Iceland in pictures

24 Apr

Wednesday evening Jackie and Charis did their packing and went to bed at nine pm with alarms set for one am. Me, I had a beer and half watched, half slept through Rowan Atkinson’s Maigret. My phone alarm was also set to one am.

Alarms went off. I showered, made coffee. We were on the road by one-thirty, me at the wheel, plenty of slack factored in for our six am flight from Luton. Just as well: roadworks between J20 and J21 sent us on a tour of Leicester and Lutterworth. Nor were the diversion signs at optimal frequency for stress-free motoring. Still, we got there, checked in, were in Iceland in three hours and Reykjavik in four.

Iceland’s a photographer’s dream: stupendous land and (especially) seascapes, with weather and light – hundreds of miles from significant air pollutants – changing by the second. Rather than embed pictures in the post I’ve put them in PDFs to allow full screen viewing.

All slideshows are manual advance.

Reykjavik is the world’s northernmost capital. It’s also one of the smallest, population 123,000; a third of Iceland’s total opting for life in the island’s relatively sheltered south west. Our delightful apartment, far better than expected, was in the buzzing centre, everything in walking distance. Architecturally, Reyjavik is more pretty than spectacular – sea, mountain and ever shifting skies are the star players here – but there are a few impressive buildings, two worth singling out. One is the Lutheran Hallgrímskirkja – seventy-three metres tall on a hill, so visible wherever you are in Reykjavik – designed by Icelander Guðjón Samúelsson. The other is the Concert Hall, at the harbour’s eastern edge and designed by Henning Larsen, a Dane.

Pictures at 1704 reykjavik town.

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This shot is from within the Concert Hall. All harbours interest me but few have so majestic a backdrop – snow capped mountain over icy waters that shift in the blink of an eye from slate grey to startling greens and turquoises – or are within a five minute walk of nightclub and fancy restaurant, art gallery and fancier shop. (Fact is, harbour is not separate from town, with Concert Hall on its eastern edge, clubs and shops to the south and at its heart at least one superb – I like to speak only from experience – and totally unpretentious fish restaurant.) Add in skies dark and brooding one second, lit up like a Caravaggio the next, and you see why I spent so much time here, over many visits in sun, cloud and, more than once, snow.

Pictures at 1704 reykjavik harbour

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This slideshow is mostly sea and mountain. Next trip I’ll go inland, for volcanoes and plunging ravines I’ve seen only in pictures. In the south west (Reykjavik faces northern water from a deep inlet on irregular coastline) the interior, where not mountain, is harsh: clinkered rock with scant vegetation. Hot springs apart (I’ll be coming to those shortly) it’s the coastline that sparkles.

Pictures at 1704 land and sea

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The Blue Lagoon, a 40km bus ride, is fed by a geothermal power plant. Superheated water is vented from the ground near a lava flow to electricity turbines. The steam and hot water then pass through a heat exchanger and are fed into the lagoon, its 38 C waters rich in silica and sulphur, said to alleviate psoriasis. I wouldn’t know but we spent many hours there on Day Two. I couldn’t get enough of that water – from very warm to very hot depending on where you place yourself – below snowy peaks partly obscured, in the hot spots, by the Turkish Bath ambience. Sauna and steam rooms are good too, as is a powerful hot waterfall that pounds your shoulders like a Finnish masseur. Now and then I’d sprint to locker for camera, with the bar-in-the-water a particularly photogenic location.

Pictures at 1704 blue lagoon

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Day 3. The memsahibs take a three hour boat trip to see minke whales. (Success!) I’ve other ideas. Walking east along the coast, past the metal skeleton of a viking ship, I happen on the strangest, quirkiest set of sculptures and miscellania ever to confront my seasoned gaze. (Check this out for its origins.) I stayed some two hours, snapping away: wondering what, other than the whim of the place’s creator-curator, linked rusting ferrous – some designed, as with the giant ant, some simply placed bizarrely in original utilitarian form – to wood totems, Cross at Calvary, a dead fishing boat, a cement mixer, and one of Steve McCurry’s most iconic images. The place is enchanting, inspiring and utterly unique but defies description.

Pictures at 1704 gunnlaugsson passion

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One Reply to “Iceland in pictures”

  1. One could almost breathe the cold air in this very pleasant coollection of Icelandic photographs in contrast to the indoor warmth of the chess players.

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