Today was a planned day to rest (or at least drive as little as possible) after a long & frantic previous day of traveling, as well as to fight jet lag and getting accustomed to having the sun up over 18 hours of the day. I took the folks to see Hallgrimskirkja, heading up the elevator to the top of the tower to get a view of Reykjavík, then drove toward the water and the Viking Ship sculpture Solfar. Finally, we explored around the city a bit to get our bearings before ending up at the performance hall Harpa.
Back when everyone was a financial genius and flush with cash (pre-2008), Iceland decided to put some of that cash toward the arts, planning a world-class, ultra modern concert hall with attached 5 star hotels etc. Then the credit crisis hit, the geniuses were discovered to be dopes in smart suits, and everything stopped. There was a consideration to just tear down what had been started, but - to some protest - the decision to continue using public money went forward. I’ll bet there are still strong opinions about it among Icelanders, but it was the right move. Harpa is utterly amazing - one of the most beautiful structures I’ve ever encountered, sheathed in panels of dichroic glass that house an interior of black basalt and mirrored patterned ceilings, at angles that play off one another as your walk through the massive open atrium. For all this, it’s not a “concert hall” that houses the symphony and little more than classical music - the five main halls are performance spaces that could house the symphony or the Sonar festival alike. You can rent it for meetings or conferences. It may be an outrageously expensive building, but at the very least it’s multi-purpose. I’d head back later that night to catch a jazz trio on the top floor, casually watching the sun finally set behind the group at 10:30 from a performance space on the top floor.
The one letdown in Iceland - graffiti. There’s some legitimate street art around, but there’s also a lot of crap throw-ups and tags everywhere. Considering the population of the entire country is only around 400K, the amount of it seems weirdly out of proportion. More disappointing is getting into the countryside and finding buildings and ruins covered top to bottom with dumb tags. Nothing’s perfect...