Whew. The absolute toughest part of this post is paring down the visuals. I have taken <checks> 1271 photos so far on this trip [and that’s with the bad ones culled out!], so yeah. An embarrassment of riches.
I’m just going to start here with Reyk, since this is where I washed up first. You can expect to see some of my other coolio destinations in coming posts, okay?
The streets of Reykjavik are gorgeous. The houses are often faced in tin to better cope with Icelandic winters, and they are painted many vivid colours. Walking through this city on a sunny day is just wonderful fun.
I have, however, been spending a LOT of time in museums and libraries. This is a research trip, after all, and my particular era of interest [early 15thC] is not one where there is a lot of info readily available. That particular era is in a strangely quiet sweet spot — no volcanic eruptions; post-Saga but pre-Reformation. A quiet, deadly time.
Which is why I like it, of course.
But, while much of my research material is less than photogenic, the rest of the place is, so let’s look around, shall we?
I arrived in Rekyjavik SMACK IN THE MIDDLE of massive political turmoil. The Panama Papers had just dropped and within a day or two, the Prime Minister of Iceland was deeply mired. I literally dropped my bags in my B&B and walked around the corner into this:
I had no idea what it all meant. I mean, I’d heard that the Panama Papers had exposed tax havens for the wealthy, but… why were these people waving red cards and beating wooden spoons on tupperware bowls and pushing prams?
A little research ensued.
In brief, it should be known that Iceland was hit terribly hard by the recession in 2008. The banking crisis brought the Icelandic economy to its knees, and the people here at the time took their leaders to task for it. Many bankers were jailed, and political leaders were held accountable. Since then, Iceland has done a tremendous job in rebuilding its economy.
Part of this has been done through government bail-outs and other machinations to prop up the Krona and return te country to prosperity. So when Icelanders read that their Prime Minister’s wife was running a tax shelter — one that has been expecting a bail-out — well, they cried foul. Literally.
The red cards, it turns out, reflect those waved by a referee to signify tossing a player out in football due to some extreme foul. And, like in 2008 when the people congregated outside their parliament buildings to call for government accountability, they are again out in force — families, singles, children and seniors, banging drums [and kitchen utensils!] in the most civilized protests I have ever seen.
Apparently the day before I arrived, there were a few missiles tossed at the Parliament building, in the form [mostly] of bananas and other soft fruit. [I did see a single squished banana, but it was on the ground, sadly. At the time, I thought it was just an abandoned snack…]. So, the day I arrived, police were present inside a cordon around the building. The only action I saw any of the officers take was when one quietly picked up an empty glass pop bottle and dispose of it, presemably to prevent it from being put to some Nefarious Use.]
And yet … determined. As I walked through the square again today, more than a week later, the crowds were once again out in force. They want answers. And are prepared to politely demand the same until someone listens.
As a break from strolling the streets and photographing polite protestors, I hopped a boat one night to see if I could spy the aurora from the deck of a ship, away from the city lights. Reykjavik is very beautiful at night, and, as you can see, even moreso from the water.
This was my first experience trying to get pictures of the aurora borealis. Once, a long time ago, before I had my first baby, I saw something in the sky outside of Calgary, when I was driving home one night after work. No camera at hand in that long-ago time, but I will never forget the experience.
This time, I had some photographic help, but on a swaying deck it’s pretty tough to keep a decent focus when a long exposure is required. Still, it was amazing to see the green and white lights shooting above our heads — just mesmerizingly lovely.
[I have had a bit better luck since then, as you will see in upcoming posts…]
A little, lovely, unearthly magic, courtesy of the solar wind.