The Great Fire in Reykjavík in 1915.
Favorite thing: In 1915 there was a big fire in Reykjavík called "Bruninn mikli árið 1915" or the Great Fire of Reykjavík on the 25th of April in 1915. Now that 100 years have passed from this fire (2015) there was an exhibition on the fire at City Hall and we got a guided tour from a theatrical group acting out the main events of the fire.
This was one of the greatest fires in Reykjaví. Two men were killed and twelve house caught fire, 10 of them burnt to ashes. Only ca 14.000 people lived in Reykjavík 100 years ago and it was a big blow for the inhabitants of Reykjavík, when so many houses and buildings burnt down in the heart of Reykjavík. Many more people were living in each house than today.
The fire started in Hotel Reykjavík on Austurstræti 12, which was a big and luxurious building on Icelandic standard at that time. There had been a big wedding lasting until the wee hours of the night at Hotel Reykjavík. When the last guests were leaving they noticed the fire. The fire then spread to other wooden buildings in the vicinity of the hotel. Eight buildings in Austurstræti street caught fire and four in Hafnarstræti street. Only the Post Office seemed to escape being severely damaged by the fire. And the walls and floors of the Landsbanki bank building were still standing (the walls i.e.) after the fire. Ingólfshvoll in Hafnarstræti, where one of the men died, partly stood after the fire.
Many of these buildings housed businesses and shops and everything burnt to ashes, the stock, the documents, the bills, the merchandise, everything. Eimskipafélag Íslands shipping company lost everything as well. The store owners had to appeal to the good nature of their customers to pay them back what they owed the store.
In the aftermath of the fire the building of wooden buildings and houses in the city centre was forbidden and concrete became the main material in the construction of buildings and houses. And gas was exchanged for electricity. Reykjavík got a real fire-brigade in Reykjavík, as their fire-equipment was in a bad state and really outdated. In 1920 the fire-brigade got their first 3 fire-trucks.
Fondest memory: From that time Reykjavík started to develop as a city (Icelandic standard), with almost only concrete buildings being allowed to be built in the centre of Reykjavík. There are still several timber houses left though in the old centre of the city.
The first building to arise after the fire was at Austurstræti 16 (opposite Café Paris) which is referred to as Reykjavíkurapótek or just Apótekið. When I was little the Reykjavíkurapótek pharmacy was located in this building. It was built by the soon-to-become State Architect Guðjón Samúelsson in 1918, 3 years after the fire.
What a tragedy fire can cause :(
Geothermal pumping stations in Reykjavík.
Favorite thing: If you visit Reykjavík you will notice some strange structures scattered over Reykjavík - the geothermal pumping stations.
Orkuveita Reykjavíkur or Reykjavík´s Energy Utility supplies us with our hot water. There are many geothermal pumping stations in Reykjavík, located on borholes.
Here is a map of the geothermal pumping stations in Reykjavík. To choose the geothermal pumping stations, click on "opna valglugga" choose "borholur" in "lagnir" and "uppfæra kort", then all the borholes will appear on the screen. I took a screen shot of the location of the borholes (see my last photo).
OR harnesses hot water from the geothermal areas in Reykjavík and brings it to us, so we can heat our houses with it and take long hot showers, as the hot water never runs out. OR also runs geothermal plants just outside of Reykjavík at Hellisheiði and Nesjavellir, where they heat cold water and send it to us. The geothermal water has got a distinct smell of sulphur. I have heard insults like that we must smell of sulphur, but that is by no means true.
I have also written a tip on the geothermal pumping station in Seltjarnarnes which is a neighbouring town of Reykjavík.
We always point out the borholes to our foreign visitors and on my first photo my husband is showing VT-members Rachel and Zohan.
