Archive for the ‘Iceland’ Category

23 Oct 2006: Reykjavik, Iceland

My guess is there are not many people who can name the capital of Iceland or can pronounce it correctly – Reykjavik (ray-ka-vik).

Reykjavik is the capital and largest city of Iceland with a population of 120,000. It is located at southwest of Iceland and its latitude at 64°08′ N makes it the world’s most northern national capital. It is also a cold city and receives only four hours of daylight on the shortest day in the depth of winter; while during the summer, the nights are almost as bright as the days.  The highest ever recorded temperature in Reykjavik was 26.2°C (79°F) while the lowest ever recorded temperature was -24.5°C (-12°F).

When the plane approached Iceland, I saw blocks after blocks of icy white glaciers. It was a magnificant!

Iceland - view from the top (3)1

The Reykjavik’s coastline is characterized by peninsulas, coves, straits, and islands. It has many volcanoes.

Iceland - view from the top (9)2

 I stayed at the Viking Hotel, which is located in the fishing town Hafnafjordur, a 15 minute drive from the city centre of Reykjavik.

Viking Hotel

Hafnarfjorour Harbour (2) 

The rooms on the first floor of the Viking Hotel is unqiuely furnished in Viking style. Much to my delight (or disbelief), there is good wireless Internet connection. The abundant water and volcanic activity in Iceland makes it possible to have geotermical heating from the bath shower. The water is slightly yellowish and has a distinct sulfur odour.   

  Viking Hotel (4) 
Here, you can dine at the famous Viking Restaurant Fjorugardurinn. The restaurant is decorated in the Viking style and offers a true Viking feast with traditional meals served in old-fashioned Viking-style trays.
Viking Restaurant
Viking Restaurant (5)
The restaurants also displayed some fine art and crafts from Iceland, Greenland and Faroe Islands.
Viking Hotel (2)
Viking Restaurant (3)
In the end, my friend Wolfgang and I settled into a near-by restaurants called Hansen. A cosy little restaurant with decent food. We sat back, relaxed and enjoyed the food, noting the interesting figurines in the restaurants.
 Hansen Restaurant1 

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Hot Dogs & Blue Lagoon

25 Oct 2006: Reykjavik, Iceland 

Smaralind Mall

At lunch, we quickly stopped by the Smaralind Mall and took a quick bite at Iceland’s popular hotdog stand called Bæjarins beztu pylsur(meaning ” The best hot dog in town”).  In August 2006, the British newspaper, The Guardian, selected Bæjarins beztu as the best hot dog stand in Europe. Even former US president, Bill Clinton, had taken a bite at it. A hot dog costs ISK 250  and condiments include ketchup, sweet mustard, fried onion, raw onion and remolaoi (a mayonnaise-based sauce with sweet relish).  Yummy!!!

Smaralind Mall1

Iceland Hot Dog (1)1Iceland Hot Dog(2)

The hotdog had certainly opened up my appetite. Feeling only partially satisfied after one hotdog, I began to take a peek at the bakery… 

Icelandic Bakery1

Icelandic Bakery (2)

 Blue Lagoon

At 8 pm, I waited patiently outside the hotel, for the tour bus to the Blue Lagoon, a geothermal spa which is most visited attracion in Iceland. Here, you can relax in warm geothermal seawater, rich in minerals like silica and sulfur.

Iceland at Night (3)

Blue Lagoon(1)Blue_Lagoon-a

That night was very cold. There was a 50m distance from the shower room to the lagoon. Here you see the interest phenomenon… people making a 100m dash from the shower room and jumped into the lagoon, including me. The water temperature in the bathing and swimming area of the lagoon is nice and warm at40 °C (104 °F).  Blurrrppp….

It was a very relaxing dip.  When I was heading back to the hotel, it began to drizzle… and soon, the rain drop turns white. It was snowing! Amazing, as winter is hardly round the corner.

Iceland at Night (4)

That night, I slept very well…well, in fact so deeply that I overslept until Wolfgang came knocking at my door!

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Side Trips with AT

25 Oct 2006: Reykjavik, Iceland

During the short stay in Reykjavik, we made friend with AT, an intern from Ernst & Young. AT, barely in in 20s, offered to show us the “wild” side of Iceland. One fine day, he drove us to the outskirt of Reykjavik… into the conservations and wilderness called Heiðmörk.

