The day started out like any other normal day…. we headed to the Settlement Museum to get a bit of culture into us early on, then made our way to the volcano museum – this was really interesting as they showed a film of the last two major eruptions – the last being in 2010 when all the flights to and from Europe were disrupted for a couple of weeks ruining holidays for people everywhere.
Did you know that in September all the farmers in Iceland have to roam around the countryside looking and herding all the sheep that they find into one large holding pen. The sheep spend their summer vacations roaming the fields and the highlands… we even saw some down on the beaches in the fjord. Then once they are all in the holding pen, all the farmers, together with their friends and family go through each and every sheep and check their ear tag to see who they belong to so that each farmer leaves the day with his own sheep. There can be 10s of thousands of them to sort! Then they all celebrate and have a party – the festival is looked forward to by families and especially kiddies more than Christmas – not surprising considering Christmas here is a story based on trolls giving you a potato if you’ve been bad.
Next stop on our culture tour was the Maritime Museum…
Where they’ve managed to keep their sense of humour…
There is a lot of information about the great Cod War between Iceland and Britain. Me Jenny noted that they’d probably have nothing to talk about if it wasn’t for the bloody cod war! You see back in the day Iceland’s legal fishing waters reached out to 4 miles of their coast and they soon realised that perhaps they should have a bit more and went into negotiations with Britain, asking them if they could possible spare a few more miles of ocean?
They weren’t happy about it but to cut a long story short – eventually after a few protests and bit of ship ramming, the British conceded.
The museum then went into the life of the fisherman – it didn’t look one bit easy or enjoyable….
Especially if you go by the looks on these two faces below…
This is Hjònin Gudny Jónsdóttir and Jón Eiriksson – The name system here is a weird one to be sure to be sure… When a boy is born he is given a first name and then a surname made up of his father’s first name and ‘son’. When a girl is born she is given a first name and a surname made up of her father’s first name and ‘dottir’. Icelanders don’t commonly use their surnames and only go by their first names – even the phone book is listed alphabetically by their first name. So one family might have 4 members all with different surnames to each other – good luck doing your family tree here!
Check out the fish skins – no wonder they needed those extra miles of ocean!
So after all this nautical talk, we felt like fish and chips for lunch and went on the hunt around the harbour for such fare…..
This restaurant nearly had us hooked until I saw this on their menu….. they ruined it.
But a lovely place was found….
drinks were had…
and fish and chips were eaten….
Which brings me to where our day took a little turn…..
WARNING – this gets a bit ranty, so feel free to pull out at any stage.
Our afternoon was going to be spent on the hop on hop off bus that does a circle around the city. We left the fish and chip shop and turned left to where a bus stop, according to the company’s bus map, should have been…. alas there was no bus stop, so we ventured on a little further to where the next stop is marked and there it was. The buses are advertised as arriving approximately every 30 minutes – people who have been pretty much anywhere will know the operations of the hop on/hop off bus system. And so we waited.
After 20 minutes of standing in the absolutely freezing 8 degree temp with occasional rain drops, we started to question how long we’d been standing there. “We’ll stay for 30 minutes, and then we’ll walk” “but what if we leave and it pulls around the corner?” “Ok, we’ll pretend to leave, and then when it comes around the corner we’ll still be close enough to catch it.”
40 minutes later, we had struck up a conversation with a couple who had been waiting about 10 minutes longer than us and were clearly there for the long haul…. when the bus appeared around the corner. The bus driver was friendly enough, I purchased our tickets and then he slammed his foot to the pedal before we had any time to find our seats.