Fondest memory: In this instance it would be having a warm home all year round and long hot showers ;)
budget Supermarket Bonus
Favorite thing: In Iceland, more tourists are on a tight budget than at most other places. Therefore, looking for a discount supermarket may be a way to stretch your budget. Unfortunately, Aldi and LIDL have not found their way onto this island nation – therefore you will have to look for „Bonus“. The only discount – supermarket chain in Iceland is easily recognized by the logo of a drunk piggy bank.
Bonus does not have only the selection of everyday life goods you would expect at mainland European chains. There, you can have also the specialities of Icelandic kitchen which have a raher folclorisitc character, for example Svid.
Pirces at Bonus are a little higher than in mainland western Europe (Germany/NL), but still below Icelandic average. Of course, there are also other spermarkets in Reykjavik, many of them have a wider/qualitatively higher selection than bonus. But what you save at Bonus, can be spent on other things in Iceland :)
There are around 30 Bonus stores in Iceland, a large Bonus can be found in Reykjavik's city cenre at Laugavegur for example.
Credit and bank cards / Icelandic Banks
Favorite thing: According to the tourist information, you will find only Icelandic Banks in Iceland. Although one of them may cooperate with your local bank, personal assistance is very difficult and you may have to deal via phone with your bank back home to get any assistance in case of problems.
Iceland is part of the EEA (European Economic Area), but not part of the EU. This means that the use of Maestro cards may be charged – in my case it was 1,50 EUR per transaction. Therefore, do not use your plastic cards for smaller purchases unless you know that neither the bank nor the point of sale will charge you.
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Excellent and delicious tap water !!!
Favorite thing: For any traveler knows something as simple as water can either make or even break your trip to anywhere ….
Iceland without a doubt in my mind has the cleanest and most delicious water on earth !!!!!!
I had read that it smelled like sulfur ?!?!?! the only time I smelled water like sulfur was when we were at the blue lagoon ….. other than that I never had any bad experience with the local tap water.
We ended up buying a couple of small water bottles to carry around in our book bag but we refilled them with tap water whenever we were running low …. try that in India or southeast Asia ??!?!?!
Dinner with Barb and Steve
Fondest memory: Thanks to VTer Regina, we were able to meet up with fellow Bostonian Steve (unmistakeable as he prowled the streets of Reykjavik in his Rob Gronkowski football jersey) and his wife Barb at the apartment they were renting in Reykjavik. Regina joined us of course, as did Regina's friend Ana from Slovenia. A balcony with a fine view on a sunny day, along with plentiful chicken, hot dogs, and hamburgers... and generous portions of Steve's absolutely lethal cocktails... made for an unforgettable (un-rememberable? ;o)) time. What a way to end our stay in Iceland!
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Is this building giving me the finger?
Favorite thing: There is a building next to Kringlan mall in Reykjavík, which we call the "f... u" building. It is called "Hús Verslunarinnar" or the "Building of Commerce". It was built in the image of the fingers on a hand, but it is kind of unfortunate that it looks like the rude sign, I guess it was not done on purpose...
There is another building in Kópavogur, the town adjacent to Reykjavík, Smáralind mall, which from above looks like a phallus, VT blocks the other word for it here. It can be seen on photos taken from airplanes, I guess that was done on purpose as a joke? But that is just a guess - but there is no coincidence that it is referred to as the bigges phallus symbol in Iceland. I unfortunately don´t have a photo of the mall from above... but I found photos taken from above here. At Christmas time the mall is decorated with big Christmas balls - which we find hilarious. But that is just our dirty mind - the decorations are lovely.
HOW I ENDED UP HERE
I happened to be walking past a Travel Agents window one day at work and I saw these signs saying something like 'Exciting Day Trips'. I half expected to see some bus travel to a nearby city. No, instead I saw Paris (OK), Barcelona (hmmm...), then Warsaw (oh?) and something that just jumped out at me:
Most people drive to the shopping mall on their day off. I am not, however, most people.
