ICELAND

The flight went very well, here I am writing this the next day and I can hardly remember pleading for it to be over, so, excellent.

From the airport I took an easy-peasy bus to the main church and from there walked the one block to Freyja Guesthouse arriving around 10:30am. It’s lovely, I have a pleasant and modest room, nice windows, and a comfy bed, plus a good bathroom and kitchen and lounge shared with two other rooms. I’m happy!

Back to the church, called ((Hallgrímskirkja (Icelandic pronunciation: ​[ˈhatl̥ˌkrimsˌcʰɪr̥ca])). This is how google thinks you will to learn to pronounce Icelandic words. Don’t be fooled by the English looking letters or the missing Icelandic markings in this particular word. Pronouncing Icelandic place names – it’s going to be a project!

Their stand-out organ.

You can barely see this statue in the first picture, over on the far left. It’s Leif Erikson (970-1020) and wow, Alexander Calder made it. But no, not MY Alexander Calder. There are three Alexander Calders, all sculptors (my guy, his father, and his father’s father(!). I digress…the statue predates the church and was a gift from the US in 1930 at the “Althing Millennial Festival, commemorating the 1000th anniversary of the convening of Iceland’s parliament at Þingvellir in 930 AD.” No doubt more to come on this.

I walked around town for a couple hours, it’s adorable. I’m not sure if adorable is what they were going for but on first flush that’s where I’m landing. Adorable.

Peeking through you can see some mountains. I think it would be glorious when you can actually see the mountains.

There are several streets in this central downtown area that are pedestrianized and even when there are cars, there are not so many cars but there are still no parking places.
When people are in line for food, Get In That Line. The most delicious hotdog? wellll. One of the most interesting hotdogs? for sure! They had these super-crunchy onions, at first I thought it was bacon!

Here are a few murals from around my ‘hood. I’m quite sure there are more.

I caught a couple hours nap this afternoon because I had 8pm tickets at the Harpa Concert Hall to see Eva Ollikainen (everyone calls her Eva) conduct the Iceland Symphony Orchestra playing the Shostakovich Symphony no. 5. I had orchestra center seats and I wondered why they were so inexpensive. Maybe because the concert was a perfect 1 hour in length? It was an Impressive performance.

Harpa Concert Hall. I had seen a picture of this place and I wanted to see a show inside!
A bit of the inside. There are a few venues, I wanted to go to the main theater and it was fabulous, four tall tiers of balconies, comfortable seats, nice sight lines. And these walls of windows. Good job!

You can see these amazing walls/facade from the outside too. If you’re interested here’s a write-up from the architect. There are pictures and a tab for the text. It’s Very cool.

The few more pictures from my block:

Greetings Guðbjörg

Guðbjörg is Hilda’s Uncle’s Icelandic girlfriend and we had a great day today thanks to Guðbjörg who drove me around for the afternoon, took me to her house for coffee and cake, and then we went out for dinner at her favorite restaurant. What a day!

Let’s pronounce Guðbjörg! I tried to type it out and created more confusion in my mind. Here is a link so you can listen to Guðbjörg and to my church Hallgrímskirkja. You might think the church should at least start ‘Hall’ but oh no. And here’s another good one that will come up a lot: Þingvellir. These will make you smile out loud!

This picture was from yesterday, around my corner. True Story. Not one of my not infrequent ‘poetic license’ mix-ups. Thursday I awoke after having eaten mostly on-the-road food for a day and a half and I said to myself, I could eat a carrot. After I finished writing Wednesday’s story I went to this cafe and Lo! their soup of the day was carrot ginger. It was meant to be!

Connected to the cafe is a gallery, I showed a picture of a cat statue yesterday from the gallery. So outside the cafe and gallery these guys were working on a project. They told me the big reveal would be Saturday at noon. So I asked them if there would be a party. Oh yes there would be a party and I was most welcome to attend. Oh you bet I’m going to that party!

Guðbjörg picked me up and we were OFF!

That’s Guðbjörg at the entrance to Perlan, built on top of several gigantic water tanks that feed hot water into Reykjavik. Inside they have interesting displays and around the dome there’s a great viewing platform
The spire on the left is my church, I live a block from there.

In front is a small church, then there’s the house for receptions and official entertaining, and behind that the home of one of the main government officials..I have to remember who..
Einar Benediktsson, 1864 – 1940 beloved poet and national hero in the independence movement.
This is where in 1986 the presidents of Russia and the US, Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan, met to end the Cold War. 

Below the inset is from the internet as is this, mostly from Guide to Iceland: “Þúfa was designed by the Icelandic artist Ólöf Nordal, who sought to create a place of serenity. On top is an old fishing shed, the kind used historically to wind-dry fish, as a callback to Iceland’s past. Fishing was the lifeblood of the country for centuries, and how Icelanders managed to work in the tumultuous seas, harvest their catch, and utilize it for lasting food, clothing and oil, is a fascinating story. The hillock of Þúfa also has ties to Icelandic culture; the hidden people in folklore were said to be able to live in an alternate world within rocks and such hillocks.”

My picture has rain spots! It rained off and on most of the day but it never got bad.
This made my heart quicken and Guðbjörg kindly turned around so I could have another look.

