Tuesday 16 October 2012
Highlights: Hallgrimskirkja Cathedral, Northern Lights
The second leg of the world trip really starts today. Surprisingly with only 6 hours sleep I woke up ready to go at 7 am. It must be the time zone difference from Bangkok since I have had little keep in the past few days. My hotel the Fosshótel Barón put on a great breakfast spread. Having heard about how expensive Iceland is I help myself to a big breakfast.
Since my city tour didn’t start until 12.30 pm I decided to explore on foot and see what I could find. The harbour area is magnificent, sculptures ring the shore the most noticeable a steal Viking Sunshine Boat near my hotel. The city central area turns out not to be that far from my hotel and I enjoy watching ducks and swans walk over the partially frozen lake near the city hall.
I have a chance to check out a supermarket to compared prices, something’s were about the same price once converted, soft drink for example, others more expense (nothing less expensive). Luckily for me the Kronur had dropped considerably against the Australian dollar over the last 2 years otherwise things would be twice the price. Petrol converts to around $2.10 AUD per litre imagine that at $4 per litre! The town itself is very beautiful and well maintained.
The city tour first took me to Hallgrimskirkja Cathedral which dominates the city skyline. This Lutheran Church is made of concrete in order to withstand earthquakes, in fact much of the city buildings are concrete for this reason which explains why there are not many tall buildings. The church has a 5,000 pipe organ which looked amazing and I would love to hear play. Lutheran Faith began dominate after last Catholic bishop was beheaded.
We then moved onto the Old Harbour which gave a good view of the city and the coast guard ships Iceland can no longer afford to operate due to financial crisis. This was followed by a visit to the Pearl, an geothermal station now also used as an observation and dinning place. All of Reykjavik’s hot water is from geothermal sources which is why the local water smells of sulphur.
The final stop was a visit to Ásmundur Sveinsson’s Museum. Asmundur was an Icelandic sculptor and his work is on display in the gardens of the museum, his old workspace. Icelandic artist are more into sculptures than paintings I was informed.
For the late evening I joined a tour in search of the Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis. You have to get out of the city and away from all light sources. After about 50 minutes the bus stopped in a field and we got off the bus and waited. At this point I realised I should have put on my thermals and gloves, a big mistake in this weather.
Eventually we did get to see the Northern Lights after about 90 minutes in the freezing cold. It wasn’t a huge display but was amazing to watch either way. I returned to the hotel around 1 am, very tired and almost had feeling in my hands again.