Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Iceland: The Last Morning

With a few spare hours before we had to head to the airport, we decided to go back to Hallgrimskirkje to look inside.

We waited at this door for the 9 am opening time.

These massive organ pipes are at the rear.

The sanctuary is a mixed-purpose space. The seat backs swing the other way when the room is to be used as a concert venue. 

 We took the elevator up to where there are more stairs to the top of the spire.

We saw the clock from the back and discovered there is one on each of the 4 sides.

There are portholes for viewing the city from above.

A lot of the homes we could see from up here are clad in brightly coloured corrugated iron, sort of like homes made from shipping containers. 


The other day on our walking tour our guide had mentioned the popularity of metal-clad houses in Iceland. In the mid-1800's corrugated iron was cheap as well as durable in the harsh Iceland climate and was readily available at a time when building homes, as well as other buildings, was a bit of a challenge in a country with very little left in the way of forests, thanks to Viking ship-building and extensive sheep grazing. The corrugated iron arrived on British ships that were looking to buy wool. 

Today these old houses, restaurants, supermarkets and churches are being spruced up on the outside with (often) bright colours, cute trim work around doors and windows, bright flowers and landscaping to help the curb appeal and are being renovated to modern standards on the inside. In fact, metal-clad homes with metal roofs are now very much in demand in the Icelandic real estate market. 

With some time still on our hands, we walked about visiting bakeries :)

 Busy places - customers were lined up and bakers were hard at work.

 I bought a sourdough loaf to bring home but that meant I had to ditch my dying hiking boots to make room in my backpack.

More walking - 

So many cats. Apparently, owners leave a window open for their cats year-round so they come and go at will. I'm not sure how this policy affects the urban bird population. 

You might wonder about wasting heat energy, but with geothermal energy, hot water enters the homes directly from the ground and heats homes very cheaply. Hot water from the tap, naturally potable, also comes from this underground source and has a distinct sulphurous odour. Cold water comes from a treatment plant. 

The other day on our walking tour the guide told us that one of the most popular activities in Iceland is the daily swim. Almost everyone heads to their favourite swimming pool, most of which are outdoor pools, for a daily dip or exercise. The pools, all warm, are filled with that geothermal water. 

School kids are required to learn to swim in order to graduate and there are a lot of pools to choose from. Even tourists are welcome to swim at any of the pools for a modest fee. It's a local secret that they are as good, if not better, facilities than hot springs. There is an etiquette around swimming pools, showers and locker rooms so it's best to read up on it before going. Nude bathing is not a thing, but naked and thorough showering is.

By now it was time for a morning snack so we stopped in at Sandholt Bakery.

My esteemed travelling companion

Lots of comfy seating.

Hmmm....what to choose? 

 A Danish and an Americano for me, please!

Of course, I'm chuckling, grimacing now that I'm home and my credit card bill has arrived. One thing to understand is that the Icelandic Krona is not easily understood when you're standing at the cash register:

1 Icelandic Krona = $0.013 Canadian Dollar

Everything in Iceland seems incredibly expensive. The fee for the public bathroom at Geysir the other day was 200.00 ISK.
The loaf of bread I bought was 890.00 ISK and my coffee and Danish were 1345.00 ISK

In Canadian $ that means I paid $2.79 to use the loo, $12.59 for the loaf of bread and $19.00 for the morning snack. The soup lunch at the airport? Also expensive - $30! Worth it though, when you're on vacation and sharing time with a treasured companion! Also, the bread was really tasty and lasted most of the following week, prolonging the Icelandic experience and helping a little with that fall in one's spirit that comes after a wonderful adventure.

There are ways to save, though, if you're planning on a trip to Iceland and that's by plate-sharing and buying a few groceries.

Finally, it was time to head back to our home-away-from-home to collect our 
bags and get to the meeting point for the Airport shuttle.

On the way back some military planes flew at high speeds over the old town. It was very loud and a bit disturbing since we had recently learned/been reminded that Iceland does not have a military, only a Coast Guard which is mainly concerned with illegal fishing and Search and Rescue. Wendy consulted her phone and quickly found the following information, dated May 22, 2017:

Canadian CF-18 fighter jets will begin patrolling Iceland's airspace today as part of Canada's contribution to NATO. The operation is intended to identify and intercept aircraft that approach NATO airspace in Iceland. About 180 members of the Canadian Forces will be involved in the roughly month-long operation that involves six CF-18fighter jets.

The aircraft will operate out of Keflavik Air Base near Reykjavik.

The campaign is part of Operation Reassurance, intended to reinforce the defence of NATO countries in Central and Eastern Europe. Operation Reassurance is also intended to ease concerns of NATO allies in the face of Russian aggression toward Ukraine.

Iceland is the only NATO country that does not have a standing military.


It was a grey ride to the airport

We were cheered at the airport by meeting the mother-in-law of our host who was on her way to visit Barcelona with her sister. The four of us ended up sitting together to eat lunch. 

On the flight back to Toronto, the skies cleared now and again so this avid window-watcher could snap some pics.

Thrilled to see Greenland! 
Apparently, the joke is that Iceland is green and Greenland is white.

 The entire cabin was treated to an ice-cream bar to celebrate Icelandair's 80th birthday that very day.

Perfect ending to a perfect holiday!

Our stop-over took place May 30 to June 3, 2017

On the blog:

Day of Arrival
Golden Circle Tour
A Walking Tour of Reykjavik
Whales and Puffins
Last Morning