While Kansas City sweltered in humid temperatures that approached 100 degrees, we shivered in constant rain with temps that didn’t make it to 50. Nevertheless, nothing interfered with this as a unique and fun filled day.
First stop was the nearby Catholic Cathedral where we secured the final stamp in our Camino credentials. Reykjavik’s Cathedral of Christ the King was built and consecrated in 1929. Its new Bishop was installed that year, the last one having been executed in 1550. There were virtually no Catholics in Iceland until the late 1800’s, a 1970 census placed the number at just over 1,000, and today there are about 13,000 in a country of 350,000.
We also visited the towering Lutheran Church, which is the center of Iceland’s official religion. In front of the Church is a beautiful bronze statue of Lief Erickson, a 1930 gift to the people of Iceland from the people of the United States.
In the course of making improvements to the center of Reykjavik the remains of an 1,100 year old Viking settlement were discovered. These ruins which are below modern street level were preserved and the urban improvements were installed overhead. This information rich site provided us with details about life in the early settlement, and even insights into the genetic heritage of the original and modern inhabitants. DNA establishes that most of the early male inhabitants were from Scandinavia but most of the females were from Ireland and Scotland. This is consistent with the practice of raiders during the Viking era of taking women into bondage.
We also visited the oldest remaining house in Reykjavik, which dates to 1772. It now serves as a museum that features temporary exhibits. Currently photographs from 1918 are on display. These images portray life in the months preceding the Spanish Influenza epidemic that devastated Iceland and the world.
Tomorrow is Iceland’s National Day, but for soccer fans that day was today. Russia is hosting soccer’s World Cup. This is the first World Cup competition for Iceland and today was its first match. They faced an experienced team from Argentina and were considered to be hopelessly outmatched. Iceland played Argentina to a historic 1-1 tie which we and much of Reykjavik watched on a huge outdoor screen in the city center. We again had the experience of finding ourselves in the right place at the right time. Serendipity at its best.
Finally, we attended an intimate play at Reykjavik’s Harpa, a remarkable center for the performing arts.
It was a one act performance featuring two talented and energetic actors. They presented an interwoven comedic script based upon the subjects of all 40 of the surviving “Icelandic Sagas”.
At times they made this into an outrageous audience participation farce. I myself became the recipient of a pair of large hanging boobs. We reprised this in a post production photo opportunity with the actors.
Tomorrow Christine and I strike out into the countryside for a very different “Icelandic Saga”.
Peace Everyone. Pete
PS. On a street corner is a non-descript food stand that sells hotdogs. Bæjarins beztu has been there since 1937, and is one of those “must do” things that visitors of all stripes “must do”,