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.
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.)
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.
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.
This is the first of three posts about Iceland. The second is The silence of Iceland: Nature. Check back for Wildlife.
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Email me at: Ruth@RuthRosenfeld.com