Intro to Iceland: Reykjavík 101 & Ísafjörður

I’m writing from Ísafjörður, the tiny hub of Iceland’s Westfjords. I’m here for a three week course in Icelandic before I start my master’s program in Reykjavik in the fall). Unfortunately, I left my camera cord in Reykjavik in the bags I’m storing at my apartment (not available till Sept 1, but the proprietor of the guesthouse is kindly holding onto my bags while I’m in “the west”) so I won’t be able to post pictures of this beautiful fishing town till I get back in the “big” city.  I’ll break up this wordy post with some pictures of my February trip to Iceland.

Bar in Reykjavik 101

Bar in Reykjavik 101

The overnight flight from Dulles International (Washington DC) to Keflavik Airport (outside of Reykjavik) landed about 6:15am Iceland time (2:15 am Hannah time) on Sunday, August 4. I didn’t really sleep Friday night because I had gone out swing dancing and was way too wired to fall asleep before 6am.  I never expected to get more than a few minutes of nap time on the 6 hour sat night flight over the Atlantic. So, needless to say, I was (and still am) exhausted by the time I arrived, collected my two suitcases and two backpacks and managed to get them to the bus into the city.

A beautiful juxtaposition of old and new.

A beautiful juxtaposition of old and new.

I saw some gorgeous scenery on the hour long ride. There were great views of the mountains. They looked as if their top halves had been coated with thick layers of cloud. The clouds above the peaks were a single sheet of gray that seemed to mirror the contours of the mountains. The sun was shining through any cracks in the looser clouds above the peaks, and the light created a stunning contrast against the dark green and black of the lava fields (lava covered in moss).

The Blue Lagoon Hot Spring Outside Reykjavik

The Blue Lagoon Hot Spring Outside Reykjavik

For some reason, I booked the evening flight to Ísafjörður instead of the morning, so I had almost 12 hours to wait in the city. Fortunately, the proprietor of the guesthouse I will be living at starting in September agreed to store my suitcases so I didn’t have somehow drag them around the city and all the way to the Westfjords.

Reykjavik

Reykjavik

But even thought I was tired, the weather today in Reykjavik was beautiful and invigorating. It was a perfect mix of the freshness of spring and the crispness of fall. There was a fall wind, but lots of spring/ summer flowers. Today is Sunday, but I was still surprised at how quiet the city was.  It was quiet for a small town, let alone the capitol city of a whole county. As the day progressed, the tourist activity brought a bit closer to the non stop motion and chaos that I am used to in the DMV, but it was still serene.

Reykjavik

Reykjavik

My first goal after dropping off my suitcases was to find coffee and breakfast! The guesthouse I will be staying at is in a more residential area, so it took my a couple of wrong turns and loops around the block before I was finally headed in the right direction. I’m so glad my dad and I visited in February. Having been there before meant the city streets were familiar, I knew where to go find food, and whole experience of moving overseas was less intimidating.

I found a little cafe and watched tourists while I ate. My only complaint about Iceland so far is the size of their coffees. Everywhere just has these tiny little coffee cups. You could fit three (ok that might be a bit of a hyperbole) in an American “small.”  I need my American sized food and beverage portions!

Art in the middle of the street.

Art in the middle of the street.

I wiled away the rest of the day walking around and deciphering the bus route map so I could get to the tiny domestic airport for my evening flight to the Westfjords.  The little plane was definitely shaky, but the view from the window was out of this world. Right now, the sun seems to drop behind the mountains at about 8, but the sky is still light until about midnight or later. My flight was from 7pm-8pm (or I should say 19:00-20:00 …. I need to start thinking in Icelandic time, money, and units of measurements). There were some clouds, but mostly a breathtaking view of fjords, islands, and rocky outcrops that eased the land into the ocean. The sun shining through the clouds made the ocean look a gold and blue abstract canvas sitting under the intricate shadow pattern cast from a large deciduous tree in the summer. Looking down to land that was under the shadow of a cloud, but catching light from an angle, the land was a dark green with strands and dashes of gold wherever the innumerable streams and small bodies of water caught the light. It was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen.  Ísafjörður is amazing. I could stay here forever. Stay tuned for less rambling about my sleep deprivation and more (and better) pictures and descriptions of the city and my language progress. Sjáumst!

View of Reykjavik from the University of Iceland

View of Reykjavik from the University of Iceland

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