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Graffiti off Laugarvegur, Reykjavík, Iceland.

Fantastic graffiti behind Sirkus, just off Laugarvegur, Reykjavík, Iceland. They seem to take good graffiti very seriously in Iceland: a small walk around the city centre, 101 Reykjavík, provides the chance to see some world-class street art. I”m curious about this spot: whilst digging around online I found lots of pictures of Sirkus (a live venue I’m sure I’d read about in the past) but I think the enclosing wall to this yard has only been removed relatively recently, opening out this space. These early pictures showed a couple of the London Police’s characteristic ‘lads’ (some of my favourite street characters) on the wall, but nothing else.

The top of this gable wall is covered in tiny mirrors which twist and turn in the breeze, and below several pieces create a series of narratives which permeate into every corner. I’m guessing that an empty space was reclaimed as an art space when the bar closed down, but that’s merely an educated guess. Regardless, it’s an inspiring and exciting place to stumble on in the delightfully surreal environs of downtown Reykjavík.

Click below for a fullscreen 360° view of the scene in Flash or QuickTime format, or for more info in Google Earth.

Sólfar (The Sun Voyager), Reykjavík, Iceland

This sculpture by Jón Gunnar Árnason reflects the fundamental importance of the sea in both Iceland’s past and present. The abstract ribs of the longship looked wonderful in the slighty wan autumnal morning light. On the far side of the fjord is Mt Esja, clad scantily in the first snowy wreaths of winter. Behind lie half-finished apartment blocks and penthouses: I couldn’t help but wonder how much demand there would be for such expensive dwellings in the wake of the financial crisis which has engulfed the Icelandic economy recently. Icelanders seem to be a pretty determined and tough people, so I have faith that this’ll remain a constant, despite the transience of some elements of the modern society all around. I suspect that Sólfar better typifies steadfastness and stoicism over largesse and materialism.

Click below for a fullscreen 360° view of the scene in Flash or QuickTime format, or for more info in Google Earth.

Green power, orange skies

Greenhouses near Reykholt, Iceland

This place was visible from miles away: the lighting inside the glasshouses cast an eerie glow into the low lying clouds. Like a moth drawn to a lamp, I was powerless to resist exploring further. Row upon row of greenhouses, filled with flowers and vegetables, sat incongruously in the wilderness: powered by natural sources (either hydro or geothermal power, like most of Iceland’s energy output). A very surreal sight: it reminded me somehow of the film Silent Running.

Click below for a fullscreen 360° view of the scene in Flash or QuickTime format, or for more info in Google Earth.

Volcanic polydistortion – Kerið crater lake, Iceland

Iceland is an extraordinary place. We only came upon Kerið by accident: no off-season holiday is complete without a picnic in the car while it rains, so we pulled over to a layby for a late lunch. Before tucking into our home-made cous-cous picnic (gusgus in Icelandic, a deliberate homage on my part to the band of the same name) I ventured into the gloom and nearly fell down into this stunning hole in the ground. Although it was grey and overcast the ice retained an otherworldy aquamarine hue, surrounded by red volcanic rock streaked with snow like streaky bacon. I felt like I was peering down into some mystical unblinking eye in the earth.

Click below for a fullscreen 360° view of the scene in Flash or QuickTime format, or for more info in Google Earth and Wikipedia.

Öxarárfoss, Þingvellir National Park, Iceland

I recently visited Iceland for a long weekend break, and was awed by the culture and scenery of the island. This was the first stop on the classic “Golden Circle” tour of Thingvellir, Geysir and Gullfoss: Thingvellir is an extraordinary place even by Icelandic standards. Here you can see the river Öxará flowing over a cliff which marks the edge of the rift valley between the North American and Eurasian plates: you couldn’t ask for a better demonstration of continental drift if you tried. Apparently the valley gets wider by 2cm every year: I can empathise with this case of middle-aged spread.

Rather than facing the tribulations of a coach tour, we hired a car and drove through the increasing wild countryside before getting to the National Park, about 40km east of Reykjavik. I caught a glimpse of this waterfall as we arrived, and so we parked up to take a look. The car park was like a skating rink, and the path up the hillside to the cliffs was perilous, but the ensuing view of the falls was worth every gingerly-taken step there. Best of all, the place was deserted (Thingvellir is excedingly important to the Icelander’s pysche and culture but a wet Sunday in November was obviously not the most popular time to visit) so we got to clamber about and take a load of photos of this extremely picturesque waterfall, before wandering under the brooding cliff face to view where the national assembly met for almost 1000 years. The clouds hung low and obscured the scale of the site somewhat, but there are fews better ways to appreciate the raw beauty of this landscape than to see it swathed in snow and cloud.

Click below for a fullscreen 360° view of the scene in Flash or QuickTime format, or for more info in Google Earth and Wikipedia.