Visit to Iceland (3): Reykjavik

On our second full day in Iceland, we spent the day in the capital Reykjavik (the name means “smokey bay”) which is the most northern capital in the world. There are many walking tours on offer, most of them expensive, but we selected City Walk which is “free” (at the end, you donate what you think the tour is worth). We were shown around by Tomas whose English was perfect (his father is American). 

Unlike most other European capitals, there are no grand sites in Reykjavik but there are a surprising number of buildings in the city centre which are decorated in variety of attractive pastel colours.  Also Tomas told us a good deal of the history and culture of the nation.

He explained that the key word is “isolation”. Global historical events – even the two world wars – have barely touched Iceland. Even today, the country has no armed services and minimal crime. Indeed it has no McDonald’s or Starbucks.

I was interested in the poltical system. The unicameral parliament has 63 members elected for a maximum term of four years. Currently there are eight political parties in the legislature but they are all Left-wing. There is high taxation but free education and free healthcare with no private education or private medicine.

In the afternoon, Silvia and I visited several locations on our own, including the tallest building in the country. Hallgrimskirkja is a Lutheran church which took 41 years (1945-1986) to build. It looks like a stone geyser in full eruption and stands at a height of 74.5 metres with great views of the city from the top of the church. 

By the picturesque Old Harbour, we went to what must be the smallest cinema in the world. It only sits about 10 people and only shows three short documentaries made by the owner Valdimar Leifsson. We viewed a film about the 2010 volcanic eruption of Eyjafjallajokull and another on the phenomenon of the Northern Lights. 


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