Today the weather closed in and was almost like our first day in Iceland - really windy and driving rain. Our original plan was to drive part of the south coast but when the host of the Member's Lounge saw what we were planning he said "with the weather like this they will close the road." He was right - we heard later in the day that people had their bus tours to the south cancelled by the operator.
Instead we drove around town, following the route of the hop on-hop off bus and doing our own local tour. We stopped at a sculpture garden by the edge of the harbour. A rather eccentric local was standing on the rocks at the point, doing semaphore with sticks at the wind. A man gestured with his hands that he was crazy.
Further down the road was the house where Reagan and Gorbachev had their summit which marked the beginning of the end of the Cold War. This house has hosted dignitaries from around the world for some time. On the waterfront nearby is another spectacular sculpture - the Sun Chasers. Rekjyavik is full of sculptures and public art, including huge murals on many of the buildings around town.
We went to Hallgrimskirke, the Lutheran cathedral on the top of the hill. This is the tallest building in Iceland. There is a lift to the top of the tower but by now the weather had really turned, so there was not much to see. The wind was blowing so hard it was difficult to close the door of the car and the rain had really set in. The architectural style is called "Expressionist" and despite the drab grey interior and exterior it is a beautiful building. The interior is flooded with light and there is an organ with over 5200 pipes.
We were originally inspired to come to Iceland by Rick Stein. We are not foodies but somehow we were watching Rick Stein's Long Weekends and he had an episode on Rekjyavik. Just like him we will be going to Lisbon and Cadiz later on. In tribute to Rick, we decided to eat at Matur og Drykkar (translation: "Food and Drink") which is one of the restaurants he visited on his show. We looked at the menu and were turned off by cod head fish soup and salted lamb smoked in sheep's dung. Instead we went next door to Bryggjan Brugghús - a bistro attached to a micro brewery.
Here is an example of how much things cost in Iceland. We had grilled fish, beer battered fish and chips and a beer. All of this cost about AUD100.00. We are not complaining... just saying. When we were in Olafsvik waiting for the (cancelled) whale watching tour, we heard a fellow traveller from the USA complaining about $29 fish and chips from the food truck on the wharf. Another man from Norway said "things are expensive in Norway but it's nothing compared to Iceland."
Iceland is expensive because almost everything is imported. This puts an unfortunate negative slant on what is otherwise a fantastic place to visit. The people are also friendly and almost everybody speaks perfect English. The main roads are great and everything looks generally well cared for. Remember it only has a population of about 300,000 to fund the running of an entire country. We have decided to come back and give Iceland even more time. We only saw a small part of the countryside and what we experienced was beautiful. We believe one has to see more than just Reykjavik, the Golden Circle and the Blue Lagoon. Our waiter in the beer house complimented us on getting out to Snaefellsnes. We were somewhat disappointed about not making it to at least part of the south coast.
Next visit we will allow more time and tour the entire island, stopping for a couple of nights in each location to slowly appreciate the evolving landscapes.