Heiðmörk has approximately 2800 hectares of land and is a popular hiking destinations for the locals. It is also the home of Reykjavík’s water reservoirs and drinking water wells. It was a beautiful sight – a still-mirror reservoir against a rich-orange, autumn backdrop. Everything seemed to come to a stand-still…so serene that we can hear the wind creeping through us.  

Iceland Wilderness1

Iceland Wilderness (2)1

Iceland Wilderness (6)1

Wolfgang & AT

Wolfgang & AT

Here, it is common to see the Rauoholar, a cluster of red formation that looked like volcanic landform. The age of Rauðhólar is said to be 4,600 years old!

Iceland Wilderness (1)1

Goa Chocolate Factory

We were very fortunate to have a chance to visit the Goa Chocolate Factory. This confctionary was established in 1968 by Karl Magnússon and Helgi Vilhjálmsson.  It is currently the second largest candy manufacturer in Iceland. One of their specalities is the cocoa product with liquorice bits in the chocolate. I tried one and confessed that liquorice is an acquired taste for Asian.

Goa Chocolate factory

There are about 50 staff members and some of them have been employed at the company for more then 30 years. One of them is Ms Ingi, a long-serving employee of Goa Chocolate who showed us around the factory and explained the chocolate making process.

Goa Chocolate factory (2)  

Goa Chocolate factory (1)

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26 Oct 2006: Reykjavik, Iceland

Reykjavik City Centre

In the evening after work, Wolfgang and I ventured into the downtown of Reykjavik City Centre on foot. Our first stop was the Church of Hallgrimur, which is Reykjavík’s highest and most imposing structure, completed in 1974 after 30 years of construction.

The local said that that the stark, light-filled interior and architectural resembled the basaltic lava. But to me, it looked like a rocket, ready to fire off.

Hallgrims Church1
Next, we passed by the Hotel Borg, the landmark hotel which had been hosting Hollywood stars and head of states since the 1930’s.
Borg Hotel1
Round the corner is Tjörn or the lake for bird-watchers and taking a quiet walk. Tjorn, whose name means “pond,” is home to a number of species of birds including the wintering Arctic Tern. You can see the City Hall at the end of the lake.
The Lake (3)1
The Lake (4)1
The Lake (5)1
The Lake (1)1
VOX @ Hilton Nordica Hotel
Feeling hungry and cold after the walk, we headed towards Hilton Nordica Hotel. A friend of Wolfgang had recommended him to dine at a renowned gourmet restaurants called VOX.  VOX served ‘New Nordic’ cuisine and is perfect place to relax and enjoy good food. Even the dessert is still so appealing to our filled stomach.
Nordica Hotel1VOX desert (1)1
Here I attempted the Icelandic national drink called “Brennivín” which is a nasty schnapps made from potatoes and flavoured with caraway. It is commonly known as “Black Death” to the local. Can’t remember how it went down my throat but I think I will never try it again.
Black Death
Pearl Observatory
On another night, the local drove us to the Pearl Observatory, Reykjavík’s most recognizable landmark with its silvery glass domes. It was designed to be multi-functional, it serves as an observatory, restaurant, conference center and visitor attraction. Views are offered from the revolving restaurant which sits atop of four gigantic tanks each containing 4,000 liters/880 gal of 80°C/176°F water for the city’s geothermal hot water system. The heat from below is conducted through the building’s metal frame and warms the building. The Reykjavík Power Company has provided a fountain that simulates the activity of a geyser and from the balcony views of Reykjavík and the harbor are accessible through telescopes.
Pearl (2)Pearl
The Restaurants Grill @ Radisson SAS Hotel 
Our host brought us to The Restaurants Grill for dinner. This restaurant, at the top of Radisson SAS Hotel Saga, is the most renowned and beloved in its profession in Iceland. For more than four decades the warm and pleasant ambience of “The Grill”, on the 8th floor, has indulged every visitor, caressed their taste buds and put them, literally, to a higher ground. Delicate courses, vintage wines, diverse menus and elegant service are the hallmark, which is framed into an extraordinary background with a spectacular view over a beautiful city. Multi-Awarded cooks, unified servants and disciplined management has made The Grill into a world class restaurant.

Grill Restaurant (3)

My God, this is such a beautiful and memorable way to end my last night in Reykjavik.

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