We flew out of Chicago O’Hare at 7:30pm, landing in Keflavík, Iceland around 6:30 a.m. Being the northernmost capital, Reykjavík doesn’t have the same sun setting and rising schedule as we’re used to back in the United States. Throughout the day the sun would randomly appear brightly, then disappear behind clouds giving even early morning a late afternoon feel. On our bus ride from Keflavík to Reykjavík we were able to watch the sun slowly rise from beyond the mountains. Spotlights were being shown over the hilltops, making it impossible for me to look away during the 30min+ bus ride.
After taking a bus to downtown Reykjavík (101), we immediately checked in our luggage at our hotel and our professor Althea Legaspi took us on a tour to get more accustomed with the streets of Reykjavík. We walked around, noting where venues are located for when Iceland Airwaves starts on Wednesday. One of the most fascinating locations is Harpa concert hall. Designed to look like the scales of the fish that change in different light, Harpa was something magical. We were fortunate enough to see a pianist perform, sunlight dripping in through the glass windows, illuminating the musician and adding a level of beauty to his music.
Somewhere in the day we stopped into the record store 12 Tónar and soaked in all of the Icelandic music we will be seeing at the festival. I bought records from two of my favorite Icelandic bands, Vök and Mammút. It was great talking with the store workers and learning more about Icelandic music (one of the people working is in the band Singapore Sling, which I will be reviewing on Thursday).
In the afternoon we headed to the city hall building where we met with Heidi Einarsdóttir, the international relations and marketing manager for Visit Reykjavík. She was insanely sweet, giving us cookies, fruit, and coffee, all the while telling us about how events are planned in the city of Reykjavík, including Reykjavík’s largest festival which has over 300 events, Culture Night, and December in Reykjavík, the month long, non-religious celebration of Christmas in Iceland. Einarsdóttir said tourism is growing around 30% per year in Iceland, with the expectation to hit over two million visitors next year.
During our visit with Visit Reykjavík, we were given a Reykjavík city pass, allowing us free access for 24hrs into any city museum or pool. We went to the pool, Sundhöllin, which is the oldest public bath in Iceland, having opened in 1937. Fighting off jet lag and lack of sleep for hours and hours, it was invigorating jump in the indoor pool and feel lively again. What makes this pool better than all the other ones in the United States is its “hot springs.” Once we were in the pool for a while, we quickly ran outside and into a smaller, hotter area of water. With bubbles on my back and watching the steam rise from the pool and mix with the cold Iceland air, I closed my eyes and felt at peace.
The rest of the night was much longer and spread thin. We gathered at a tiny restaurant called Hamborgarabúllan that clad with posters of ET, Queen, and Frank Sinatra where treated ourselves to a good ole American style meal–burgers and fries.
Our last adventure of the evening–Northern Lights Tour. As exciting as it sounds, our luck wasn’t that great. We travelled to Thingvellir National Park, near where the American and Eurasian tectonic plates meet. We stood outside in the middle of nowhere for at least half an hour, bearing the cold to see the green light spectacle. No luck. Technically, we did see the Northern Lights, but just as a white haze in the sky–they never turned green. If not on this trip, the one day I hope to return and see them with my own two eyes.