Travel memories from Northern Atlantic in May-June 2007

After a good nights sleep I woke up as the ship was approaching Reykjavik. Yes, I 'overslept' and missed the rounding of the peninsula southwest of the capital. Must have been comfortable beds in that cabin.

Ain't that nice.

The scenery on the other side of the ship was of a quite different kind.

In the left photo is Höfdi, the house where Reagan and Gorbachev held their peace meeting in 1986. On the right photo above, the four towers of the Háteigskirkja Church caught my interest. On one photo below the domeshaped top of Perlan adds to the skyline.
There were construction works going on here and there, and higher buildings were erected, but still the Hallgrimskirkja Church dominated the skyline. There were a number of buildings I wanted to visit in Reykjavik, both for their exhibitions and for their architecture.
The Solfariš sculpture. This is the best glimpse of it that I got...

(My small camera saw the area in richer colours than the stills from my video camera shows...)
There were construction works going on in the harbour area too. I guess it's the Catholic Cathedral that rises in the background. A fascinating roof is seen on the right hand photo above.
The first construction work in Reykjavik took place around 870-874, according to different sources. Then Ingólfur Arnarson, his wife Hallveig Fródadóttir and 'friends and slaves' arrived, and they were the first who settled permanently. The area was apparently named after the hot springs near the bay.

What's that?!   Ok ...


That morning most of the passengers left the ship, to fly back to Norway. "The fourth Fram voyage" had come to its final port of call. During the cruise I hadn't met a single passenger I remembered from other trips, but some of the persons working on the ship was familiar to me and especially one of them was extra nice to see again. I wish them all a pleasant future.

We who were sailing on with MS Fram had two days to spend in or around Reykjavik. My travel friend and I began with a downtown visit to tourist centres and shops, and then headed for the Hallgrimskirkja Church.
Saturday morning in sunny Reykjavik.

A traffic sign indicates the way to the beautiful nature. Hm, that van looks familiar. A Volvo, a C202 I guess. And there's another Volvo...

This monument in memory of Leifr Eiricsson is one of many connections to the Viking era. Eirikur Rauši (Eric the Red) was exiled from Norway, and settled on Iceland. Later he was exiled from Iceland too, and brought his family to Greenland. They apparently were the first Norsemen who settled on Greenland. His son Leifur (spelled in various ways in different sources) heard a man named Bjarni telling about the sighting of land further west, and assembled men for a journey there. It was in or around year 1000 that he landed on the North American continent, the first European to be there. (If you continue reading this travel memory of mine, you will find some more about this family.)

With 'the large pipes of the church organ' outside the church, the Hallgrimskirkja has an unusual exterior. The rest of the design is clean, also inside. That is besides the sculptured top of the tower.
(The clock on this side had taken a rest.)

On the way back to the ship we passed a lush garden.

A three-course lunch was served at the tables, since there were so few passengers. Directly afterwards I went on a new walk in Reykjavik. There were so many places I wanted to visit.

Passing the guards hut on the quay, a guy asked if I recognised him. And yes, I remembered the Norwegian photographer that I met on the cruise with MS Nordnorge in South America in 2003. Now he had a new assignment, and would sail with MS Fram during the cruise around southern Greenland. Nice to get nice company.

Then I walked straight to the nearest museum I wanted to visit, and passed it without noticing the signs... Having enjoyed an extra walk in the sunny but not too warm air I entered the "Reykjavik City Museum - The Settlement Exhibition", also called "871+/-2" since it houses the remains of a longhouse from before AD 871+-2. This site is the oldest habitated area that has been found on Iceland. It was found when a new hotel were to be built, and luckily they found the solution to open a museum in the basement.

The hall of the house was 20 metres long and 8 metres wide. It may have housed around ten persons. The hearth was more than 4 metres long. I was the only tourist in the guided tour at that time, and I used the opportunity.
Afterwards I took another round in the informative museum, trying to imagine how life had been for the habitants of such settlements.

