Dave and I spent part of a morning walking the Black Sand Beach near Vik in Iceland.
The waves on the ocean were huge, like giant icy mountains. The angry waves made it easy to understand why there are monuments at different places along the beach that honor sailors who have died on the shores of Iceland, like this one where Dave is sitting. The wind was crazy and it took away a lens cover that this photographer was using. Dave went running after the lens cap chasing it for a long way up the beach. The giant waves left trails of foam along the shore that painted a kind of artwork in the black sand.
Some of the foam caught on stones and the sunlight made the bubbles in the foam look like jewels.
I thought this bit of foam caught on a rock looked a bit like the outline of Iceland. We are here in what they call ‘shoulder season’ right at the very end of the best weather in Iceland. But there is a haunting beauty to grassesand fungi that show their color in fall.
The waves on the Black Sand Beach had also washed this lone feather up onto a rock.
On the black sand beach are these three basalt columns called the Reynisdrangar. Legend says the rocks are really three trolls caught out too late at night and frozen by the early morning sunlight. Iceland is a place of spectacular beauty in the fall and the Black Sand Beach shows off that beauty at its best.
Beauty on the Beach
The Blueberries Slowed Him Down
Autumn Dreams Are in the Air
Why are the older homes painted so colorfully in Reykjavik?On a walking tour of the city we were told that painting your house in bright colors is a way to bring cheerfulness to the long dark days of winter in Iceland. Our last day in Reykjavik was rainy but that didn’t stop a crowd of about thirty people from meeting in the square across from the Icelandic Parliament buildings for a city walking tour that runs many times daily. Tomas was our interesting and humourous guide. He was born and grew up in Reykjavik but his father is from Chicago. Here Dave asks him about the annual music festival in Iceland. Our son’s band performed in that festival several years ago. There is lots of construction going on in Reykjavik. Here a large hotel is being built. The tourist industry in Iceland is responsible for much of the new construction. In 2000 there were 300,000 visitors to Iceland, the same as the number of people who live there. In 2017 some 2.4 million tourists will visit. Tomas said Icelandic citizens have mixed feelings about the tourists. They are happy for the income they add to the economy but question how all those visitors and the infrastructure needed to service them is changing their country. Gay Pride is the biggest festival in Reykjavik. Thomas says his company gives tours 364 days a year, but not the day of the Gay Pride parade in August. There are simply too many people in downtown Reykjavik celebrating to make that feasible. This etching commemorates the adoption of Christianity as the national religion of Iceland in the year 1000. Today the state pays 140 Christian ministers even though only 10% of Icelanders go to church at least once a month and nearly 50% never attend church. This is a highschool in Reykjavik. Do you notice the open windows on the school even though it is a cold day? Central heating in Iceland is geo-thermal and is so effective and cheap that buildings often get too hot and windows need to opened to moderate the temperature.
This elementary school was right across the street from our apartment. The government pays for all education in Iceland from nursery school through university. I was surprised that despite the cold rainy weather the children seemed to spend a good part of their day outdoors.
The concert hall in Reykjavik called Harpa is very distinctive. The glass exterior is inspired by the basalt landscape of Iceland. In the Reykjavik tourist information centre we gathered around a large map of Iceland to learn more about its geography and geological make-up. Since we were at the end of our week in Iceland it was interesting to hear Tomas talk about many of the places we had visited. Tomas ended the tour by talking to us about the fact that everyone in Iceland is related. All 300,000 people are part of the same family tree. There is a website Icelanders can go to and by typing in their name and social security number they can find out all about their family tree. There is even an app that allows two people to find out how they are related. Tomas says in Iceland many people do that after the first date or even the first dance to see if their kinship is distant enough to continue the relationship.
Tomas recommended that instead of going to the expensive touristy geo-thermal pools around Reykjavik we just go to one of the geo thermal pools located in almost every neighbourhood. They are cheap and you get to enjoy the steam and heat with local workers, students and families relaxing and socializing there. We took his advice and did that at a pool a short walking distance from the apartment we had rented.
It was great. Just as Tomas warned however we had to strip naked and shower communally with others before going in the pool. Colorful posters in the showers illustrated all the parts of your body you needed to soap throughly. You did put your swim suit on to go into the pool though.
Tomas and his friends do free walking tours of Reykjavik year round. At the end of the tour you can pay the guide whatever you thought the tour was worth. Tomas gave us lots of good tips about what to do in Reykjavik, where to shop and where to eat. Dave and I have done these free walking tours in other cities and have always found them to be of good value.
Other posts about Iceland