Female Tufted Duck

Iceland 2012, Day 1: Reyjavík Harbor and Tjörnin

Female Tufted Duck
Female Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula), Tjörnin, Reykjavík, Iceland. August 12, 2012.

For once I’m going to try to do an extended travelogue and actually finish the whole thing. In August my mother and I went to Iceland for about a week and a half; it was her first trip and my second (I visited in 2006, after finishing college), and we pretty much camped and bussed and sometimes hosteled around the Reykjavík area and over to Skaftafell.

There were some big and noticeable changes since my last trip. Some were architectural, like the new Harpa concert hall by the seafront in Reykjavík, one of the rare pieces of modern architecture that appeals to my sense of aesthetics. Others were more infrastructural: Skaftafell National Park, which I visited in 2006, was incorporated into Vatnajökull National Park in 2008. Unfortunately, I lost the majority of my 2006 photos to computer problems, so I can’t be sure, but I definitely don’t recall a big shiny visitor center or showers, both of which were present at Skaftafell this time around.

There were other, more worrisome changes as well, but I’ll get to those in later posts.

Anyway, we didn’t manage anything but groceries the first day. We were staying at the Hostelling International hostel outside the city center, near the botanical gardens and zoo, and decided to walk into town the second day along the seafront. This may not have been the best-considered plan, but it was an interesting walk that I hadn’t done before–we saw a number of sea birds, including some interesting ducks, and some public art, as well as Harpa, which is fronted with glass prisms that catch the light in really interesting ways.

The area by the harbor is pretty much the only part of Reykjavík with anything like skyscrapers, and there had certainly been a lot of construction in the last six years. But although it’s the largest city in Iceland, at 119,000 people, Reykjavík is still a small city by international standards: it’s possibly to walk across most of it (outlying suburbs excluded) in less than a day, although your feet will hurt.

Reykjavík Harbor

We watched a volcano movie, which I kept falling asleep during because of jetlag (unfortunately we weren’t able to make it to Villi Knudsen’s volcano documentaries–I met him on my first trip to Iceland, and he took me to dinner, which is one of my treasured travel memories. He’s a fantastic filmmaker and an interesting person).

Then we wandered by Tjörnin, a small lake in the middle of the city center and a great bird-watching location. Here we spotted some more ducks, including the Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula) at the top of the post, and this bumblebee:

Bumblebee (Bombus sp.)

The next day was the obligatory Golden Circle tour, which I’ll probably break up into a few posts.

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