I meant to do this three weeks ago, but I’ve been just a touch busy. So I’ll do it now.
Iceland was lovely. I didn’t have much in the way of expectations aside from that it would be enjoyable, offer good food, and give me pretty things to look at. It delivered very, very nicely.
We arrived at 6:30 in the morning. I’d given the window seat on the plane over to Watts because he’d never left the country, but nobody took the middle seat. The plan had been to sleep on the plane so we could dive right into our day, but as it turns out, 6:30am Iceland time is right about when I normally go to bed. Also, Iceland Air stewardesses are very efficient at bumping dozing passengers.
Iceland, though, is gorgeous. Keflavik is right on the coast. we were in early pre-dawn as we landed. The coast stretched under us in ragged fingers that were so small, I was shocked when we touched down; I’d thought he must be much higher than we were. The coast, along with most of the rest of Iceland, is made of ragged rock from cooled lava floes and ground was a sculpted black mass in a gray morning full of dramatic clouds.
Customs consisted of a stamp on our passport and walking up the “Nothing to Declare,” hallway. In short, even simpler than breezing through customs in Amsterdam last year. From there we bought Flybus + with return tickets into Reykjavik. We had to wait a bit for the bus, but I filled it by starting on my first compulsive picture taking. One of the stunning things about Iceland is the lighting. When the world isn’t a cozy, rainy gray, the lighting is dramatic.
Dawn our first day from the bus
Driving in to Reykjavik from Keflavik is almost a perfect set-up for the scenery you can expect. It’s all moss covered volcanic rock against the ocean on one side, cute farmhouses amid shaggy, rocky fields on the other. With mountains rising high in the background.
Drive to Reykjavik
Their roadside artwork is somehow exactly what you’d expect of a culturally Scandinavian country with Ikea-like sense of line and simplicity, but much richer. It feels old in an organic way completely foreign to old European senses of gothic stone architecture.
Picture of rock garden on side of road
Reykjavik itself seems to specialize in just being a cute little city surrounded by astonishing landscapes. It’s not pretentious about it. It’s not self conscious. You just have to accept that when in Reykjavik, every time you turn around it’s gorgeous.
Mountains behind Reykjavik
We stayed in an apartment Guesthouse Einholt. Split four ways for a week, it was criminally cheap. I’d found them on the internet and done some research, but the price had me nervous. Had I dumped us in a slum? Was the neighbourhood loud, the view perhaps an excellent one of a corrugated steel warehouse wall?
Arriving at the hotel is one of my favourite stories from the whole trip. We arrived at 8:30am, considerably earlier than their 2pm check in time. I’d had enough foresight to email the hotel about this, asking if we’d at least be able to dump our stuff and go out and start the trip. They assured me that nobody had the room the night before us, so we should be able to check in upon arrival. Thus I brazenly pressed the call button in the vestibule and explained, “Hi. I’m Anaea Blue. I’m here to check in.” The door buzzes open and we go up a narrow hallway that ends in a narrower twisting staircase. To our left is a quasi-lobby, with a small desk, 10inch TV showed the closed-circuit feed of the lobby, and beyond that another hallway. There is no computer in sight. No credit card machine. No staff. And after exploring up the steps and down the hall, no sign of a better candidate for lobby.
The phone on the wall rings. Then again. I look around at the group, then pick up the phone. “Hello?”
“You are here to check in?”
“You are very early.”
“Yes. I emailed you about that last week and you said it was okay.”
“Look, it’ll take me fifteen or twenty minutes to get there,” the voice on the other side says. I begin to resign myself to waiting half an hour, despite being exhausted and having to tell somewhat cranky travel companions that we have to stand there until secret agent man arrives. “If you look behind you, there is a safe. Put in this combination. Your keys are there.” I do as instructed. Not just my keys. The keys for every vacant room in the guest-house are there. Boy is this guy lucky my memory for numbers is barely good enough to let me punch in the combination immediately after hearing it. “Now, you’re staying in a different building. What you have to do is go across the street. Go past the instrument store. There will be an unmarked brown door. The first key will get you in there. You’re staying in 407.”
I am not reassured about the odds that we’re in a classy joint.
We were in a classy joint.
Picture of dining room with view
Picture of view from room balcony the first day
What I didn’t expect about Iceland was the rainbows. This place specializes in raining during full sunlight, and the rainbows are everywhere. We averaged over two rainbow sightings per day. We’d thought there was one day we didn’t see any rainbows, but looking through Sylvie’s photos we found one from that day. When I say rainbow, I’m not talking a splotchy bit of color in the sky, either. Full rainbow arcs. Often doubles. Frequently we’d see a leg plunging into the water in the morning, then discover the rest of the rainbow (and its companion) as we wandered about the city.
Rainbow view off our balcony. I think it looks violent. Nobody agrees with me.
Friday was our museum run day. I left my camera at home on the grounds of heavy bulkiness being no fun. Most of the museum stuff wouldn’t have photographed well anyway. However, I must recommend the museum circuit in Reykjavik. They have one musuem called 871±2. It’s a museum they built around the foundation of a long house they found while doing construction. Archaeology in Iceland is easy to date because they have so much volcanic activity, and each eruption has unique markers. Based on ash layers and whatnot, they know the longhouse was used around, 871, thus the super cool museum name. Even if you don’t care about the archaeology itself, the museum is worth checking out just for an example of excellent interaction museum design. As you walk around the walls different displays switch on and move. There’s also a table with a diagram of the long house, and an interactive ability to expand more information about the various points of interest.