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Day Two – Iceland

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And travel well! ✈️🛳

Today we decided to explore Reykjavik on foot.  We took the bus from the ship, since we wanted to save our feet for the town!

The tourist information center at Aðalstræti 2 is a good starting point. Aðalstræti is the oldest street in Reykjavík, and the point from which all street numbers begin: the higher the number, the farther from Aðalstræti. Ingólfur Arnarson, traditionally regarded as Iceland’s first permanent settler, is thought to have settled here around 870 — though Reykjavík didn’t have a proper street until the 18th century. For most of its history, Reykjavík was just one of many hereditary coastal estates. In 1613, the Danish monarch, who had imposed an oppressive trade monopoly on its Iceland colony, purchased the settlement under threat of force. Reykjavík then grew into a kind of shanty town for seasonal labor assisting Danish merchants, mostly associated with the fishing trade. The oldest house in Reykjavík, from 1764, is at Aðalstræti 10. Reykjavik is the northernmost capital in the world.

If you would like to read more about Reykjavik, please visit, http://www.frommers.com/destinations/reykjavik/760190#sthash.HeeQj1dT.dpbs#ixzz3S6qjyZsp

Hallgrímskirkja church is Reykjavík’s main landmark and its tower can be seen from almost everywhere in the city.

It was designed by the late Guðjón Samuel in 1937, who was often inspired in his endeavours by the fascinating shapes and forms created when lava cools into basalt rock.
Construction of the church began in 1945 and ended in 1986, with the tower completed long before the rest of the building. The crypt beneath the choir was consecrated in 1948, the steeple and wings completed in 1974 and the nave consecrated in 1986.

The church features, most notably, a gargantuan pipe organ designed and constructed by the German organ builder Johannes Klais of Bonn. Standing tall at an impressive 15m and weighing a remarkable 25 tons, this mechanical action organ is driven by four manuals and a pedal, 102 ranks, 72 stops and 5275 pipes, all designed to reproduce powerful notes capable of filling the huge and holy space with a range of tones – from the dulcet to the dramatic. Its construction was completed in December 1992 and has since been utilized in a variety of recordings, including some by Christopher Herrick.

Standing directly in front of the church, and predating it by 15 years, is a fine statue of Leifur Eiriksson (c. 970 – c. 1020) – the first European to discover America. Records suggest that Leifur landed on the shores of the new world in the year 1,000 A.D., that’s 500 years before Christopher Columbus. The statue, which was designed by Alexander Stirling Calder was a gift from the United States in honour of the 1930 Alþingi Millennial Festival, commemorating the 1,000th anniversary of the establishment of Iceland’s parliament at Þingvellir in 930 AD. (http://www.visitreykjavik.is/hallgrimskirkja-church)

After all that walking, we were hungry. Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur  is a small chain of popular hot dog stands located in the city.  The flagship stand has been in continuous operation since 1937 and sits across from the Harpa Concert Hall, which is where our bus stopped.   Pylsur is often called “The Icelandic National Food.”  The original stand also appeared in the first season of Anthony Bourdain’s travel program No Reservations.  In August of 2006, the British newspaper The Guardian, also selected Bæjarins beztu as the best hot dog stand in Europe.

A hot dog costs 380 Kronas (as of July of 2014) and ketchup, sweet mustard, fried onion, raw onion and remoulade,  a mayonnaise-based sauce that contains sweet relish, are all available as condiments. Hot dogs are often ordered with “the works” (i.e., all the condiments).  The hot dog itself is boiled and served on an unremarkable bun. These hot dogs are made in Iceland  and are of average size; everyone in Reykjavik seems to know of the central hot-dog stand.  I’m not much of a lover of hot dogs, but I’m glad I tried one!

Right across the street was another stand that we absolutely had to try….lobster soup!   It is located near the water, at a place called Saegreifinn, or Sea Baron, a sort of fish shack owned by a retired fisherman named Kjartan Halldorsson.  The soup was made with fresh lobster caught in the local waters and served with fresh cream.  It was hot and creamy and the perfect ending to our day in Reykjavik.

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And travel well! ✈️🛳
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