Established in 874 AD by Norsemen, Reykjavik is believed to be the first permanent settlement in Iceland. It had a government and parliament by 930 AD. It remained an agricultural community until 1762 when it was chosen by the King of Norway to participate in the De Nye Indretninger (New Enterprises) project. These enterprises were meant to modernize the Icelandic economy by means of industrial development and improved craft skills. Fishing, sulphur mining, agriculture and shipbuilding were undertaken by the Indretninger. But the wool industry was the primary employer in Reykjavik for decades. In 1786, when Reykjavik was granted an exclusive trading charter, it was established as a city of importance. In 1874, Iceland was given a constitution and limited legislative power. Reykjavik was named the capital. Home Rule was granted in 1904. On December 1, 1918, Iceland became a sovereign country under the Crown of Denmark. Today, Reykjavik is a bustling, busy city. The tourist trade is booming, and construction is rampant. Volcanic activity provides Reykjavik with geothermal heating systems for both residential and industrial districts. By 2008, roughly 90% of all buildings in Iceland were heated with natural hot water.
We have been to Iceland before and spent many days touring in and around Reykjavik. The Golden Circle Tour (see description in the Corner Brook post) is quite comprehensive, the Blue Lagoon is an experience, and the puffins are just too cute for words! The local HOHO is very convenient and economical. But this time, we simply took a cab to the Kolaportid Flea Market on Sunday morning; walked the Old Harbor area; ate lunch at a local pizzeria; and rode to the top of the tower at Hallgrimskirkja for a fabulous view of the entire city. Then on Monday, we toured the Settlement House (free to all over 65 yrs old!), the oldest house in Reykjavik, and explored more neighborhoods. We find all of Iceland (but Reykjavik in particular) to be charming and engaging. We will, most certainly, return again and again.
We now have a couple of sea days as we make our way to Alesund, Norway.
In preparation for our next cruise, I’ve been reading up on the Vikings and Leif Erikson in particular. I know we’ve all heard that Christopher Columbus never actually got to North America; although he did sail to the Bahamas, Hispaniola, and to the coasts of Central and South America.
It was the Vikings who first came across the North American continent. Captain Bjarni Hergelfson and his crew veered off-course during a storm. They sighted an unusual land with no fjords or icebergs. The landscape was forested and green. Captain Hergelfson, took detailed notes about his two sightings of the unfamiliar land but he did not go ashore. Later, after conversing with Hergelfson, Leif Erikson bought Hergelfson’s boat; put together a crew and set off to explore the area himself.
First arriving at an area believed to be Baffin Island, Erikson continued sailing southeast for two days and came to an island with a mainland behind it. On this land, Erikson built temporary shelters. When the men found grapes growing wild, they named the settlement Vinland. Today, Vinland is known as L’Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland. (The ruins of this Viking settlement were found in 1963.) Erikson left Vinland in the Spring when his men were ready to go home. But the surprising issue is that very few people ever returned to Vinland. Only Leif’s sister and a small group of settlers returned. They were killed by Indians. And so, Europe remained almost totally unaware about this discovery of the New World!
We are looking forward to this cruise. It’s been on our bucket list for a long time. We’ll journey to Canada, Greenland, Iceland, Norway, the Netherlands, Ireland and Scotland. We’ll learn about the Vikings and their influence.