Iceland is a country I’d wanted to visit for years.
The main problems I faced were
A, all the people I’d considered going with had already been.
B, It’s staggeringly expensive.
I saved up, and Nikki agreed to come along with me, as long as we did a different itinerary to the one she’d done previously.
So off we go.
We flew with Easyjet and I got a chance to update my mind map for the year, and catch up with some Madam Secretary.
Iceland is the size of the US State of Kentucky. With a population of only 300,000 there are vast areas where nobody lives.
As we get the coach from the airport I can see that there are some houses who’s nearest neighbour is a mile away.
We arrived at the City Centre Hotel (an original name if ever I’ve heard one).
The Reykjavik locals were very helpful, but finding it wasn’t helped by there being 3 other hotels with similar names.
When I walked into the lobby I thought we’d made a terrible mistake. Despite it being above 8.5 on booking.com, the placed smelled awful…
Basically, all the hot water on the Island, is provided by hot springs. And they smell of sulphur. The hotel itself, was actually spotless, and I needn’t have worried.
In the morning, we headed towards the harbour.
Iceland has not had a standing Army since 1869 however, it was an early member of Nato.
Despite not having a Navy, its Coastguard service is heavily militarised as you can see from the ship above.
Walking further around the harbour, there were dozens of boats taking people out to see whales and dolphins.
Lake Tjornin (which means pond).
In the background if Frikirkjan church and one of many modern (or strange, depending on your point of view) sculptures around the lake.
This one is called “Monument to the unknown bureaucrat”.
We wander into the tourist information inside at the back of the picture, is this amazing table top map of the entire Island.
While here, we pick up a Reykjavik city card. It’s the cheapest way to see most of the attractions, museums and even an Island (more about that later).
There are lots of really good walking opportunities in Iceland, but its so spread out and desolate in places that the tourist information can rent you an emergency beacon.
But after only an hour, its time for coffee again.
A place called Idno, was right out of Agatha Christy.
The Icelandic punk museum, ironically set up in a disused toilet.
It was originally opened by Jonny Rotten.
The statue is of Ingolfr Arnarson, considered to be Iceland’s first permanent settler.
The story goes that he threw his 2 high seat wooden pillars into the water and said wherever the pillars wash up, I’ll make my camp.
Two of his slaves spent 3 years looking for them. This lead to the foundation of Reykjavik in 874.
Either that, or the slaves got board and with time on their hands, made 2 pillars 🙂
Inside the settlement exhibition.
It tells the story of the early settlers and how they lived.
The 10th century hall was excavated in 2001. Its 20m long and 8 metres wide with a 4 meter long fire hearth in the centre.
But its not just the foundations of a thousand year old house.
There are loads of interesting exhibits. In one of them, you could slide a time line and it would show you the various stages of construction.
I stop in the cafe to plan out the rest of my day.
Its at this moment, that you get a taste of how expensive Iceland is.
Since very little is made or produced in Iceland, everything else has to be flown in.
In this case a cheese and ham Panini costs £12 !.
From here, we visit the National Museum of Iceland.
There was lots of stuff about how they came under the rule of the Danish, and the dark times when the Lutheran church (which everyone was made to join) prevailed.
It said simply, it was easy to see if something was banned by the Lutheran church. If it was fun or pleasant, it was almost certainly not allowed and punishable by drowning or hanging.
I saw this very impressive loom which I decided to photograph.
Iceland depends heavily on its fishing industry.
I could only imagine what they were trying to catch with fish hooks this big.
I hadn’t realised, that Britain had actually invaded Iceland during the 2nd world war.
It turned out, that the Icelanders were not allies of the Nazi’s, but it was felt best to “protect” the Island.
Various hospital and runways were built and at the end of the war, they were handed over to the Icelandic government.
Iceland cut all ties with Denmark in 1944.
In 1950 – 1975 they extended their fishing territory by 200 miles.
The “British” would fish in these waters under the protection of gunboats.
The trawl wire cutter featured above, is said to be the only weapon ever invented by Icelanders (it was used to cut the fishing nets of foreign fishing boats).
We’ve spent enough time indoors, so it’s time to get out and see the place.
It was cold, but nothing like freezing. We headed out along a coast path from Reykjavik.
You can see from the view why the country is so popular with walkers.
As we wander along, I get the opportunity to visit Hofdi house.
Whenever I’ve thought of Iceland (and Reykjavik) I’ve always thought of the scene of Regan and Gorbachev standing outside it, before they conducted peace talks in 1986.
With the town far behind us, we get to wander around the beach.
This isn’t Ibiza, but it was very quiet and peaceful and some of the rock formations were really impressive.
The Sun voyager sculptor, constructed of stainless steel in 1990.
We reach our destination, Kollafjourar bay where we’ll get a boat to Vioey Island.
You can see another coastguard boat in the background.
A lovely trip across the water, was ruined by some loud American girls.
They had come to Iceland for a trip to celebrate passing their exams.
One of them had come back to the accommodation late and been sick on the possessions belonging to another. This had split the party into 2 factions and they spent the entire trip criticising the other group.
But I’m British and sat their politely even thought I desperately wanted to tell them to shut up.
So, I’ distracted myself by reading the instructions for the life raft.
The Island was even more desolate than the mainland.
We did find a cafe, and the hot chocolate there, was the nicest I’d ever tasted.
The wind was howling, it was freezing cold and I was glad I had outdoor clothing.
We stop at this Lennon peace monument, built by Yoko Ono.
I’m not a cynic, but I’ve seen all of this sort of stuff, all over the world and its never really worked for me.
In this case, its round, shines a light in the sky and has the word peace, written in 24 languages on it.
Another hour in the freezing cold, and we head back. The annoying girls arrive late and the captain waits for them (even though they knew well when it was leaving).
There had been some “developments”. Texts had been exchanged and “that bitch” needed to apologise properly and pay for the clean up of “my shit” (there were young children on the boat).
But enough Coronation Street – American style, we head back to the hotel to get cleaned up as were going out for the evening.
We have dinner at an amazing place called Hofnin.
Afterwards, a few drinks in a local bar and then were off to bad. Lots to do, the next day.
Were picked up by our coach and head out on our tour.
The thing is, if you talk to most people, the 2 main things they talk about on a trip to Iceland are the Northern lights and the Blue Lagoon.
Interestingly, neither were of any interest to me.
I’d signed up for the Golden circle tour.
You can see from above, its more diamond than circle, but in just 1 day, you can see some of the most amazing sights of Iceland.
We stop to get supplies (drinks) at the Hverageroi shopping centre.
In the car park, big vehicles like this are common and we even saw coaches fitted out this way.
Hverageroi was hit by an earthquake in 2008.
They have a small exhibition there, including an earthquake simulator which we didn’t have time to experience.
Instead, I took a picture of this kitchen. It was made up to look like a kitchen after an earthquake.
Looked like my kitchen after a Christmas party…
Our next stop, a small but simple waterfall – Faxi.
A chance to stretch our legs, apparently the area is awash with Salmon.