Day 2,028 of Traveling the World | Reykjavik, Iceland | August 18, 2023

Our city of residence for a few weeks: Smoky Bay! That’s Reykja – vik, to all you Icelandic speakers. We have learned so much in a few days and are absolutely in love with Iceland, except for two small, teeny-weeny things – 8 months of winter (and some days here in August have felt like winter!), and the highest, most outrageous prices we have ever seen anywhere in the world. Our hotel room, if you booked it today for next week? – $1,200!! Just an ordinary room, but we booked it a year ago on Hilton points when it was “just” $300/night but cost us just 60,000 points per night. (In fact, our entire stay in Iceland is on points, so we are paying nothing for a hotel.) A burger? – hold on! – $28. Two small tacos? – $24. Normal, grilled salmon (straight out of the adjacent bay) with rice and veggies? – $55.

Enough of that. Iceland is the safest city in the world. It has no military, and there isn’t really a visible police presence. There are no security guards standing in front of jewelry stores, or anywhere, for that matter. The Prime Minister’s house has its doors wide open, invitingly, with no guards and no police. And reportedly, if we do see any police, they won’t have guns. There is virtually no crime. Everyone here talks about the need for “fresh air.” Since energy is virtually free, from the underground geothermal springs, people will turn up their heat and keep their windows open all the time. Babies are taken out in strollers to get fresh air, and when their parents stop at a cafe for coffee or lunch, they leave the baby outside in the stroller, ALONE. That is the level of peace and security here. It blows our minds.

Another couple of notes about the low-cost energy. Iceland’s residents use only a small part of the energy produced, so companies locate facilities here for just that reason. Much of the Bitcoin mining done now, a notoriously high-energy activity, is done here, to take advantage of the low cost. We have also been told that it is cheaper to bring aluminum ore from Australia, process it here, and then transport the finished aluminum back to Australia than it is to process it there.

The country gets around 250 days of rain every year, although our first three days here were sunny and warm. The sun had all the locals discombobulated. They said it was too hot, and they didn’t feel like they were getting any fresh air (there’s that phrase again). They couldn’t wait for it to rain so that it would cool down. The past several days have been on-and-off rain, dark clouds, and more of a chill in the air, which is making the locals ecstatic.

When you visit here, be aware that the locals will speak fluent English – AND Icelandic – AND another language or two pretty well. In school, six years of Danish (as Iceland was formerly part of Denmark) are required, as are NINE years of English, and then another three years of French, Spanish, or another offered language. This is because they know that nobody else in the world will speak Icelandic! Oh, and of course, as Americans take English as a class every year, students here ALSO take Icelandic classes. Pretty impressive!

There are lots of photos of buildings and fun stuff as we walked around, as well as the central church, Harpa Concert Hall, and all the curiosities we saw along the way. We took both a walking tour of the downtown as well as a food tour one evening. Well, “evening” is a relative term – the sun sets around 11:00 pm, so it feels like endless afternoon here. The feeling around town is very youthful, modern, fresh, and fun. If only it weren’t for the weather, more people would stick around!

