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June 27, 2008

Tales from the smokey bay

Over the next few weeks we are going to take a slight departure from our normal pictures of Stockholm and the surrounding areas, and post some from our recent holiday in Iceland.

The flight there was one of the weirdest I've ever done, we were due to land ten minutes after sunset (1140pm) so were a little surprised the sun had gone down by the time we changed in Copenhagen - so the sun rose again somewhere around the Faroe Islands, before setting just about landing time.

IMGP3765.JPG Copenhagen at dusk
IMGP3767.JPG Me fresh off a plane at around midnight

June 30, 2008

Reykjavik parliament square

Having landed on the wrong side of midnight we didn't get up very early on our first day in the city, we took a walk to try to find our way around the city. Our hotel was on the same square as the parliament building.

IMGP3771.JPG Skúli Magnússon
IMGP3772.JPG This is believed to be the site of one of the earliest sacred places in the country.
IMGP3773.JPG Georg Schierbeck
IMGP3774.JPG The understated city centre cathedral

July 2, 2008

Reykjavik orientation

We ventured a little further than the square by our hotel, walking around the city we found quite a lot of street art. The city itself, although the capital of the country, is quite small with most of the centre within easy walking distance. So the city isn't large enough to warrant rail transit, there are plenty of buses and the city airport (serving mostly internal flights) is an ever present feature with planes flying low over the city centre on their final approach.

IMGP3781.JPG A fisherman by the harbour
IMGP3783.JPG The only evidence we could find of railways
IMGP3786.JPG If you stand in the right location you can see the constitution being put in its rightful place
IMGP3788.JPG The local theatre was running a show about punk and disco
IMGP3790.JPG Some memorial stones
IMGP3791.JPG A mural
IMGP3794.JPG One of the least inviting pub gardens I've ever seen

July 3, 2008

Hallgrímskirkja

Hallgrímskirkja stands over the city of Reykjavik. It is a modern church (some refer to it as a cathedral, but I'm not sure what the difference is - certainly it is an impressive structure) with a lift to the observation tower. They were doing some restoration work while we were there, making the tower uncomfortably loud, but the view was worth it.

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July 4, 2008

Reykjavik walking tour - part 1

We took a walking tour of the city, figuring this would give us an interesting insight into the city. Its a free tour but well worth going on, with a fantastic, slightly anarchistic, guide (whose name was, I think, Ole). "I don't get paid for this so nobody tells me what to say".

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A rather sad statue outside the tourist office at the start of the tour.
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The more prosperous the country gets the uglier its buildings are - this one caused significant uproar when it threatened to spread a plague of concrete across the town.
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When corrugated iron came to the country it was only used on roofs but they soon realised that the rain goes in all directions so they put it on all sides of their buildings.
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A typical city residential street.
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One of the oldest buildings still in use in the city.

July 5, 2008

Reykjavik walking tour - part 2

(see also part 1)
We passed through the parliament square.
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The exhibition of an ancient settlement that was found during the building of our hotel.
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Half of the square.
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The parliament building, someone has stolen the door. Or perhaps its just being restored?
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The other half of the square outside the parliament.
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The gardens at the back of the parliament, site of one of Icelands most significant terrorist scares when our guide triggered something of an overreaction by jumpy American military police.
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The back of the parliament building, this garden is open to the public despite the terrorism threat posed by errant pacifist anarchist guides.

July 6, 2008

Reykjavik walking tour - part 3

(see also part 1 and part 2)
Next stop was the government building on the lakeside.
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The pond outside the building.
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A scale model of the country, where you can see just how rocky and remote it all is.
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Looking back across the lake toward the building, somehow a modern grey concrete building feels well designed and beautiful.
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Artwork outside a technical school - our guide went to a different school and described the rivalries between them.
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More of the school.
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Bobby Fischer (former US world chess champion, who went to school with Barbara Streisand and Neil Diamond) ended his days playing chess in Iceland. I don't know whether it was Icelandic chess or the normal verison.
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A statue outside the tourist office.

