September 9, 2017

I’ll be honest: I didn’t know what to expect. For me, Iceland was just a country of mystery, where people live on the island almost in the middle of the Arctic Ocean for some reason, surrounded by alien landscapes with names that are difficult to pronounce. What are they doing there? How do they live? How do they feel about this world? There were many more questions than answers, and not enough time, so I went to the city where ⅔ of the population of the whole country lives for several days to search for them.


Arrived early in the morning, fog hung low over the streets.

When asked my Couchsurfing host “Where can I see the sunrise in the morning if I have inline skates and I can get anywhere in the city, without any distance limit?”, he recommended going to the westernmost point, to the Grótta cape. In practice, it turned out that this is an island that still needs to be reached somehow, and the high tide and water temperature don’t help with it at all.

But it’s worth it. This is the sunrise over the bay of Reykjavik. By the way, officially the western outskirts are considered a separate city called Seltjarnarnes. There is also the southern part, which is marked on the map as the city of Kópavogur, although the locals don’t care much about all these details, for them it’s all one big city of Reykjavik.

Saw their space churches for the first time. A long time ago I noticed that the appearance of temple structures often reflects the way of life of the locals, and if you accept this theory, then in the minds of Icelanders their country is almost a separate planet.

Everything in the city center is closed in the morning. I was surprised by the number of fast food outlets. I had a prejudice that it will be healthy food, fresh fish everywhere, but in fact they sell hot dogs on every corner.

Tjörnin Lake. A friend of mine told me later that this is one of the most expensive areas to rent an apartment. Of course.

In Iceland, the army officially doesn’t exist, so there are no monuments to unknown soldiers here. But there is a monument to an unknown official who protects our comfortable life in peacetime.

The compactness of the city center is amazing. But what is even more amazing is that usually every couple of streets there is some kind of public garden, or even a small park. For example, this one is called Víkurgarður, and it even has its own Wikipedia page.

At about 10 AM people start to appear on the streets.

Such an unobtrusive ads for a cute Icelandic movie. You also may not know about it, and then it will be just cool street art. Everyone is happy.

By the way, about the street art. They take this thing seriously here.

Came for coffee, stayed impressed by the vibe. Usually if you want to find a place where they listen to David Bowie from vinyl, you need to open Foursquare or TripAdvisor, and search them thoroughly for such establishments, but here it’s just a random coffee shop.

In case the barista asks you “How’s the coffee?”, and you don’t know what to answer.

Discovered that Icelandic is the most orthodox version of Old Norse, so locals can read the Scandinavian sagas, famous “Edda” and the poetry of the Viking age in original. They also create funny new words, for example, a “computer” in Icelandic is called “tölva” = “tala” + “völva”, which literally means “a digital prophetess”.

Troll hostess at the entrance to the souvenir shop.

Hallgrimskirkja church, one of the symbols of the city. What did I tell you about their space churches? This one looks like a rocket at the lifeoff.

The interior is also quite fresh. There is a huge organ at the end of the hall.

Not sure if there is any observation deck, but if it is, the view from there would be like this. Filming the northern lights over the city would be just amazing.

Harsh northern cuteness.

During the day, there are more tourists in the city center than locals. Somebody has to work while we’re taking pictures of the streets here.

This hot dog stand called Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur has been operating here since 1937. It’s difficult for English speakers to pronounce such a long name, so in the Western media it’s usually called simpler: “the best hot dogs on the planet”.

The old port here is different from what can be seen in most seaside towns. There are no countless private yachts here, but there are many large fishing boats. Not surprising when you consider that cod fishing was originally Iceland’s main source of wealth.

The facade of the Harpa Concert Hall, another Reykjavik’s icon.

View of the port from the inside. I don’t know who came up with these plastic honeycombs instead of walls, but it looks amazing.

Motivational literature in the gifts department.

Old British traffic light controller with step by step instructions.

Went to the local market mainly to see what products the locals cook at home. Lots of fresh fish, everything else is as usual. Accidentally found guys selling rotten shark meat, a big hype among tourists. They offered me to try a piece… Well, I don’t know why people eat this shit.

In addition to food, they sell many different consumer goods. Sometimes you can find something really worthwhile.

Soviet pannos don’t even stand near.

The terrain is generally hilly, but not too much. It’s especially great when the slope ends with the ocean.

Icelandic houses are cool: the bottom floor is usually half buried in the ground, so the grass, for example, grows right under the window.

A little further from the center compact squares get replaced by spacious parks.

Bus stops are usually ascetic, hardly providing any protection from the rain and wind.

The geese waited until all the cars passed and started to cross the road in a column.

The opposite end of the bay is Mount Esja, the upper part of which was hidden in the clouds most of the time. It’s less than a kilometer in height, and many people I met visited it, but it’s still epic.

Just a beautiful residential area on the coast.

A strange sculpture with the romantic name “The Sun Wanderer”. For some reason, everyone says that this is a Viking ship, although in fact, a sculptor with leukemia made it just before her death, so it’s like a ship of hope following the sun.

