Iceland: Reykjavik

whalebone

 

iceland-2I
Nature in City in Nature

Wriggle tin
Cakes of glass
Ribs of concrete

Whalebone
Sea salt
Basalt

 

 

II

Arrival

Summer was ebbing from Reykjavik when we arrived. The city cupped the last of its warmth and held it close. Mothers with toddlers paused to feed whooper swans and mallards on the Tjörnin and shooed away bully-gulls bombing the skies.
Returning a few days on, we found the cold blast of the Atlantic had taken a grip, blowing down its icy breath and chilling bones and fingers; the townsfolk scurrying, not lingering. But in the held breath of that early September day, the wriggle-tin of churches and villas lay upside down on their roofs in the still, ice-free waters of the city pond.

reykjavik

Behind the park, there are long grey streets of apartment blocks and terraces – more Scottish poverty than Nordic chic. Rusting bikes lean against cracked and broken render, and behind the yellowed nets of basement flats, plastic knick-knacks and stale spices line windowsills. The spiky grass of garden patches thread through the peeling wood of garden furniture and blackened grills. This is real Reykjavik – not far from the stylish pubs and restaurants of the old town and the glassy towers of the waterfront; where the tourists loiter. In this cityscape, a little tin-hut sits shored up on no-man’s-land and dwarfed by concrete blocks, a beached whale. Harpa, the music hall is found nearby, its pentagonal glass mirroring the patterns of hardened basalt columns on the cliffs across the bay. The hills, the sea and the sky are reflected in the panes and the periodic coloured panels echo northern lights. Nature dominates Iceland. Even its manmade city. On the highest point of the city’s heart, the Lutheran church of Hallgrímskirkja punctures the sky with slabs of pale concrete – it too aping Iceland’s great columns of basalt. Hallgrímskirkja is the island in miniature: raw, bleak and ugly; yet bold and beautiful.

iceland-41

 

III
Leaving

Just north of summer
Just south of frozen
West of wild
East of fish
Slipping
Out of
Sight

 

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