Iceland Trip June 2012

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Trip to Iceland June 2012

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Iceland Trip June 2012

  1. 1. HIGHLIGHTS FROM JUNE 2010 EXCURSION TO ICELAND We took a direct overnight flight from Dulles to Keflavik Airport on IcelandAir. The steward announced that the flight would take 5 hours, 34 minutes, and 14 seconds (our first hint of the Icelandic sense of humor we would discover). Our seating request fell through; putting us at opposite windows. Dave sat right by the main door (had to move legs so the door could be closed). Heather sat next to a man from Finland who was in D.C. to help create international standards for universal power supplies. We flew over land until we cleared Newfoundland/Labrador. Later saw what we believe were lights from the Greenland coast. Economy comfort class provided a small meal (good) and a beer (Icelandic of course). The airport was small; easy to navigate through. A short line took us through the passport check. We had nothing to declare. We found an ATM for Krona; then found the shuttle service booth. The Hotel Klettur (originally booked) did not have a room for us but had arranged for us to switch to a partner hotel - Hotel Cabin. We agreed and were driven to what turned out to be a better situation. The view of the bay and mountain ridge was tremendous. It was still only a 20 minute walk to the city center; plus only 10 minutes to the start of the Midnight run. They even cleaned a room so we could check in early. We almost fell asleep in the lobby while we waited, but within 90 minutes, we had a room. 004The hotel room was small by US standards, but we didnt need/expect more. It was functional and comfortable.The only noise was from the mini frig. The geothermal heat made no noise, but it always radiated some heat -even when turned to the lowest setting. We kept the window open all day and even into the night a few times.Bus loads of tour groups (mainly retired Germans) packed the lobby and breakfast room during this busy season. The entire exterior wall (facing north) was window. The views were tremendous. We would sit at the end of the day, relax and enjoy watching the Iceland world go by. Even watching the ever changing clouds was fun. We called it our big-screen TV. The view of the “setting” and “rising” sun (of course it never fully went below the horizon) was a unique treat. Watching the sun while looking north, though, was disorienting – the sun is never to the north in the US. 006 1
  2. 2. Another view from our top floor window. The breakfast room was also on the top floor - offering views toward the city (no pictures). Breakfast was a good change from an American "normal" breakfast routine. Nothing fried or even hot. Cheese, fruits, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, Icelandic yogurt, hard boiled eggs, cold cuts, breads and pastries. Only negative - the juices were watered down and we believe the orange juice was Tang-based.007 The path along the shoreline was the perfect way to begin our exploration. The path is paved with rocks stacked as a break wall. During our stay, there were no breaking waves within the protected bay. We could see the tide rolling in, though. This view is toward the city center. By the way – if you are viewing these in softcopy, you can expand the size of pictures for a closer look.013 View opposite from city center; towards the channel used by cruise and container ships – which we could watch from our room. 015 2
  3. 3. 018 020 In the distance, you can make out View closer to the city center. mountains on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula. 026 027Much photographed sculpture of a Viking ship. "Vik" (as in Reykjavik) means bay. Therefore, Viking refers to people of the bay. Harbor at the city center (no longer the main port). The boat "Christina" offers bird watching and fishing excursions. We didnt go on the excursion, just took the picture. We ate at a small Mediterranean restaurant this first full day (most restaurants are small). The waitress/hostess was actually from Bulgaria and had only been in Iceland 10 days. She did not seem thrilled to be there - "Its cold, much warmer back home". 028 3
  4. 4. 030 031June 20, 2012, Quarter till midnight (2345 using Five minutes till midnight (2355) - Sun is a bitIceland’s 24 hour clock) - Setting sun over the water. lower and dipping between distant mountains. Midnight - Sun remains above the horizon behind distant mountains. Color of rising sun reflecting on clouds. This picture (since it is not pointed directly at the sun) shows how light it is (you could read a book by the light). This is the darkest it gets this time of year. Of course, this also shows the most amount of light there will be 032 six months from now. Ten minutes after midnight (0010) - Sun is 035 036 starting back up in the sky. 4