Hallgrimskirkja, a Lutheran church that is practically the symbol of Reykjavik. It took 41 years to complete construction, from 1945-1986. At 244 feet tall, it is the tallest church in Iceland, built to resemble the island’s glaciers, mountains and columnar basalt “organ pipe” natural formations.
The inside is stunning due to its gray color and lack of adornment, colors, pictures, etc. – with the exception of the next photo.
It was Pride weekend, and this beautiful carpet runner was placed on the stairs ascending to the sanctuary.
City Hall, with its illusion of “floating” on the lake, Tjornin.
More of Tjornin! On the left is Frikirkjan i Reykjavik., an independent Lutheran free church.
Outside City Hall is this sculpture, The Unknown Bureaucrat, with “the weight of the world” on his shoulders.
The pretty domed room at the rear of Parliament, dating to 1881.
One of Reykjavik’s basalt pillars. The steel pipe on the left side used to have hot steam piped up. Locals would cup their hands over the pipe on cold days to warm up. But during Covid, city officials asked people not to touch it. People still touched it and warmed their hands, as they had always done. So the City turned it off and even though people have pleaded for its return, there is no heat. The man in front is Tomas (of CityWalk Reykjavik Tours), probably the best, most knowledgeable, and funniest tour guide we have ever had!
This is a future bank building, and the most controversial building in Reykjavik. Most people absolutely despise it, although a few in our tour group (not us) said it was lovely.
A welcoming “back room” to hang out in a downtown movie theater, Bio Paradis. The movie posters are not original, but artistic renderings of the movies shown. We asked the people at the theater about the languages of movies. We were told that the ones in English would be subtitled in Icelandic, and those originally in Icelandic would be subtitled in English. So we would always have English. However, we were caught in a Catch-22 recently. Although we have spent substantial time in Australia, we still don’t always understand their accent, and seeing an Australian movie here, we didn’t understand their English. Of course the Icelandic subtitles weren’t any help to us either. But we would we would not have been any better off if we saw it in the US.
You just have to sing the song when you see this!
Gives a whole new meaning to “Don’t worry. Be happy.”
This art piece is titled “The Wonderful,” Hulda Hakon, 1956.
Harpa Concert Hall, with its resident cellist in the reflecting pool.
The inside of the concert hall – magnificent.
A peek at the harbor from the street-level windows.
It is hard to see, but there are pyramid-piled rocks along the water here.
Lots of the old buildings have these medieval towers on them, which look quite grand.
Kulur Krap must be crepes, we thought when we saw this. Nope! They are slush balls!
The colors are so vibrant – trying to cheer up a city that is usually cloudy.
We love this demoness on La Poblana Mexican food.
This one speaks for itself!
Many of the buildings on corners have “wrap-around” artwork like this one.
How to tie three different ties, courtesy of this men’s store.
This is – Loo. Koo. Mas. Of course! (They are Danish donuts with toppings.)
Another wrap-around….in all different colors.
Loving the green leaves decorating the windows, AND the toucan sign.
A little greenhouse on one of the main squares.
This vibrant restaurant has the best fish and chips in the city. Yum!
Another medieval tower.
An amazing medallion that is all over the city – sheep, roaming free since 874!
This corner was just filled with eye candy.
On our food tour was the Icelandic hot dog. Believe it or not, this is Iceland’s most famous, and favorite food. It is cheap, ubiquitous, made of 80% lamb, ready 10 seconds after you order, and pretty good, for a hot dog.
This is the highest rated bakery in Reykjavik – Deig Workshop Bakery. There are always lines, and they close out when they are out of bagels or donuts!
So, we had a choice at this restaurant on our food tour – of the four choices, what do you think Mike chose?? See next photo!
The horse, of course! Jan said she would wait a few hours to kiss him. He said it tasted like tough beef.
Goofy drunk guy? Believe it or not, this is on the can of zero-alcohol beer.
A long mosaic on the side of a building, evoking Viking ships.
A Viking statue. They love Vikings here in every shape and form.
This was a tiny kiosk across from the harbor, but with a Russian Orthodox cross on top. It was empty, with directions to their church, a few blocks away, and the times of services. It was very odd, just in the middle of a field.
Even this pig was celebrating Pride weekend.
When it was sunny and warm, people were sitting outside drinking and eating from lunch time all the way through to the evening. Our guide told us that because restaurants are so expensive, locals hardly ever eat out. They will drink, but not eat. He said that most days, he stops for one of those hot dogs (above) to hold him over until he gets home and makes dinner!
Austurvollur, the park we can see from our hotel window just across from Parliament. People were there, eating and reading, on the sunny days.
An Irish Pub called the Drunk Rabbit was very popular.
Small kiosks sell handmade goods. If you can see it, a Volcano Hat is a dark cap with red yarn falling down like lava.
We had never before seen this ingenious idea – a bicycle with a wheelchair attached to the front.
Believe it or not, this is Rainbow Street. It was first painted for Pride weekend in 2015, and everyone liked it so much, it stayed! It is now on Google maps as a “tourist attraction.”
Clumps of wool puffs made to resemble sheep.
This lovely thought is on the side of the Leif Eriksson Hotel.
Babalu is very bright – very fun!
This dog stared at us as we walked by – very well-groomed.
We liked this statue, but couldn’t find a name.
Medieval towers again – we just like the look.
The Sun Voyager sculpture along the city’s waterfront.
Yes! The city has a Phallological Museum. Don’t ask. (BUT…we did wander into the gift shop and the Phallic Cafe. They had the best carrot cake in town, much better than in the famous cake shop, Hressingarskalinn, which dates to 1932.)
We have stayed safe quite a few times here…..

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