It’s not the largest European capital, but Reykjavík is to my mind one of the most interesting. Within hailing distance of the Arctic Circle, it can have some of the worst weather imaginable. Yet it is relatively small (about 131,000 souls) and is walkable—if it’s not too windy and wet. You can feed the sea birds by the Tjörn, the municipal pond, but they could just as easily attack you for the goodies you are doling out. The people are friendly, but it seems everyone in town gets shitfaced drunk on the weekend.
There is an air of mystery about the city, which is one reason why the mysteries of Arnaldur Indriðason and Yrsa Sigurdardottir, among others, are so popular.
I have been to Iceland twice, once in 2001 and once in 2013. Both times I fell in love with the city and wished I could stay longer. My first day in 2013 was my favorite. It was near the summer solstice, when it does not get dark until the middle of the night, and then only for a short while. Even after my long flight, I fought jet lag by forcing me to stay up until 7:00 AM Los Angeles time. I even took an evening ghost tour through the local cemetery with the sun still up past 10:00 PM Iceland time.
As I walked the streets of the city, I noticed that many of the buildings had walls of thick corrugated steel, frequently brightly colored. The stucco and chicken wire constructions that protect L.A. from earthquake damage would be blown to bits by the Arctic storms. I ran into one in Myvátn where the rain was blown horizontally through every micro-opening in my parka. And all I was trying to do was to get to the grocery store across the street.
I don’t know if I will ever get to Reykjavík again in this life, but in a way it has never left my dreams. As Edward Gorey once said: “I have fantasies of going to Iceland, never to return.”