After a chocolate-fueled adventurous morning it was now time to explore what Reykjavik had to offer. But first a quick pit stop in Bajarni Fel sports bar to warm up wit ha glass of Viking beer while I waited for the rest of the crew.
I got chatting to the land lady about the water in Iceland; unlike Britain, where cold water is pumped into our homes and we then have (an often very temperamental) immersion heater to make it hot for us – what we refer to as Central Heating. Here in Iceland they use a method known as District Heating; bore holes are drilled in the ground and hot water – heated by the sulfurous springs and volcanic activity below ground – is pumped directly into homes, which is why hot water smells so sulfurous and has a slight slimy feel to it – don’t worry tho, this is actually really, REALLY good for your skin and hair, leaving it soft and silky. The cold water is also natural – none of this chlorine, fluoride and hormone nonsense – it is pumped straight from the glaciers and is some of the purest natural drinking water in the world.
After our Viking beer, we set off to Austruvollur park in Downtown Reykjavik, making it just in time for the CityTour ‘Free Classic’ tour with an Icelandic chap called Erikur who had the best sense of humour. Even teaching us some amusing (although admittedly not very useful) Icelandic phrases whilst we marveled at the Icelandic parliament building – built from lava rocks; next to which stood a proud statue of Iceland’s first woman elected in parliament in 1922 (Ingibjörg H Bjarnason), and Reykjavik Cathedral – Domkirkjan. Despite popular belief, this is actually the Lutherian cathedral in Reykjavik, the other magnificent and much larger Hallgrim’s Church is in fact, just a church. Iceland has come up trumps for the independence of women over the years, as in addition to Ingibjörg H Bjarnason, they also had the worlds’ first democratically elected female president Vigdís Finnbogadóttir (1980-1996) and Jóhanna Sigurðardottir, the first publically known homosexual prime minister in the world – all ground breaking women in their own right. In addition to all this, Iceland is also home of the #FreeTheNipple movement, in which many women gathered to protest the inequality between men’s and women’s nipples.
We then made our way round Downtown Reykjavik, to a quaint little cluster of houses clad in corrugated iron. Originally built of timber, in the early 1900s they were covered with corrugated iron to fortify them and then painted bright colours. Although they are protected, meaning they can never be knocked down, their owners are allowed to paint them any colour they want. In the midst of this housing cluster stood a large oddly shaped rock with strange puck marks in it, in the middle of a childrens’ playground, looking almost as if it had fallen from the sky, it had a mystic feel about it. I wasn’t the only one who had this mystical feeling about the rock, as I ventured closer to it our guide explained this was an elf rock. It turns out, some of the older Icelandic generations still have firm beliefs in elves and fairies, often asking their permission in order to move the rocks. The story goes that when the main highway was being built across Iceland, the route was peppered with many elf rocks, the builders were unable to move these rocks, no matter how hard they tried, until an ‘elf negotiator’ (yes, this is a well respected position in Iceland) came to negotiate with the elves. As luck would have it, after lengthy negotiations, on trying to move the rock again it moved without trouble.
Suitable for all the family, I would highly recommend this tour as an informative, enjoyable and interesting half-day activity to do in Reyjkavik. One of those free walking tours where you give the guide what you think the event is worth – and you will find in Iceland, although expensive, everything is worth it. The time of day and duration of the tour is perfect, it’s not too strenuous, but you still feel like you cover a decent amount of Reykjavik sights and facts in the time allowed, and you finish off at the frozen lake by the Háteigskirkja church feeling inspired and well-versed (by tourist standards) on the ins and outs of this magical land. Having learnt that Icelander heritage is comprised not just of Vikings but also Celts and Brits as well as some more southerly Europeans. That pretty much everyone resident in Iceland is in some way loosely related, and that some how, despite only having a population of just over 300,000 on the world’s largest island they have had three, yes three Miss World title winners. Their police force do not carry weapons and they only have one maximum security prison – the other prisons the inmates are allowed out every day to work in the neighbouring towns, but do still have curfew of 7pm. But I don’t want to tell you everything now, as that would spoil it. What I will say is, just. do. it.
That evening we hit the town – starting off at Harpar Music hall on the sea front of Reykjavik for Sonar festival. Having seen the beauty of this building during the day on the tour, it was now time to see it by night…with music and pretty lights. Now in it’s 3rd year, Sonar Reykjavik is one international little sibling of Sonar Barcelona, inviting music and visual experience enthusiasts from around the world to enjoy a diverse range of performances in Reykjavik’s Harper music hall. With some sets interacting directly with the lit up windows of the hall itself, as well as a variety of different style performance rooms – including the underground car park being turned into a night club – we knew we were in for a treat.