Iceland - The Starts
Traveling around Iceland was a journey in itself. Except for the stretches surrounding Reykjavik, we didn't hit much in the way of multilane highways, so there was always the odd feeling of following a singular path. Our drives were constants battle between wanting to stop and appreciate the sights around us, and the nagging urge to move on to our destination. We passed at least 100 beautiful would-be destinations every time we got in the car. A lot of the time it felt wrong to just let them rush by through the window.
As we traveled the weather changed constantly. Most days felt like they were lived in stages, or phases, depending on the time of day and the mood of the skies. There were times that we would watch the sun burst through the sky in front of us, or monitor an ominously approaching rain path approaching from the side. The cloudscapes were some of the most vivid I've seen -- painted low across the sky like they were waiting to be climbed on, but stretching on for so long that you can't imagine them ending.
The entire trip, as well as each day, were bookended by the city of Reykjavik. Despite being the biggest city on the island, I would contest that Reykjavik feels distinctly small. The streets never reach the chaotic, overflowing level of many American cities, and the low height of the buildings along with the central location of the commercial areas gives it a very tangible feeling. The graffiti in the city is incredible. I always keep an eye out for street art, but walking the streets of Reykjavik it was impossible not to see it on almost every block. I meant to ask someone there whether street murals are commissioned and if so by who, but never got around to it. Full wall murals crop up in the alleys and on sidestreets, while smaller pieces are even more ubiquitous. The style of the majority of the pieces was very explosive, full of life and color.
Because of the growing tourism industry in Iceland, Reykjavik stands at a crossroads of visitors and locals. Many Icelandic people seemed especially willing to blend with travelers rather than repelling them, with English as the mediating language. At each turn of our trip we found that we could ask for advice, directions or recommendations and the residents of the city would share their unique insights with us. Between getting directions to a secluded geothermal hot pot and being directed to the best fish restaurant on the harbor our experiences with our hosts were top notch.
In a sightseeing and touring sense, the 2 days that we spent exploring the city were plenty. The Hallgrímskirkja Church, Bæjarins Beztu hot dog stand, and Tjörnin lake were all worthwhile places to visit, as advertised. I got the sense, however, that Reykjavik is the kind of city that unfolds more charm the more familiar you get with it.