  5. 5. 050 052The sports complex and recreation area Most of the "Run with the Midnight Sun" raceoccupies a large tract of land in a valley in the wound through the park. The 5K started ateastern part of Reykjavik. There are open park 10:30 pm (2230) with plenty of daylight; thereland, trails, gardens, farm exhibit, childrens play was no need for lights. After a warm (not atareas and rides, sports fields (indoor and all hot) and relaxing time in the thermal pooloutdoor), skating rink, hot spring pool, etc. - and we walked back to the hotel with the daylighttrees. It was in full use - many families. offered by the midnight sun. A very unique experience (as was the entire trip). 054 Another view of the sports complex. Note the sponsor sign of Coca-Cola. The major US chains included Subway, Dominos Pizza, and KFC, but no burger joints (although they had their own drive through brand). The Askirkja Church is on the hill - one of Closer view of Askirkja Church. 055 many architectural churches in Reykjavik. 5
  6. 6. Site of super-powers peace summit that led to the end of the Cold War (as it existed before). The picture is from the shoreline path, so obviously the house offered the leaders a tremendous view of the bay. When the summit occurred, there were no other buildings around. Our guide (and the markers) referred to the Peace Summit between President Reagan and Secretary General Gorbachev as the most significant global event in Icelands history. It demonstrated that Iceland was all about peace, offered a safe and carefree setting, and reflected their concern for the well-being of all people. The actual name of the Peace House is the Hofdi House (Icelandic rune letters would require a different keyboard - which Heather experienced while sending messages from the hotel lobby). It is now used for small conferences 040 receptions or events (cant walk in to look around). 060 062There are many artists in Iceland - writers, musicians, painters and sculptors. There are manysmall art museums in Reykjavik. These are sculptures by Asmundur Sveinsson (1893-1982). 065 068 Old cemetery on a hill above the Tjornin Pond. The procession (referred to as the parade) after the National Day ceremony stopped here to respect those who came before independence. 6
  7. 7. Statue of Ingolfur Arnarson - recognized as the first "permanent” settler of Iceland. 075Statue of Jon Sigurdsson on the square by the Parliamentbuilding. He argued long and hard for Icelands freedom fromDenmark. In 1874, Denmark allowed Iceland to establish aconstitution; giving them authority to govern themselves (to adegree - trade was still controlled by Denmark).Independence occurred in 1944 when Nazi Germany over ranDenmark. Iceland took the stance that the previousagreement was with the Denmark Monarchy - which becamevoid when the Nazis dissolved the Monarchy. The Alliednations backed their claim. Independence Day wasestablished on June 17, Jon Sigurdssons birthday. 077 View across Austuuvollur Square. The building with the flag is the Althingi (House of Parliament). Iceland’s Parliament is still small enough to conduct official business here. 078 7
  8. 8. As we walked around on the 17th (our first full day of sightseeing) we stood against a rope and watched while some youth practiced marching with Icelandic flags. Then the honor guard marched in and lined up (we are not sure who makes up the honor guard (our term) since there is no military service. Maybe police or members of the Coast Guard?). Next thing we knew, a few security personnel took positions along the rope, the Church bells rang, and out came the President and Prime Minister; followed by diplomats and special guests. We found ourselves with a front row view of the official National Day ceremony.088 The President and Prime Minister laid a wreath at Jon Sigurdssons statue - and we were just yards away from these leaders. When Heather met with the Reykjavik Public Librarians, she mentioned her amazement of how close the public was during such an official ceremony. One Librarian got an aggravated look on her face and stated that two years ago there was no rope and you could sit where you wanted. Last year she was told she had to sit in the back so she didnt bother attending this year because of how things had changed. We were amazed by the access; she was disappointed by the “control”.089 Youth choir signing national songs during the procession of the President and Prime Minister. Icelanders who had attended the official the church service started gathering around the rope, so we left to give them room – it was their special day.093 8
  9. 9. 114 Oldest standing building in Reykjavik (1762). There were a lot of fires in Reykjavik during the 1970s and 1980s so they banned wood framed buildings. This one survived. Downtown sculpture reflecting the 106 geothermal activity of the island. 109 View of the citys beautiful architecture. Love the mountain in the background. The architecture isnt very old by European (or even American) standards. Iceland was extremely poor for much 108 of its history, so there were not many show-caseView across Tjornin, the large pond in Reykjavik. homes built by "the wealthy". The 1990s and earlyThe building at the left is the City Government 2000s brought increased prosperity. As with manyBuilding. The "person" on the bench is another other countries, they over extended the buildingsculpture. The far side of the pond was filled with boom and international credit holdings grewbooths and entertainment for the National Day beyond control. The bust hit hard. Tourism (not afestival; which included music, rides, a puppet major industry prior to then) has helped theirshow with a huge crowd of children, a vintage car recovery – which a guide thanked us for.show featuring many American models, and astrong man competition. 9
