I Heart Reykjavik

What is the best part of human beings?
We can travel in time!

(((seriously?)))

Oh well, not that kind of transporter, though. But, we can easily remember some good moments with its every single detail through some communications with our hippocampus, and guess what?
We felt like we were there for the very first time, even if the moments has passed for a quite long time ago.

So, let’s travel back in time together with me!
Let me take you back to a few months ago when I was living in the Netherlands.
A moment in early of January 2014 when I was so busy with my thesis reports, final thesis presentation and final thesis examination, in order to close the journey of my master study.

Probably, I was too worried or stressful about those previous things, instead of finishing them down, I made a plan for traveling! And it was not only a country, but two in a row: United Kingdom and Iceland!

(((Crazy!)))

Oh c’mon.. Traveling is a lifetime investment and it never goes wrong.

(Okay, that was my excuse)

But, well, let’s focus on the destination.
Why United Kingdom?
>> Because, I love Sherlock.
>> Period.

Then, why Iceland?
>> Because I desperately want to see the magical aurora borealis.

So, here is my itinerary:
Amsterdam – London for 2 days, then London – Reykjavik for two days, and then going back again to London for another two days, and finally going back to the Netherlands on the next day.

If you see my itinerary, it might seem complicated, as I was going back and forth from London – Reykjavik. I chose that way, because the flight from London – Reykjavik (return) was way more cheaper than Reykjavik – Amsterdam (return). Plus, I also would like to stay little bit longer in London, thus this scheme fit my desire best!

In case the following information might help you a bit, I took the flights from WOWair company. It costs 79€ for London – Reykjavik, return routes.

On January 27 2014 in the afternoon, I arrived in Keflavík Iceland International Airport. Taking an airport shuttle bus offered by Flybus company to reach Reykjavik city. It costs 2,500ISK or 16€, and takes approximately 45 minutes.

My first impression about Iceland was so peaceful. I saw many rocky lands, and the beautiful icy mountains surrounding. Don’t let the size of Iceland (or Reykjavik particularly), fool you. As this land has everything that you want to have for your lifetime experience.

In Reykjavik, I stayed at Reykjavik city hostel. This hostel is a Hosteling international member, so you can get a free bed-sheet by showing your HI card member. The rate was also cheap. It was around 15€ per night. In case you get hungry, you can reach the 24-hour grocery shop, named “10/11” by 15 minutes walking to the north side of the hostel.

To see the northern lights in Reykjavik, there are two options: either you rent a car and do the adventure by yourself, or join a bus tour.

As I was solo traveler, then I picked the second one. I joined a northern lights tour offered by a Flybus company. It costs 5,400 ISK or 35€. They picked me up at the hostel around 8 in the evening, and then we headed to the south-west direction outside the Reykjavik city. It is important to have no light-pollution, hence you can observe the northern lights clearly.

Although you can always check the aurora forecast, however hunting the aurora borealis needs patience and extra luck. On the first day, my tour was cancelled as the Reykjavik city was covered by very thick clouds. At that day, it was almost impossible to notice any aurora activity.

Oh by the way, in case you are still wondering what is aurora borealis or the northern lights, here I copy-paste the description from Wikipedia:

An aurora is a natural light display in the sky (from the Latin word aurora, “sunrise” or the Roman goddess of dawn), especially in the high latitude (Arctic and Antarctic) regions, caused by the collision of solar wind and magnetospheric charged particles with the high altitude atmosphere (thermosphere). Most auroras occur in a band known as the auroral zone,[1][2] which is typically 3° to 6° wide in latitude and observed at 10° to 20° from the geomagnetic poles at all local times (or longitudes), but often most vividly around the spring and autumn equinoxes. The charged particles and solar wind are directed into the atmosphere by the Earth’s magnetosphere. A geomagnetic storm expands the auroral zone to lower latitudes.

The aurora activity level ranges from 0 – 9. Zero, the lowest one. Nine, the highest one (although it would be extremely difficult to have the best one). The aurora forecast says even grade 2 (low activity) can be beautiful and grade 3 (moderate) can be dazzling.

On the second day, I walked around the Reykjavik city. Took direction to Sæbraut street. It was a pedestrian path near the sea shore. As the winter season was covering all over the town, the sun rises at 10.30 in the morning. The shimmering sunlight shines upon the Mount Esja creates a very romantic moment.

During my walk, I also spotted Sólfario – the Sun Voyager. It is a dreamboat, an ode to the sun. Intrinsically, it contains within itself the promise of undiscovered territory, a dream of hope, progress and freedom. The work is constructed of quality stainless steel and stands on a circle of granite slabs surrounded by so-called “town-hall concrete”. It was constructed in accordance with Jón Gunnar’s enlarged full-scale drawing of Sun Voyager and was overseen by Jón Gunnar’s assistant, the artist Kristinn E. Hrafnsson. The engineering of the sculpture was supervised by the technologist, Sigurjón Yngvason, in close cooperation with Jón Gunnar himself, the building itself was carried out by Reynir Hjálmtýsson and his assistant (source: Wikipedia).

Later on, I continued my walking until I reach Skarfabakki Harbour and Harpa Concert Hall&Conference Centre. Near to those sites, it was the Kringlan Shopping Centre. I had lunch there and bought some post cards and souvenirs. It was quite expensive, I must say.

My next stop was the famous Hallgrímskirkja church. Apart from the controversy of the work, the Hallgrímskirkja church is indeed beautiful and unique.

As the hours went by and the sun was almost gone, my last destination was Perlan. Perlan is a landmark building in Reykjavík and has 25.7 meters of height. It was originally designed by Ingimundur Sveinsson and it is situated on the hill Öskjuhlíð where there had been hot water storage tanks for decades. Inside the Perlan, you can also find a very fine restaurant. Don’t ask me about the price!

Long story short, after I got lost here and there, I finally get back to my hostel just an hour before my northern lights tour was started. Exactly at 8PM, the company bus picked me up.

I still remember the feeling when I stepped on the bus.
I was so anxious.
Even I told to myself, that “don’t set the expectation too high, as you will never know what kind of fate you will end up with. The aurora borealis is really unpredictable. Free yourself, and whatever happens, be grateful because you finally visited Iceland. You finally watched the beautiful icy mountains. You finally met the friendly Icelandic people. You finally put your walk on a place near the Earth magnetic field”.

So, after my group tour headed to Sourthern part of Reykjavik, farther away from the city lights pollution, we finally arrived at the field. I spotted a very very amazing stars above the sky. It was a good sign, indeed. Clear sky means a higher visibility of aurora borealis.

..and there it was. The unforgettable moment appeared.

I started to see a shimmering northern lights in the sky. I was stunned for at least half an hour. I did nothing. Even I forgot to set the camera on. I was totally amazed. I cried in a silence. The happiness one, of course. As the northern lights are beautifully magical.

From this experience, I am truly grateful.
One of my bucketlists was successfully achieved.
Thank you dear God, for bringing me such an opportunity.

——

Photos description (top-down direction):
1) Perlan building
2) Spatial architecture in the afternoon
3) The Sun Voyager together with me. Thanks to a tripod and self timer though!
4) Harpa Concert Hall & Conference Center
5) City center
6) The typical Icelandic church
7) Sun rises with the Reykjavik city as the background
8) Spotted this beautiful moment near the Særbraut street. That was the sunrise
9) Kringlan shopping center in the afternoon
10) The view from the Ôskjuhliõ hill witg the Mt. Esja as the background
11) The beautiful Mt. Esja
12) The magical aurora borealis started to appear
13) The activity went visible
14) The dancing aurora borealis with its activity around level 4

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