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A-Z Guidebook : Reykjavik, Iceland

Welcome to the A-Z Guidebook Link Up. If you would like to join, read the A-Z Guidebook tab at the top of the blog and write a travel post relating to the letter of the month.

*Don’t forget our Pinterest board and the @AZGuidebook Instagram feed, where your photos are also featured. This month:

R or River

Between the volcano that brought Europe to a halt, the football team that brought Euro 2016 to a halt and the GFC that brought the economy to a halt, Iceland never appears to be far from our consciousness. And then there’s the vocal and fashion stylings of their most famous daughter, Björk. For such a small country, they punch above their weight. Post the Cod Wars but pre the Eyjafjallajökull eruption, we had it in our minds to visit Iceland. It just seemed like a good idea. So we did. It’s not an easy place to get to and it says much about the cost of living or holidaying there that there are no restrictions on how much alcohol you can bring into the country but are limited to $200USD worth of imported food. This is to make sure people aren’t popping off to Europe to do their grocery shopping, taking business and money out of the small economy.

Stainless steel sculpture on the waterfront in Reykjavik, Iceland called the Solfar or Sun Voyager. Shaped like a Viking ship.

The capital, Reykjavík is always your first destination when you arrive in Iceland. Over 1/3 of the population live there and it is the base for days trips and longer forays into the interior. The best tip we received was from the Tourist Information centre who told us ‘No, you’re not going to the waterfalls tomorrow, you’re going today. Today is beautiful and it may be the last sun we see for some days. You are going today.’ They were right. On the other days, we walked around the old town of Reykjavík and down to the waterfront where you can see this fabulous sculpture of Sólfar or, the Sun Voyager. Made of stainless steel, it’s the perfect blend of modern and  mythic. Despite how it looks, it is not in fact a Viking ship but a dreamboat and an ode to the sun. The sculptor, Jón Gunnar Árnason was extremely ill when the sculpture was created and died before it was placed in its final location. Reykjavik is everything you imagine of a Scandi/Norse destination. Pretty buildings and cobbled streets, friendly locals (who of course, speak English), pristine waterways and parks, efficient public transport and municipal systems and, very, very cold. These days it’s a huge destinations for hen’s and buck’s weekends where they would fit in perfectly with the drinking culture. I’m glad we were able to visit before this burgeoning industry took hold.

Fun Fact: the surnames of almost all people born in Iceland are not based on family names but reflect the first name of the father or mother of the child. Surnames have sson (son) or sdóttir (daughter) attached to the first name of the parent. For example: Björk Guomundsdóttir is the daughter of Guõmund Gunnarsson. Just from looking at Guõmund’s name, I know that his father was called Gunnar. There are also rules in place for first names to use only letters found in the Icelandic alphabet. Fascinating! Read more about it here if you’re interested.

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8 comments… add one
  • Tandy | Lavender and Lime November 15, 2016, 2:00 pm

    That volcano eruption happened just before we went to Italy. The flights opened two days before we left and the airport was chaotic. They closed as we landed back home. Great post and an interesting read.

    • Fiona Ryan November 15, 2016, 4:53 pm

      We were stuck in Bulgaria and supposed to be back in the UK for a ferry back to France. In the end we were able to fly to Barcelona (as it was far enough south), catch several trains to France, up to Paris and across to Roscoff for a ferry to Plymouth. What a drama! Still, we think of Iceland with fondness : )

  • retrostuart November 18, 2016, 8:46 am

    A terrific post. I love description of the import rules. I recently enjoyed watching a Scandinavian noir-style TV series set in Iceland (Trapped) and your post really invokes the country’s sense of other worldliness.

    • Fiona Ryan November 22, 2016, 9:39 am

      It seems a long time ago now (10 years) and certainly Iceland has gone up in the cool destination stakes. One of my favourite Bjork videos is for Joga: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2BSMcVRgloY It really showcases the countryside and seismic Icelandic living.

    • Fiona Ryan November 22, 2016, 9:40 am

      ps: love all of those Scandi dramas. I’ll seek out Trapped on SBS catch up

  • sherry from sherrys pickings November 18, 2016, 6:12 pm

    i am dying to get to Iceland! i have seen lots of photos of this artwork, and would love to see it in real life. I have been fascinated with the naming thing for ages. Due to having been to a couple of sessions with Kari Gislason the Icelandic author who lives in brissie, (and having read his book) i just find it weirdly interesting. a bit like Japan where you have to have the name approved before using it. I know years ago there were only about 12 boys’ names and 12 girls’ names in Japan.

    • Fiona Ryan November 22, 2016, 9:32 am

      …son of Gisla… I’ve just looked at his bio on the QUT website and will have to seek out his Promise of Iceland. I know you are a prolific reader. Do you recommend it? As to Japan, I’ve only been for a 24hr stop over so really, never been. We hope to go in 2018. So many places Sherry!

  • Joy @MyTravelingJoys November 22, 2016, 5:15 pm

    How did the month of November just fly by? 😉 Anyway, Reykjavík and Iceland in general is still on our travel bucket list. Some day!

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