Sunday, September 2, 2012

Ireland/Iceland Trip, day 10: Sunny morning in Reykjavik, and farewell to Iceland

We awoke to the first truly sunny day we'd had in Iceland, and we made the most of it by wandering outside, taking in the buildings, the waterfront, and the impressive Harpa concert hall.

We had time for a stop by the Culture House where some of the oldest copies of the ancient sagas are on display, along with some contemporary Icelandic artwork on the upper floor....

...and then, sadly, it was time to make our way to the airport, enact the incredibly sketchy (though undeniably convenient!) rental-car return plan, and wing our way back home.

We had an amazing time on this trip.  And although this was a great chance for the two of us to strike out on our own a bit, our "real lives" back home were always close as well.  We felt the support and generosity of so many friends with us in spirit each day, as we ventured to places and met people that we never would have known except through our friends.

Normal life starts up now, with Lauren returning to law school and me returning to work.  But we're so grateful to have had the opportunity to have this adventure together.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Ireland/Iceland Trip, day 9: Iceland's "Golden Circle"

This was our day for cross-country driving and nature sightseeing in Iceland.  Again on Solveig's excellent advice, we toured the Golden Circle (well, thanks to slightly wonky GPS, call it our "extended, special" version of the Golden Circle).

Our first stop was Þingvellir, the meeting place of the Icelandic parliament for hundreds of years.  The Icelanders are rightly proud of their status as one of the earliest democracies to survive into modern times.  When chatting with us the day before, for example, Kjartan was quick to mention the 11th-century writings of Adam of Bremen, who described Icelanders thus: "They have no king except the law."

Wandering around the volcanic rock and dramatic streams and lake of Þingvellir, it was remarkably easy to picture representatives gathering to create and recite the law of the land here more than a thousand years ago...

The next stop was Geysir, from which English derives its word "geyser."  Impressive bubbling and shooting pools, with boiling-hot water sloshing around.  Also, a surprisingly cool cafe where we grabbed lunch and watched vintage videos showing matches and instruction in Glima (Icelandic wrestling), which is the national sport.

Then, it was on to Gullfoss ("golden falls"), which felt like an up-close-and-personal Niagra to me.  Also an important spot for the modern conservation movement in Iceland, since an early conservationist successfully worked to prevent the damming of the falls.

We then moved on to the Kerið crater, whose dramatic reds were a little muted on this gray and drizzly day.  Quite a sight, nonetheless.

It's easy to focus on the sightseeing destinations on a day like this, but I think the thing I'll remember most is just the look and feel of the Icelandic landscape sliding by during our long stretches in the car.

After returning to Reykjavik, we enjoyed a dinner at Solon, where we had a drink combination that was likely the beginning of a lot of great (or terrible) nights for Arnar and Solveig in days past ... [brennevin in front, Egils Gull beer waiting in the wings]:

We then relaxed and chatted late into the night at a few local spots, including the Lebowski Bar (some concepts transcend all geographic boundaries, clearly).