Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Reykjavik Walks

Reykjavik is an easy city to explore because of its compact size. We spent three days discovering this charming old town and made lots of stops along the way to read all the helpful descriptions provided at each site and tried some local Skyr and pastries along the route. The Shore walk begins at Höfdi House on Borgartún, overlooking the bay. It is a beautiful stroll along the coast. The City Center walk starts at Government House while the Cathedral Square walk begins on top of the hill at Hallgrímstorg.  The Harpa Concert Hall may also be included with the Shore walk as it is at the end of the boulevard and a hop and skip from the Sun Voyager. 

Shore Walk

Höfdi House

The Höfdi House is where détente saw light. The great thawing of ice between the United States and USSR (as it was known then) began with the meeting of Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev in this house in 1986.

One of the former residents of Höfdi House was the poet and entrepreneur, Einar Benediktsson who lived here from 1914 to 1917. There is a statue of him standing in front of a harp (which symbolizes his poetry) on the grounds of the property. Here's an excerpt from his work, Surf.
"Mighty heartbeats from the ocean's cold depths
My strength and peace I drink from your sound."

Sun Voyager

Sólfar or Sun Voyager is a steel sculpture by Jón Gunnar Árnason. What appears like a Viking ship ready to set sail into the Atlantic, is really a dream boat--it carries dreams of hope, progress and freedom. It is also an ode to the sun. 

Harpa Concert Hall and Conference Center

See description under City Center Walk.

City Center Walk

Government House

The Government House is the office of the Prime Minister of Iceland. It was originally built as a prison and used as such till 1861. Then the Governor of Iceland lived here until Iceland became a sovereign state in December 1918. Government house is sometimes called The White House.

Iceland has the oldest parliament in the world known as the Althingi. It was established in 930 A.D. and the country's leaders met outdoors on the Law Rock (a flat ledge on a rocky outcrop now marked with a flagpole) in Thingvellir to enact laws and render justice. The meeting was open to all free men and it attracted large crowds.

Harpa Concert Hall and Conference Center

Geometry + glass + light = Harpa Concert Hall. It is the home of the Iceland Symphony Orchestra and Icelandic Opera. The entire building is clad in glass and reflects the play of light. Harpa was designed by visual artist, Olafur Eliasson. 

Old Harbor

The old harbor is the jumping off point for whale watching and puffin tours. It has been scrubbed and updated and has become the new hub for locals and visitors alike for its restaurants, shops and scooter rentals. 

Baejarins Beztu Pylsur

This is one hot dog stand that always has a queue in front of its cozy stall.  Tourists from around the world can't wait to do a selfie with their hot dogs. Bill Clinton ate here. So what's in the hot dog? Free range lamb and some beef and pork. You add the condiments. Or you can order one with everything in it. They accept cash or credit card. A hot dog and soda as of this writing is 600 kr. And that's a steal since dining in Reykjavik restaurants averages 3800 kr. per person. On Tryggvagata and Pósthússtraeti, across from the harbor. They also have branches in other parts of the city.

Cathedral Square to Downtown

Hallgrímskirkja

This cathedral is the iconic symbol of Reykjavik. (See separate article on Hallgrímskirkja.)

Skólavördustígur 

What's in a name? This rainbow street is called Skólavördustígur. It is dotted with restaurants and boutiques and a short stroll downhill from the cathedral. It intersects Laugavegur, the main shopping artery in Reykjavik.

Trolls on Laugavegur

According to Norse mythology, trolls are supernatural beings who live in isolated mountains, caves or rocks. They are giants, strong, hideous looking, slow witted and unfriendly to humans. There is a distinction between small and large trolls. The small trolls are the huldufólk (hidden people) or elves. 

The fascination for trolls in Iceland can be explained through the natural environment according to B. S. Benedikz (author of Iceland):
"The reason is of course perfectly clear. When one's life is conditioned by a landscape dominated by rocks twisted by volcanic action, wind and water into ferocious and alarming shapes, the imagination fastens on these natural phenomena." From Wikipedia

*****

Images by TravelswithCharie



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