Late May was still pretty cool in Reykjavik, and for a capital city, it felt more like a small town. I don’t know what I was expecting when we arrived, but we were surprised at its village feel. Then again, Iceland has a population of approximately 300,000 people, most of whom live in and around the Reykjavik area, so I probably wouldn’t have experienced a bustling city anyway.
After a very expensive breakfast of pancakes and coffee (Yikes on the price!!), we started roaming the streets hoping to stay warm during our walk. We bumped into this guy right here. He’s Ingolfur Aranarson, Iceland’s first resident. He escaped from Norway (dodging criminal charges. Hmm…) and used a pagan ritual to figure out where he wanted to settle on the island. It turns out the gods decided on Reykjavik’s current location.
Me & Ingolfur
Without leaving the grassy hill where we found Ingolfur’s statue, we turned to our right and saw this super futuristic looking beehive of a building, the Harpa Concert Hall & Conference Center. This is what I envision when I think about Scandinavian design.
This was one of the few large, modern looking buildings that we’d see around downtown Reykjavik because so much of the architecture around downtown looked more like this:
By the way, our morning was cold and overcast. I had to whip out the hat and the gloves. According to our Icelandic friends (you’ll meet them soon), they were experiencing a bit of a cold snap even though it was still common to have weather in the low 50′s Fahrenheit in late May.
I felt like we were breaking and entering into the City Cathedral; but if the door’s open, the door’s open. We creeped inside.
We slowly opened the door to discover a beautiful church. Most Icelanders are affiliated with the Church of Iceland, a part of the Lutheran denomination, even if they may not participate very much (if at all) in religious activities (this is according to our Icelandic friends).
A pretty church, isn’t it?
The City Cathedral is actually right on Austurvollur Square, where Icelanders gather for everything from hanging out to protests. It’s a good place for political agitation because it’s also the location of Iceland’s Parliament.
Finally, people! We’d barely seen anyone on the streets that morning. Here’s group finishing up some landscaping work in front of Althingishus aka Parliament House.
Iceland is all about its Scandinavian roots (there’s lots of influence from Norway and Denmark through language and colonial history), and I think of bicycles when I think of Scandinavia. That’s why took this picture below.
After peeking down a street, we thought, “Oh THAT’S where the pond is!” Tjornin Pond is pretty even if it was an overcast day.
I know it’s just a pond, but the swans and ducks were cute. I had no bread to feed them, which I probably wasn’t supposed to do anyway.
The pond isn’t the only body of water right in downtown. Iceland is in fact an island, and there is a major seafaring, nautical culture here. Reykjavik’s harbor is very much in use.
So that’s a glimpse of our walk around central Reykjavik.
Have you been someplace and thought, “This is totally not what I expected.”? I’d love to hear about it.