Here I make a reflection about the historic perspective. For many of you reading this, houses and objects from around 1.000 years ago are not so old. They were also rather simple, and several of the more decorative objects were imported from various areas in Europe. However, this age is a part of the Nordic history and formed after the life conditions in northern Europe. Thanks largely to the written Icelandic sagas, it's the eldest relatively well documented Nordic history. Also considering that the few habitants primarily used wood for buildings, tools et cetera, and that these objects rarely have been preserved, I think it is fascinating to take part of what has been found about the so called Viking age.

(By the way, as a comparison - the other day I read about Maya indians documenting an eclipse of the moon in year BC 3379... some 5.400 years ago...)

Smaller streets took me up to Perlan (the Pearl), passing the hospital and the domestic airport. In the distance I saw the church with the four towers again, with a scenic background.

From the platform on Perlan I had a grand view.

Kopavogur Church, I think.

So what is Perlan? It is among others a restaurant and a cafeteria in the former geothermal water storage tanks on a hill. Inside there is a cool-water replica of a geysir, and at the time of my visit this time it also housed a randomly coin-spitting slot telephone that made me think I was shot by the candid camera. There's a geysir replica outdoors too, much more realistic.

Perlan also houses the Saga Museum, where key moments in Icelandic history have been illustrated together with information. To make the sets as realistic as possible, they have constructed the objects using traditional methods. A walk around in the museum, looking at full-size figures, gives quite a different feeling than the longhouse exhibition. Two museums whose exhibitions together gives the visitor more than 1+1=2.

I left Perlan around five o'clock, one hour before dinner time on the ship. I decided to take another route, since the four towers tempted me... Also I wanted to see more of Reykjavik.

The long street I chose to use changed name along the way. I think it is named Nóatún where the Háteigskirkja Church is situated.

I decided not to pay a longer visit at the church, and not to walk over to the other building seen in the background (with a tower trying to hide behind a flag pole). That was a good decision, in a way.

The waterfront welcomed me after a while, with no sight of MS Fram or any other familiar ships or buildings. I knew the direction, and passing the Höfdi house I knew that I had quite a distance to walk. The wind was strong, blowing in the wrong direction, so I switched by walking in cover one block from the waterfront and walking near the waterfront to enjoy the view. The several construction areas made me walk both into blind alleys and around fenced-off blocks.
A brand new scabby facade. The protective covering of the glass panes seems to be torn here and there, giving the facade the odd look.

I didn't notice a walkway across the Sæbraut road to the Solfariš sculpture, so I continued and reached the ship at ten to six. Just in time for dinner.

Iceland gives many magnificent views for the coast guard personnel.

I spent the evening on the ship, now and then taking a walk on and in it.
The entrance was under observation, but there weren't many people passing.

Some were busy, though, preparing information material for the next cruise beginning the following day.

Twenty past eleven, but no harbour lights.

Oh, there they are. Maybe having a meeting to assign the nights positions?

There was a landward wind, indicated by the cranes. One crane tried to capture the moon.

Now the harbour lights had taken their positions, adding their colours to the lovely view. With such images in my mind I went to sleep.

The morning began a little bit wet. We discovered that there was water leaking in the cabinet in the bathroom, which a ship mechanic fixed. That's things that can happen on a new ship too, and apparently we were the first ones using that cabin.

Sunday morning in Reykjavik, beginning with a short harbour walk. I wanted to take some photos.

It was MS Frams first visit to Reykjavik.

Regina C from Nuuk, Greenland, had a sign with an iceberg an a schrimp. Seeing her, I was reminded of our itinerary with a visit to Nuuk the following week.

There she is, the golden ship.
A group of whaling ships made me think of my visits to former whaling stations on South Georgia. And think of discussions about whaling. In late 2006 Iceland decided to begin catching whales again, for the sake of their important fishing industries. Around 7% of the Icelanders earned their living from the fishing industries, but 60% of the value of exports came from these industries. The number of whales was seen as a danger since eating so many fishes and the food for fishes. The plan was to catch 9 whales of one species and 30 of another species (0,04% respectively 2% of the estimated populations), of the estimated 50.000 whales living in the North Atlantic ocean. Well, there are many disturbed natural balances around the globe that we humans try to repair or improve. (By the way, the day I'm writing this text I heard on the radio that the sales of cosmetics to Swedish men is increasing. Why? Using and misusing so many of Mother Natures resources for so many unnecessary products, in these times when more and more people are talking about the necessity of a sustainable environment? Developing, testing, producing, packaging, transporting, advertising, ... and handling chemical waste. Why?)