The only spare seats were upstairs over the wheels and this driver seemed to hit and mount ever curb he went around. We went two stops and then he pulled into the central bus depot and stopped the bus. All the people started piling off and one young American woman said to anybody else still sitting there (which was us) “We all have to get off and change buses, he said his shift was ending and we’d have to get another bus.” This seemed odd, but as there was no driver, we hopped off and into the warm bus depot and waited. The driver had jumped off the bus as soon as he stopped and disappeared so there was no opportunity to ask him what was going on. Inside the terminal there was much talk amongst the passengers about their experience thus far today with the hop on/hop off bus – none of them good stories. One woman said she went downstairs to hop off at a stop (one of the two main functions of the bus!) and the driver shut the door. When she said “I wanted to get off there” he replied, “I come back past here in an hour.” Some people told stories of seeing one bus and then 10 minutes later another bus would turn up helping us to figure out that the timing was all askew.
We asked for assistance at the tour desks and got a few different replies – “perhaps your driver has just stopped off for a coffee?” “There’ll be another bus coming shortly”, etc….
Then the original driver was spotted on the bus and because there was much confusion, I high tailed it out there to ask him what was what…. as he saw me and ALL the other passengers behind me charge towards him, he closed the bus door… but I didn’t let that deter me. I tapped on the door and said “Do you think you could let us know what is going on please?” He said “I already told you. This bus is finished.” “Um…. no, you didn’t tell me, I got on 2 stops ago and you didn’t say anything to me….” “Yes I did.” We could’ve gone on and on, but I moved forward, “Can you explain what is happening now?” He said, “Another bus will be here in 5 minutes.” which was clearly the end of that conversation.
I turned and reported to the anxious crowd what I’d been told and one lady said, “He was in a hurry because it was the end of his shift.” It made no sense. There was only 2 hours left in the bus run as it was.
I approached the tour desk again and asked who I speak to about getting a refund on the tickets and she said “Hold on, let me call them.” She came back a few minutes later and said, “I’ve just spoken with the chef and he said that there was a problem with the hydraulics on the other bus and another one is nearly here. It is on the road about to turn into the depot…. We’d been waiting there for about 25 minutes by this stage.
When the bus didn’t turn up for another 15 minutes I returned to the desk and said that I’d like my money back and that it was ‘unasseptible’ (thanks Jo Frost, Super Nanny) and the woman agreed that it was unasseptible and that maybe the driver wasn’t able to translate the hydraulics problem into English… although he managed to tell the other passengers that his shift was over… just then, the bus turned the corner. The crowd was cross and confused and cold, but we all piled back on and took our seats ready to go when this driver jumped off and headed into the office….. the crowd had bonded now and we were not to be messed with. There was lots of talk of how ‘unasseptible’ this was and how a stern letter to the company CEO was going to be written.
THEN…… because the bus was running late, the driver wasn’t going to be able to make it to the last advertised stop in time, so he was just going to stop at whatever stop he landed on at finishing time and we’d all have to get off. The young American woman was becoming increasingly anxious as she needed to be back at the bus depot to catch her bus to the airport and it had started to rain quite heavily, so having to walk would’ve been annoying…. so the driver stopped at his chosen stop with a good 30 minutes left in the working day and came up the stairs to see all still sitting there – refusing to get off his bus. He tried to appeal to our sense of compassion by rolling his eyes and saying “What? You want to go to the bus depot?” “Yes, we’d all like to get off at different stops please.” “But, that means I’ll be driving for an extra 30 minutes…..” he mumbled as he descended the stairs shaking his head in disbelief. “Will you stop at all the stops?” he was asked “I’m doing another loop around.” he replied grumpily….. “Yes, but will you stop at all the stops?” Another woman nervously repeated. “I said I’ll do another loop around.” He restated – making no friends in the process. So he pulled into the very first stop and I said to Jenny – Let’s get the hell off this bus….
Besides all the bullshit and time wasting that went on this afternoon, I have to say that this Reykjavik city bus tour was the most uninspired, and dare I say dull tour of any city tour I’ve ever done….. That’s a big call, but I stand by it.
It’s such a shame because the HOHO bus is usually a really great way to see a city (a different city), so my recommendation is that in Reykjavik – everything that is worth seeing is in walking distance so steer clear of this bus.
Otherwise (as Ivanka Trump recently tweeted) we had a really nice day.
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