Thursday, April 2, 2009

Day 2, written from home (OK, from work)

Well, Iceland was a bit of a whirlwhind trip, and I never got around to posting about it again. Alas!

On Day 2 we went to some more sights and museums and did some shopping. In the morning we went to Perlan, a sort of restaurant/museum/function hall deal on a hill in Reykjavik. It's a big dome, and there's a rotating restaurant, a cafe, the Saga Museum (sort of a wax-museum deal, which we skipped because it was 1500 kronur rather than the 700 kronur the book said it was going to be!), and an imitation geyser (which only runs from noon to six pm - we were too early for the geyser).

The view was lovely:

2-15-2009 007

I don't seem to have uploaded any photos of Perlan itself. More later, maybe (I'm posting from work and don't have my computer).

As for shopping, we noticed that there were a lot of Iceland-made products in the stores; apparently because of Iceland's financial crisis, it's very much restricted how much money they can get out of the country and, therefore, how much they can import. The Christian Science Monitor had a neat article about it. So that meant a lot of wool, and touristy jewelry made from lava rocks (which I really wanted to buy some of, but none of it was quite to my taste). There was very little actually of the sort of standard made-in-China tourist crap you always see in any tourist location, which was kind of nice.

We both ended up buying things at the Handknitting Association of Iceland shop. They had hundreds and hundreds of Icelandic "Lopi" sweaters - I'll probably post more about this on my knitting blog. I bought enough yarn (probably much more than enough, really) to make my own Lopi sweater, plus a pair of machine-knit woolen gloves (I'd been looking for something like them for seriously YEARS, so it was great to find them). Kris got some yarn and a nice lace shawl. I kind of wish I had gotten more yarn, since it was seriously cheap. The Alafoss Lopi yarn I bought retails for $5-6 a ball in the US, and I got it for something like $3 a ball. Geez, now that I think about it I should have really loaded up on yarn and sold it all on eBay - subsidized my trip a little bit! And it's very light to pack.

After we'd been to the Handknitting store we started noticing that EVERYONE was wearing Lopi sweaters. The old fisherman at the best lobster soup place in the world had a nice one in shades of blue; very tall college-student-looking boys wore gray ones as jackets; a girl in a bar paired a natural white sweater with a bright red and white striped skirt and knee-high boots. I don't think that the Lopi sweaters are just because of the current economic troubles, either - from what I understand they just been very popular ever since they began to catch on in the 1940s.

That night we went on a Northern Lights tour with Reykjavik Excursions. We piled into a bus and a rather depressed-sounding guide told us that there were three things necessary to see the Aurora Borealis: magnetic activity, darkness, and clear skies. And that we were at a low point in the magnetic activity cycle, that the skies were partly cloudy, and that we might not be able to get far enough from Reykjavik for it to be properly dark. But! We did in fact see the Lights, although not the fantastic postcard kind you see sometimes. Here is a picture of Kris in front of the Northern Lights:

The Northern Lights

See, you really need a tripod to take a picture of the Aurora Borealis, and I did not bring mine. Also people kept taking pictures with flash. Please, if you go see the Northern Lights, turn off your flash.

OK, that was day two! I will post about day three soon! Maybe tonight even!