26.08.2011 - 26.08.2011
We escaped the United States just in time. Shortly after take-off our plane was buffeted by storms - almost certainly related to Hurricane Irene, which is on its way towards the East Coast of the US. From our window we got front-row seats to a lightning storm that brilliantly illuminated the dark grey clouds beneath us. An impressive, if rather scary, sight.
Our flight out of JFK was the very first part of the trip we booked, way back in February. Back then we tried to anticipate how we'd feel about a ten-hour layover at Keflavik International Airport in Iceland once we were there. Not too keen we thought, but the significant savings over a shorter connection clinched it. Plus, we thought we might be able to see a bit of Iceland, though we weren't sure if we'd be able to leave the airport. On arriving we checked with our airline - the answer was yes. So, while our trip is almost over, today felt a bit like a bonus day - one last place to explore.
As we left the airport to catch the bus we were struck both by the temperature (around 7 degrees centigrade when we landed) and by the landscape. Uneven and pockmarked its volcanic origins are clear.
Our destination was Reykjavik, around 45 minutes away. With around 200,000 inhabitants it's one of Europe's smaller capital cities. Even knowing this we were surprised at just how unlike a capital it feels. The attractive streets were largely empty of moving traffic and people. After the mayhem of New York it was a welcome contrast.
A tranquil harbour looks out to sea.
A couple of modern buildings caught our attention. The skyline is dominated by Hallgrimskirkja, a Lutherian church, completed in 1986.
Meanwhile the City Hall, a 1992 building, occupies an idyllic position in a corner of Lake Tjornin, suspended on stilts.