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Europe » Iceland » Southwest » Reykjavík
August 23rd 2008
Published: January 19th 2009
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We came full circle today as we travelled back to Reykjavík. The city was silent as we arrived. The marathon was on so presumably all the locals were gathered along certian streets. We had a whistle stop tour of the world's most northerly capital. Established by the Norse chieftan Ingolfur Amarson in around 874 CE the real development of Reykjavík began in the late 18th century. It currently has a population of about 120,000 with more than 200,000 living in the Greater Reykjavík Area. Reykjavík is also unusual in that most of the homes and businesses are heated by natural geothermal water.
We began our very brief tour with a visit to Hallgrímskirkja, a Lutheran parish church which is the fourth tallest architectural structure in Iceland measuring 74.5 metres in height. State Architect Guðjón Samúelsson's design of the church was commissioned in 1937 and it took 38 years to complete. There is also a statue of the explorer Leifr Eiriksson in front of the church, predating its construction. It was a gift from the United States on the 1930 Althing Millennial Festival, commemorating the 1000th anniversary of Iceland's parliament and recognises Leifr Eiriksson as the first European to discover America.
Inside the church we discovered the choir in full rehearsal which was a nice addition to our visit. Next we went to the Perlan, an iconic building that rests on top of five water tanks. It was originally designed by Ingimundur Sveinsson at the behest of Davíð Oddsson, during his time as mayor of Reykjavík.
We had very little time in the Perlan but were pointed in the direction of the Saga Museum and told it was worth a visit, before being promptly dragged off to sort out some paper work and move our luggage into our new hotel. We were rather uncermoniously abandoned by our tour guide at the hotel and also got the disappointing news that our rooms weren't available for another couple of hours. Fortunately we were able to leave our cases and bags in a locked room and then set off into town to find some lunch. We settled into a restaurant across the road and then eventually wandered back over to another hotel that had an open lounge and bar where we discovered half of our tour group... and most importantly a good cup of tea.
Eventually we were allowed into our rooms and we prepared for our whale watching adventure which was bound to be the highlight of our trip.....or not! The trip certainly proved to be very memorable, but not for particularly good reasons!! The weather was cold and rainy but we were sure it would still be fantastic and were all very excited as we piled into the boat. As we sailed out of the harbour we climbed up on deck to watch the sea. We were promised views of whales, seals and maybe even those elusive puffins!! The sea was quite rough and we got very wet up on deck. Still, it was all a lot of fun and when it got too wet we sat on the benches behind the wall of the upper observation point. In my case I stood behind the bench and was securely wedged between the bench and the wall as the boat rocked up and down and gave me the feeling of being on a roller coaster backwards. After a while the fun started to wear off and the cold and sea sickness set in. I was violently sick and with a few guiding hands managed to navigate the soaking wet deck and get safely down the steps to sit inside. The sea continued to remain rough and I was soon joined by many other people feeling sick. I stayed firmly below deck wrapped in a blanket. I managed to lift my head for about 2 minutes and by sheer luck in that time saw a breaching whale through the window (so the trip wasn't a total loss!!) The trip was cut short in the end as the sea was too rough to continue and well over half of the passengers had been ill. Lots of whales had been sighted, but mostly only as little dark blurs coming out of the sea and no-one had managed to get a single decent photo. I did however get given a postcard as my prize for being the most spectacularly ill!!!
Frozen, shaking and miserable we left the boat and returned to our hotel. Feeling incredibly thankful that we had en suite bathrooms again we all raced to our own hot showers and then curled up in bed with hot tea and an English film on the TV.


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28th October 2009

My Norweigan heritage lives on!!
My friend's heritage is Icelandic, and I always told him Norweigan's were there first. Now I can explain to him about Ingolfur Amarson, a Norweigan who was the first settler of Iceland. We are all brothers, as long as your considered Scandihovian!!!
29th October 2009

Yes Ingolfur Amarson was a Viking from Norway. The Vikings, together with Scandanavian and Celtic settlers make up the people of Iceland. It's the same in England, we're descended from Celts, Romans, Angles, Jutes, Saxons, Vikings and Normans but we're still all English.

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