The city of Reykjavik was to be the main area for exploration with options to get to some of the areas around the city were out initial plan for the day, but it became evident that the city was the only option as the day dawned on us. It was a cold, gray, rainy day with 35-40 mph winds making indoor spaces as the only option. In places, the wind seemed far worse than the posted 35-40 mph because of the tunnel effect. Some would call this simply a ‘museum day’ 😉
It is a beautiful museum with a glass dome housing a revolving restaurant at the top floor – if one sits around long enough one get a 360 view of the city. The exhibits essentially relate to the formation of the island, the glaciers or rather the disappearing glaciers, the volcanoes and of course the aurora or the northern lights. While it appears similar to many other natural history museums around the world, the unique nature of the country in terms of their landscape, volcanoes, glaciers and aurora are highlighted in their exhibits and shows.
The show on the aurora in their i-max like theater is not only educational in terms of understanding the science behind the aurora, one gets to see the full grandeur of the aurora that one may or may not get to see in person; an interesting side note is that there are tours for watching the aurora where a bus drives the tourists to numerous places where aurora can be seen without any interference!! As the narrator emphasized, it is a natural event and hence without clear skies and the solar flares not cooperating it is pretty much not possible to see the aurora as one pleased!
The movie on the volcanoes was equally impressive, where they showed a recent eruption with unbelievable closeups. And there were hundreds of people standing and watching the hot lava flow from probably 10-15 feet away; it sort of reminded the videos from Hawaii (Big Island) a few years ago, where the lava was flowing thru a neighborhood and burning up the houses on the path!
They also had an indoor ice cave we could walk thru to experience the -15C environment (volunteer to freeze in other words :-))
Our next stop was to view the insides of the church and also get to the top of the tower to get a 360 view of the city and surrounds. The church sits at the top of a hill and it was here where we felt the full impact of the winds; fully grown adults were being pushed around by the wind like rag dolls.
The insides of the church was unique in its design in such a way that one would think it was made of ice. The absence of stain glass windows, paintings and ornamentation of any kind which is typical of most churches, gave it an appearance of the church being made of ice. Unfortunately for us, the elevator that takes visitors to the top of the church where one can get a view of the city had broken down and so could not get that view; in a way it may been a blessing in disguise because the winds at that height would have even stronger.
Grotta Light House
The Grotta lighthouse is situated at the western edge of the city and that was our next stop. The current lighthouse was built in 1947 replacing the original one that was built in 1897. It is in a vast open area that is surrounded by black sand and a rugged coastline, and is a refuge for birds.
Even as we approached the parking area for the lighthouse we realized that it was going to be ‘see from a distance’ mode of looking at it. The combo of the choppy sea waters close by, the heavy wind and a half mile or more walk to the lighthouse, simply did not seem an option at all. While we did see a couple of brave souls making the trip to the light house, we saw a bunch of cars come in, turn around and leave without even bothering to stop! And it is also here that I experienced what the winds could do; opening and closing the car required using a lot strength and quite an unforgettable one too, which happened over and over again.
Harpa is clearly a striking landmark in the city and visible from many a place. My initial impression was that this was the place for music concerts and opera, but it turns out that it is used many other purposes too. In addition being the venue of concerts and operas, it is also a conference center and a public place. With the concert hall closed for a private event, we were limited to viewing the insides of the building which had an interesting feature that much of the walls were simply plain concrete and the day light pouring into the building thru the glass structures lining the outer walls of the building.
The shore line has a ‘Sculpture and Shore Walk’ which is lined with numerous sculpture which we could see from our room/hotel. Sadly with the rain and wind, that was a walk which could not take and missed viewing the touted sculptures.
From our room, we had a full view of the Hofra house which is of historical significance for various reasons, the well known one being the meeting between Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev when they signed the peace agreement ending the cold war. It is also supposed to have a piece of the Berlin wall.
Some pictures from our hotel: