Sunday, August 21, 2016

Iceland:Impressions, Insights, Incredible. Reyjkavik-Part 1

It's about as hard to believe that I'm back home as it is to imagine I ever went. And yet, it was a month ago, when we first landed on a very different island. It wasn't warm like a tropical vacation. It didn't have lovely turquoise waters, familiar music, or a well known culture and language. Words and names were difficult to pronounce and the landscape was dark, cold, volcanic, and treeless. It's a mysterious place which has become a bucket list add on for many tourists. It was spectacular in its own way. Iceland is indeed an experience.

So where does one start? There's a sculpture of a wing, slowly emerging from a giant metallic egg at the Keflavik airport. I related to the feeling in that sculpture, as I left the shell that was our aircraft and descended the metallic steps, emerging into this most mysterious and eerie of lands.

As we drove and neared the more populace area where we would be staying, I marvelled at how a place, an entire country, with a population of just over 300,000 could accomplish so much. Nothing appeared to be lacking. Houses were being constructed or repaired. Architecture was modern. City streets were in good shape. Bus routes were efficient and regular. There was art, culture, and technology.

We learned a lot in the four days of our visit. Icelanders get all their electricity and heat from renewable sources. For example, our host was sure to inform us that the reason the hot water smelled like sulphur was because they get it from the springs. Similarly, geothermal water is used to heat houses in the winter. Produce is grown locally and many people have their own mini greenhouses. They even grow bananas!

Along with the good, comes the bad. Things are expensive. Icelandic kronas are often spent in units of hundreds or thousands and the country is deeply in debt.
ISK samples. I took along $700 or 63,000 ISK...we spent 100,000 ISK
As I always do, I photographed our Airbnb house, the closest intersection, and an obvious landmark. I learned some time ago that this is advisable and helpful in order to find one's return route in strange areas. Here were our surroundings in Kopavogur (remember no "a" or surrounding letters, so Koap-o-gur ) on the outskirts of Reykjavik.

view from our Airbnb balcony
near our bus stop
Kopavogskirkja...recognizable landmark
We boarded a bus near our host's home and transferred one time to get to the "big city" which houses one third of Iceland's total population. It cost 420 ISK (almost $5.00) per person. Of course, I photographed the bus numbers (another way to compensate for diminishing brain cells). I also noted how vivid things were...the buses, the art, the fashion, the flowers.


There were many delicacies available at the restaurants and Icelandic food was generally delicious. Restaurants were, like everything else, expensive. We discovered that lunch meals are better value and we found a wonderful little place with soup and sandwich bargains. Bakeries were also great. We were also told about the famous "Tom's Hot Dogs", real name Baejarins Betzu Pylsur where the likes of Justin Bieber, Bill Clinton, Charlie Sheen, and now, hubby and I have eaten for 350 ISK per hot dog. It turned out not to be a restaurant as we had thought,  but rather a food truck. It wasn't easy to find, since it seems that nobody can give directions or descriptions in Iceland (more on that later).

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