Tag Archives: Reyjkavik

Entrance Tickets – Hallgrímskirkja, Reykjavik

Hallgrímskirkja, Reykjavik

As the sky was so clear and we could guarantee excellent views we returned now to Hallgrímskirkja, the Lutheran Cathedral and the tallest building in the city which took nearly forty years to build and was consecrated in 1986.

The design is said to be based on a geyser plume or a lava flow but if you ask me it looks more like a space shuttle about to blast off  but it is nice enough inside and the signature piece is a twenty-five tonne organ with 5,275 pipes and someone was in there this morning practising on it.

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These are the four faces of the clock taken from inside the top of the tower…

Iceland Cathedral

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More Leif Ericson – Statues in the USA

Leif Erikson Boston  Leif Erikson Minnesota

After recent travels to Italy I told the story of Giuseppe Garibaldi and how he is so famous that his statues appear all over the World and now I have been to Iceland and seen Leif Ericson and although not nearly as prolific in his bronze and stones appearances as Giuseppe, Leif does seem to have an impressive number of likenesses of his own, especially in the USA.

This is not entirely surprising of course because Norsemen from Greenland and Iceland were the first Europeans to reach North America in what is today Newfoundland, Canada when Leif Ericson reached the Continent via Norse settlements in Greenland around the year 1000.

Nearly a thousand years later many Norwegian immigrants went to the United States primarily in the second half of the nineteenth and the first few decades of the twentieth century. According to the most recent United States census there are more than four and a half million Norwegian Americans and most live in the Upper Midwest and currently comprise the tenth largest American ancestry group.

In the two pictures above Leif can be seen in Boston, Massachusetts and then not surprisingly in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  Below he is in Chicago, Illinois and (my personal favourite) Newport News in Virginia.

leif-eriksson-chicago  Leif Erikson Newport News Virginia

Reyjkavik, Vikings and Explorers

European Capital of Culture 2000 – Reykjavik

Reykjavikk Skyline from Hallgrímskirkja,

Today I continue my series of posts about places that I have visited that at some time have been designated either before or after as the  ‘European Capital of Culture’

With a clear sky we were hopeful that after returning from the restaurant that we might be able to see the Northern Lights but even if they were there then the lights from the city were way to bright for them to be visible so we went to bed disappointed,

In complete contrast to the weather on the previous two days there was a magnificent blue sky in the morning – as I woke I sensed sunlight leaking into the room around the edges of the curtains and from the hotel bedroom window Reyjkavik looked much more cheerful in the sunshine without its heavy overcoat of grey cloud and gloom with which we had become familiar.

And so before leaving we agreed to have one last walking tour of the city which is the World’s most northerly capital ( the most southerly capital is Wellington, New Zealand) and is the twin city of Oslo, Stockholm, Copenhagen and Helsinki in Scandinavia as well as Moscow  in Russia and (surprisingly) close to me in the United Kingdom, Kingston-upon-Hull.

Lief Ericson Reyjkavik Iceland

After breakfast we checked out and stored our luggage and then walked into the city to see the parts we had missed on the first day and Mike was particularly keen to show his railway engine discovery to Kim and Margaret.  We had liked the Sólfar Suncraft so much the first time that we made for the seafront again and made a second visit there before we walked further along the promenade towards the docks until finding our progress barred by road works where underground heating pipes were being installed we abandoned this route and turned instead towards the city centre.

Iceland Reyjkavik

There were some bright new recently constructed buildings that reflected the new wealth of Iceland standing close to the older buildings and houses that were utilitarian grey but enlivened by gay coloured aluminium cladding, not gentle pastel shades like those in eastern Europe but strong vibrant primaries, reds, yellows and blues that were presumably chosen deliberately to cheer up long cold winter days.

Hallgrímskirkja, Reyjkavik Iceland

Maintaining property must be a nightmare here and the timber must require constant attention as in many places the bony fingers of winter frost had mischievously picked away at peeling paintwork allowing the damp to penetrate the wood underneath with no doubt dire and irreversible consequences.  I like to repaint my house every twenty years or so whether it needs it or not but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if they have to do this painful operation twice a year in Reykjavik at least!

Iceland Reyjkavik

As the sky was so clear and we could guarantee excellent views we returned now to Hallgrímskirkja, the Lutheran Cathedral and the tallest building in the city which took nearly forty years to build and was consecrated in 1986.  The design is said to be based on a geyser plume or a lava flow but if you ask me it looks more like a space shuttle about to blast off  but it is nice enough inside and the signature piece is a twenty-five tonne organ with 5,275 pipes and someone was in there this morning practising on it.

Our main purpose for visiting the cathedral however was not to visit the interior but to take the lift to the observation tower at the top of the seventy-three metre tall tower.  It cost 700 krona (about £3) and it was worth every one because from the top there were glorious uninterrupted views in all directions, to the sea in the west, the glaciers in the north, the islands in the south and the ragged coastline to the east and we stayed at the top for several minutes enjoying the views.

Lief Ericson Statue Reykjavik Iceland

Back at the bottom we walked to what I suppose you might call the old town, the site of the original Viking settlement and the administrative centre of Reykjavik with the Parliament building, the President’s official residence and the Government buildings and as we walked Mike carefully nudged us towards the port area for a second inspection of the railway engine.

The docks were busy this morning with cargo ships unloading, the tugs making their way in and out of port and some brave (crazy) men on a training vessel practising some rescue procedures and taking it in turn to one by one jump into the icy cold waters.  Our route took us past the conference centre where exhibitors were packing away their Arctic Energy Conference displays and it looked quite empty now.