  10. 10. The National Museum was very good (and free on National Day). Settlement of the island is a recent event historically speaking. There were no-pre-history peoples. Extensive use of sod and wood for early buildings results in few ruins. Churches were the most long lasting structures from which historians could build an understanding of early settlements. Displays also show recent (within our lifetime) aspects of society, including a collection of photographs from ordinary citizens. There is also a display on the 1972 Fischer / Spassky World Chess Championship held in Iceland. 111 Note that the sign includes English as well as Icelandic. Displays (in all museums) were in Icelandic and English. Most of our fellow tourists were from Europe, but English is the default language for non-Icelandic speakers. While the tourist excursions were in English this didnt mean they were catering to the American and British tourists which were in the minority. The exception was the number of German speaking tours offered (again, they came by the busloads). Also note that "Iceland" is "Island" in Icelandic. We also toured the City Settlement Museum (no picture) - an archeological excavation of an early home. 112Einer Jonsson sculpture along the Tjornin Pond.More on this artist later. 107 10
  11. 11. 120View of what has become the "upscale" shopping street- Skolavoroustigur. It leads up to HallgrimskirkjaChurch which dominates most views of the city. Architecture is based on columns of 122 volcanic basalt rock. Statue is of Leifur Eiriksson. 123Guides pointed out with pride howEiriksson discovered North Americanlong before Columbus. 121 View from Hallgrimskirkja Church down Skolavoroustigur. 11
  12. 12. View inside Hallgrimskirkja Church . Simplistic (vice ornate) but grand. 132 133 The pipe organ is huge and beautiful. The church hosts many recitals and concerts. The backs of the pews easily switch positions so people can sit facing the organ. Stained glass window in the Church. 147Beautiful Baptismal Font.Every Icelandic birth isregistered with the LutheranChurch. People can changetheir registration but manydont bother. As a result over84% of the Icelandic peopleare Lutheran (according tothe registry).138 Hallgrimskirkja Pulpit. 139 12
  13. 13. City view from the Hallgrimskirkja Church bell tower. Looking toward downtown and the original harbor. The ridge along the horizon to the right is the same one we view from our hotel.155 The dome structure just right of center is the Perlan (referred to as the "Pearl"). It is a museum, restaurant and observation point built on top of huge tanks used to store hot water for Reykjavik. Pictures from that location appear later.158 View of the shoreline and the path we used to get back to our hotel. We happened to be in the tower when noon chimed. We could feel the reverberation. 160 13
  14. 14. 171Loved the "stack em where you can" used bookstore. Icelandic people love to read - and write(one in ten will be published). This is a store youcould spend days in - if you could read Icelandic. 172 We think this must be the shop Heathers brother Greg visited and struck up a sitar jam session with the owner. Well find out for sure. 173 174 Reykjavik is famous for its lamb and beef Picture opportunity along the longest hotdogs. Somehow we didnt get around to shopping/dining street - Laugavegur. eating here, even though we planned to. Icelandic mythology is filled with Trolls, More than one guide told the story that Bill Elves and Hidden People who live farm and Clinton ate hot dogs at this stand, and had his raise families among the rocks. Planned heart attach a month later. They love that roads are willingly (matter-of factly) re-routed story - the Icelandic sense of humor was if they come across rocks recognized as clearly evident throughout our trip. places where hidden people live. 14
  15. 15. 177 182 Harpa Concert Hall - a unique architecture with Inside the City Government Building (which prism-shaped glass; again inspired by volcanic is bigger than the Parliament Building) is a basalt rock formations. The building reflects large relief map of the island. Of course the light in multiple ways and colors. We mentioned old cartographer Dave loved it. it positively to one guide who disagreed. Many A partial view of the building from across the see it as an intrusion of the shoreline. It is seen pond was on picture 108 (page 9). as an example of Reykjavik trying to become cosmopolitan which was out of character. It is also one of the reminders of the building boom that contributed to the financial crisis. The people we met were more than willing to share their perspectives - which was a good way to understand their society in a personal manner. 186During Heathers meeting with the Librarians,she learned about one of their intercultural 191programs – Womens Story Circle. They created Hateigskirkja Church - anotherthis “map” of the Reyjkavik area. It was on architecturally unique church withindisplay in the City Government Building. Reykjavik. There are many bells in the towers. 15
  16. 16. 200Some of the colorful homesthroughout the city. 205 This intricate mosaic is made from many small pieces of tile. It covers an entire side of a building. 202 Another bright and colorful building. We wondered what WOW Air was (ventilation systems?, radio station?). We found it Heather is standing in front of another 206 was an actual airline when we saw ticket section of the mosaic. counters at the airport. Fly WOW! Beautiful! 16