If you have ever wondered where the world’s oldest parliament is located, then the answer is in front of you. The Icelandic Althing has been operating since 930, and some laws adopted by majority of votes more than a millennium ago are still in effect. A day earlier, my friend told me that as soon as Icelanders don’t like anything, the protest immediately appears under its windows. It was funny to pass by a day later and see several people standing with banners (obviously, the topic was not the most actual).

Walking along the pretty streets towards the galleries.

A gallery in which there were TVs instead of pictures, which were playing high-quality looped videos. Moreover, the camera doesn’t move, so there really was a feeling of living pictures.

I have no idea what it is or why they made it, but since it’s bright, fluffy and cute, all questions are removed.

Looks like a national sport.

Just a croissant with legs, nothing special.

In the National Gallery, an entire room was allocated for a single work by Pablo Picasso, a “portrait” of Jacqueline Roque, his wife.

Mini forest in the city center. I wouldn’t be surprised if locals pick mushrooms here after the rain or something like that.

Later in Norway, I saw a whole bunch of works by this author, in the same style and also on mythical themes. But the first impression is, of course, priceless.

The interior of a traditional Icelandic house at the National Museum. It’s usually covered with ground, thanks to which it’s warm inside and the wind doesn’t blow, but this part is difficult to demonstrate in the museum.

An attempt to imagine what Christianity looked like to the uninitiated. The most interesting thing is that Christianity was accepted like all other innovations: by voting in the parliament. The Icelanders understood that Christians are only merciful in words, but as soon as there is a chance to kill some pagans or go on a crusade against Muslims, they will come with weapons, ready to sow death and violence. But if they’re Christians, then things will be different. Although in fact everyone continued to pray to Odin and his company, and the Christian churches were just a cover.

Somehow they imagined an executed Jewish man, whom everyone ate a little.) By the way, earlier it was customary to roll wine, which was considered his blood. Then for some reason they stopped drinking blood and confined themselves to eating flesh. In general, Christianity is not the same, we disagree.

Fishing vessel. Just something for going into the ocean.

The end of the museum here is catchy. Somehow you don’t think that all these things have actually become historical artifacts.

The entrance to the next gallery looks like someone’s neat workshop.

Although we haven’t heard anything about it, there was modernism here too. Small, intimate, but it was.

In general, a very cool experiment would come out if, for example, Claude Monet or Vincent Van Gogh could get here. I think, then such pictures would not be isolated, but would go in whole series.

For a long time I chose between a punk museum and a phallological one. But nevertheless I decided to dwell on the latter.

Well, in fact, the essence of the museum is fully reflected in its name – it is a large collection of members.

The author of this wonderful institution set out to collect the genitals of all mammals in Iceland. We will not dwell on the details (like how he took them from the whales), I will say right away: he succeeded.

But the trick is that he decided not to stop there. Initially, the last item in his business plan was a human member, but in practice this turned out to be one of the simplest tasks, as visitors began to bequeathed their genitals to the museum en masse. But to bring a huge member of an elephant across half the world is already more difficult.

In addition to the scrotum lamps that you probably already noticed in the previous photos, there are tons of startup ideas here. Here are just what the foreskin ties are worth.

Their souvenir shop is appropriate. I noticed that the girls are shopping here much more thoroughly than the guys, who basically just look around the assortment with a smile and leave. I wonder why this is so?

Back to the Icelandic reality.

It turned out that if you drive only two or three kilometers from the center, then there is just a whole bunch of free space around.

Botanical Garden. Each half a meter is a sign with a description of a particular flower or just a weed.

The idea of ​​a cafe in the middle of a blooming garden was realized on the “5+” basis.

To me alone it reminds of magical Japanese gardens?

In Reykjavik, although hot water is supplied centrally, they have no boilers in the city as a class. Instead of heating cold water, they just bring you home hot water straight from the geysers. And before the whole system was built, people went to wash things in such pools, where water came from hot springs itself.

The entire botanical garden. There is no need to complain about the lack of greenery.

Someone was attaching round trinkets with Icelandic flags to the bushes, apparently made by hand.

Another space church was discovered nearby.

There was still an hour of the validity of my museum card, and suddenly I realized that I was 100 meters from the house-museum of the sculptor Ausmundur Sveinsson. This is destiny.)

In general, his work is funny, but I was more impressed by the architecture of the house itself. It looks like some kind of futuristic observatory, not an art workshop.

Although some of the sculptures are cool too.

On the way to the shuttle to the airport saw an idyllic courtyard with a tree house, and even with a bridge to it right from the veranda. I thought, because such cute things are not at all difficult to do, and they bring a whole sea of ​​aesthetic (and not only) pleasure. I would like to complain that we do not have enough of this, but the point is that if I specifically want such cuddles, then I must do them. Well, not the housing office, after all. Or where will they come from?

And here’s what I want to say: Iceland is one of the most touching countries I have ever visited. This is one of those places where you want to not just see everything, but just feel it. And where you will definitely want to return.

Categories: Europe, Iceland