the city at the edge of the world...

Reykjavik Travel Blog

 › entry 6 of 6 › view all entries
or is it beyond, over the edge, somewhere else entirely...
i think, if mankind were to settle another planet tomorrow, within a few years, the end product was bear a striking resemblance to reykjavik, surrounded by bizarre volcanic rock formations and seas turgid with the relics of ancient seasonal ice shelves.
the closer my plane flew to iceland, the weaker the light became, and the cloud formations, now far different from any i have seen before, took on pastel hues. emerging from the grey blanket, iceland appeared below like a moonscape with snow on craters that only appeared smooth due to the altitude from which i was seeing them. on the ground it was a rugged and rocky landscape, with moss and lichen the only signs of life.
reykjavik is the worlds most northerly capital city, and has only really blossomed in the last 20-30 years. hence it looks clean and new, like a giant upmarket ikea showroom. lots of fresh concrete and steel. being the time of year where the sun shows up for only four hours per day, there were fairy lights everywhere. at this sime of year, icelanders become light-crazy, and the place twinkles with red and white lights. i checked into my somewhat humble accommodation at about 6.30pm, and it was by now very dark. this was a clear night, so the towns light was lost in the darkness, no illuminated blanket of cloud to hide the dark night and the realisation that you are far from familiar civility. i took a walk around town and quickly came to appreciate the reputation iceland has as the world's most expensive destination. everything virtually has to be shipped in, so you pay exorbitantly. as an example, petrol is about AU$2.50/litre, or an average meal of indian or thai will cost AU$80-100. utterly insane!
i personally think it is a beauty tax. the people here deserve to pay for the beauty they witness daily. i had a walk around reykjavik the following day, leaving home at about 9.30, still in the grips of deep night. by about 10.30 the sky was starting to finally glow and the sun emerged sometime just shy of midday. went up the main street, all lit with fairly lights, and up to the monolithic cathedral, hallgrimskirkja, on top of the hill in the centre of town. this is the city's tallest structure, and imposes upon reykjavik from any angle. inside, it best resembles something that george lucas would design for his galactic aristocracy to inhabit in the star wars films. utterly stunning! from here i wandered down the hill to the waterfront, where, across a frigid bay, still teaming with birds, the species of which i will never know, i admired the stately and snow clad mountains. on the sliver of land between the mountains and the harbour, the existence of a small town could be noticed, twinkling orange in the emerging light, which was now painting the sky in wonderful shades of pastel. utterly breathtaking! 
after lunch i took a walk around tjornin, the pond near downtown. it was almost completely frozen, with hoards of ducks and white swans gathering around the few areas where the water is above zero, subjected to small geothermal vents. the sun, only ever low on the horizon, set the pond ablaze with flares of golden light. i spent a couple of freezing hours here, until i could stand the pain in my fingers and face no longer. after this i headed to the museum of iceland, to gain an appreciation of how the founding people of this country could have possibly braved these conditions year after year. again, beauty can be the only reason to justify such an existence. utterly fascinating!
from here, i wandered the beautiful city for as long as i could, taking refuge inside shops to warm up every 15 minutes or so, before returning back to the beauty. after dinner i walked up the city lookout, hoping the low blanket of cloud that had rolled in would somehow lift itself, revealing the aurora borealis (northern lights). alas, it just became thicker and thicker :-( ...disappointing.
the following day i took a trip down to the blue lagoon, near the southern coast, and halfway between reykjavik and the airport at keflavik.on the way, just outside the city, it was starting to get weird. there was still grass around, but the drainage gullies by the roadside resembled giant ice cube holders. if reykjavik is otherworldly, the area around the blue lagoon belongs in another dimension. i have scarcely ever seen anything so beautiful: volcanic black ground covered in khaki-coloured short grasses and moss, frost bitten; the earth visibly uplifted by millenia of seismic events; the scene framed by mountains looking as if made from newspaper mache, and under a sky ' the colour of tv, tuned to a dead channel' (william gibson quoted, thanks scotty, the only words that would come to mind to describe the scene). the lagoon is a pale powder blue, the colour owing to the algae and silica in solution, and in some parts is boiling. water emerged at somewhere close to 200 degrees (centigrade) from a vent in the lagoon's centre. you are quite free if you please to swim into this part - things in iceland are based more on common sense than waiting for 'the man' to think for you and erect a sign or barrier.
so off to the aiport and into the sky, new york bound. but iceland had one more treat for me yet. out the window, the sky was to draw from yet another breathtaking palette. along the grey cloudline, there was a very thin bar where the sky was blood-red. immediately juxtaposed against this, the rest of the sky was deep blue fading into black towards the zenith. wow!
one gets an enormous feeling of being on the edge of the world in iceland. in a place like hong kong, sydney or london, to look left, right, up or down will give you the feeling of being surrounded with civilisation, rail subways and information superhighways holding you afloat in a sea of soft, cushioning reality. not in reykjavik. to look out into the harbour, and out into the arctic ocean is to reveal where the real ends, and the unreal begins. in actuality, i am quite sure the unreal, and the edge of the world lies somewhere before you reach iceland. the only other explanation would be that the whole place and my time spent there was just a dream - but that stinging cold on my face was just too real.
hope all of you are well, jared xoxo..
anna1981 says:
I'd like to say thank you, but I didn't write it...kind of weird how a last minute trip to Paris led me to receiving this amazing travel account! :)
Posted on: May 01, 2008
homeres says:
'stinging cold' in a place too where there's hardly civilzation, Iraq. This was a well-informed and deep entry!
Posted on: Apr 30, 2008
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