The silence of Iceland: City

Stenciled on a sidewalk in Reykjavik:

“On the far side of the mountain
the silence is more tangible”
Infibjörg Haraldsdöttir: from Answer

One would think, changing planes at the airport via Icelandic Airlines, on the way to or from European cities, that Iceland is a crowded place. But that’s just the airport. It’s a land of open spaces, astounding natural beauty, intelligent and literate people with a wry sense of humor, and a wondrous place to explore—especially if you go off-season. My son, Adam, and I spent two weeks driving around the island at the end of April and early May 2013, before the waves of tourists rolled in for summer. The long bright days of sunshine had already arrived. (Above photo: Sun Voyager sculpture by Jón Gunnar Árnason, Reykjavik harbor)

Our route followed the southern coastline, skirting and dipping into national parks, rounding fjords, and then cut across inland to the northern coast, detouring to a western peninsula before returning back to the capital, and fitting in a soak in the famous Blue Lagoon on our way back to the airport. Rather than trying to sort my photographs in chronological and geographic order and a bit befuddled by the long Incelandic site names, I’ve grouped them by City, Nature, and Wildlife, so this is the first of three entries. Oddly enough, many of them do fall into the order in which we traveled.

A corner store, Reykjavik, Iceland

Seascape wall, Reykjavik
Hallgrimskirkja church, Reykjavik

Reykjavik, the northernmost capital of the world, is home to about 200,000 people, a small population for a major city and compact enough center to walk everywhere. Adam and I usually choose one museum to visit in a city and this time it was The Culture House, a collection of art, sculpture, medieval scripts, and historical artifacts, a good orientation to Icelandic lore. (I make it a practice not to take photos in a museum and post them, not wanting to copy another’s art or treasures that I have paid to view.)

Lobster soup, Reykjavik

At a local bookstore I perused the English translations and inquired about notable classics; I’ve picked up books in many countries as part of my further education while traveling. Often it’s a volume that’s studied in school by students of that land. Iceland is known for its sagas. Iceland’s Bell by Halldór Laxness, a Nobel prize winner, kept me entertained and a little more knowledgeable about the influence of the Danes and Vikings as it follows a hapless farmer stumbling on major events and figures (inspiration for Forrest Gump?). Picturing some of these characters riding through the countryside in their centuries-old garb tickled my imagination. One evening at a bar in the northern city of Akureyri, several Icelanders were amazed that I was familiar with the story and it was a great opener to lively conversation, while Adam compared cultures with a younger crowd.

Typical village boxy structures with colors, Eyrarbakki
Langabud, Djúpivogur
This means you’re leaving a city
House and tree, Middle of nowhere
House and tree, Húsavík, the northernmost city we visited
Húsavík harbor

Although the time of year of lingering sun, it was early in the season. In the “Northern Capital” of Akureyri, we took turns, a few hours at a time, staying up all night looking for Northern Lights, but they didn’t grace us with their beauty.

Street name change, Akureyri

This is the first of three posts about Iceland. The second is The silence of Iceland: Nature and the last post The silence of Iceland: Wildlife.

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Published by rkrontheroad

Writer, photographer, traveler

26 thoughts on “The silence of Iceland: City

  1. I’d love to visit this country sometime. I have friends who visited there in the fall and some in the winter to try to get the northern lights but neither had much success. However, they have loved the beautiful country and scenery. I think it’s brilliant of you to read a local national novel that gives you a great idea of the land and its people.

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    1. The literary angle helps to understand the history and culture. My son worked on a ship in Alaska for a couple of years and has seen the northern lights several times. We also stayed up in Norway when we were there. Don’t know if I’ll get that far north again!

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  2. I really, really want to go to Iceland. I’m pretty sure it will be my next trip once we feel comfortable travelling internationally again. How was the weather in late April/early May? I’ve heard it can be quite erratic so I was probably planning on a summer visit, although I know that is when the tourist hordes arrive.

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  3. The weather was chill but pleasant, bring your warmies if you travel early or late summer. We did have problems crossing a road cutting through an area more inner of the country – story in the next post!

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  4. Photos are wonderful, as is your writing! Húsavík harbor is stunning, but my favorite shot is House and Tree, both moody and haunting. It’s a beautiful practice, buying and reading a book from the country you’re visiting.

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    1. Thanks so much for your kind comments. That photo was one of the ones I shouted for my son, who always liked to be the driver, to pull over. It was like a vision in the distance. I do recommend finding a local book for added meaning when traveling! We always prepare ahead of time, but having a story in your head that fits the place makes the experience richer, I think.

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