Friday, June 28, 2013

Day 12: Reykjavik City Center

After so much driving yesterday, Ed and I gave ourselves permission to get up as late as we wanted to this morning, which turned out to be pretty late. We didn't feel like doing much today, but decided to take a walk around some of Reykjavik's historic sites, parks, and statues on foot, so after our late lunch at Kaffi Sólon we set out.

We didn't go quite in order as had been recommended by the city guide (mostly because our lunch destination wasn't near the first point of interest), nor did we see everything on the lists, but that didn't matter; we figured we'd see the rest another time.

In our search for historic sights, came across a park and monument to Jón Sigurðsson, a 19th century leader of the Icelandic independence movement. Across the street was the House of Parliament building, which was built in 1881, although Iceland itself has the oldest living Parliament; founded in 930 AD, it predates Great Britain's by 851 years, the United States Congress by 777 years, and Russia's Duma by 976 years.

At Fogetagardurinn Park, we saw the site of Reyljavik's first cemetery dating to the time of Iceland's settlement, and had been used for over 800 years; it is believed to contain the remains of 30 generations of Icelanders. We walked down Reykjavik's oldest street, Aðalstræti, excavations of which have revealed ruins dating back to the Viking eta. On Aðalstræti we were also able to see Reykjavik's oldest timber house.

Quite by accident we stumbled upon the Settlement Exhibition. In 2001 archaeological remains were excavated in Aðalstræti, which turned out to be the oldest relics of human habitation in Reykjavik, and all of Iceland. A wall fragment was found dating from before 871 AD, but during the excavations a hall or longhouse was found from the 10th century. The museum was built around hall and wall fragment, at their original location, and was an excellent exhibit with lots of good interactive information about life at the time.

After dinner, we took a short walk down by the sea to see the Sun Voyager. Just after 9:30 at night, the sun was still out and almost blindingly bright. It was too cold for us to take a long walk by the sea, but many others were out walking along the paths; it was quite a lovely night, a good one to see the sculpture.

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