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Árnarhóll Looking towards the Þjóðmenningarhúsið (Culture House) and Þjóðleikhúsið (National Theatre). The statue is of IngólfurÁrnason, the first Norse settler of Iceland in 873. He named the settlement Reykjavík (literally “smoky bay”) because of the region’s geothermal steam.
Harpa The brand-new concert hall inspired by the Northern Lights. Landscaping was still under construction when I visited. A controversial project because of the high price tag.
Cod Wars with Great Britain 1958, 1972-3, 1975-6 A stand-off over fishing rights off Iceland’s coast, pitting Britain’s Royal Navy against Iceland’s coast guard of three (yes, three) little coast guard ships. Iceland has no navy or military. Iceland’s coast guard cut the nets of British fishing trawlers, leading to confrontations and intentional ramming between ships. No lives or ships were lost and Iceland’s stand led to international protections of fishing rights for small nations.
A city of fantastic fresh fish…. fish ‘n’ chip shop Sagreifinn
Árbærjarsafn Open Air Museum One of the region’s original Norse farms, Árbær is now a museum of historic buildings from Reykjavík. The farm is mentioned in the Icelandic Sagas. Looking towards the original farm buildings.
After the conversion of Iceland to Christianity in 1000, any wealthy Norse farm built a church for the community. The walls and roof are made of turf.
Harðfiskur – wind dried salted fish. Iceland’s economy once depended on the fruits of the sea, preserved by drying and salting.
Alþing – Iceland’s Parliament Site of the 2008-2009 “Pots and Pans Revolution” when thousands protested against their politicians and the three major banks for causing the country’s economic collapse and devaluation of the krónur.
Ráðhús(City Hall) – larger than the national Alþing!
Hallgrímskirkja Modern church designed by GuðjónSamúelsson and built of concrete. Started in 1940 and completed in 1974. The vertical columns are meant to resemble volcanic basalt columns. A controversial project – not everyone likes the design. Volcanic basalt columns on a beach on Viðey Island.
Kolaportið Flea Market Best place on the weekend to browse for Icelandic wool sweaters, used books, second-hand clothing, toys, crafts, even food. I scored three used Harry Potter books translated into Icelandic.
ViðeyIsland – A 5 minute ferry ride from Reykjavík
Locals picking wild caraway. Viðey was home to a medieval Augustinian monastery until the Reformation. Lutheran Denmark, which controlled Iceland until WW2, shut down the monastery and seized all their wealth. A Catholic bishop, JónArason, staged his last stand on the island – he was beheaded in 1550.
A modern day Atlantis? An optical illusion – city of Akranes on the horizon.
Sundbakki – abandoned village on Viðey A fish processing company set up on the island in 1907 and the company town of Sundbakki formed, home to 138 at its peak in 1930. When the company failed in 1931, people slowly began to move away. The last person left in 1943.
Sundbakki also served as the harbor, before Reykjavík built its own modern harbor. Charles Lindbergh even landed his floatplane here in 1933. On this grassy shore, the town’s women laid out hundreds of salted fish to be wind-dried.
Iceland - a nation of musicians. 12 Tónar is my favorite music shop for browsing the latest in Icelandic music beyond Björk and SigurRós. Some of my discoveries: Rökkurró, Hjaltalín, Sin Fang and Rabbi ogRúnar
At Café Rosenberg, listening to folk rock band My Sweet Baklava
Quirky Icelandic sense of humor…. A sign above the accessible seats on the city bus – “Þúertekkieinn” (You are not alone) – is that a cameo by Munch’s The Scream?
Reykjavík Domestic Airport Legacy of the World War 2 air base used by the British and Americans. Iceland has no military, so the Allies occupied the country. Today domestic flights, as well as flights to Greenland and the Faroe Islands, depart from this airport only a 3 minute bus ride from the city center.
Soundtrack of the city – constant buzzing aircraft.
871+/-2 Settlement Exhibition Discovered and excavated in 2001 below Reykjavík’s oldest street, this is believed to be the oldest known settlement in Iceland, a Viking longhouse dated to just after the volcanic eruption of 871. Possibly the original settlement of IngólfurÁrnarson.
The soil records of Reykjavík include layers of ash. The many recorded eruptions of Iceland help archaeologists date their excavations. An eruption covered all of Iceland in ash in 871; Ingólfur set up the first permanent settlement in 873. 871 “settlement era” ash
ÞjóðminjasafnÍslands (National Museum) Viking era artifacts – a stone Madonna and Child, carved door posts, and drinking horns.
Valþjófsstaður Door Only remaining Viking era carved church door. Carved around 1200, used up until 1851. Romanesque style.
Chests and small boxes were hand carved and given as gifts, often mother to daughter, and became precious family heirlooms. The tradition started in Scandinavia 500 years ago and lasted into the 20th century. My own family has such an heirloom.
A centuries-old tradition of literature. Iceland has its own heritage of medieval literature and manuscripts, called the handrítin. This includes the stories of the Sagas – tales of heroic deeds and treachery – as well as the law books, Book of Settlements, and poetry, such as the Eddas. Iceland’s Norse were world-famous as court poets (skalds) in the Middle Ages. Above: One of first 500 printed Bibles in Icelandic, “Guðbrandur’s Bible”
Eymundsson – the national book chain. Today Iceland has the highest literacy rate in the world and an amazing amount of world literature is translated into Icelandic. Translation and writing are coveted careers. Reykjavík hosts their annual literary festival in September.