Reykjavik, Iceland – Part 2

Did I See the Northern Lights?

Seeing the northern lights was one of my must-dos in my trip and the reason I would say I came to Iceland in the first place.  Watching videos of the lights makes them seem otherworldly – it seem real, and I had to see it for myself.

Gray Line tours in Reykjavik offers evening trips for viewings of the Northern Lights.  Each day they decide by ~6pm if conditions are favorable – if they are, they will take you an hour out of the city where there are less lights to see them.

I was halfway into my stay in Iceland and each night had been cloudy and poor conditions for viewing.  On a cloudy day, they may go anyways – hoping that they clear up later.  If they aren’t visible, your ticket is transferable to another night.

A busload of us were taken into a clearing.  It was still cloudy, but plenty of wind to push clouds around.  Did I mention Iceland was cold?  I was fully decked out in two pairs of gloves, heavy winter jacket, toque – the works.  They drove to another location… and waited… and waited…  all we got was a good view of some moonlit clouds.  In all we were out of town for 4 hours.  I didn’t want throw away an entire evening again, so I didn’t bother booking another viewing tour.

moonclouds

Not my picture. My camera can’t really take pictures at night.

 

 

 

 

 

 

While the eastern coast of the US was hit by a terrible storm, unrelated high winds were hitting Reykjavik – reportedly hitting up to 80 km/h.  Before I knew the bus schedule near where I was staying, I braved a 30 minute walk from my airbnb.com homestay into town fully decked in my winter gear to grab a late dinner in town and explore.

Finally, there it was, above me – a completely dark sky, with a long green streak reaching just above the mountains reaching about 1/3 of the way across the sky.  It didn’t dance around, but writhed slowly and if you weren’t staring at it, you wouldn’t notice that it was even moving.

Looked something like this (camera can't take pictures at night)

Looked something like this, but thinner

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was happy.  I stood on the sidewalk watching for as long as the biting cold winds could permit me while walking into town.

Reykjavik, Iceland – Part 1

It turned out that when booking my trip the dates coincided with Iceland’s biggest music festival, Iceland Airwaves (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iceland_Airwaves).  This turned out to be a bit of a mixed blessing.  On one hand I got to experience the collective buzz in the city from a fun happy social event, on the other hand I didn’t have a ticket (sold out, and I don’t really like concerts anyway) – so I wasn’t able to get in some of the bigger venues, and I had a hard time booking accommodations on the second part of my trip there.

There are two major tour bookers that exist in Reykjavik – I used Gray Line Iceland Excursions (http://www.grayline.is/Tours/activity_tours/Iceland.is) when I went caving. All hotel transfers worked out pretty well, you can get picked up at your hotel or just meet at the main office.

The time of year when I was there (late October/early Nov) it was dark very early.  This turned out to be the case in all of my stops in Scandinavia.  This means after waking up around noon some days, by the time I’d eat and roll out I’d only get a couple of hours of daylight.  Most of the Europe photos on my trip are going to be either indoors or appear to be at night time.

Fortunately not all venues were IA exclusive, some bands play in venues like Bus Depots or Hostels.  I was able to check out a lot of different bars in Reykjavik.  Given the cold, lack of available seats and coat check – most people just kept wearing their jackets in the bars or clubs the entire night.  Clubs didn’t charge cover – apparently “That just wouldn’t work here” – they just might have super long lineups to get in.  My first night in a bar in Reykjavik dancing I thought to myself “How cool is this?  I’m in fucking Iceland!”

I left the last few days of my Iceland trip unbooked hoping I’d find something while there.  I was able to find a place a 10 minute bus ride / 30 minute walk out from the city center.

Read more about Iceland in Part 2…