Art in Reykjavik

My last post on our Iceland trip to Iceland from July 13 to 23.

After dinner on July 22nd we went to find the car. For once I forgot to take a picture of its location before we left it. I wish I had. We couldn’t find it. We spent seven hours looking. Finally, I said, “That’s enough! We must go to the police and get some help because we’re leaving at 5:00 AM in the morning and it’s almost midnight.” We did so and two policewoman drove us around to search for the car. We still couldn’t find it so at about 3:00 AM they dropped us off at the hotel and we hastily packed. We laid down for a minute. At 5:00 AM there was a knock at the door. Lo and behold, the 2 lovely policewomen had found the car. They must have been looking for it all night. It had all my camera equipment in it, and I was so relieved, so was Marc. When we go home I wanted to praise them and the only way I found to do so was on Google Maps. I hope their CO reads it. Then I thanked the taxi driver who had come to pick us up. I wanted to pay him for his trouble and he declined the offer. My opinion of Icelanders increased another notch.

Greatly relieved, we drove off to the airport at 5:20 AM, dropped off the car, and then went to check in. Delta said we needed a COVID-19 test, which I had not been told was needed. We did not need the test to go to Iceland, so I didn’t think we needed one to come back. They told us we could get one at a nearby hotel, so we hired a taxi for about $150 and got the tests after waiting about an hour. The results didn’t arrive at the expected time by email, so I asked for help. When I called they said they had sent it to the wrong email address. We eventually got the results. During the flight I was so tired I did not care that the entertainment consoles did not work – again.

Except for the misplaced car and COVID-19 test issue at the end our tour of Iceland was wonderful. And even though Guide to Iceland didn’t provide realistic distances and times in their itinerary I would use them again because the places we stayed at and the restaurants they booked for us where all top quality.

The Icelandic culture is vibrant and evolving and often incorporates things from the past. There are many art galleries and artists in Iceland. To combat graffiti murals were commissioned around town. These artworks that are respected and not marred by graffiti.

Icelandic art, music, and literature is exceptional. Myths, runes, and symbols are part of the cultural history of Iceland. I bought a couple of coasters with the Helm of Awe on them The Helm of Awe (norse-mythology.org). The geothermal company has a logo that looks mythological. Some wear clothing that gives a nod to their Viking heritage. I noticed a few young men in the streets wearing Viking looking leather garb with bare limbs. It was too cold for us to wear summer clothing like the locals do.

The Sagas are still read and loved. There are streets named after some of the characters. We ate dinner at the Café Loki. I wanted to eat dinner at the better quality Rok but it was fully booked, both are near Hallgimskirkja. I was entertained during the meal by a tour guide instructing his clients all about the Saga of Loki depicted in the the mural. He also talked about the strange Icelandic foods and many other things. I had a free floorshow. See Loki – Wikipedia and Loki the Icelandic god of Mischief (asgard.scot) for details about Loki.

Icelandic music is unique. Music of Iceland – Wikipedia. Here are a few pieces that I found interesting:

  1. Eivør Pálsdóttir: Tròdlabùndin (Trøllabundin) a modern folk song. Faroese Eivør Pálsdóttir performs her own song “Tròdlabùndin” (from the album “Trøllabundin” 2005) at an outdoor concert with Vamp on the mountain farm Stigen in Aurland, 10/08/2013. The setting is the Stigen Farm, a UNESCO World Heritage Site from 2005, and it is located by the Aurlandsfjord.

2. Heilung | LIFA – Krigsgaldr very modern with ancient tones. Love the costumes.

Remember, that we all are brothers
All people, beasts, trees and stone and wind
We all descend from the one great being
That was always there
Before people lived and named it
Before the first seed sprouted

3. Wardruna and Aurora – Helvegen reminds me of some of the music the Vikings TV series. Very epic.

The Way to Hel

I sought the songs
I sent the songs
when the deepest well
offered drops so mighty
of Valfather’s pledge

I know it all, Odin
where you hid your eye

Who will sing me
in the death-sleep sling me
when I walk the road to Hel
and the tracks I tread
are cold, so cold

Early or in fading day
still the raven knows if I fall

When you stand by the gate of Hel
and when you must tear loose
follow you I shall
across the bridge of Gjöll with my song

You become free from the bonds that bind you
You are free from the bonds that bound you

4. Wardruna – Lyfjaberg (Healing-mountain)  

Healing-mountain

Saddle your soul and let it ride
With blind eyes, you’ll surely find the way
Draw your breath in – let your thoughts fly
Let it out slowly – on winds you’ll bide

