We arrived in Reykjavik yesterday afternoon. We had driven from Edinburgh to Glasgow, which was an easy trip and arrived at the airport well ahead of our flight time at 2.20 pm. The only highlight of the trip was to see our first piece of Scottish road kill ( other than a few dead hedgehogs) – a young stag that had been hit by a vehicle on the side of the motorway.
The weather was cool when we arrived in Reykjavik, and it took us a while to collect our bags and then catch the Fly Bus into the city bus terminal ( 50 kms from the airport) before transferring to a smaller bus to our hotel which is right In the middle of town. Once we had checked in, it was after 6.00 pm and we set off to find somewhere for dinner. The only problem was that I turned right out of the hotel (when I should have turned left) and completely lost my sense of direction in the maze of little streets that make up the old town. Nevertheless, we found a cafe for dinner and sat alongside a group of about 40 young clean cut people (I suspect that they were Mormons) who all stood on command and sang a grace in a beautiful harmony.
This morning, we were up a little earlier than usual to have breakfast and head off for our day-long Golden Circle Tour. This trip takes in four of Iceland’s key sights and is the most popular tour for visitors to do. The temperature has remained steady at around 7 degrees (C) with a cool breeze. It only rained for a little while on our return to Reyjkavik.
Our first stop was not at the thermal power station as I had done when I did this tour two years ago. Instead, we stopped at an area with lots of thermally heated hothouses and believe it, or not, we saw bananas growing at a latitude of 66 degrees north.
Our next stop was at a church (now Lutheran) which was initially the site of a Catholic church that once housed the Bishop of Southern Iceland. The current church building was only built in the 1960’s but there is a lot of archeological interest in this site as they can follow the Bishops back to 1056. Icelandic bishops, at least, were able to marry and many Icelanders can apparently trace their ancestry back to the last bishop who was executed when the parliament decided to introduce a protestant form of Religion on the Chistianising of Iceland in the mid 1500’s.
Then we went on to the Gullfoss Waterfall on the Hvita River. This is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Iceland. These ‘double decker’ falls plunge in two stages, 11 m and 21 m, into a crevice 32 m deep. They are just as spectacular as the first time that I saw them, except it was a bit earlier in the season and there aren’t as many wildflowers in the area as I saw last time.
We had lunch at the site of the original Geyser. This is the only Icelandic word that has become universal. The word doesn’t refer to geysers in general, but to one specific water spout that was given this name ( meaning something like hot water spout in Icelandic). The name became internationalized and has now been applied to all geysers – there are actually only five places in the word where geysers occur – Iceland, New Zealand, United States, Chile and the Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia.
The original Geyser has stopped erupting after an earthquake. There is a hot pool named ‘Little Geyser’ but it is really nothing more than a bubbling pool. The most active geyser in Iceland is now the Strokkur (Icelandic for “churn”) geyser which erupts reguarly every 4-8 minutes. We managed to avoid a hot shower from Strokkur by staying upwind.
The last site of the day was a visit to the Þingvellir National Park which is a site of historical, cultural, and geological importance. It is located in a rift valley that sits between the American and European continental plates. It is the site of Iceland’s first parliament or Alþingi which was established at Þingvellir in 930 and remained there until 1789. This makes Iceland’s Parliament the longest continuous parliament in the world.
We were back in Reykjavik at about 5.00 pm. Iceland is still expensive – dinner tonight of two pizzas and three glasses of house wine cost over AUD $80. We wanted to be careful to get back to our hotel before it got dark, so we didn’t stay out late. (Actually, at this time if year, sunset ais at about 11.30 pm and sunrise is just after 3.00 am).