It's funny, I didn't actually inspect the paper money in Iceland very closely. It was brightly-colored in reds & oranges and blues & greens with really large numbers on each bill: 1000, 2000. I was more fascinated by the coins which had, appropriately, marine life featured on the backs: dolphins, fish, crabs. Even the fronts of the coins are cool, featuring the 4 guardian spirits of Iceland.
We had 4 days in Reykjavik after we arrived and we spent one just walking around the downtown center, finding our way around. We stopped in tourist shops and bought breakfast fixings and unpacked at the guest apartment. Martin and Karin found souvenir tshirts pretty quickly and Karin fell in love with a knitted wool hat with tassels and earflaps. We found the bus station and Anders and the kids found the nearest geo-thermally heated swimming pool and spent a couple of hours there the 2nd morning. We headed up the hill to Perlan, and ate lunch in the restaurant on the top floor under the glass dome, then walked around and enjoyed the view of the city and the coastline. One of the water tanks was cleaned out a few years ago and turned into the Saga Museum, which uses dioramas to portray the history of Iceland through the ages with an audio tour. Very well done and the film we watched at the end showing how they actually made the mannequins used in the dioramas was almost better than the museum itself.
It's funny, Reykjavik in and of itself is not that picturesque. It's the SURROUNDINGS that get you. The mountains, the water, the moss-covered lava fields stretching away from it.
Walking/Shopping street in central Reykjavik. This was where all the people were, the majority of them tourists.
Reykjavik's old harbor. It took me 4 days to spell Reykjavik correctly. I still keep wanting to switch the Y and J around. And we won't even discuss Akureyri...that one's STILL giving me problems!
Reykjavik's skyline from the bay, on the whale-watching boat Andrea.
On the 3rd day we went on a whale-watching tour. It was brilliantly sunny and the shine on the water was blinding. We almost missed the boat because we got picked up by the wrong bus and taken to the wrong place, but the kind Icelandic counter personnel at the bus station called the tour company and made them come pick us up and hold the boat for us. The boat was big, the biggest whale-watching boat in Iceland. The guide on the boat was excellent, giving us history of the country, the city, the landscape and then lots of information about the different kinds of whales and the waterfowl we could expect to see.
Despite the sunshine, it was quite cold and with the wind off the ocean, we were glad we had our hats and gloves!
In the summer, the whale-watching tours swing by Lundey island out in the bay that hosts puffins, kittiwakes, fulmars, black guillemots, arctic terns and other sea birds during their nesting season. We were really excited about seeing puffins, but unfortunately, the boat was so big that it couldn't get very close to the island and we could neither see the birds very well or get any good photos of them. We DID see puffins zipping around, skimming the water near the boat but they were too fast for us to capture on film :( And the one really good shot Anders got of the nests on the cliffside of the island only showed kittiwakes! No puffins at all, so I felt a bit gypped.
Kittiwakes always look grumpy.
Whale-watching was fun but hard on the eyes, with the glare on the water. We saw LOTS of whales or maybe it was ONE whale MANY times. You had to be looking in exactly the right place at the right time on the right side of the boat, and all we got to see was the dorsal fin and side of the whale turning up out of the water and then sliding beneath the waves again. Once in awhile we'd see a blow, the spray from the whale's blowhole. The guide stood in a little turret at the top of the boat and called out which o'clock each sighting was at but if you weren't already looking in the right direction you'd miss it. Still, we all saw the whales and it was exciting, keeping our eyes peeled on the open water surrounding the boat.
All photos copyright Anders Ek 2011.
Next up: The Golden Circle and a volcanic change of plans!