The Most Northern Capitol

Look Up Hallgrimskirkja

This morning Austin and I found it to be snowing outside and even windier than yesterday. Though the thick clouds overhead looked threatening, we got in the car and headed towards Reykjavik, the Capitol of Iceland, and the most northern Capitol in the world. On the roads, the wind was blowing the snow completely sideways and even moving our car to the side. It lightened up a bit once we got more inland, and by the time we reached the city it was still very windy but only lightly sprinkling.

First we went to Harpa, the Reykjavik Concert Hall and Conference Centre. This massive structure sits on the edge of the ocean and opened 5 years ago. The front face is made of a glass wall cut into hexagonal shapes, very similar to the rocks at the beach we saw yesterday. The concrete inside was very dark and I think it’s because they used local aggregate: black sand. Both of these elements make the building have a strong sense of identity with its surrounding culture. The interior spaces were beautiful, reaching up multiple floors at times, glass hanging down on all sides. Staircases also wove up and around throughout the building, which created a somewhat chaotic yet smooth feeling. It was a really cool building and I enjoyed it a lot architecturally.

On our way back to the car, Austin and I stopped at a famous little hot dog stand for lunch and it was delicious! We hit a few stores too, looking at all the local goods to buy. They sell so many wool products and lava rock jewelry, both very local types of products.

Reykjavik Street View
City of Reykjavik

Next we went to Hallgrimskirkja, the largest and most famous church in Iceland. This church also had geometries that mimicked the rock structures. It tiered down on both sides and this move was used on the outside of the windows as well. The interior was absolutely stunning. The clean-color, clean-line columns met the groin vaulting ceilings smoothly and gracefully. The light inside and lack of ornamentation were wonderful, creating a wonderfully simple space. Even the side aisles were beautiful, leading to the altar and to a single stained glass window. The organ and the pews were customized to match the language of the architecture, having stepping geometries. The organ itself was gorgeous and massive, over 5,000 pipes hanging from the wall.

We stopped at Reykjavik City Hall, a modern building sitting on a large pond, columns plummeting¬†to the water. It was nice to see, but we couldn’t go inside so we moved to our next stop.

Next was Cathedral of Christ the King, a small church somewhat similar on the inside to Hallgrimskirkja with its plain line columns and ceilings. Stained glass windows flanked the two sides and cast colored light into the space. It even looked like there was going to be a wedding in there sometime soon! The outside looked very traditional for a Cathedral, and reminded me somewhat of Burrus Hall at Virginia Tech.

Our last stop in Reykjavik was another small church called Neskirkja. This church was more modern than the others and had a sawtooth-like exterior that let indirect light into the chapel from the sides. The interior was filled with wood and lighter materials, the sanctuary space uninterrupted by columns. The lights on the ceiling were nice, also permitting indirect light. The entrance to the church had a small alcove with a beautiful stained glass in it. It was a perfectly sized church and I enjoyed the columm-free space.

Our last major stop of the day was Blue Lagoon. This man-made hot spring pool is one of the 25 wonders of the world (at least according to them). This milky blue water is famous for having rejuvenating characteristics because all of the silica in it, which also is the reason why it is milky. Over 6,000 feet into the ground hides the source of the water’s heat, the geothermal wells. The lagoon had places where the water was hotter or cooler, and there were also saunas and spas along the side, giving many options for its guests. The place was packed with people swimming, drinking, and enjoying the white face masks. Reluctantly, Austin and I did the silica and algae masks, rubbing the thick mud on our faces. Although the water was warm, the wind was blowing the cold air so hard that the masks froze on our faces! After rinsing them off, we found our skin to be immediately softer. We ended up spending a while at the lagoon relaxing with all the other tourists and layover travelers from Keflavik Airport. It was an interesting experience, and as a “must-do” for Iceland, I’m glad we took the time to go.

Tomorrow is our last full day in Iceland and we will be driving the Golden Circle, the “tourist road” of the country with many things to see on it. I’m excited to see what it has in store for us! We are hoping for clearer skies and less wind, as well. But either way it will be great to see many of the other famous things in this beautiful country.

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