EDITOR’S NOTE: Burien resident Fred Feiertag’s column for The B-Town Blog will help you start your week every Monday. He will be sharing his observations, travel stories and more…
By Fred Feiertag
So far my trips to Iceland had been incidental to the purpose of my journey. But after my windy trip in 2019, I was determined to go on my own schedule even if I had to pay for it. Work had me pass through as before a few more times before I had my chance to go my own way. That happened just last October when I formally retired from being a consulting engineer.
Remember 2020? Quarantine time, wasn’t it for everyone? Like you my life shifted gears and parked for a long time. The pause ended my ability to work at my job so despite the very kind patience of my employer I decided to retire for another last time. It was still months before it was practical to travel but when it became possible I booked a trip to Worcester, UK to turn in my company owned computer and say goodbye. This opened the possibility to add on to my return trip and spend a week or so in Iceland. I started to get excited.
The trip went very well. I got disconnected from that pesky thing called being paid. I said my farewells to some really dear friends. Then I flew the short hop to Iceland. Flying last year was not fun for me. The need for so much personal protection does affect how it is to be out of my comfortable hideaway. Despite all the precautions I made it to Reykjavik and found a nice hotel only a block from city hall. It was late and cold, but the hotel expected me and were very cordial.
Once again I awoke the next morning in an Icelandic hotel and me with hardly a word of Icelandic to speak. My hotel served a nice buffet breakfast that kept me busy until mid morning. I started to notice differences. I like to see the differences in how my hosts do ”life.” I saw that the breakfast buffet included some offerings I had never seen before. How about a shot of cod liver oil with your pancakes, or pickled herring on toast? The coffee was good but the cups were quite a bit smaller than I expected. The heated offerings also caught my attention. Besides nice scrambled eggs, bacon, and grilled tomatoes, there were tasty looking link sausages. They were delicious. I asked what they were made from. I was told they are local and made from lamb. I also discovered that most of the food had predominately Icelandic ingredients. My geographic curiosity was getting interested.
After breakfast I went out as on my previous visit and found the walk much more pleasant without 50 mile per hour winds. The central city was filled with charming shops, places to eat, and those places in tourist rich locales that seem to be designed to separate tourists from their money. I must note that while there were many souvenir shops they were quite charming and had many things of interest. One street, sort of the major shopping thoroughfare was pedestrians only during the daytime. On it there was painted a continuous rainbow wide as the pavement. Iceland is serious about diversity and are very willing to show it. At the end of Rainbow Street as it is now named (see photo above) is the largest church in Iceland. This location is atop a high point and visible throughout the city. Halgrimskirkja is the center of the Lutheran religion in Iceland of which all are registered at birth unless the parents opt out. The church is an impressive structure and very modern Icelandic in character. Directly in front of the church is a bold statue of Leif Erikson. I had no idea he was Lutheran.
My wandering covered much of the city, especially the waterfront. The tiny old harbor was filled with fishing and tour boats. There was a large grey coast guard vessel as well. It turns out that Iceland has no military except for the Coast Guard. Their function is primarily search and rescue plus an occasional spat with neighboring country’s fishing boats. Imagine that, a country without an army, air force, or navy!
Visions of peace and balanced budgets were dancing in my head. Along the seaside I found the Harpa, the new performing arts center. It is an ultra modern building with amazing glass walls that are lit at night.
And so my day went. Seeing amazing new vistas all of which I found wonderful. So, of course, then I left town.