It had rained continuously through the entire morning since our departure from Grundafjördur last night. As mentioned before, the captain had decided to dock the ship in downtown Reykjavík, where we would be a bit less exposed to the strong winds that were forecasted for the next couple of days and heavy thunderstorms that were expected to hit Iceland after falling on land from the Atlantic Ocean.
What could be more convenient to stay right in the center of a city that belongs to one of the most expensive destinations in the world when it comes to overnight costs? The ship reached the dock in the late afternoon hours. And believe it or not, the skies actually did clear up and it stopped raining for the remains of the evening.
A fantastic chance to head on land and explore the area. As always, I did not take a map or a travel guide along. I think, this way you discover a place a bit more intensely. Of course, you might miss one or two sites that you would normally rush by in order to just mark them off the list, but simply walking kriss cross through town helps to explore the destination from a local´s perspective.
Because you primarily decide to walk the direction that pleases your sight rather than focussing on which way is faster. A completely different way to discover a new place.
I have been wanting to come to Iceland since I was a child. Reykjavík is the northernmost capital of a sovereign state and with roughly 125,000 inhabitants by far the largest civilization on the island.
It is considered to be among the cleanest, safest and greenest cities in the world. And it is a major melting pot for young people from around the world.
Its relatively small size makes it also easy to explore on foot. Lots of colorful and interesting Nordic architecture to marvel at and stylish boutiques, restaurants, bars and cafés to call in to.
Of course, one of the most famous landmarks of Reykjavik is the world-renown Hallgrímskirkja. It was designed to resemble the trap rocks, mountains and glaciers of Iceland’s landscape.
Its construction took over 41 years and the beautiful tower holds an observation deck on top.
A very impressive and extraordinary structure that has shaped the Reykjavik skyline like no other building until the completion of the Harpa.
In front of it, the statue of Leif Eriksson, a Norse explorer from Iceland who is said to have discovered continental North America before Christopher Columbus. The statue was a gift from the United States in order to honor and commemorate the 1000th´s anniversary of Iceland´s parliament at Pingvellir.
Reykjavik is probably (compared to its relatively small size) one of the most multi-cultural centers in the world. Over 100 different nationalities live here with Poles, Lithuanians and Danes being the largest part along with the natives.
Until 2007, the city experienced a massive economic growth which was also referred to as the “Nordic Tiger Years”. In 2008, on the other hand, the country faced the worst depression in its entire history when the financial sector collapsed.
Today, things are pretty much back to normal. With annually rising visitor numbers, Iceland could well develop its position as one of the most popular tourist destinations worldwide.
And it truly is an amazing place to visit. The style, the laid-back and open-minded attitude of its citizens and the cultural and intellectual energy that flows through the entire city. If Berlin thinks it has it, Reykjavik definitely does!
Another thing that is pretty amazing about the city is that volcanic activity provides Reykjavík with geothermal heating systems for both residential and industrial districts. In 2008, natural hot water was used to heat roughly 90% of all buildings in Iceland.
I would say that this makes it one of the cleanest cities in the world. Despite the constant danger that comes with it (we all remember Eyjafjallajökull, don´t we?), you could literally build your own hot spring in your backyard. How cool is that?
Another architectural highlight that was inspired by the Nature of Iceland is the extraordinary concert hall and conference center Harpa.
It was designed to resemble the basalt landscape that you may find in many spots around the island and since its opening back in 2011, it has become a landmark for futuristic world-class Nordic architecture.
But it is not only beautiful to look at from the outside with its colored glass facade, the true wonders wait inside with visitors feeling like stepping into a crystal.
It is one of these buildings that make you realize that architecture is so much more than simply building something. It is an art. Harpa is a remarkable interpretation of all the specialities and details that Iceland combines in terms of Nature. Amazing!
I could have walked the city forever and soak up everything that my eyes could get a hold of, but the next and last excursion was waiting the next morning.
Even though the weather forecast was looking rather crappy, I was more than excited to finally get to see my first geyser ever and to visit the place where the crest of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge lied which forms the boundary between the North American tectonic plate and the Eurasian one.
And while it was still light outside, I retreated to my cabin and prepared for the upcoming adventure.