12 –15 March 2010
So, following on from my last post, we arrived at Heathrow airport and at the wrong terminal. It took us about 10 minutes for the penny to drop and we realised we needed to go to Terminal 1. A short tube trip sorted that out, but nothing like a little extra stress to make life fun.
As we headed onto the plane, I was immediately hit by the easy listening music that was playing over the speakers. It was our first taste of Iceland and quite relaxing in an odd way. Sha and I were sat next to a slightly inebriated young woman who told us that Iceland was expecting a volcanic eruption and it could happen while we were there. As it was, it occurred a week after we left and lead to an evacuation of 500 people.
We arrived just after midnight, so it was too dark to see much of the landscape while landing or on the subsequent bus ride from Keflavik airport to Reykjavik. We got to our hotel and went out like lights, which incidentally we had noticed a lot of, including many Christmas lights…a little odd. It turns out that Icelanders simply like to light everything up as much as possible. We were later told that as a small country they like to make themselves look a bit bigger with all the lights.
In the morning, looking out the window, we were greeted by this site:
The above is known as ‘The Pearl’ (or Perlan in Icelandic) and is a rotating restaurant/cafe/museum and power station all at once. The round things at the base store hot water which is then pumped throughout the city.
Iceland has an abundance of geothermal energy and therefore is one of the most pollution free countries in the world. They also have the luxury of using hot water as central heating. The entire country is just under half the size of New Zealand, has a population of 320,000 with about a third of them living in the capital of Reykjavik. In many ways, Iceland's landscape reminds me of Rotorua and the central plateau of New Zealand but with a lot less trees (yes, I know the picture above has many trees, but that was a rarity).
We headed into the central area of Reykjavik on the Saturday morning, browsed various local crafty stores and took a bunch of photos. We also ate at Cafe Loki where we sampled some traditional Icelandic fare. I noticed a large number of pieces of street art and we took a walk along the fishing focussed water front.
The above church is actually one of the tallest (if not the tallest) building in Reykjavik.
In the first photo of food above, we have smoked lamb, dried fish with butter, putrefied shark, fish stew (plokkfiskur), and smoked trout. Most of the food is served on some very yummy rye bread.
In the second photo is meat soup (more of a consommé really) and on the left is lamb pate.
I quite enjoyed the different new tastes, whereas Sha wasn’t too keen. In particular, the fish stew which consisted primarily of fish and potato was particularly yummy. The putrefied shark was very salty and left a stinging sensation in the back of the throat – definitely an acquired taste and the reason you only get three small cubes.
After lunch, we continued to wander…
And a little more
Do not be mistaken – those prams are full of babies who are left outside cafes and shops while their parents are inside. Iceland really is the sort of place, where it seems to be safe enough to leave your little one outside while you get sloshed!
We popped in on an Icelandic chocolate store and picked up some different chocolately treats. The plain style chocolate bars weren’t that great, however some of the smaller chocolate bars were quite nice. We foisted some onto Dan and Sarah in Scotland when we visited them later.
5000 ISK (Icelandic Krona) is not a lot of money…it’s about $55 NZ.
We then headed back to hotel and got ready for the Northern Lights tour in the evening.
We were picked up and on a bus with about 80 people from all over the world were taken on a long journey out to the best places to see the Northern Lights. Unfortunately, the weather conditions were not the best and we didn’t see much, if anything. There was a streak of bright light behind a load of cloud cover, but it wasn’t visible to the naked eye. We were a bit disappointed, however the chap doing the voice over on the coach was fantastic and had a very dry humour that kept most people happy. Afterwards it was back to the hotel and time for a snooze.
Sunday morning, we were picked up for the Golden Circle tour. This was another guided coach trip where we were taken to see the Nesjavellir geo-thermal power station, Gullfoss waterfall, Strokkur geyser and finally to Þingvellir National Park.
Icelanders love their trolls, fairies and elves…
Þingvellir National Park
The third photo shows the effects of the national park being situated on top of two tectonic plates that are slowly drifting apart.
And that was about it for the day. The following day we headed up to the Pearl for a walk about and to enjoy the amazing views. I’ll do a quick post about that tomorrow!