Over the course of the next few weeks, I’ll be posting a tastefully-edited version of the journal I kept during the time I spent in Iceland. You can find all the entries and more on the “Iceland Transcribed” page.
Good news! I’m finally on a mostly-regular sleep schedule! Only took a week.
I can’t believe I left home seven days ago. It feels like an eternity.
I left Hostel B47 around 8:30 in the morning and worked my way downtown, seeking coffee and free WiFi. Since today is Sunday, most places were closed, or didn’t open until the afternoon. The normally crowded streets of Laugavegur were eerily empty, devoid of all but a handful of tourists.
I stepped into a tourist info booth to inquire about hiking tours. To my delight, the lady behind the desk went one step further and old me about three hikes I could take a bus to: Esja [Ess-hya – the J makes a heavy Y sound], Reykjavik’s home mountain (like Akrafjall is for Akranes); Glymur waterfall, which I have a tour to later this trip; and Hveragerdi [Kver-ah-ger-di], in Reykjadalur [Reyk-hya-dahl-ur] valley, to the East.
After thanking the woman profusely, I wandered in the direction of the museum of photography. It didn’t open until one in the afternoon, so I kept moving and happened upon the Saga Museum, where I learned about Iceland’s bloody origins, courtesy of some macabre plastic figures and an audio tour. Apparently, Iceland was settled by Nordic men who had taken Gaelic slaves as their wives, which would explain the surprising amount of redheads I’ve seen around here.
From the museum, I popped around the corner to Aurora Reykjavik Museum, where I was regaled with not only the scientific hows and whys of the stunning Northern Lights, but also the various beliefs and mythologies of various cultures concerning the dancing colors. Most cultures viewed them as spirits of the gods or the dead, although some saw them as omens, both good and bad.
I sat in the gift shop for about an hour, enjoying a complimentary cup of tea while thumbing through a local magazine. There were several interesting articles, but the one that hit the hardest was an op-ed piece on how tourism is affecting the country, both economically and ecologically. while the country was enjoying the newfound wealth brought in my tourism, there were some harmful impacts on the environment (such as unknowing hikers tromping on the delicate Icelandic plants, contributing to the already-heavy erosion), as well as some resentment from the locals, who feel as if their wild, beautiful country is being invaded, and nothing, not even old historical buildings, is sacred from the greedy hands of tourists.
Growing up in a tourist town, I understand the resentment. I knew the reason my town existed was thanks to the million-plus tourists we got from Seattle alone, but even when I was twelve years old I resented the swarms of people on the weekends because I couldn’t enjoy any of my regular activities without being overcrowded by out-of-towners exclaiming, “Oh, how quaint!” over every little thing.
After pondering the article for a few more minutes, I picked up my bag and headed out in search of a snack.
What I found was a bookstore. It’s like a snack for the brain, right?
I can’t resist the siren call of books, and my will was especially weak after finishing Guards! Guards! last night.
I am now the proud owner of a collection of Norse mythology!
I headed back in the direction of the photography museum, only to be sidetracked by a large flea market that occurs every weekend. An entire building was dedicated to vendors and their wares, and everything from clothes to books to housewares to fish to lingerie was sold in the cacophony of the market.
The photography museum had three exhibits: a showing of the dwindling farm life near Snaefellsjokull [Snee-fellst-yoke-ull], a collection of children’s portraits from the 1900s, and – the best one in my opinion – a chronological series of a view of a window and photo board, with captions mostly inspired by news headlines of that time frame. It was a subtly profound exhibit, and relatively small — less than twenty photos. The photographer is based in California.
I returned to the streets to find them teeming with locals and tourists alike. The energy felt incredible. I made my way to Bus Hostel, on the other side Hallgrimskirkja, the church on top of the hill.
Way on the other side of Hallgrimskirkja, as it turns out.
So here I am, very self-conscious in the common area, because good lord do I smell bad. Six days of walking an average of five and a half miles, most of the time carrying a thirty pound pack.
Combine that with no access to a laundry room, since apparently Reykjavik doesn’t believe in laundromats that are reliable and/or affordable.
So yeah, I reek. And no amount of showering is going to help until I find a way to wash my clothes.
Tomorrow I’ll see about taking a bus to Esja. I want to get some real hiking done.