Departing Iceland

We took our last half-day in Iceland easy, getting up late, going for breakfast at a bookshop cafe, and looking in some shops before going to the top of Hallgrimskirkja to check out the view over Reykjavik.

The trip to the top costs about $7 and you pay in the church shop. However, the elevator to the top is just inside the door and no one checks your ticket, so you could, if you were a dishonest person, go to the top without paying. However, we paid.

You get out at the eighth floor (though I’m not sure what’s on the others) and walk into the room that has the clock faces on its walls. Here you also get some interpretation about the history of Christianity and Lutherism in Iceland, as well as who the church is named after (a famous Icelandic hymn writer) and why it was built.

If you ever wanted an example of how little religion has to do with faith and everything to do with politics, look to Iceland. Originally a Viking settlement, and therefore pagan, Christianity quickly burrowed in until about the country was nearly split in half between pagans and Christians. At one of the early meetings of the Viking parliament, in about 1000 AD, the settlement had reached the point where there was the potential the country would be split in two. The head speaker at the time said that if you “split the nation”, you “split the peace” so they took a vote to adopt Christianity, which they did and everyone was baptised.

At the time there was only one church in Europe, the Roman Catholic Church, but later, when Denmark became a Lutheran country, Iceland (as a Danish territory) also became Lutheran. The tour guide said that really the Icelanders are Catholic at heart but the interpretation in the (Lutheran) church paints a different picture.

I think it’d be much more interesting if they resurrected their pagan ways.

The view from the top is impressive. There aren’t many tall buildings in Reykjavik and the church is the highest point. Being built on a hill also helps. From the top, you can see how spread out Reykjavik is and it’s shame we haven’t had a bit more time to explore it further. I’m sure a suburb here is like a suburb anyway but I’d like to find out for myself.

While up the top, we got the fright of our lives as the bells tolled. It was loud, but thankfully not ear-splitting. Everyone looked a bit shaken after the first “chime”.

After that we descended to the bottom, had a quick look inside the very sparsely decorated church, then went to the Einar Jonnson Museum, which has a free sculpture garden behind it. The sculptures were of things like “Thor wrestling with Age” or “Protection” or “Spirit and Matter” but done in that green metal (copper?) and all made to look realistic and kind of dour. Looking at them in a snow-covered and bare-branches garden made it all the more atmospheric.

A bit more of a walk through the town before tomato soup and hot chocolate at the cafe, C is for Cookie, across from our hotel. The shuttle bus to the terminal arrived a little early but luckily we were nearby. We climbed aboard and Glen and I had to stand as all the seats were full. At the terminal, we then boarded the big bus to Keflevik airport.

Quick check-in then a wander around the shops before buying some food then boarding at 4:30pm for our flight home.

Glen and I think this has probably been our best holiday ever, so much so that I’m actually sad we’re leaving. I’m glad we stayed as long as we did though because anything shorter and I would have felt unfulfilled.

I would love to spend longer in Iceland, perhaps just a month (though three would be great) and I’d love to see it in the summer. Glen would do, which is positive. There is just so much to see and we’ve barely been out of Reykjavik. There are puffins and whales and volcanoes and a whole lot more to see and do.

We’ll be back.

2 Replies to “Departing Iceland”

  1. Hi I’m James from New Zealand. Never been to Iceland but have really enjoyed your posts!
    If you want to know more about those statues and the meaning behind them, you couldn’t do better than reading a translation of the Prose Edda by Snorri Sturluson. The one you were confused about (with the cow and the figure suckling from it) refers to the Viking creation myth. The cow’s name is Auðumbla and the one feeding from her is Ymir – who spawned the giants. Later the gods kill Ymir and turn his blood into the oceans and his bones into the mountains etc etc…

    If you have a read of the book, before you return to Iceland, you’ll see a lot more of the meaning behind Icelandic culture and everything you’re looking at.

    Great blog btw (my wife and I daydream about moving to Canada so we’re reading you and your partner’s blogs) 🙂


    1. Hey James

      Thanks for clearing that up. Will check out the Viking myths (been a long time since I read anything to do with them). Was pretty cool to stay on streets named after Odin and Thor.

      And thanks for reading the blog. Nice to know someone’s getting something out of it, especially all the way in New Zealand.




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