(Written by Danny.)
Our second day in Iceland has been magical…AGAIN.
We spent the morning walking around Reykjavik admiring the Scandinavian architecture and color schemes. More than once today, Mara pointed at a house in the city, or on our drive into more remote parts of Iceland, and "Oh my...that is my dream home!" One thing we decided was we absolutely love the bold colors and strong contrasts. Some of our favorites are below:
While walking up and down the streets, we kept our eyes out for a chance to get a souvenir. Mara was looking for a very traditional Icelandic wool sweater - they tend to be a stiffer and somewhat scratchier wool, but are known for their warmth. Fit was often difficult - I'm assuming many of them are hand made because they all vary greatly - some have long sleeves and some make it look like you have long arms, and it was difficult to find one that didn't look like it was swallowing Mara whole :). Perhaps some of the best finds we had were at the Red Cross Thrift Store on the main street. Prices were much cheaper, and Mara found some she really loved. She couldn't quite commit though and has a sweater on hold in case we find something better in our travels.
I just wanted to find a sweater that fit well and was comfortable...for me that meant steering away from the traditional sweater and going for something that still had all the flavor of the traditional sweater...but all the consistency of a manufactured and tailored fit. I guess that makes me a "hand-made" party pooper. I loved the sweaters and other winter accessories by IceWear. Their wool was a little softer, and they fit a little slimmer (and they cost less).
We kept on walking up the hill until we got to Hallgrimskirkja, an absolutely gorgeous church designed by the architect Guðjón Samuel, who was inspired by the shapes formed when lava cools into basalt rock (there are basalt cliffs in Iceland with a similar shape that we hope to see tomorrow).
When we finished our city walking, we hopped in the car and started driving towards the Golden Circle- which consists of some of the most popular sites around Reykjavik. The drive itself is kind of other worldly and just as enjoyable, if not more enjoyable, then the destinations you visit.
For our final stop today, Mara decided to bundle up in her fleece bibs and relished in the warmth. She found them on Amazon and they're made with Polartec for the U.S. Military, but they're only $10!
We walked up to Geysir (the place from which all other geysers get their name). I caught a pic of Mara waiting for the eruption staring into the setting sun.
And Mara caught a pic of me after the eruption as we watched the sun set over steaming pools of super heated water.
The best part about the setting suns in Iceland at this time of year is...they last forever!! We stayed watching the sun set for about 15 minutes, then went inside a shop to look at more sweaters and souvenirs. When we left about 20 minutes later, then sun was still setting. And it was setting the entire 20 minute drive to our inn for the night - Héraðskólinn...which happens to be an old school designed by the same architect who designed the Hallgrimskirkja church that was just converted into an inn last year. We didn't know that until after one of our long conversations with the owner of the inn, who by the way, is wonderful!
If you ever come to Iceland and need a place to stay during your travels, you might find yourself having a wonderful conversation about happiness with the owner. He is a very thoughtful man, who has experienced many ups and downs of life, and though he wouldn't claim to have found the secret to happiness, he is certainly a very thoughtful student of the subject. Mara and I wish we could have had recorded the conversation as he shared the simple but powerful things he's experienced, where he claims that at his lowest moments (he described himself analogously as crawling on the floor with two broken legs), which led him to having an experience with God, and guides him now in his efforts to live a life that would allow him to "walk and talk with God." He was a very heartfelt and sincere man, not religious but deeply spiritual, and had an unmistakable humility about him. Truly, the conversations we had with him were one of the highlights of the day.