17 June 2018

2018 ICELAND Reykjavik 22 - Pearl and Ice

On the way home we noticed maybe 50 white crosses grouped together along the highway. It is a constant and sobering reminder to drive safely. Each cross represents a traffic death on this road.

Also, skies were beautiful but turning a bit threatening. So far, all our days had been sunny. Maybe tomorrow would be different.

On the way home, we made a last minute decision to explore the Perlan (Pearl) Center, a landmark building in Reykjavik. The first water storage tank was constructed in this location in 1939. It is on Öskjuhlíd Hill, the highest elevation in Reykjavik at 61 meters (200 feet) above sea level. This is a model of the current complex constructed in 1988 to store geothermally heated water for the city.
The facility is 25.7 meters (84.3 feet) tall. It consists of six huge water storage tanks. Each can hold 4 million liters (1 million gallons) of hot water. Four of the six tanks are still in use for city water storage and the remaining two are used for tourist attractions.

Here is a peek from the inside of the structure.
On the fourth floor, we browsed a great gift shop with high quality Icelandic products. I loved this kid's puffin hat. Wish we knew a little one to give it to. They also had traditional Icelandic design sweaters, soft sheep pelts, glassware, art, and much more.

Outside of the gift shop, we enjoyed a 360 degree observation deck situated atop the storage tanks. It was now gray skies, but we still had a fabulous view of the city and surrounding areas. Sixteen panorama signs around the deck explain what we are looking at off in the distance, including locations of a nearby glacier and volcano.
From this highest elevation in Reykjavik, views were stunning. Lots of colorful red roofs to cheer up this drab afternoon.

It was easy to get our bearings once we found the Hallgrímskirja Church. Our apartment was only a few blocks from there. 
Scattered around the deck, we found examples and descriptions of Icelandic rocks and minerals.

Back inside we went up to the fifth floor to check out the revolving, fine-dining restaurant. I bet the view at night is spectacular.

Previously we had made dinner reservations to eat here that evening. Although it receives excellent reviews, the menu seemed limited (not much for veg-heads) and prices a bit high. And no lobster!

As stuffed as we were after our great tomato escapade, we were not sure we would fully enjoy a second extravagant meal. And wondered if we would have the enthusiasm to return later that evening after a long day. We ended up cancelling.

We do regret not having a cocktail under this "green" wall and with the great view outside. I was the only one in the place when peeking in and figured they were closed, but I should have double checked.

The big attraction, however, was the glacial ice cave simulation located in one of the big tanks. It opened in July 2017. Instead of a ribbon cutting, they had an ice log cutting with a chainsaw. It is the first man-made ice cave in the world. It is 100 meters (329 feet) long (not in a straight line) and built with over 350 tons of snow from the Blue Mountains (southeast of Reykjavik).

While we waited our turn, we viewed a display of fabulous photos of glaciers, volcanoes, and other local nature scenes. Our guide suggested we bundle up in coats, hats, and gloves. If you didn't have "layers," there were jackets with hoods to borrow. Temperatures in the cave are maintained at 10C degrees (14F) and there is a slight wind chill due to air circulation.

It was maybe a 20-minute guided walk through the cave, with occasional stops to learn more about ice caves, glaciers, and volcanoes. Some side tunnels ended with a photo of what actually might be seen in the field.
Horizontal lines in the ice, indicate at what point in time a volcano erupted and left a layer of ash in the ice.
Here is a close-up of what those striations looked like.

Other shots as we moved along the tour. At one point we had to crouch down to get through a passage, although there was a bypass if someone needed it.

Although not the real ice cave we expected to see in Jökulsárlón, it was better than none at all. I was able to touch a "glacier" after all.
At the end of the cave tour there was an education room to give more info on glaciers and their bleak future from the effects of global warming. Glaciers have sculpted the mountains and valleys of the earth and are located on every continent except Australia. There was also info on unusual life forms that live on glaciers.

On our way out we noticed this mystery item. It is either a piece of water art or a drinking fountain. Not such which and there was no one there at the moment to ask. We didn't drink from it!!
From there we headed back to our abodes.
In the near future more attractions will be added to this complex, including a lava/volcano/geothermal display and a planetarium.

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If you have visited any of these places, we would love to hear your comments. Or send us recommendations of places we should not miss.