A Foggy Easter in Reykjavik

Hallgrimskirkja appearing eerily out of the fog

Since I don’t really plan trips, I just take them, I have an unerring instinct for arriving in cities that are celebrating some holy-day or other, and this trip is no different. I arrived in foggy Reykjavik yesterday at 6 a.m. on a day apparently important in the Christian calendar, the Friday prior to Easter. 

Flybus picks up passengers in front of the very small international airport, driving us into town through a black lava-lunar landscape, made all the more surreal by the dense fog that’s hung over Reykjavik for days. (Buy your Flybus ticket online before you come, so you won’t have to worry about running back at the last minute into the terminal to find the ticket-seller.)

Reykjavik itself, while not completely shut down, was mostly quiet; most shops were closed, with some restaurants open, thank god, because they don’t really feed you on the Iceland Air flight, and technically, I did miss my dinner.

A town sign on the way in from the airport, a 45 minute drive. They drop you at the local bus station, which is inconveniently located outside of the main streets of town, where you’re directed to smaller buses which take you to your hotel. It’s all very inconvenient, really, especially if you’re exhausted, jet lagged, and carrying your own bags.

The flight, an unbelievably quick journey of less than 7 hours, considering now you are in Iceland, (which is Europe, let’s not forget), leaves at 4:30 p.m. from Seattle, and gets in at approximately 6 a.m. in Reykjavik, an uncomfortable hour for sightseeing on an empty stomach, but then, I’m a night person who also appreciates eating regularly.

Arriving at the airport yesterday, I took out enough cash from the ATM machine at the airport to buy a house in any other economy; here it will buy me dinner each night, and probably some souvenirs.

The Icelandic economy was hit pretty hard not that long ago, and, walking through town last night, I passed by a (closed) tourist shop window displaying a t-shirt decorated with a screen-printed volcano, and the words  “We might not have cash, but we do have ash!” emblazoned across the chest.

The people who took these pictures of downtown Reykjavik were not here during a major gloom storm of grey fog

From the handful of open restaurants, I chose Solon, a popular trendy-artsy bistro with high ceilings, chocolate-colored walls showcasing local artists, and candles on every table. I had a truly excellent saffron and curry mixed fish (bream and shrimp) soup, followed by a good-but-not-great lamb dish. They believe in feeding you mass quantities, so it’s a great restaurant to find if you’re starving, as I was.

After dinner, I rambled up one of the main streets, Skólavördustigar, which takes you straight to Reykjavik’s massive concrete church, Hallgrímskirkja. It loomed before me, pointillistic in the mist, glowing with tiny little lights that made it look even more unreal until I got quite close.

Much of the town, except for a few tin-sided fishing-village inspired dwellings from the Victorian era painted in cerulean blue, or violet, or similar bright colors, resembles a Russian gulag. The architecture is modernist, Marxist-unlovely concrete, low buildings hunkered down, seemingly facing some invading horde threatening from across the Atlantic.

In this fog, Reykjavik is extremely dismal in some ways. Some great shopping, if the stores ever open. They make some very cool things here. From what I have seen of Scandinavian countries in the past few years, I know now that all fashion comes from this area of the world, but no one believes it because Paris and Milan have such efficient public relations.

The view from my hotel window.

Twenty-four hours on from my arrival, it’s approaching 8 a.m. here while I’m writing this, and I can tell you that since this town likes its nightlife, and apparently they’re worshipful enough to close down to celebrate Easter, but not so worshipful that “the young” as I’m starting to think of them, take a break from partying, I’ve had revelers underneath my windows pretty much all night.

This is not uncommon here, from what I’ve read, but I bring earplugs, so there were four good hours there when I was able to sleep (before the effects of jet lag hit, forcing me awake at 4:30 in the morning).

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2 thoughts on “A Foggy Easter in Reykjavik

    1. It’s very easy to pronounce once you’ve spent three years learning Swedish, a somewhat similar Scandinavian language. 😉 It’s pronounced Aya-fyalla-yokul. Easy once you break it down into pronounceable chunks, and you know how to pronounce the weird little “j” and “k” combinations the Scandinavians use. The secret reason their languages are so hard to pronounce is that life up here in the far north is so incredibly dull, it gives them something to chuckle over when strangers come to town, stumbling over their language.

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