Back to my unnecessary visit in Reykjavik (yes, I know...) -

Then we went up to the Hallgrimskirkja Church again, walking through an almost entirely closed city. I think it was 'extra closed' since it was the Sunday of the Christian Whitsuntide. (Something to check before planning short visits to cities in other countries.) Close to the church we visited the open sculpture garden of the (closed) Einar Jónsson Sculpture Museum, where I didn't take a single photo... Odd, isn't it?

Then my friend took me to the city hall where a large model of Iceland was exhibited. Luckily it was open so I could have a look, and take some photos that I've used earlier on this web page.

A walk around the lake Tjörnin was very nice in the sunshine.

On the way back to the ship we passed an open tourist shop, so I became a shopping tourist. A T-shirt and a small pin, and an item you'll see later in this travel memory.

At noon I met a pen pal and her husband, who spent some hours showing me more of the surroundings. From the coastal road we had wonderful sights towards Akranes and the peninsula with the Snaefellsjokull glacier far away.

(Not a panorama...)

Shark meat, a special delicacy for many Icelanders (according to a television documentary I saw earlier).

Even though the tide was low, we couldn't walk out to the lighthouse. The area was closed due to breeding birds, and there was information about a number of bird species.

The view towards Reykjavik from the presidents residence.

I was told that the church and some of these houses are among the eldest in Reykjavik, while others are newer but built in the style of the old ones. A pleasant and harmonic area.

After a visit to my friends home (thank you) I was driven to the National Museum of Iceland, a place I really wanted to visit. And, it was open. Unfortunately it was forbidden to take photos in the halls holding the interesting historic exhibition. I spent the time-journey between the years 800 and 1400 AD. A museum well worth visiting, and here too the employees were nice to talk to. In the shop I looked for a souvenir suitable for the few Icelandic coins I had, and bought a couple of replicas of Viking age ornaments. They had a touch of Viking age geography too, made in Britain for a Swedish company and sold to a Swede visiting Iceland.

Back on the ship I visited the cafeteria, from where I saw some of the new passengers arriving to the ship. Shortly after four o'clock they announced that the "Captains welcome" was moved to the following day, since so many of the newcomers arrived late. I wondered if we would be able to leave as scheduled...

We left Reykjavik shortly after seven o'clock, and once again I enjoyed the scenery. This time more of the buildings were familiar to me.

Then we stopped, drifting on the calm sea. Why? I looked at the moon, but didn't get an explanation?

Walking around on deck 5 I discovered that one of the small boats was missing.
Apparently it had left in some kind of a hurry. Why? Did the officers want to stay in Reykjavik? Had they been kidnapped by pirates? By some remaining Vikings?
The moon ...   No explanation.

A long ship passed on its way to an Icelandic harbour. As a landlubber I thought that it floated high, so I guessed it was empty. Fetching some of the exported fish products, maybe.

Then we began to move again, westwards.

Sunday evening fishing, or just enjoying a boat trip?
From out on the sea I wasn't sure about where the Snæfellsnes volcano and glacier were. The volcano where the descent began in Jules Verne's story "The Journey to the Centre of the Earth". There are many more places I'd like to visit on Iceland. Maybe sometime in the future...
Two versions of the same photo. I like them both...

Land further north.

A little past 10 o'clock in the evening.

The sun burnt a hole in the height, and sent beams that were reflected from houses on the Iceland that we were leaving.

Oh yes, I was once again captivated by the beauty of Mother Natures artworks.
Around a quarter past eleven the sun took cover behind the height, for a short rest before it was time for it to rise again - and to begin a new day on this side of the planet.

I've been lucky to have seen many wonderful sunsets, and a number of sunrises, and as I remember they have one of two effects on me. Mostly they speed up my thoughts, going through memories and dreams in high speed. Some times they seem to drain my brain, leaving me in a peaceful rest with my eyes just beholding the beauty. Those times are precious moments in my life.

Close to midnight I left for the cabin, with peace in mind.

2008-03-01. Text/pictures: Arne Granfoss ©. Prod: AG InformiceL>