The spindle spins, the thoughts entwine revolving sight
The enchantment song lures the soul from its shape
Out through the door, through the cobweb-veil
Out borne on bare feet, a heavy burden


Out in your innermost, a steep trail ahead
High upon Healing-Peak, nine maidens await

At the first stop where paths cross, you pause
Leave clothes behind and all you own
Where you are heading, they’ll be of no use
The burden lightens, but heavy is the trail ahead

At the second stop where paths cross, you pause
Leave time behind, and weighty thoughts
Where you are headed, they’ll be of no use
The burden lightens, but heavy is the trail ahead

At the third stop where paths cross, you pause
Leave fears behind, let fall all masks
Where you are headed, they’ll be of no use
The burden lightens, but heavy is the trail ahead

Naked at the top, the mountain knows you
North waves an eagle-wing, the wind it draws
The shadow-women dance about you
They sing for you, chanting powerful runes

Wounds and sickness
Of marrow and blood
Of meat and bone
Of flesh and skin
into weather and wind you fade


I summon you into the mountain blue
Where neither sun nor moonshine can reach you
I summon you into the forest where no one dwells
and out to the sea where no man rows
Deep beneath an earthbound stone
out of harm’s way
Run through the rivers
and roll with the ocean tides

Into weather and wind you fade
Neither sun nor moonshine can reach you
Sink in the sea where no man rows
Run through the rivers
and roll with the ocean tides

Healing-mountain stands for eternity
It comforts the sick and the sore
Each and every one who assails that rock
Will find their lifelong ailment cured

Leave it behind on Healing-Peak
Where the rivers and streams
dance northwards and down
That mountain mends all those who climb

Reykjavik Scenes

A mix of places in Reykjavik July 13-22, 2021. We stayed at Castle House Luxury apartments by Tjornin (the city pond). There are lovely private gardens in Reykjavik. The boat being painted in the shipyard was almost finished in a week. Pity we didn’t get time to climb up the Perlan dome to see the view. We were running around looking for where we had parked the car instead of sightseeing on the last evening.

Here is Marc’s 8 best things to see in Reykjavik:

  1. To call Reykjavik a city is a bit of an exaggeration. With a population of barely 123,000 I would call it a large town. Apart from the Hallgrimskirkja (the cathedral in the center of town) the tallest buildings are new glass apartment blocks along the shore side of town. Reykjavik has the appeal of a small town. The town center hasn’t been developed like more populous cities with their steel and glass monoliths. Reykjavik still has many one family houses built around the end of nineteenth and early twentieth century. Most have exterior walls of corrugated iron and are painted in a riot of colors. Some are lucky enough to have enough space on their lots for gardens which they take full advantage of by planting as many flowers plants and shrubs as can fit.
  2. All the Icelanders we met were friendly. Just about everyone speaks fluent English. Perhaps better than I from N.Y.C. There are also many British and American ex pats working there.
    On our last day there we parked on a street many blocks behind the cathedral only to forget where it was later that evening. Sherry was beside herself for her laptop and binoculars were in the car. After wandering the streets for hours, we went to a police station for help, thinking that it might have been towed or worse stolen. Then two young policewomen drove us around the area for over an hour but with no results. They said they would keep an eye out for it that night. We returned to our rooms in a most depressed state. At 5 A.M. the front door buzzed and there were the two blond policewomen with the news that they had found the car and forth with they drove us to it. With an hour to spare before leaving for the airport. We wrote a a glowing review and thanks. I hope their captain sees it.
  3. Iceland has some of the best restaurants on any side of the Atlantic. Their lamb is internationally renowned. It is the sweetest best tasting lamb on Earth. There are 800.000 sheep in Iceland and only about 323.000 Icelanders. The sheep roam freely over the island feeding on the lush green fields of grass that grow up the sides of the extinct volcanos. In Iceland lamb is inexpensive compared to here. If one is going to Iceland for a trip of a lifetime, I recommend dining at the better restaurants for the exceptional cuisine. Guide to Iceland booked us excellent rooms and dinners at some of the best restaurants. Two of the finest in Reykjavik are Kopar at the harbor and the Sjavargrillio seafood grill restaurant.
  4. A walk along the shore drive at Saltjarnes is a must for birdwatchers. There is a parking area near the light house. There are fields full of nesting Terns and other birds.
  5. a short boat ride to Videy island less than a mile offshore. In the 18th c. this was the home of an early governor of Reykjavik. The island is covered with deep grass, cliffs of basalt columns, and thousands of birds. The Governor’s mansion has been turned into a part museum and part restaurant where they offer of course lamb on the menu. By then we were trying to save on lunches so did not imbibe. All along our drive we usually had lunch out the back of our S.U.V.
  6. Then there is the closest thing to a skyscraper in Reykjavik, the Hallgrimskirkja. The façade of this Lutheran church mimics the great basalt columns that can be seen in many places along the shores of this isle. In keeping with the tenants of Lutheranism the interior is stark compared to other churches you may have seen before. But this is one of the beauties of this great interior space. After entering turn to face the entry and see above you the pipes of one of the most magnificent organs which ascends several stories in height. Forget the elevator up the tower for a view of the town, what for?
  7. For me it is the bookstores. Many shops don’t open until 10 am and close early. It is said that at least a third of the populous are writers and poets. Of course, you can also find the Sagas and books about them. Sherry bought an expensive book on the birds of Iceland. We saved the receipts to get a tax refund at the airport.
  8. The Handknitting Association of Iceland shop where they sell apparel hand knit by Icelanders using fine Icelandic wool. The quality of their work is exceptional and is priced accordingly. There are many other shops selling the popular Icelandic sweaters, but none can claim to be “handmade”. There are also thrift shops where one can find sweaters in almost new condition at a fraction of their original cost.

