04 August 2009

a week spent in iceland, that is, the progression of hues through a fine mist

i absolutely loved iceland. i was nervous to travel alone, but everything worked out perfectly and i had an amazing trip. i am really grateful to my friends and very, very extended family members who made my stay so wonderful. i spent my first two days in reykjavik. i got into reykjavik around 4 in the afternoon and stayed at a guesthouse for my first night. i got the key to the house and my room and was able to come and go as i pleased - exactly what i wanted. i spent that first evening exploring reykjavik, walking around, checking out various cafés and bars (supposedly reykjavik has the best nightlife in europe, but it doesn't really get started until about, oh, 2 a.m.). i also went to a church and up into the tower, where i got a view from the tallest building in town and could see all of reykjavik. i really liked the church because it was so modest and unassuming, unlike so many european churches. i really got the impression that iceland is a very down-to-earth place.

view from hallgrímskirkja

the days in iceland are still a lot longer than they are here in denmark. now it gets dark here around 10 p.m., but i don't think it ever got completely dark when i was in iceland. reykjavik is such a small, safe city that i really enjoyed walking around by myself, even at night. i just wished i had a bike!

on sunday it rained. it's strange - on grey days in the north, the long summer days feel like a perpetual 8 a.m. june in california in which the fog never burns off. anyway, i went for a walk along the harbor that day and saw a rainbow... it was nice. that night i stayed in a private room in a hostel, conveniently the same hostel where two of my friends from my danish class were staying. i went to a flea market on sunday afternoon. afterwards i went to the icelandic national art gallery, which was amazing. all the exhibits were from 1900 onwards, and i found the art really captivating, especially the artists' use of light in their paintings. the majority of the art in the museum was paintings, although there were some sculptures as well. i learned a tiny bit of icelandic as well, and found out that "ljósmyndir", the name of a song by one of my favorite bands, the brian jonestown massacre, means "photographs".

in the icelandic national gallery

laugarnes, where i saw the rainbow

icelandic is beautiful. i think it sounds like swedish with a heavy russian accent. i can understand a tiny bit. when i was listening to my friend dóra talk with her cousin, i would catch words here and there, and be able to understand what they were discussing every once in a while, but generally listening to them speak so quickly made me dizzy!

on monday morning i flew to akureyri, iceland's "second" city. my friend dóra picked me up there and then we drove home to her town, húsavík, the whale-watching capital of europe. yes, we did go whale-watching, but not until wednesday. we spent monday napping, eating icelandic food (lots of fish, ham, bread, and cheese, yum), and exploring her town. that evening dóra and her brother and i went to a public hot tub that is actually full of saltwater. the place is called "ostkaret", or "the cheese tub", because it used to be a dairy. it was really nice to sit outside in the hot water in the rain, and my skin felt great afterwards.

driving to húsavík from akureyri

ostkaret

dóra and i and her cousin Þórveig (pronounced more or less "thor-vague") spent tuesday driving around the north of iceland in what is called the "diamond circle" and seeing all the sights there. although it was raining and cold (about 40-50 degrees fahrenheit), i had a really great time. my pictures don't do the places justice, and neither will my descriptions, unfortunately. the first place we went is called ásbyrgi. it's a horseshoe-shaped area said to be created by the stomp of one of the eight hooves of odin's horse, or, rather, the cliffs were carved out by the river there. it was beautiful and very peaceful.

the river flowing through ásbyrgi

view in the opposite direction, where the "horseshoe" opens

next we went to dettifoss, the most powerful waterfall in europe. it was loud and wet and impressive. after that, we went to a crater whose name, víti, translates to mean "hell". it's full of hot water and you can swim there! we didn't though: it was raining and freezing and we had so many more things to see! the next stop was some place whose name i've forgotten where we saw lots of... well, i don't know what it was. bubbling pools full of colored mud, like tiny geysers that didn't spurt. there were also mounds of dirt that steamed. this was probably my favorite part of the afternoon! after that we went to dimmuborgir, basically a place where there are tons of lava formations and you can walk around and see them all. the entrance to hell is said to be there. it was very mystical-feeling. we also stopped at the café here to refuel. at this point, we had been driving around for like six hours, and mostly on dirt roads with lava gravel and potholes in, i might remind you, the rain. we finished by driving by myvatn, a huge lake, and then stopped at a geothermal pool and bathed there, which was really relaxing.

huge dettifoss and tiny people

stoked

víti

i couldn't believe this place was real

i'm so glad that i got to tour iceland, or at least the northeast, with local friends instead of as a tourist. i definitely got a lot more out of my trip with them than i would have if i'd gone on a bus with dozens of other tourists. plus, i finally got to see dóra, whom i hadn't seen in over two years! whale-watching on wednesday was fun, too: we saw a humpback. a bird landed in its (gigantic) mouth but luckily escaped. it was a bummer that it rained the whole time i was in húsavík, but when i got back to reykjavík on wednesday evening it was sunny and, comparatively, very warm.

the humpback

i spent my last two nights in reykjavik at a preschool. before i left for iceland, i had no idea where i was staying for those thursday and friday nights, but my swedish host brother's wife is from reykjavik, and her sister works at this preschool. the preschool is closed for summer, so she let me stay there - for free! it was awesome. it's right downtown and i got a key and got to come and go whenever i wanted to. it was perfect. the place was really cozy, with colorful walls and lots of houseplants. anyway, i spent my last day in reykjavik walking around for a while, and then went to the blue lagoon, which was cool. it was nice but crowded and touristy. and of course, it was too sunny and warm to really get the full effect - i've heard it's best at night in the winter, when you're surrounded by snow. but i still enjoyed it. that evening i went swimming in the ocean in reykjavik. it wasn't as cold as i expected, or maybe i just had such an adrenaline rush that i didn't notice. but i think it was just about as cold as santa cruz in february.

the blue lagoon

after swimming

on friday, i pretty much just got up and left. it was, after all, time to go back to copenhagen, and i was ready to head home. my trip to iceland was an empowering one, and i already can't wait to go back.

1 comment:

Barb Keith said...

Hi Maya, I found you from Catherine's blog. I have never met you but maybe I will get to when Catherine comes to see us in Lund. I can see why you and she are great friends, and you must have learned photography from the same expert--great photos! I recognized Domkyrkan in Lund from the photo with Patch (whom I have also not yet met...) Really enjoyed your descriptions of all your experiences. Ha det så bra!! Barb Keith