July 7, 2008

Reykjavik walking tour - part 4

(see also part 1, part 2 and part 3)
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Looking up one of the main shopping streets toward Hallgrímskirkja.
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Frivolous schoolgirls, just like every other city in the world.
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Looking down from the main street toward the waterfront.
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The foreigners meeting house - this building is the centre around which all immigrants revolve, it is now getting a lot more use with the influx of foreigners moving to the country.
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The old library.
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The secure facility, where criminals are locked up, the island doesn't have a high crime rate.

July 8, 2008

Reykjavik walking tour - part 5

(see also part 1, part 2, part 3 and part 4)
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The opera house.
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A statue on the hill.
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The Danish king giving the Iclandic people their constitution.
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The Islandic ambassador receiving the consitution.
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A burned down building, this was purchased by the government to be rebuilt rather than let it fall into the hands of an unsympathetic multinational chain who wouldn't be able to retain the original character of the building. Work in progress. Although not much, by the looks of things.
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Back to the main square outside the tourist office - there are steam vents here, lending a somewhat eerie air to the place.

July 9, 2008

Golden Circle

We went on the Golden Circle tour of the sights of southern Iceland. This was a great tour covering a lot of fantastic scenary and wonderful places. The following few entries will show some of the things we saw on our way around. Our tour was unfortunate enough to have a problem with the coach which meant we had a longer time at Þingvellir and ended up being rushed around some of the later sites.

Nesjavallir Geothermal Power Plant

This geothermal power plant was the first stop on the Golden Circle tour. The coach followed a pipeline from the city up into the mountains toward the centre of Iceland, the pipeline carries hot water from underground to heat the city - there are a number of geothermal water sources in different parts of the country and they have to be careful not to mix the waters, since they will cause troublesome solid residues if they meet.

If I were an evil villain this is the place I would choose for my top secret lair, its got everything you want for that, imposing scenary, steam, easily defensible, an octagonal control room and no obvious reason to be there unless you know the geology of the area.

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July 10, 2008

Inside Nesjavallir Geothermal Power Plant

(part of the Golden Circle tour)

Inside the Nesjavallir Power Plant all of the machinary is clean and shiny, unlike most power stations I've been to before where there is fuel being burnt this takes its power from superheated water from underground.

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July 11, 2008

Þingvellir part 1

(part of the Golden Circle tour)

The next stop on our tour was Þingvellir, the site of the oldest parliament in the world. This is a remarkable place, the geology of the place is incredible, being a rift valley between the European and American tectonic plates. Within the valley there are smaller rifts where the plates have pulled apart.

We arrived at the top of the valley and walked down one of the rifts to the valley bottom, the crowds of people following the path somehow giving the place a feeling of destination of pilgrimage

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July 12, 2008

Þingvellir part 2

More on the Golden Circle tour - Þingvellir part 1.

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July 13, 2008

Þingvellir part 3

More on the Golden Circle tour - Þingvellir part 1 and part 2.

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July 16, 2008

Þingvellir church

More on the Golden Circle tour - Þingvellir part 1, part 2 and part 3.

Our coach broke down just as we were leaving the car park at the bottom of Þingvellir, some problem with the handbrake that meant that the driver had to limp back to the car park at 5km/h. They dispatched another coach but let us out to wander around the area in the valley below the main Þingvellir tourist run. We took shelter from the rain in the church here, though its not a large church, seating perhaps 40 people.

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July 17, 2008

Gullfoss

The next stop on the Golden Circle tour was the Gullfoss waterfall.

This is one of the most powerful waterfalls in the world - certainly it is awe inspiring. The course of the water has changed recently and you can walk around on what was previously the bed across which the water flowed.

They say that noone has ever gone over the falls and survived - and standing on the top next to the water going over the edge you can see why. The water falls into a chasm, the depth of which cannot be seen.

Oddly, we didn't quite appreciate the scale of the place when were there, it only became clear quite how large and powerful it is once we got home and saw these pictures.

