Monday, 21 April 2014

Iceland 2: An Evening in Reykjavik

Our not-so-luxurious hotel was quite a way out of town, so we had a 20 minute walk along the sea front in order to find somewhere for dinner.  It was great to stretch our legs having spent much of the day cooped up in airports or on the 'plane.  The temperature was a bracing 10 degrees, with a brisk wind off the sea; the weather was also rather changeable, and we had both rain and sunshine within the first hour or so.

A few of the buildings we encountered on our walk, including a strange juxtaposition of traditional architecture against a new steel and glass office block.

The view to the North-West, towards Snaefellsjokull - a very large volcano which we never actually saw as it was completely covered in cloud the entire time we were there.  It would be somewhere in the middle of the picture below...

The walk into town took us past the Solfar Sun Voyager - a beautiful burnished sculpture right on the sea front.  It was a tourist magnet, and therefore difficult to photograph without including people walking in front of it or climbing all over it.  I came up with the cunning plan of shooting it as a panorama, taking each section in the brief period when it was free of people!

It turns out that three of the people also visiting the Sun Voyager were Geography students from Newnham College, and they instantly recognised Harriet as one of their lecturers.  It isn't possible to hide anywhere nowadays...

Being a dog-lover, I'm always interested to meet pooches from other countries.  The Icelanders seem to have a penchant for "toy" and "fluffy" dogs, and I didn't see an honest-to-goodness labrador during the whole of our visit.

The Harpa Arts Centre and Concert Hall is an absolutely stunning building.  We returned to it at the end of the trip, and I'll post some more pictures when I get to that part of the journey.  In the meantime, here are a couple of the exterior to whet your appetite.

This rather astonishing statue is a representation of Ingolfr Arnarsson, the first Norwegian settler who came to Iceland in 874.

After dinner we walked up one of the main shopping streets towards Reykjavik's Cathedral,  Hallgrimskirkja.  By now it was about 21:00 and the daylight was slowly starting to fade, but I was still shooting at ISO400.  The picture below looks darker than it really was, partly because it was in the middle of a rain shower, but also because cars in Iceland always drive with their headlights on.

Seeing it from a distance, I had a fantasy that Hallgrimskirkja was a towering edifice made of gleaming white marble.  Towering it may be, but the cathedral is made of rough concrete - not much in the way of building stone in Iceland, I suppose.  The rather imposing statue in front of the church is of Leifur Eiriksson, who discovered North America long before Christopher Columbus.

A few oddities taken on the journey back to the hotel.  It was now after 22:30, and I'd finally progressed onto ISO800 (but only just).  First a rather wonderful fire Hydrant.  It seems that the cities in Iceland bought a job lot of them from the United States - this one didn't have an inscription, but we found several others which betrayed their provenance.

Purple is the new black in Iceland - at least when it comes to Wow Air, their budget airline.

A rather splendid - but incongruous - Ford Thunderbird which we found parked on a street corner.

The exterior of a cafe.

Probably the oddest institution we found in our travels: the Icelandic Phallological Museum.  And no, before anyone asks, I didn't get the T-shirt.

Just in case you need help in translating "Phallological"...

The final picture of the night, shot at 23:20 just outside the hotel, using ISO800 - just to prove that I could.  It soon became clear why most Icelandic hotels have really good blackout curtains.

In the next instalment we pick up a hire car and head off away from "civilisation".  About time too...