April 7, 2016 – Reykjavik

Dear world,

The wind is literally whistling outside, rushing down our quiet street and whipping against the white picket fence.

Luckily, we are inside, engulfed in our clean, white duvet covers and tucked in for a quiet night. In a way, the gales blowing off the North Atlantic just make our little shelter here feel even cosier.

I woke up at about 7:30 a.m. this morning and peeked out our window to find a perfectly cloudless blue sky.

Lured by the sunshine and nearby ocean, I slipped out for a walk while Dario slept in, bringing his camera along as I set out for the sea.

I walked the short half a block to the coast, where a barrier of black volcanic rock protects a winding seawall from the spray of waves. From there, I strolled aimlessly through the old harbour and up a series of side streets.

The sun was low and pale in the sky and the mountains still had a bit of a haze in front of them, obscuring their peaks. But it wasn’t too cold and I soon found myself peeling off my Canadian-winter coat and heavy scarf.

By the time I got back to the apartment Dario was awake and we fixed coffee and tea, toast, jam, and thick Icelandic yogurt for breakfast.

There is something so civilized about having the time to sit down and enjoy breakfast. After a year of leaving the house at 6 a.m. in order to make it to work for early morning shifts, it felt luxurious to sit and chat and plan out our day.

After breakfast we made our way into town. It’s only about a ten minute walk from here to downtown and maybe another twenty minutes from one end of downtown to the other.

We stretched out the experience, however, popping into souvenir shops and admiring little “kaffi and te” shops.

We walked to the towering Lutheran church that overlooks the city and bought some tickets to go up the tower and get a view of the city.

As we rode the elevator up the eight stories to the top of the iconic tower, Dario commented on just how different the Church of Hallgrimur is from a place like Notre Dame.

Construction on the Icelandic church started in the mid-1900s but it wasn’t opened until the 1980s.

Hallgrimer is stark and white, its architecture striking in its simplicity. Nothing is ornamented or adorned in any way.

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At the top of the tower we looked out at the city: little streets of colourful houses, hemmed in by a grey-blue ocean and mountains. There were a few panels with information on the poet and preacher for whom the church is named, and the history of Christianity in Iceland.

According to one of the blurbs of information, some of Iceland’s earliest inhabitants were Christians brought over by the Vikings as captives or slaves or wives. So from the country’s very beginning there was a combination of Christianity and Paganism.

Eventually, however, the divided faiths began to split the population, and the country’s leaders met in the year 1,000 discuss whether the country should break up into separate nations. Instead, the leaders decided to unite the country under Christianity and Icelanders officially adopted the faith.

Today, the church said, the vast majority of Icelanders identify as Christian.

After admiring the view, Dario and I descended and walked back to our apartment, making a stop at a local music store to pick up a souvenir for his cousin.

Iceland has a very distinct and strong musical culture and has exported a number of now-famous musicians, including Sigur Ros and Of Monsters and Men. There is also a very popular annual music festival here called Iceland Airwaves.

Back at our apartment we had a little snack and read a little bit and Dario got on the computer to do some research. After seeing just how small Reykjavik really is we’ve decided to book a car on Sunday so we can get out of the city and do some exploring.

We lounged for the rest of the afternoon, reading and napping, and then Dario dashed out to pick up some groceries and we roasted a big casserole dish full of potato and cauliflower and onion and sausage, all drizzled with olive oil and salt and a spoonful of dijon.

We spent the evening curled up on the couch, watching YouTube videos and eating our hearty dinner as, outside, the wind picked up pace.

Tomorrow it is supposed to rain and we plan to seek shelter in a café recommended by the Icelandair staff for serving authentic local dishes, including fermented shark and traditional meat stew.

Good night,
Emily

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