Post 290: 14th August 2014, Reykjavik
We were due in Reykjavik, the world’s most northerly capital, at 8am. I was awake well before that and watched the pilot boat arrive at 7am. A container ship from St John’s in Eastern Canada was just leaving. We passed the Hallgrimskirka Church, which I had been to before in 2015 and which is the tallest building in central Reykjavik, its tower shaped to give the impression of basalt. The coastguard was in dock, no doubt looking for smugglers. I do know someone who smuggled gin onto our ship!
We passed Videy Island where, on 9th October 2007, Yoko Ono and Sean Lennon inaugurated the ‘Imagine Peace Tower’ (Icelandic: Frioarsulan meaning ‘the peace column’) on John Lennon’s birthday. The ‘Imagine Peace Tower’ was relighted on December 21st, winter solstice, and beamed until New Years Eve 2007.
It is a laser beam which Yoko Ono plans to have lit everyday on his birthday and penetrates the sky until December 8th, the date he was shot.
It may also be lit on other major occasions. We were therefore docked ‘near the Reykavik sign’ on the far top right shown on the map below. The city has one of the highest standards of living in the world, possibly paid for by the shuttle bus fares of £18 return per person from our dock to the city centre! We decided to walk along the Sculpture and Shore Walk to the main dock area; it is about 2.5 miles to the Harpa Concert Hall and Conference Centre. In 2015 we had already seen much of the city centre. It was a bit dank but is a pleasant walk with a proper tarmac footpath. A guide said that this year was the worst weather in Iceland for over 100 years. Even in a good year the weather is very changeable as Arctic Polar and Atlantic fronts do battle over Iceland. There is a lot of interest to be seen in the Laugarnes area.
A leprosy hospital existed here and two French seamen died of smallpox! The hospital and military huts are no longer there. The skyline of Reykjavik soon came into view. There are angelica plants growing wild which, once crystallised, are used in cakes. There are good views across the Vioyjarsund to the mountains.
There are some unusual homes and gardens in the area!
A little further along there was a sculpture from 1991.
On the other side of the road is the house where in 1986 the Reagan-Gorbachev summit took place, where the superpower leaders of the USA and Russia met to discuss nuclear disarmament. Although the talks eventually stalled, they were symbolic of a breakthrough in East-West negotiations and stood as markers of the beginning of the end of the Cold War. Some of the rocks acting as storm defences showed evidence of previous volcanic activity.
Some made a good sculpture. We then passed the beautiful Suncraft (Solfar) designed by Jon Guunar Arnason and installed in its present location in 1990, a year after his death. The sun ship symbolizes the promise of new, undiscovered territory. It is not a Viking ship as thought by many. Jon argued that Sun Voyager should be seen as a vessel that transports souls to the realm of death. It was envisaged as a dreamboat, an ode to the sun symbolising light and hope.
We then reached the Harpa and went in to watch a complete 360 degree sound and visual 15 minute film about Iceland, the volcanoes, landscapes, waterfalls and mountains. It was quite stunning and well worth the highish cost (£15). Also there are free toilets in the building, which gives a discount in Iceland as some toilets cost between £1-£2 in Iceland – credit cards can be used!
Having relaxed and restored some energy we continued to the dock area only for Celia to shout out to me that someone had gone into the sea.
Celia then shouted to the man to keep calm and not flap about, although whether he spoke English we will never know. Fortunately, a young man ran to get a lifebuoy from a Security Office, threw it out and the man was able to get it round his waist. An indredibly brave security guard then jumped in and swam towards him, holding him until a rescue boat arrived. It was very concerning as the water would have been very cold. Eventually he was hauled into the boat by the three strong young men and not long after an ambulance arrived.
It was distressing to watch and we had to get our composure back before continuing our walk to the rest of the dock area to be continued in the next blog……..