Our time in Reyjkavik was coming to an end so we enjoyed one last walk along the waterfront as far as Sólfar Suncraft and then walked back in the direction of the hotel stopping on the way at the little café that we liked for coffee and cake and then to be reunited with the little Chevrolet Spark that we collected from the hotel car park and then left the city in the direction of Keflavik, the airport, the Blue Lagoon and our final hotel.

Sólfar suncraft Reykjavik Iceland

Weekly Photo Challenge: Dance

Iceland Northern Lights

The Northern Lights

Suddenly the lights fell from the heavens and opened and closed like theatre curtains, disappearing in one place in the sky and returning to another and we cheered and whooped like children as we were treated to one of nature’s great displays.

The sky was vibrant and alive producing a spectacular heavenly dance show – a twirling tarantella, a frantic flamenco, a crazy can-can and more twists than Chubby Checker!

A mysterious, multicoloured magic show in which the night sky was suddenly illuminated with a wondrous glow, the luminous green of a highlighter pen that swayed and swirled like a heavenly lava lamp and then created a pattern that looked like Darcey Bussell pirouetting across the stage .

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Darcey Bussell

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Force of Nature

Gullfoss Falls Iceland

The river was wild and untamed this afternoon dashing madly over rocks and advancing like a cavalry charge racing to the precipice and the final crevice which is about twenty metres wide, and is at right angles to the flow of the river which results in a dramatic water plunge and an atmosphere full of hanging mist and as we watched we were left in no doubt about the wonderful power of nature.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Blur

Northern Lights Iceland

“Narrow swirls of light would sweep across the great dome of sky, then hang there like vapour trails…. Lights would flicker brightly in the west, then vanish in an instant and reappear a moment later behind me, as if teasing me.”            Bill Bryson – ‘Neither here Nor there’

It seems to me that there are few things that when we see them seem to provide an uplifting, almost outer edge spiritual experience, are difficult to explain why and unusually excites and arouses.

A dolphin under the bow of the boat or a field of nodding sunflowers for example and to this short list I am going to add the Aurora Borealis – the Northern Lights, that phenomenon of the Arctic skies that is elusive and ethereal, one of the great, timeless thrills of travel, a beautiful, shifting dance of nocturnal rainbows that is guaranteed to send viewers into certain orgasmic ecstasy or miraculously transform them into lyrical poets.

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Image

Weekly Photo Challenge: Symmetry

Borgarnes Iceland old ferry terminal

Weekly Photo Challenge: Depth – The Hvalfjarðargöng Tunnel in Iceland

Hvalfjarðargöng

“That is Snaefellsjokull a mountain about five thousand feet in height, one of the most remarkable in the whole island, and certainly doomed to be the most celebrated in the world, for through its crater we shall reach the centre of the earth.”                                                                                                                                              Jules Verne – ‘Journey to the Centre of the Earth’

Our plan was to drive north to the villages of Akranes and then Borgarnes and the swing inland and visit the Þingvellir National Park but for now we just kept driving north and keeping the sea close to the left.  Eventually we arrived at a decision making point with a road around the Whalefjord or a toll tunnel underneath that would save eighty kilometres or so of hard driving.

So we took the second option through the only underwater tunnel in Iceland, almost six thousand metres long and reaching a depth of one hundred and sixty-five metres.  It cost 1,000 Krona at the toll booth, or about £5, which seemed like good value to save the fifty minute alternative drive around the fjord.

The Tunnel received a bad rating in the latest European tunnel test (believe me, it’s true), which is carried out annually by the German Automobile Club ADAC (Allgemeiner Deutscher Automobil-Club).  Specifically mentioned were poor lighting (it was very dark I have to say), the absence of an automatic fire alarm system and poor ventilation.

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Iceland Landscape

“The distance from the surface of the Earth to the middle is 6,370 kilometres, which isn’t very far (relative to the size of the Universe)…. Our own attempts to penetrate towards the middle have been modest indeed.  One or two South African gold mines reach to a depth of over 3 kilometres, but most mines on Earth go no more than about 400 metres below the surface.”                                  Bill Bryson – ‘A Short History of Nearly Everything’.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Depth – A Waterfall in Iceland

Gullfoss Water Fall Iceland

“No waterfall in Europe can match Gullfoss.  In wildness and fury it outdoes the Niagra Falls in the United States”                                                                                      From the Travel Diary of two Danes in the retinue of Frederick VII of Denmark (1907).

I haven’t seen any of the World’s major falls such as the Angel Falls in Venezuela (the highest, and thirty times taller than Gullfoss), the Victoria Falls (claimed to be the largest in the world by volume) or the Niagara Falls (the widest in the world), but these were nevertheless really most exciting and dramatic and even better because the river was swollen from weeks of heavy rain and the water thundered over the rocks adjacent to the paths and the spray gathered into a white mist that wrapped itself around us like a damp cloak.

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Gullfoss Falls Iceland

Weekly Photo Challenge: Shadowed

Iceland From The Hallgrímskirkja

Reykjavik from the Hallgrímskirkja Cathedral

It was a gloriously clear day in Reykjavik with a low sun that was casting shadows over the city.  I liked this picture, on the left is the shadow of the Cathedral Tower and on the right is a street cast in shadow by the buildings.  At first I thought it was an optical illusion with two shadows of the single tower and Kim had to explain it to me.

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Thesae are small but they are far away

Father Ted – These Are Small but those out there are Far Away