That was it. I went in a booked before I had any ideas of details - like what city/airport. As a matter of fact I missed this thanks to the stupidity of a work colleague (we sacked him the next year). Lucky for me the company paid for the next trip.
When they say 'day' they mean all day. The flight left from a distant airport at like 4am. Arrival at Reykjavik was straight onto the buses and a guided tour of the town and area. Then the best bit - a trip to the Blue Lagoon. Into the bath hot volcanic springs. Wow! I found myself sitting on a well positioned rock, slightly burning my bum and having a hair full of snow. Now that was awesome! Then out and the realisation that the sulphur content makes you stink! Plenty of soap was available though and we then were given 2 hours free time.
I ran around looking for a cheap souvenir (none) and bought some expensive ones. Then a mad dash up the hill to then climb The tower of Hallgrimskirkja on the top of Hallgrimur's Church.
And at the top I looked out the windows and could see - nothing. Absolutely nothing but white clouds.
2 minutes later - brilliant sunshine and I got some pictures. Welcome to Icelandic weather.
A mad dash for the bus, duty free vodka (best in the world!) and home late that night.
Sadly, as many of my stories end - they no longer do day trips of Iceland.
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The election of the Reykjavík tree 2010.
Favorite thing: On Menningarnótt "Culture night", the third weekend in August 2010, our mayor elected the Reykjavík tree of 2010. The tree that was elected is a Swedish whitebeam (silfurreynir) and is believed to be the oldest tree in Reykjavík, planted in 1884 by Schierbeck, Director General of public health back then. The tree is 10,9 m high, which is a lot for trees here in Iceland :)
The tree stands in Fógetagarður or Governor's park (see my tip on the park), which is also called Víkurgarður cemetery, on the corner of Aðalstræti and Kirkjustræti.
My Viking ancestry - Ingólfur Arnarson.
Favorite thing: My ancestors were the vikings and I have a straight blood-line to the first viking settlers here in Iceland. The first settler was Ingólfur Arnarson. He is the father of Reykjavík so to speak as he settled here in this then unspoilt place.
I have added more photos and information on my Viking and Irish ancestry in an album on my homepage.
Ingólfur Arnarson (844) Hallveig Fróðadóttir (850)
Þorsteinn Ingólfsson 890
Þórhildur Þorsteinsdóttir 920
Þorkell Þórhildarson 945
Ketill Þorkelsson 965
Haukur Ketilsson 1020
Yngveldur Hauksdóttir 1060
Snorri Húnbogason 1100 - 1170
Narfi Snorrason 1135 - 1202
Snorri Narfason 1175 - 1260
Narfi Snorrason 1210 - 1284
Snorri Narfason 1260 - 1332
Ormur Snorrason 1320 - 1401
Guttormur Ormsson 1345 - 1381
Loftur "ríki" Guttormsson 1375 - 1432
Ólöf Loftsdóttir 1410 - 1479
Þorleifur Björnsson 1430 - 1486
Björn Þorleifsson 1480 - 1548
Jón Björnsson 1520 - 1600
Árni Jónsson 1560 - 1655
Sveinbjörn Árnason 1610 - 1681
Gísli Sveinbjörnsson 1650 - 1703
Sveinbjörn Gíslason 1694 - 1762
Einar "yngri" Sveinbjarnarson 1727 - 1814
Ragnheiður Einarsdóttir 1789 - 1855
Soffía Vernharðsdóttir 1829 - 1869
Ragnheiður Helgadóttir 1855 - 1946
Þórdís Ásgeirsdóttir 1889 - 1965
My grandmother 1920 - 1995
My father 1942 - 2008
2008-2009? Church Restoration Project: Until When?
Favorite thing: I just got back from Reykjavik (June 2009) and the church is still under renovation (Hallgrimskirkja restoration project) and it is all covered with green net.
I asked my cab driver when it is going to be done and he said it started last summer and was (as has been posted) supposed to be done by fall 2009...but due to the economic recession, it seems to have been delayed more. Hopefully, they will get it done soon...it really is a magnificent building and a great landmark for Reykjavik since you can see it from a lot of points in the city.
