Back in Reykjavik: Culture, Arts and More

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Hallgrimskirkja was certainly one of those sights I simply had to visit again. While I only skimmed past this beautiful church on my last visit, I finally went back for a couple of nights and mornings to do some proper long-exposure photography.

Hallgrimskirkja views during blue hour
Hallgrimskirkja views during blue hour
Hallgrimskirkja views during blue hour
Hallgrimskirkja views during blue hour

Then, once it opened in the wee hours, I was almost the only person inside at 9 am. Only four Russian tourist were disrupting the peace and silence with their cameras, but hey, we are all in it together – if only for the gorgeous pictures. Afterwards, I went upstairs. Here I was indeed the only person in the morning. The view was quite breathtaking. The wind certainly reminded me of being in the Arctic. I really wonder how many cities are out there on this planet that have a glacier and volcano in the background…

Inside Hallgrimskirkja
Inside Hallgrimskirkja
View from Hallgrimskirkja
View from Hallgrimskirkja
View from Hallgrimskirkja
View from Hallgrimskirkja

During the day I also made it out to the harbor again. Here I had some proper time to look around the Harpa and to see what amazing music and plays this Icelandic opera house features. I also almost slipped on the ice piled outside. No big deal, I guess. Everything is more natural and less concerned about people’s safety and for once I felt I was able to take care of myself, instead of having rules and regulations stuck in my way everywhere.

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The Harpa
The Harpa
The Harpa
The Harpa

I desperately tried to find one of the few government buildings that this city has. After running around for 30 minutes, I finally caved in and asked a school boy. As my luck had it, he turned out to be a Latvian foreigner, who thought I wanted to go back to the Harpa and led me back to the Harbor area, brightly smiling into my face so that I didn’t have the heart to tell him the truth. Either way, he taught me a lot about the Icelandic warmth and hospitality (although he emphasized that his family was Latvian and therefore so was he). Eventually I was satisfied with finding the very end of the shopping street called Laugavegur again. I hadn’t made it over here on my first trip and I was delighted to see the cute amount of Icelandic houses and how European everything looked. I mean, I know it belongs to Europe (kind of) but it was certainly in your face right here.

The Polar Bear Store on the main shopping street
The Polar Bear Store on the main shopping street

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I jumped into a book store to warm up and came across a book featuring a bunch of Icelandic sagas on how Vikings sailed to Iceland hundreds of years ago and formed the very unique culture they have now. As the entire story unfolded, I must have read through it for quite a while. It was quite cold out there, though (still felt like -10C thanks to wind chill), so these warming breaks were just what I needed. That, and a good bowl of soup…

I also came across the infamous lake right by the Reykjavik Parliament. Some of the girls at the hostel had talked about it and I was curious to check it out. It was so frozen that you could literally walk over it. Some people were even having a winter-themed photo shoot on it. I guess no one was really afraid of the ice breaking and sinking into the water.

Frozen Lake Views
Frozen Lake Views

Since Hlemmur Square was almost parallel to it, I also walked past the Sun Voyager on a couple of occasions this time. No clue how I missed this during my first stay. It was perhaps a ten-minute walk from my accommodation and easy to find. The so-called Solfar is a pretty neat statue, commemorating the 200th anniversary of the city of Reykjavik. Unlike many tourists believe, it has not much to do with the Vikings, but it’s still a nice twist to the story.

Solfar - the Sun Voyager
Solfar – the Sun Voyager
Solfar - the Sun Voyager
Solfar – the Sun Voyager

On my last day, after spending half of it inside a coffee shop, I also got to check out a small gallery on the main stretch called Art 67. The paintings featured here were so beautiful and evolved mostly around Icelandic landscapes. One of the ladies, who was tending the gallery and giving me more background info on it, actually told me how she went to South Germany every summer in order to teach art at a school. What an interesting life these Icelandic artists lead, is all I could think of.

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Altogether, the magic of Iceland is definitely found in the countryside and when getting outside of the capital. But Reykjavik is also a quaint town and despite me doubting I could keep myself occupied for more than three full days, time went by pretty fast. I guess when you make an effort to dip into some of the local customs, such as swimming in a public pool, you really get to see different sides of the culture than usually. I would also still find it appealing to visit Iceland in the summer, since I’ve seen it during winter and spring as of now. We will see how my travel fund looks like once the time comes.

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