  17. 17. 210 211Einar Jonsson (1874-1954) was Icelands View from the sculpture garden.first famous sculptor. Many of his works Jonsson and his wife lived on the smallare throughout the city. He built this home top floor, the middle floor was a displayand workshop on top of a hill outside of area, and the massive ground floor wastown when there was nothing else around - his workshop.but this has changed over the years. Thispicture is taken from the grounds of theHallgrimskirkja Church. The buildinghouses many of his works. A sculpturegarden is in the back. 232 235 We are now inside the Perlan (see picture View of the dining area with the 158, page 13). observation level on top. There is a The ground floor of the "Pearl" displays many view from inside, or you can walk works of art (plus a small museum and gift around the outside of the dome. It was shop). We believe the palm trees reflect a windy and misty day but we walked all more of the Icelandic sense of humor. The around the observation deck. rounded walls are actually sides of the water tanks the observation tower is built on. 17
  18. 18. View from the Perlan - of Reykjavik and surrounding mountains.236 The clouds cleared over this mountain. To the left you can see the bell towers of Hateigskirkja Church (see picture 191, page 15). We reference other pictures to make the point of how close (relatively) everything is. We could easily walk most places (although this location was a stop on the Reykjavik bus tour we took).237 View toward Hallgrimskirkja Church.239 18
  19. 19. 245 The excursion van took us through surrounding suburbs 250 Zoomed-in view from Perlan across (seven towns grew together to make up the Reykjavik the Reykjavik Airport (regional flights to metropolitan area). 80% of Icelands 320,000 population other parts of the island only). The (320,034 according to one sign in a restaurant - more of their buildings in the distance (red roofs) are sense of humor?) lives in this metropolitan area. the Presidents home. We came to an old farmstead near the end of a peninsula. This is where the President lives. The Icelandic flag was raised - meaning the President was there. We were asked, out of respect, to not go beyond the Church building. That was it - in terms of security. No gate, no fence, no guards, no snipers stationed on the roof. Another unique experience. 251 View from the grounds of the Presidents home 253Many large farm complexes of the early looking back towards Reykjavik. We started talking to aterritorial leaders included churches. These were journalist who was riding with the tour. He mentioned thatsymbols of power and sources of income (they got the next Presidential election was 30 June, and the leadinga portion of the tithes). When the economy crisis challenger (Ms. Thora Arnorsdottir) was the wife of a long-hit a few years ago, people were mad that the time friend. Heather voiced surprise that there was noParliament was discussing minor issues rather indication that a major election was less than two weeksthan addressing the crisis. They started banging away. He mentioned that his friend had just put up someon pots and pans outside of the Parliament posters at bus stops. Debates were held, butBuilding. Many of the members were forced to advertisement-type techniques are not how they do things.resign by this "pots and pans" revolution. The When Heather mentioned to one of the librarians that weguide told that some protesters came to the met someone who knew Ms. Thora, she replied - "Oh yes,Presidents home. It was cold out, so he came out I had lunch with her yesterday". It is a small country.and invited them in for coffee and hot chocolate. By the way, the incumbent was re-elected. 19
  20. 20. 301 303Our first excursion outside of Reykjavik Our first stop was at Gerouberg Cliff awas north to the Snaefellsnes Peninsula long cliff formation of volcanic basalt(Mon. 18 June). The bus took us through rugged (the inspiration of artwork andlandscape with numerous old lava fields. We saw architecture).many small farms with free-range grazing sheep (notin flocks), horses and a few cattle. Hay is harvestedwhere ever it can be to help feed the animals throughthe long winters. This picture shows a few remnantsof ancient volcanoes. 308 View from the cliff across the vast landscape (ancient volcano in the distance). 305 The climb to the exposed rock was fairly steep and the cliff was tall. 20
  21. 21. The shoreline at Arnarstapi, along the southern 314 315coast of the peninsula, was extremely rugged.The very hard volcanic rocks form vertical cliffs Many seagulls nest on the steep cliffs.and tall standing rock formations. 317 319 We visited at low tide, which More rock formations. A few feet from where Dave exposed more of the rock. is squatting is a sheer drop to rocks below. There are few safety measures at the parks in Iceland. As with most countries, there liability laws are different than what exists in the US. 325 Looking inland from the coastline. 323 Monument to the local protective entity. 21
  22. 22. 335 337Black sand beach near the end of the The pebbles got smaller as we nearedSnaefellsnes Peninsula. Walking through the the coast.smooth oval pebbles along the shore was cool -and a challenge. The rust colored items aremetal debris from a ship wreck. It is left in placeout of respect for those who lost their lives. Unfortunately, our time at the black sand 340 beach was short. We hiked a whirlwind circuit, but would have loved to spend more time here. 338It is taking Mother Nature a long time to turn this rock into black sand. 22
