The first couple of days of our visit to Reykjavík in Iceland was spent being sick and recovering from the visit the week before to New York.

We were amazed to see the place we were staying in, a small apartment with a kitchen, bedrooms and  a small livingroom. This is by far the most fancy place we have been staying in in all of our travels. And the price was less than what we payed to stay in a shoebox room in New York ( One of the worse places we have stayed in, probably only beaten by the part time rent by the hour brothel we had a room in in Venezuela).

It was such a luxury to sit in the small kitchen and have a glass of wine and look over the bay through the big windows. On the other side of the bay is a mountain ridge with its peaks covered in snow that fell down in a triangular pattern and made it look like it too was wearing an icelandic sweater.

View of Reykjavík bay and maountain

The weather is constantly changing up there, and you can get all types of weather in one day; it can start with sunshine, then rain, sudden hail-storm, then snow. The light is as ever changing as the weather and sometimes looks almost unreal. It made me want to experiment with colour.

vector image of the colours of reykjavik

Colour experiment based on the view

There’s plenty of culture and a thriving tourist business in Reykjavík, lots of art, music and tours for visitors as well as locals.

We visited two of the art galleries, one of them had a feature of spanish artist Santiago Sierra. He made a good case against capitalism, saying it is an unsustainable and inhumane system. He made his points with video installations of people doing things for payment you would normally refuse; Four prostitutes having a line tattooed across their backs for a shot of heroin, 10 black men paid to penetrate 10 white men..etc. They were mostly quite unpleasant, but I take it that was the point. The best part of the show was actually from a talk the artist had given on the subject of capitalism.

The other gallery held mainly icelandic pieces. I have often thought about how the place an artist lives and works colour their works, even those that don’t paint landscapes. Once again I was struck by the icelandic colours in the local art, the grey, the stone the strong contrast, the light that is like nowhere else.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bláa lónið - The Blue Lagoon geo-thermal pools

Blue lagoon Iceland

Outside of Reykjavík is a geo-thermal pool/spa called the blue lagoon. It is a short drive through volcanic landscape, and for us another display of all the weather and lights of iceland, and is a lagoon of ice-blue 40˚ hot water set between black volcanic rocks.

The water is rich in minerals and silica and is supposed to be good for you. It was certainly a treat to float around in the steaming water, in between steam-baths and saunas, and a weird sensation to sit in a swimsuit, in hot water while the snow is falling on-top of your head.

In our travels we have been doing most of the exploring on our own, but on Iceland we decided to go on a tour and see some of the rugged landscape outside of Reykjavík. We went on a route that is called the Golden Circle, visiting volcano craters, the geysirs Strokkur and Littli geysir, the waterfall Gullfoss and the National park Þingvellir.

geyser Strokkur in iceland

The Geyser Strokkur

In medieval times the catholic priests that came up from Rome believed that the entrance to hell was to be found on Iceland at the volcano Hekla. Visiting the site of the geysirs, the landscape certainly has an other-worldly quality to it with boiling streams flowing over barren black rocks, and violent bursts of steam and boiling water spurting out of the ground ( I imagine much more so with an erupting volcano and the following blackout of the skies that the priests experienced).

Our tour then took us to the impressive waterfall Gullfoss, this was an impressive sight, I only wished it would have been a warmer day; because of the snow, the paths around the waterfall was closed off. As the guide told us it would mean a lot of paperwork should one of us fall in.

Last stop was the Þingvellir National park. This is where the first settlers had their annual assembly; a meeting to set laws and solve disputes, an early form of democracy as opposed to the monarchies around Europe at the time. The assemblies were established in 930 and carried on annually until 1798. The site is set where the Eurasian tectonic plate meets the North American plate and this moving border have created a dramatic landscape, the one side a visible rocky ridge.

Our guide Ragnar made the whole tour, he was a good storyteller and touched on both history, geography and the culture of iceland in an interesting way, interspersed with a good dose of dry humour and a charming icelandic accent.

Cold people at Gullfoss

Cold at Gullfoss

 

As a scandinavian, it felt like a big deal for me to visit Iceland. This is the place after all, that we scandies know a lot of our history from, the icelandic people being quite good at documenting the old myths, sagas and stories. The place has a definite scandinavian feel (even though they are not scandies if you ask them) but the landscape, the light and the people give it that exotic extra that means it will retain its mythical qualities in my mind.

I will come back one day – in the summer!

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