But not to worry, even if you do not go up the Church, Iceland has so many more intersting places. They have the PERLAN (the Pearl) which has breathtaking views of the city and even a a cafeteria on the 4th floor and excellent dining...Enjoy Iceland!
Update: VTer sigur_ros wrote on Sun Oct 25, 2009 18:30 MST
Hi. I live close by the church and the scaffolding has been taken away in the last 2 weeks. Tower looks almost white, looks like they did a nice job.
- Family Travel
Baggage Storage at BSI Coach Terminal (BUS)
Favorite thing: After arriving at Keflavik International Airport and you just want a short visit to the city center, you will probably ride the Fly Bus and then you might want to store your luggage somewhere…
There is Baggage Storage available at the BSI Coach terminal where you will be dropped off. The BSI is at Vatnsmyrarvegur 10 and you can call them at 591-1000 but they are open only from 0730 to 1900. If I were young and backpacking and in Iceland overnight during the bright nights of summer, I would consider leaving my bags there and still go out and explore the city center before my flight the next day…
- Family Travel
Saving time by going to Blue Lagoon from airport
Favorite thing: I just got back from Blue Lagoon and it was so relaxing and very very nice. What I did was I had Reykjavik Excursions pick me up from the airport at 0630 AM when my plane arrived from NY, and the bus leaves from KEF at about 830 AM (Blue Lagoon is closer to airport than the city center) then the first bus that leaves Blue Lagoon is at 1115 AM and they dropped me off to my Reykjavik hotel which is about 40 minutes away. So since my hotel room would probably not be ready yet, it also saved time by me visiting Blue Lagoon immediately when I got in and relaxing my tired body after the plane travel! Your mother would love this…the water is so clean and naturally warm…The entrance to Blue Lagoon was already in my ticket. If you buy Blue Lagoon tickets, makes sure it is not transpo ONLY. The total for the airport pickup, Blue Lagoon Entrance and Drop-off on return to your hotel was US$77. But I did not bring a towel, and they charged ISK 680 for that (about ISK123 to US$1)…they only gave me a wrist key where I was able to put my big luggage in lockers at the first level and my clothes in the Men’s Locker.
The lockers do have hair dryers, but they do not provide slippers. They do have arm floaters before the entrance to the lagoon – so you can float on the waters…it is only about 4 feet deep all throughout in the spot available for the public.
Somebody watches over the people in the pool. But I noticed the Blue Lagoon stuff (lotions) were expensive. They do have the free silica dust for your face to get smoother in wooden boxes around the pool…make sure you dab this white pasty on your face for a few minutes (5-10)…my face still looks the same though, hehehe…
I spent about 2-3 hours there and it was adequate time to enjoy the pools and lava sauna and the waterfountain massage...Unless you go for the intensive spa where someone rubs your back and floats you with your eyes closed on the pool...so much pampering but worth it. They have been voted Best Spa consistently and is TOP TEN in the world according to Conde Nast....
And you can also have the Bus bring you to the Blue Lagoon hours before your flight and then just make sure to be in the airport in time for check-in for your flight
Fondest memory: Blue Lagoon
- Family Travel
Favorite thing: * Tourism Offices:
- Regional Information Center
Address: Aðalstræti 2
Location: 101 Reykjavík
Phone: (+354) 590 15 50
- District Information Office
Address: Strandgata 6
Location: 220 Hafnarfjörður
Phone: (+354) 585 55 00
* Some useful websites:
- www.visiticeland.com/displayer.asp?cat_id=126 (Spanish/English)
Favorite thing: If you want any information about Iceland, you can go to the Tourist Information. Up here they can help you with your questions.
The Tourist Information is named Upplysingamidstöd and is located at Adalstraeti 2. Their website is www.visitReykjavik.is.
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