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These people are stood on the rock by the small fall at the top.
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July 18, 2008

Geysir

Another stop on our Golden Circle tour was at Geysir. This is now a mostly dormant hot spring, with occasional erruptions. Indeed there are a number of hot springs in this area, each steaming away over beautiful pure looking blue water.

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July 19, 2008

Strokkur

(also part of the Golden Circle tour)

Just down the hill from Geysir is Strokkur, one of the most active hot springs in the world, erupting every five to ten minutes. Standing watching the water bubbling around as it prepares to 'gush' is amazing and weird.

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July 20, 2008

Skálholt Church

The next stop on our Golden Circle tour was Skálholt Church. A site of historic interest which now appears to be little more than a cathedral and a couple of service buildings. The setting is wonderful, of course.

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July 21, 2008

Kerið volcanic crater

Our final stop on the Golden Circle tour was at Kerið volcanic crater. Unfortunately the weather was fairly horrible by the time we arrived here so we didn't really want to spend too much time admiring the volcano. This is one of the things I want to come back to Iceland for - to spend some time exploring around here in a little more detail.

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July 22, 2008

Reykjavik haunted walk - part 1

After so enjoying our walking tour we went on the Haunted tour of Reykjavik, run by the same people, though with a different guide.

This tour started at the same place, covering a couple of the locations of the previous tour, but with information skewed toward the gruesome. For instance we passed through the parliament gardens (seen here) but were this time told about the uprising of animal spirits against the ecological destruction the government is in the process of agreeing to.

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Some gravestones in the parliament square.
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July 23, 2008

Reykjavik haunted walk - part 2

(see also part 1)
Inevitably the haunted walk took us to the graveyard, where we were shown a series of graves with various stories behind them.

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This childs grave is often free of snow when those around it are covered, and it is noticably warmer to the touch than the soil around it.
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A memorial to a boat full of French sailors who died in a storm.
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July 24, 2008

Reykjavik haunted walk - part 3

(see also part 1 and part 2)

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This grave is the grave of a young girl, buried across the pathway from a bishop under an inverted cross. This is a powerful image for someone who has grown up in a basically christian culture - somehow so disrespectful of the memory of the child.
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If you look carefully at this grave you can see that there are two dates yet to be filled in from the carving - the stone was raised by a pair of sisters who are still alive (at least at the time we visited). I must not give in to the temptation to fill in a date on one of them.
Journey

July 27, 2008

Tjörnin

A walk around Tjörnin, the lake in the centre of Reykjavik.

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July 28, 2008

Sculpture garden

Around the Tjörnin lake is a sculpture garden.

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July 29, 2008

Whale hunting

We went out for a whale watching tour. Unfortunately we didn't find any whales, well, until we got home and looked at our gps journey log (you'll need to zoom out, left click, a little because I haven't gotten the scaling right yet).

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July 30, 2008

Reykjavik harbour

After our whale watching trip we walked around the harbour a little.

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July 31, 2008

Blue Lagoon

To relax on our final day in Iceland we went to the Blue Lagoon. This is a really strange place, built in a lava field in the shadow of a geothermal plant - the water is 'waste' water from the thermal plant, high in silica giving it an opaque blue/white colour. There is something odd about swimming outside in a country like Iceland.

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August 1, 2008

A last walk around Reykjavik

We took a final walk around the city, visiting the Tjörnin lake and cemetry.

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August 2, 2008

Our hotel in Reykjavik

We stayed at the Hotel Reykjavik Centrum, on the parliament square

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August 3, 2008

View from our hotel

From our hotel we could see over the parliament square, among other things, with windows on three sides. This was a great room in a great hotel in a great location.

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August 4, 2008

A final impression

Our final impression of Iceland was seeing the steam rising from the Blue Lagoon in the distance. This was a great holiday, a place we intend to visit again, next time we hire a car and travel at our own pace.

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Of course, I knew I would forget something along the way - this time it was the mention of necropants during the Haunted Walk - we missed out on the chance to go to see them this time around though. Next time.

But now back to exploring Stockholm and its surrounding area.

About Iceland

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to Stockholm and beyond in the Iceland category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

Fun is the previous category.

Prague is the next category.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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