Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Entering the Land of Fire and Ice: Reykjavik in the Rain.

It was 7am, cold and still raining. I was glad that today would be spent touring Reykjavik as the conditions did not lend themselves to exploring Iceland’s rugged terrain. It may not be the most ornate of cities but Reykjavik it is still a very interesting place to look around.

One thing you are guaranteed to find anywhere in the country is swimming pools. Swimming is the national sport and most of population swim before and after work. Because of the dangerous nature of the landscape all children must learn two different types of swimming as part of their curriculum. All the heated pools in Reykjavik are of an exceptional standard.

Travelling away from the pools and out of the city we went to see some Icelandic horses. These are another of countries institutions with no area in the country, no matter how poor, not having stables.

Heading back into the city we went down to take a look at the main harbour. It has a remarkable view of the mountains and many restaurants situated along it. You can also take sea life viewing trips. I was enjoying the exploration into Icelandic life but the horizontal rain and howling wind on the harbour meant I couldn’t stay there for long. Icelandic fisherman are made of tougher stuff no doubt.

Of more interest to me was looking at the older area of the city. Here there is a mixture of buildings made in various Scandinavian styles. Some are made of wood but as trees don’t really grow in Iceland it has to be imported. If you look closely you will find that the houses are covered in corrugated steel. This protects the wood underneath and stops it rotting away.

Walking down through the old buildings we came out in the square next to the countries parliament. It was here that not very long ago the people rallied and pretty much overthrew the government after the countries financial collapse. Some of the windows are still smashed and they act as a reminder to current government not make the same mistakes.

After a short stop to feed the ducks at the nearby lake we moved on to see the cities giant church. Unfortunately, the huge tower for which it gained it’s fame was in scaffolding but still posed an ominous presence and can be seen from pretty much anywhere in the city. It looks better on the inside. Giant arches lend it a type of magical quality that helps you forget that the place is built out of poor quality concrete. An organist was playing and showed the church also had good acoustics.

Undoubtedly, the best place to go to get a picturesque view of the city is the giant hot water tank known as the Pearl. Walking out onto the viewing platform is to experience an amazing panoramic view. No camera or video can ever do justice to something of such a grand scale. These type of panoramic views are present all over the country and the golden circle I would visit a few days later was even more breathtaking.

I stood admiring the view of the city leading up to the mountains beyond for as long as I could. Eventually the wind and rain got the better of me and I had to retreat inside to regain the feeling in my hands. Leaving the Pearl concluded the short trip around the city. Reykjavik certainly is an interesting place and it has many buildings designed to look unique. However, it does look a bit grey as much of the place is built out of concrete. If you visit make sure to take a trip to the Pearl though. The views from the top are truly amazing and it’s something that could be easily missed.

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