This is the first segment of our Starfishin' the North Atlantic series. For some background, click here. To jump forward to the second segment, click here. If all you want to see are pictures without the stories, click here.
"Your room will be ready at 2pm," flatly says the bland girl behind the reception desk at the bustling Reykjavík City Hostel.
I glance at my watch and grimace. 8:30am. Not exactly what I want to hear after taking the red-eye from Boston the night before. Well, so much for taking a morning nap.
A statue of the famous Viking explorer Leifur Eiríksson, the first European to discover the Americas (no, it wasn't Columbus), strikes a noble pose in front of Hallgrímskirkja, the church which towers over Reykjavík, Iceland. (2006). The statue was presented as a gift to Iceland from the United States in 1930 to commerate the 1000th anniversary of the AlÞing, the Icelandic parliament.
But it's just as well because I only have a couple of days in Iceland, which means I don't have much time for finding Björk. So the sooner I start, the better.
I take to the streets of Reykjavík, Iceland's capital city and home to two-thirds of the country's 300,000 people. But on this Saturday morning, there's absolutely no one to be found. Which isn't too surprising, I suppose. Icelanders are reputed to work the longest average workweek in all of Europe and, on Friday and Saturday nights, they really let loose and party. Often, the music doesn't stop until 6 or 7am. So I gather that everyone's still in bed. Which is fine but it isn't helping me in my Björk-finding quest.
Surely, I need a better vantage point. And when in Reykjavík, what better vantage point is there than the bell tower of Hallgrímskirkja, the 75-metre (246-foot) tall church that looms over the predominantly low-rise city?
I gladly pay the 350-krónur (about $5.50 Canadian or $5 US) admission and take the elevator to the top. The cold wind is swirling but the clear, 360-degree views of Reykjavík are spectacular. And, since I seem to have the tower all to myself, I see fit to yell out over the city, at the top of my lungs:
"BJÖRK!! WHERE ARE YOU??"
So happens, I'm not alone in the bell tower. From behind a pillar pops out an old, elderly couple, who are staring at me as if I were some kind of deranged madman. I cheerfully smile and wave back to them.
I deeply regret to say that I would end up leaving Iceland without successfully finding Björk.
I probably should have yelled louder.
A view from Hallgrímskirkja's bell tower of the difficult-to-spell-and-utterly-unpronounceable street of Skólavörðustígur, with Reykjavík Harbour in the distance. (2006). It is over this street I called out to Björk, in vain.
Looking north from the bell tower of Hallgrímskirkja. (2006). I love the colourful buildings and rooftops.
Looking northeast from the bell tower of Hallgrímskirkja. (2006).
Looking southwest from the bell tower of Hallgrímskirkja. (2006).
On the ground floor at Hallgrímskirkja. (2006) Interesting fact about the massive church: it took 34(!) years to build, opening in 1974.