Thursday, July 4, 2013

Day 18: Alþingi

A visit to the Parliament House was on our list of things to do, but we kept pushing it off to do activities that would be better to do outside, when the weather was sunny and comparably warm. (The forecast was allegedly rainy and in the low 50s; fortunately, it's somewhat sunny out today, although still a bit on the cool side.)

Alþingi convenes four days a week, and meetings can be observed from the public visitors gallery at different times during the week, so this morning we were able to view we-don't-quite-know-what for 45 minutes, but it was certainly interesting. (And apropos, seeing that today is Independence Day, at least for us; it felt fitting to view a government, even if it wasn't ours, in action.) We were able to take a brochure that explained the history, elections, administration, etc., and a handout that gave a seating chart that identified each legislator and his or her political affiliation.

Just over a dozen legislators were in attendance; many made speeches, that, if too long, were interrupted by the Speaker of the Alþingi, who rang a bell between one and five times, depending on how long the speech went.

It seemed informal: Folks got up, wandered about, got coffee or water (which I don't think they were allowed to bring into the main chamber), and chatted with each other; one legislator even read a newspaper, while others poked at their smartphones or, in one case, an iPad. At a few points there were bits of a ruckus: A few officials were speaking about a topic that elicited knocks on the tables, or verbal reactions.

We had a good view of the room and of the action, although some of the legislators were sitting below us. It was a pretty interior: sea foam green, blue, and white, with white plaster ornamentation hanging from the ceiling.

We had lunch at Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur, a well-known local Icelandic hot dog stand that had been visited by the former president Clinton some time back. We found ourselves tired out with all the activity we've been doing lately - lots of walking and driving and climbing over things, so we took a short break back at our tiny little rented apartment before meandering up and down Laugavegur to look at the shops, and where we saw lots of people walking and bicycling and teenagers with bad haircuts and young parents with strollers and small children who were unsteady on their feet.

The weather turned out to be warm and (mostly) sunny, which was a pleasant surprise, and not quite what we were expecting. It was good last-day-in-Iceland weather, and nice to be in almost-warm weather and to see flowers blooming.

There's a lot of good seafood locally sourced and prepared here, but there isn't a lot of variety of types of seafood: lots of cod, and minke whale, puffin, a little salmon - this is what we encountered in spades. At this point we were a bit tired of seafood generally and cod specifically, so for our last dinner out in Iceland, we went to an Italian restaurant around the corner, which turned out to be a good choice.

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