Land of Ice and Fire

Iceland's flag
Europe » Iceland » Southwest » Reykjavík
August 23rd 2008
Published: December 8th 2008
Edit Blog Post

Finally arrived full circle in Reykjavik, the least icy and least firey place in Iceland, having travelled the entire way around the coast of Iceland. I'm ashamed to say it was a huge relief to see civilisation again! However stunning the Icelandic countryside is (and it really is!) it's slightly unnerving to be able to go all day without seeing another living soul and nothing but vast expanses of nothingness.

Reykjavik didn't seem as pleased as we were to see it and decided to be as grey and overcast as every other day had been so far. The town was also completely silent due to the fact the marathon was being run so the majority of the centre of the city was closed.

Even so, we made it to Reykjavik Cathedral which looks just as modern and bizarre as it does in all the pictures (or at least it would have done had it not been covered in scaffolding!) I don't know what it is about me trying to see places - the same happened when we went to Venice, the Doge's Palace was being restored. Gave up on photos and just settled for postcards instead (also bought some of puffins - we DID see them even if we were unable to get decent pictures!)

The inside of the cathedral at least is beautifully simple and I would assume calm - we, however, were being serenaded by a choir at the time so hardly restful! I'm not usually a fan of modern architecture but it was surprisingly lovely on the inside at least.

Although established by the Norse chieftain Ingolfur Amarson about the year 874AD, real development only started at the end of the 18th century and the city is still relatively small. Scrap that, it was tiny.

Not particularly compact but it was possible to leave the hotel and get to your destination without seeing another living soul. Strangely creepy and reminiscent of horror films. The city only has a population of 120,000 but that in itself is quite impressive as it has grown from a population of only 600 at the beginning of the nineteenth century.

Nor is Reykjavik the most attractive of cities. Normally that would mean a city was too crowded/polluted and/or noisy but in Reykjavik's case it was just downright unattractive. Bizarrely everything, be it road, house or cathedral seemed to be made of grey concrete. The lack of trees in the countryside continues here but unfortunately there is no breathtaking landscapes, cascading waterfalls or endless expanses of green to break it up.

Instead it struck me (admittedly on a cold and rather overcast day) as a rather dismal and grey place. That said the average temperature in the middle of August barely reaches above 12 degrees so it must have been a pretty typical day.

We visited the Perlan museum which had a very interesting exhibit on the history of the settlement of Iceland as well as an exhibition of a rather bizarre Icelandic artist. Never been a fan of modern art.

The weather wasn't looking great but we decided to go ahead and book a whale watching trip as we didn't want to risk booking for tomorrow, our last day, and then find it was cancelled.

So we turn up at the harbour on time, buy the tickets and board the boat. And wait. And then some more waiting. By the time we finally set off our lovely guide's first comment was 'I assume you've all been warned about the bad weather. Although none of the smaller boats are going out for fear of capsizing don't worry - we'll be fine!'

Not the most comforting of things to hear and no, we hadn't been warned about the bad weather!

The trip started off quite fun on the top deck being splashed by the waves. However after over half of the people on deck had gone below clutching sick bags and looking decidedly worse for wear it became slightly less fun and altogether impossible to climb down the stairs without falling so I was stuck on the top deck for the duration.

Apparently we were on an ex-rescue boat that is physically impossible to have turn over. Well by an hour into the trip I was very glad of this news as it seemed we were going to test this theory.

Despite the guide (who amazingly managed to stay on the lookout post and sound very enthusiastic throughout) continually calling out how amazing it was and how she'd never seen so many whales the majority of us were unable to see anything more than the deck.

Even those who had been talked into the ridiculously oversized flotation suits were soaked to the skin. As for thes rest of us I can honestly say I have never been colder, wetter or more miserable in my life.

Amazingly I didn't get sea-sick (a true miracle for me) but I think that it was actually too rough to be ill. It was all I could do to cling onto my seat every time a wave came and not go sliding across the deck.

Even more stupidly there was no space for the water to run off the deck so all the water that got swept onto the boat, stayed on the boat ensuring our shoes were all well and truly soaked to match the rest of us!

Admittedly we did see whales. Several minke whales were leaping (which our guide was getting very excited about as usually they don't do this often.) Even so and with some pretty impressive camaras amongst the group no-one managed to stay still enough to get any decent shots. That and the fact the second you got your camara out it would be soaked by the spray.

My new baby survived its first outing without getting too wet (or more importantly broken.) Good thing too as it technically isn't mine until my birthday! I've put the best of my truly terrible whale pictures. They deserve to go up however terrible they are - I suffered to get those!!

The trip was cut short by an hour as even the crew were getting concerned about the waves and practically everyone was below decks being sick anyway. It only took a long hot shower and a night in bed with constant cups of tea wearing every layer of clothing I brought with me to recover.

I maintain that I came away with the stupidest souvenir ever - a cold from my very last day in Iceland. Next time I go whale watching I'm going back to do it in Ecuador in a motorboat wearing a bikini! Now that is how whale-watching should be done!

Additional photos below
Photos: 12, Displayed: 12


20th December 2008

It was worth it .Really?
Ecuador in a bikini sounds much better but we stuck it out and those whales could certainly jump!!

Tot: 2.581s; Tpl: 0.051s; cc: 37; qc: 150; dbt: 0.0838s; 2; m:saturn w:www (; sld: 1; ; mem: 1.7mb