Iceland is one of the most popular destinations. I had always wanted to visit it and I was excited when I got an opportunity to visit the country. I got to the JFK airport from where I would take an Austrian airlines plane to Reykjavik. My trip would last for a period of four days and I had hired a tour guide through a tour agency.
I checked into my room in the Reykjavik Residence hotel. Some of my best moments in my whole trip were in this hotel. One thing about me is that I truly enjoy good food, I even go out of my way to seek out good food.
When I got into the hotel, I found that the room I had booked online was no longer available. The manager who came to explain this to me showed genuine remorse when he explained the situation to me. For my trouble (which, I might mention, was waiting in the lobby for about five minutes) the manager offered me a suite.
I do not know how much the suite cost but I was certain it was much more I had paid for my room. The entire staff from the concierge to the reception, room service, laundry and everyone else I had the chance of encountering were wonderful. The food was great and there was a great variety to choose from. Since I had come for excursions, many times I only took breakfast, which gave me sufficient strength to move about the city seeing the sites.
On the first day, I was to visit Hallgrimskirkja Church. I do not have much knowledge about architecture. I can appreciate a well-done building but I cannot claim to have deep knowledge or interest in architecture. This church, however, has fascinated me for a long time. At 73 Meters, high, it defines the skyline of Reykjavik as the city’s main land mark.
My guide came to pick me up on the first day at exactly 8.00 am as agreed. I was just finishing up my breakfast when he walked in. A cheerful looking man who as far as I could tell was in his early thirties. He had a lot of information about the city and as we drove from the hotel towards the church, he kept me informed with historical anecdotes concerning the city and the whole country of Iceland. His clarity when answering questions showed a keen intelligence which I liked. He was the kind of tour guide who would make things interesting by making suggestion and creating cocktails of sites which would make things interesting.
I had been seeing the Hallgrimskirkja Church on post cards and pictures elsewhere but seeing it in real life, it was more than I had thought it would be. I stood there for a while drinking in its magnificence. My guide waited for me to marvel with a professional calm, I suppose he had anticipated my reaction probably from seeing it many time from first timers like me. The bells tolled while I was standing there creating a sort of melancholy I had not experienced for a long time.
When I finally could get myself to stop staring at the building I asked my guide to guide me to the tower. He led the way and when we got to the top, the view below and in the horizon enabled me to have a great view of the entire city. On this particular day, the sky was clear which only accentuated the view. My guide and I went to few other places in the city but this was the day’s highlight, he politely turned down my requests to visit the Golden Circle, another one of the big sites I had set out to see until the following day.
A visit to Iceland would not be complete without getting a taste of Iceland’s Viking history. My guide, who was at my hotel again at 8.00am on the dot took me to the Reykjavik settlement exhibition. Looking at a replica of the hall built so many years ago deflated my notion that we in this age are the smartest people ever.
Seeing the Viking items brought some interesting characters in Viking history such as Ragna Rothbrok to life in my mind. After visiting the settlement, it was time to visit one of Iceland’s unique attractions, the Phallological Museum. I was not sure whether my interest was in seeing the penises displayed there or just to tick something off of my bucket list. The most interesting thing in that museum was the huge number of people who had gone to visit it.
I decided to explore the Perlan. The domed building itself, an architectural masterpiece was beautiful and showed great creativity. Unfortunately, I have to mention that on the food front the Perlan didn’t meet my expectations. The food was good but not exceptional, I had always thought it would be something mind blowing. It was when I was in the revolving restaurant that I realized that the Perlan’s emphasis was more about revolving to get a complete view of the city every two hours than it was about anything else. The revolving experience was a good one though.
The fourth day was the day when my guide and I had set to take on the golden circle. I had been in Reykjavik for a whole three days and going back to New York without getting out of the city would have denied me the opportunity to at least sample what was on offer elsewhere in this beautiful country. The Tingvellir National Park which is the location of the early Althing (Icelandic National Parliament) which was among the earliest attempts on democracy having been established in 930 AD. All the other sites including the geysers were awesome to behold. The guide made things interesting by explaining some historic intrigues that took place in the parliament during the periods of primitive democracy.
Visiting Reykjavik was a great experience. The country is peaceful; the people are friendly and the sites have been very well maintained. The people take pride in them and own them as their national heritage. Aron, my tour guide, made me enjoy the entire trip.
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