Reykjavik Doors

Reykjavik has lots of interesting doors. I photographed a few on July 13, 20, 21 and 22.

For Thursday Doors. Here’s Today’s Thursday Doors.

The Icelandic parliament was responsible for the church being built. The rules for the design competition (announced in 1929) specified that the church should seat 1200, and have a high tower that could potentially be used for transmission of radio signals.

The state architect, Guðjón Samúelsson (1887 – 1950), started work on the design in 1937. A nationalistic style typified his work, as was common among Nordic architects of the period. He was also responsible for other important buildings in Reykjavík: the main building of the University of Iceland; the National Theatre; and the RC Church of Christ the King. He drew richly on Icelandic traditions and materials in his designs, and Hallgrímskirkja, his ultimate work, shows this clearly, symbolising mountains and glaciers soaring up through hexagonal columnar basalt.

Until 1940, Reykjavík was a single parish, and then three new parishes were established, including Hallgrímskirkja parish, which then had the task of building its church. It was consecrated in 1986. Source: Hallgrimskirkja.is/about/

Videy

I chose to go to Videy Island Viðey Island | Reykjavík City Museum (reykjavikcitymuseum.is) off Reykjavik on July 22, our last day. There is a 20 minute Ferry at Karfabakki pier at Sundahöfn harbour. We saw the Roosevelt, part of the U.S. 6th Fleet, leaving port.

There was only a few people visiting the island and it felt like we were far away from the city. There are nesting birds there. The island is not very large we did half of it. All would have been well except I decided to follow a dotted line on the map which was marked as a trail which turned out not to be a trail. What looked like a trail became nothing but huge grass hassocks which are very treacherous to step on and in between. It took two hours for us to negotiate our way out with Marc cursing me along the way for leaving the path.

Afangar is an art installation of standing stones in 9 locations. In 1990, Richard Serra completed the environmental work Áfangar (Standing Stones) on Viðey. 18 basalt columns which stand in pairs around the circumference of the western part of the island. The columnar basalt refers to the geological history of the island, and the placing and height of the columns flow with the topography of the island. Relationships with the environment is a recurring theme in Serra’s work.

We made it back to Reykjavik and I bought an Icelandic sweater at the Handknitting Association of Iceland. they had a huge selection and many sizes and I was able to find a zip-up sweater in a classical design without tight sleeves. It was very expensive and I love it. I also bought a lovely scarf to go with it.

Many years ago I was in Iceland for one day, courtesy of Icelandic Airways. What happened was they put me on the wrong flight so offered me a day in Iceland with a free bus tour, all I could drink, a smorgasbord, and a room. I was on my way back to New York from visiting my mother in London with my young son Amedeo. I bought a zip-up Icelandic sweater with broad beige and tan stripes with a matching hat at the airport. I had it for many years until I lost both. That brief visit gave me a taste for Iceland and I wanted to see it again properly. We sure did!

West Iceland

July 21. I thought it would be nice to visit a museum with some history. My mistake. It was corny. The gift shop was nice and so was the staff. I took a photo of the plant poster for sale. We had an audio tour that would have taken hours. After a half hour we had enough and left.

In the way we passed a cairn or monument to Brakersund (“Brák’s channel”) between the town and the island Brákarey (“Brák’s island”), both named for Brák, a slave of Skalla­grímur’s. Fleeing her master’s anger, she tried to swim out to the island but he threw a boulder which hit her between the shoulders and killed her. See The Saga of the Viking Egill Skallagrímsson & the 9 Cairns in West-Iceland.