Thursday, October 19, 2017

East Greenland: Reykjavik, and Meet Up

We awoke to a second morning in our Reykjavik Marina hotel room, which had a map of the Reykjavik region on the ceiling and several walls.
Joan and I had much of the day to continue exploring the town on foot; the first meeting of our Natural Habitat Adventures group wouldn't be until late afternoon. First, we starting walking towards the far side of the inner harbor,
and quickly gained a clear look back to our hotel. In the photo below, at left, are two drydocks complete with warning signs about drifting paint spray. The hotel building previously housed a paint factory and carpentry shop associated with the shipyard.
Eventually we reached the tip of the harbor and the Þúfa art installation.
Two revolutions on the path winding up the hill took us to the top. This was the view looking back towards the Harpa, which we had visited yesterday.
The art installation centered on cod, a durable feature of Icelandic history. (With the warming of the northern oceans, mackerel and other species are taking a share of Iceland's fish and fish exports, which are neck-and-neck with aluminum and aluminum exports for first place.)
This side of the harbor is a mélange of boats, fishing companies, new restaurants and coffee shops, storage rooms converted to small businesses, museums, everything traditional and new, including electric car charging.
This mural in particular caught my eye.
We walked back into town (click on the map to enlarge),
and spent a few minutes at City Hall, admiring this relief map of Iceland.
By now enough time had passed for us to take a brief stroll to the Settlement Exhibition and sign up for the 11:00 guided tour.
During an excavation in 2001 some of the oldest relics of human habitation in Iceland were found, dating to 871 CE (plus or minus two), and further investigation uncovered the remains of a 10th Century longhouse. This exhibit/museum is built over the site, allowing visitors not only to learn about the settlement of Iceland, but to see the longhouse in situ and investigate its construction and usage through interactive stations. Joan and I recommend the guided tour.

After noshing on a chocolate bar in the courtyard across the street Joan and I decided it was time to climb the hill to the Hallgrímskirkja, the Lutheran church. It's the dominant landmark of the city, constructed in stages between 1945 and 1986.
Just as with the Harpa, the outer forms evoke basaltic columns; the Icelanders are intensely aware of their volcanic island. Above the level of the clock face there are windows, on all sides: for a small fee an elevator will take visitors to the top, the only way to get there. Of course we rose to the occasion.

The views from the tower were long on this sunny day, and demanded to be checked in each direction. Towards the inner harbor and beyond,
towards the in-town airport, used for flights to elsewhere in Iceland, to Greenland, and to the Faroe Islands,
and towards the peninsulas across the bay. 
The Hallgrímskirkja is famous for its 5,275 pipe organ, completed in 1992. Joan and I had the opportunity to sit for several minutes and hear an organist practicing on this instrument.
From the sculpture garden of the adjacent Einar Jónsson Museum I captured this better-lit image of the Hallgrímskirkja tower.
Joan and I hiked back to our room to clean up and take a short break before meeting Katie Crafts, one of our NatHab guides, and the rest of our group (total guests: 12) for an orientation session at the hotel and the group dinner at a Reykjavik restaurant.

At dinner Katie reminded us that this meal might be our last chance for fresh vegetables for the next nine days -- veggies in Greenland are often pickled or canned. For my main course I opted for a traditional Icelandic 'fish stew,' a mash of haddock, potato, and onion baked under cheese. This was a hearty choice made often by Icelandic mothers and grandmothers.

After walking back to the hotel Joan and I finished the organization of our luggage and turned in, but at first we could not achieve the blissful state of being asleep. It was Friday night and the hotel bar was just below us in a town well-known for its nightlife. Eventually the commotion diminished and we managed a few hours of sleep, followed by setting our luggage outside the door by the prescribed deadline.

On to Greenland!