A light mist floats through the air, beads of condensation on the window in the morning. Outside, a rectangular red truck passes slowly down Laugavegur, cleansing Reykjavík’s main street. It looks like a toy and I realize that everything in Iceland, from the accents of the locals to the crazy animals, is adorable. In the distance, Hallgrímskirkja rises above the houses of Iceland’s capital city and I can’t believe I can see it from my apartment. I can’t believe I woke up this early.
Threat of rain leads to an overcast day as I venture forth on my Reykjavíkian adventure, umbrella stuffed neatly into a side pocket of my travel bag such that I can rest my hand on it as if it were a sheathed sword (Iceland, after all, is the land of Vikings and also where Game of Thrones is filmed).
I order an espresso drink at Reykjavík Roasters, a fantastic coffee shop that roasts its own coffee, has free Wi-Fi (it’s important) and features vinyl records inside. Caffeinated, I go onward to Hallgrímskirkja to catch the view, which I will not describe here because I already wrote about both Reykjavík’s “top” monument and eating Hákarl in my previous post. I wander all day, from the National Gallery of Iceland to the Sun Voyager (pictured above), from the Harpa Concert Hall to the Grasagarður Reykjavíkur Botanic Garden far east of downtown. It’s a small city, but it offers a lot of walking.
Spend enough time in the rain and eventually you’ll find some sun. The sunlight slips through the clouds, casting a glow on the colorful houses of Reykjavík, turning everything into a vibrant bite of tart apples for the eyes. It’s a temporary thing, something to enjoy while it lasts, a reminder that we only have the moment to cherish or something like that. Namaste.
The street art is no less colorful. Across the city, I find brilliantly sprayed graffiti and thoughtful left-behinds. There is an inherent artsiness to everything, even on the park benches, suggesting that everyone here is a hipster only without the pretentiousness. At night, another kind of color bursts from neon signs like those of Lebowski Bar, a fun The Big Lebowski-themed bar with a huge selection of, yes, White Russian drinks. It’s so ostentatious it makes nearby Chuck Norris Grill (yes, really) look tame in comparison. Likewise, across the city, the streetlights and store signs cut through the dark and illuminate all the more in their reflections off the returning rain.
On another day, a traveler in our apartment suggests the aforementioned Grasagarður Reykjavíkur Botanic Garden. She is another American traveling alone and we talk about all the places we’d like to see as we make the long walk east of the city center. Perhaps winter is not the best time to visit, though the expansive park is made more serene by the emptiness. Still waters reflect the park’s white bridges, creating a second universe. The sun is not out.
This is near my last day, and I feel as if I’ve seen most of what I wanted to see in Reykjavík. The silence of the park offers a chance to reflect, and there is an amazing amount to ponder upon for so small a place. A lone, colorful watchtower for children has been tagged by older kids, yet it still serves as an appropriate platform for surveying the field before it. The day is overcast again, and there’s an ominous vibe being alone in this particular spot, a powerful feeling standing in this diminutive watchtower looking down upon the misty green. I reach for my sword.