Take Me to Church

My computer has been a bit sluggish lately, so I fed it coffee to see if it would wake up. Unfortunately, it seemed to have the opposite affect…

Skip to the next morning, and I’m on my way to Reykjavik to find what might be the only Apple Store on the island (judging from the wait time to get anything serviced). Quaintly titled “Macland,” it was housed in a bright turquoise, wooden building rather than the glossy white and glass exteriors typical of American versions. Bad news: it could be a week before I get my poor laptop back. Good news: it is at least fixable, I can apparently – painstakingly – blog from my phone, and because of my clumsiness, I got an unexpected morning in the capital city!

Thank goodness my host was already heading that way today, and even taking her kids with her, which meant I didn’t have to be at home to watch them. I try to have good timing when I go swinging my coffee mug around. This was my first adventure in exploring on my own… we are talking really on my own. Because I’ve canceled my phone (and failed to get an international one as planned), I have absolutely no form of communication with my host, unless I can find free wifi somewhere. I also can’t just bring up Google maps when I have no idea where I am. In preparation, I took several screenshots of the map surrounding Macland so that I would be able to find it on foot after my host dropped me off at a location most convenient to her. We then set the pick-up time and location: the large, towering church in the middle of town, whose steeple you can pretty much always see.

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Now, Iceland is home to many stunning mountains, waterfalls, and geysers, but it’s not really known as a hub for architectural masterpieces. The island is hit all year round by some rather intense weather conditions, including high winds, blizzards, and earthquakes. Buildings have been constructed to be practical – to withstand whatever comes barreling towards them – rather than to be aesthetically pleasing. They are made of wood and metal (you will never see brick or shingles), they are usually square or rectangle blocks, and they are rooted firmly to the ground. In order to make them a little more interesting, Icelanders employ brightly colored paint on the walls or roofs – sometimes in flat saturation, and other times in their favorite graffiti- like style.
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According to what my host told me on the way home (I really haven’t done any research on this, so we are just going by her knowledge of history), somewhere around the 1950s, an architect was commissioned by the government to design the main university building, a theatre, and a church. She noted that none of these buildings are beautiful, describing them as “interesting” at most. Sorry, Mr. Architect. I haven’t seen the other two buildings, but this is the church he designed.

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Its lines were inspired by the hexagonal basalt columns in northern Iceland (I haven’t had the pleasure of seeing these rocks in person, but below is a Google image for reference).

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It’s the main tourist attraction in downtown Reykjavik, but on this Thursday morning, thankfully it wasn’t ridiculously swarmed by people. You can admire the outside and the sanctuary (where the stunning 5,275-pipe organ sits) for free, or pay $7 to take the elevator eight floors up the tower to a room behind its four clocks.

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From there, several flights of stairs lead you to the top of the tower, where safely grated windows offer these gorgeous views of Reykjavik, the Esja mountains, and the Atlantic Ocean.

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The price was well worth the view.

I took numerous pictures of the outside of the church, trying to find interesting angles that are perhaps less commonly seen, and got several good shots. I think my favorite view though is this one:

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I found this path when I circled around to the back of the building. There were no tourists exploring this area, and the lack of upkeep made it obvious that they never did. The tree-lined sidewalk was only being used by what I assumed were native Icelanders hurrying to work or to pick up their kids. I love that you can see both the rounded dome on the back of the church and the spire crowning the front from this location, and the green trees helped really brighten up the dull colors of the concrete from which it was constructed (practicality strikes again).

So if you come to see the Hallgrìmskirkja Lutheran Church, or if you visit any famous tourist location, don’t just follow the crowd. Obviously, follow them a little, since there has to be something worth seeing wherever they are going, but don’t be afraid to wander off the beaten trail and look for new angles. That’s where the adventures happen, after all.

Edit: I cannot blog from my phone after all (at least not without ripping out my hair in frustration). There will not likely be another post until I get my dear laptop back.


Editing Credit: Chelsea and Tommy 🙂


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