The Sun Voyager is an apt symbol for Reykjavik, a city where much is waiting to be discovered. Historic, yet new construction everywhere; cultured and quirky; a stopover to Europe or a jumping-off point to a treasure-trove of outdoor adventures.
We walked and walked, enjoying city sights, sounds, and food. Using Rick Steves’ walking tour as a guide, we headed up Skolarvoroustigur Street, busy with shops and cafes, and its colorful striped pedestrian path leading towards the famous Hallgrimskirkja Lutheran Church. In the largest church in Iceland, we paid our 1000 ISK senior fee (<$8 US pp) to take the elevator and 33 steps up to the bell tower for city views. The church was built between 1945 – 1986 to resemble the basalt cliffs resulting from Iceland’s volcanic birth. A statue of Leifur Eiriksson (of discovered-the-Americas fame) graces the grounds in front of the church, and a sculpture installation by Steinum Thorarinsdottir juxtaposes life-sized armored men and naked androgynous figures. Interesting. But the 360 views from the top of the church tower were the stars of the show.
I failed to mention we had already found a delicious bakery for breakfast and tried one of the famous Icelandic hotdogs at Baejarins Beztu Pylsur’s bright red stand. Made with lamb, beef, and pork, the local fav is served with onion, crunchy fried onion, ketchup, sweet mustard, and remoulade sauce. It actually wasn’t bad, but we will stick with our American classics.
After our trek around the harbor and town, we sampled some traditional Icelandic foods at the Cafe Loki near the church. Our guide Dofri, from the day prior, had recommended the spot and had urged us to be more open-minded about trying the fermented shark, which has apparently been a nutritious food source through the years. It wasn’t actually that bad. It’s best eaten on brown rye bread with butter accompanied by a shot of Icelandic vodka. We also tried the smoked lamb, smoked trout, mashed fish, and dried cod. It was only the dried cod that we left on the plate-it tasted like cardboard packaging! We seem to move from snack to snack, having also tried all the famous varieties of chocolates (including the licorice-covered variety) at this point.
Many of the houses here use corrugated iron as siding due to the harsh weather conditions, and we saw many examples as well as lovely townhomes, embassies, government buildings, and as always, we somehow ended up by a hospital complex.
It was fun to spot the private gardens and artwork tucked around corners and in surprising places throughout local neighborhoods. We also looked for the cat doors that I read were creatively utilized, but never spotted any, even though we found three friendly cats. Pets here are very controlled, and we didn’t see any feral animals. In some communities, cats are banned, and you need permission from your neighbors to own a dog, banned in Reykjavik until 1984.
After a long day and many miles of walking, we enjoyed a lovely dinner where I tried the best new dish of the day, Ling. Delicious. Tired but content, we prepped to get our car and hit the road the next morning.