Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Iceland, day 1: future forward (contd)

I followed the directions to get in to the Ice Apartments lobby. That was easy, despite being told to "pull" the code numbers when it was really "press." Hey, we've all pulled when we should have pressed, and vice versa, right? For the life of me I could not find the box for the key for the room. I tried the lobby; I tried the fourth floor. I went to the desk of the Black Pearl and had them call Erla, the manager. Daniel, of the Black Pearl, went up to the fourth floor and showed me the "box" on the wall and we got the key. The box looked like a thermostat, but what do I know? The place is spacious for about $100 a night. Lots of white. Modern to the point of science-fiction. All the light switches, in Icelandic, have dimmers and on/off and rocket launchers and artisanal pure air pumps. Or something. Sleek style. I do look out onto the Old Harbor but aside from the new opera house it looks industrial with mountains in the background. 

I hit the pavements, not yet tired. Not yet feeling or acting tired. It was cold and windy, always windy the locals say, with the sky finally brightening. I ambled up the main street of shops and walked uphill toward the Hallgrimskirkja, a Lutheran church that sits atop the cityscape. A statue of Leifr Ericson is in front of it, a gift from the U.S. I went in to the church and heard echoingly loud organ music. It sounded like Bach, but the organist told me it was a French composer. Again, travel surprises. We do not experience what we expect. I assume massive churches to dwarf me, to make me feel struck down with awe. The nave was bright mint green and airy. It felt loose and open, almost retailish in its modernity. The interior was stunningly modern and simple (the Icelandic way), but I was trained to expect the moody candlelit somberness of a European cathedral. So when I walked out and viewed where I had been, the structure, though shockingly huge, seemed less. Granted, that is all conjured by my mind and its anticipation.

After I left, I used a free public WC. Then I went down the street and had a cup of coffee and fruit-laden and grainy bread with Icelandic Butter at Reykjavik Roasters. I chatted with Sebastian, British, I believe. 

I still needed to get to Kringlan shopping center to take care of my phone issue. I stopped a man walking two dogs to ask for directions. He intimated I was crazy, that it was that far. Take a bus, he urged. It was around noon. I brushed his concern aside and walked on. It was a lot of walking, on icy and snow-packed streets. They do a dreadful job of clearing sidewalks. It's a real hazard. I studied my map and turned left onto Miklabraut, a four-lane heavily traveled boulevard that sounds like a German dish. I asked a man shoveling his driveway if I was going the right way. He too tried to dissuade me, telling me to cross the street and take a bus. I trudged onward. Who knows why? I was almost there by now, I supposed. A few long blocks from the mall, I crossed under the street in a tunnel for pedestrians. It had graffiti mural and filth: rubbish, wrappers, plastic, scattered paper hearts in the swampy detritus. I asked another fellow if I was close. I was. For once, he (young, unlike the others I had asked) saluted my walkable mania. 

Here's the bad part. I got to the Simm-inn store and they said it was an AT&T problem, my phone was locked, they couldn't help me, and they couldn't give me a refund. Maybe they could at the airport. Good luck. This was distressing and deflating. Now I felt tired and hungry but mostly tired. In a word, I hightailed it out of there and took a bus back "home" and finally took a nap. Just that hour or so helped.

As for tired, I dare say: has Reykjavik, Iceland ever had a 67-year-old tourist walk so far in one day all by himself? I'll match anyone, though that was not my intent. (What was my intent?)

Then I took the most modern of showers.

[more to come but not tonight]


Unca_chuck said...

Hah! Don't know why, but US phones are a bitch overseas. We had more phone problems in Italy in 2 weeks than in the other 10+ years we've had them here. It was unnerving trying to find our way through Florence (or Rome, or Siena, or Venice) on foot or driving, and looking at googlemaps, and the map is spinning in slow, methodical circles.

Hope you have a great time Paul!

Snarkk said...

For some reason, I don't remember visiting that church. Maybe I didn't, this was in 1994 I think -- so my memory is not great for way back then. It looks pretty Icelandic, i.e. modern looking and spare and utilitarian -- like most things in Iceland. Hope the weather clears a bit for you Pawlie. Don't forget to try some Skyr for breakfast...

Blade3colorado said...

Just got your email . . . Glad to hear you are exploring via your legs. Best way to see a city in my opinion. Yeah, agree with Chuck that phones are a bitch overseas. Me? I never activate mine. It's a smartphone, so I take advantage of the great camera and WiFi capability. In most countries, WiFi is available everywhere and it's free.