This is so gorgeous.
We stopped off at Guðbjörg’s home for some coffee and cake, so civilized. Note the circle in the ground in the upper right, that’s a cannon embankment from WWII and the government thanked her for letting it be…
…and looking out from the back you can see the remains of an old fort high up in the middle. What a beautiful home in a glorious setting…

…and there’s homemade chocolate cake, two different kinds!

Here come some scenes from around Guðbjörg’s home. She said in Reykjavik you can get out easily all year round, they don’t get snowed in and all these paths are walkable.

One of the few Catholic churches around. Iceland is very predominately Lutheran, it’s a state religion actually. The picture on the right is the Parliament’s Garden.

Time for dinner at Fish Market. It was deeelightful and deeelishious

The oldest church in Reykjavik built in 1840 before its neighbor, the Parliament building, built in 1881. They both have the marks of the Danish king who was in power at the time.
“Monument to the Unknown Bureaucrat”

Here we are at the end of the our day, it’s after 10pm and twilight hasn’t hit yet.

Sky Lagoon And More

What I did today: I rested some, walked around town, went to a couple museums, had a ton of fun with some kids, enjoyed the Sky Lagoon with Guðbjörg, and ate a yummy dinner with my guesthouse mates.

The National Gallery of Iceland, only one exhibit hall was open. One of the docents was a little bored it seemed and spent a long time telling me what was open elsewhere and helping me pronounce their names.
The Settlement Exhibition, nicely displayed artifacts from the olden days.
I like it.
Another picture is the top one. I kept seeing these large groups of teenagers roaming around town in crazy costumes. These kids told me The Whole Story, showed me pictures, laughed and told jokes, signed me up for their Instagram. It was So much fun. And every one of them spoke Perfect English. I was awed.
Then Guðbjörg picked me up and we were off for a beautiful few hours at the Sky Lagoon, the latest hot water extravaganza in Reykjavik.
And after it all, at 9pm I just had to eat. This place, Loki, is down the block from my guesthouse and when I went in…
…these women who are staying at my guesthouse were having dinner, invited me to join them, and it was lovely. I have so far met my goal of once a day eating fresh fish right out of the ocean. And I got a shot of ‘the National Drink of Iceland’, Brennivin. It’s a grain-mash liquor flavored with caraway, I would get it again.
The view out the window of the restaurant. My church!

A Cozy Capital City

Another cool mural on a side street I could easily have missed. I’m sure I missed plenty.


Today was the first sunny morning since I’ve been here and everyone was so excited. The streets were full of people looking like this, with their faces soaking up the joy. On the corner of my block is the renowned Einar Jónsson Museum where there is a large sculpture garden that I stroll through often.


I found a new street to walk on and first thing, what’s that smell? What are those people lined up for? Bakery Treats! Of course I went in there and it was worth it.

Brauð & Co. (I copy/paste all these Icelandic words that I don’t know how to type.)
These corrugated metal panels are everywhere, on roofs and the sides of buildings, and they are even used as fencing.

So many murals in such a small city and almost entirely unmolested.

My wander took me past Harpa again. Irresistible!

The Sun Voyager (Icelandic: Sólfar [ˈsouːlˌfaːr̥]) by Jón Gunnar Árnason
Reykjavik Art Museum

It seemed a lot so I looked it up, there are 8 Vietnamese restaurants in Reykjavik, and a couple markets too.

The woman at the Maritime Museum let me just sit here in this fabulous chair with an entertaining view of the waterfront before I tackled the walk back home.

Last Day In Reykjavik

Above, an art project at My Church, Hallgrímskirkja, that wasn’t there when I left!

On the way into town I stopped off at The Settlement Center in Borgarnes. It’s a museum of the early days in Iceland and also a walk through models telling the story of the Egils Saga. The audio tour was quite good – a modest, lovely detour, well worth it if you have the time.

Back in Reykjavik I dropped my bag at the guesthouse, then dropped the car, and then walked to the guesthouse through downtown. Look at this house…you know you’re back in Reykjavik.

When I started walking it was dry..
..and then rain that no one seemed to mind.

Guðbjörg and I had a wonderful last day in Iceland. We went to Árbær Open Air Museum and it was delightful.

We waited in the sweet café for the English language guide and we both just loved this kid. He’s studying history, not surprisingly has perfect English, and answered every question with a delightful and appropriate story.

The old and the new.


Remember back three weeks ago (of course not!), next door to my guesthouse was a small local art gallery that had many pieces out on their lawn. These folks were working on a project and The Big Reveal was due on the day before I was to leave on my drive, so I was anxious to see it. I didn’t swell with joy but it was fun:

And here we have how it looks 2 1/2 weeks later. They’ve mulched it up and what they said was they had no idea what to do next – tend to it? change the plants? let it go wild? Now I’m a little invested in the whole thing and I want to know what’s going to happen. So..success you guys!

I walked down to the bus station to get my covid test and a bus ticket to the airport.

Then in the morning, Home Sweet Home. The flights went well. Goodness I was so grateful for Global Entry and TSA Pre. Those lines in JFK were a killer. Comfort+ on Delta, thumbs up. Now it is the 11th so yes, it’s taken me some time to finish and I haven’t done a polish on these posts, but thanks to Marsha for keeping up with the proof reading!

Iceland – you can Go There.

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