Monday, December 23, 2013

Arrival, and stuck

[I will add photos at a later date]

I arrived in Reykjavík on Dec. 22 just as the sun was setting; the sky was cloudless and the arctic light spread a magic glow over the mountains. There was a light covering of snow at -3°C/26°F with no wind, and the bus ride into town was beautiful. After checking in to the guesthouse,  I spent a nice evening browsing through the shops all festive for the holidays. The people were cheery and in good spirits. Not wanting to sit down for a meal, I grabbed one of Reykkavík’s famous hotdogs at baejarins beztu (meaning “The best in town”). In 2006 this little hot dog stand was even selected as the best in Europe by the UK’s Guardian newspaper. It does indeed sell a mean dog and a trip to Reykjavík is not complete without having one. But I was still a bit hungry after my long travels that day. My favorite pizza place on Bankastræti was closed so I chose another corner pizza joint for a quick slice. Big mistake! It was the nastiest pizza I’ve ever seen or tasted. Ah well, bad fast food also belongs to the Reykjavík experience.

After a comfortable night I took a taxi to the domestic airport for the morning flight to Ísafjörður on Dec. 23. A winter storm was approaching but the weather was pretty good in the morning and I was pretty sure the flight would be ok. We checked in and took off on schedule. There were only about 15 people on the plane, each wanting to get home before Christmas. But the weather worsened as we travelled further north. I couldn’t see a thing out the window, the clouds were so thick, and that’s not a good sign. To land the little plane on the runway surrounded by mountains, good visibility is necessary. We flew into the fjord already quite low and flying over town I could even snap a picture from above. But instead of turning the sharp curve into the final descent, the plane suddenly accelerated and shot straight up, back over the mountains. An announcement by the pilot said the runway wasn’t visible and we couldn’t land, but would fly around a bit and see if conditions would improve. We flew around in the clouds for about 45 minutes as I dozed, when another announcement came on that we were heading back to Reykjavík.

All in all, we were in the plane about 90 minutes. The ground crew chuckled as we got off the plane and said “hope you had a nice little sightseeing tour”. At the airport, we were asked to wait 20 minutes for the next weather report. When that came, it was bleak. All flights to Ísafjörður were cancelled for the rest of the day. Knowing that a big winter storm was approaching, this meant we would probably be stuck in Reykjavík until after Christmas. There was a slight possibility we could drive today before the storm closes the mountain passes. I found a group of girls willing to take me in their car but after an hour of talking things over with the road administration and other authorities, they decided not to drive. It’s a good thing since roads were closed just a short time later and we might have been stuck in the mountains in a blizzard.

I checked back into the guesthouse, spent another day downtown browsing through stores, drinking liters of coffee and eating all kinds of things, and meeting a friend in the evening for a glass of wine.