  23. 23. 342 351View of the Snaefellsjokull Glacier at the end Visit to Stykkisholmur Village; a small, but stillof the peninsula. When the sky was clear, we active, fishing village. The harbor is well protectedcould see this feature from our hotel room (see by the massive rock. A quota system andpicture 018, page 3 – this is the distant regulations try to maintain the viability of thesemountain at the far left on that picture). small fishing operations and communities. 353 354 View from the fishing harbor. There are Sheer volcanic basalt cliff of the numerous rocky islands just off the coast. massive rock seen above (picture 351). 23
  24. 24. 363 This excursion was heading into rough 361 road and off-road territory withinOn Tue. 19 June, our excursion took usalong the southern coast to Thorsmork Thorsmork. A bus like this (and an(Thors Woods) National Park. We drove through experienced driver) was a must. Somevast flat "fertile" (by Icelandic standards) agricultural people hire vehicles, like the one next toareas We could have been in Nebraska (minus the our bus, for small group excursions.grain crops).This picture is of the volcano that erupted in 2010 -disrupting air travel over much of Europe. We wereexpecting to see a lot of devastation, but that was notthe case – recovery has been rapid.The volcano is Eyjafjallajokull. This rolls easily off thetongue of Icelandic speakers. 366 Thorsmork (note: the actual spelling uses a rune-like character similar to a P with the post extending above the loop. Everywhere in this guide where you see "th" for place names or a 365 persons name (i.e. the Presidential candidate),View of the rugged valley leading into the rune is actually used in the spelling).Thorsmork. Streams meander through thevalley carving ever changing paths through View as the bus was fording this stream.the rock and rubble. Holding a steady camera in the bouncing, rocking and rolling bus was a challenge. 24
  25. 25. 373 The hard volcanic rock erodes into 371 huge, sheer and fascinating Thorsmork National Park formations. The guide leads us on a hike through Stakkholtsgja, a valley that narrows progressively into a gorge. 375Like the bus, we had to ford our own streamson the hike. The experienced guide boundedright across - then lent a steadying hand to allus tourists. 377 The valley narrowed into a gorge along the way. We didn’t follow this branch, but continued to what the guide promised would be a special treat. 25
  26. 26. 378 The destination of our Stakkholtsgja hike was this very tall, vertical cut into the rock. A waterfall cascades down the cliff forming a pipe-like cut. We climbed into the crevasse and onto the fallen rocks to be right in the midst of this natural wonder. It was a special treat as promised. Pictures cannot capture this spectacular 381 feature, but here is one attempt. The water is falling along the right side of the "pipe". This hike was a highlight of the trips highlights. Beautiful Awesome389 26
  27. 27. 396 View across the large rugged valley. There was off-n-on drizzle during this hike.Starting a second hike after off-roading 395deeper into the parks large valley. This locationoffered camping spaces and basic services forpeople on days-long hikes. This portion of thepark also contains large tracts of Birch trees (theonly tree native to the island). Throughout ourvisit, guides referred to any stand of trees, nomatter how small, as a "forest" - probably that isthe translation since we were often looking at theresults of reforestation projects.View of our hiking destination - after walking 400along the narrow ridge at the lower left on the Numerous small flowers blossom during the 397picture. The background shows another view of short growing season. Here are a few examples.the valley with meandering rivers and streams. 27
  28. 28. 403 Another view from the rock formation we hiked 401 to. We then finished the loop back to the bus.View from the rock formation on the previous A young British man and his 80-something (wepicture - looking back at the path we took think) grandmother were on the hike. She hiked along well (an inspiration), but slow. Falling behind on this loop trail, they took a wrong turn and became lost. As we all waited on the bus, the guide made another quick loop but couldnt find them. He started a second loop with the bus driver heading along the valley in case they picked up a different trail and existed elsewhere. While driving, Heather spotted them sliding down the hill to get to the valley. The driver worked the bus over to them, then picked up the guide (who had quite a workout). It was raining steady at that point, so they were wet as well. The grandmother quickly fell asleep - thankfully safe.View of a glacier finger extending toward 413a valley. This looks like a black and whiteshot, but it is the same camera. With theblack rock, white ice, and grey sky, these The dark streaks are from layers of dust/soil 412were the only colors in view. that accumulates between layers of ice. These are exposed as the ice melts. 28
  29. 29. Back near the entrance to the national park is 420 423Seljalandsfoss. While not a spectacular falls Seljalandsfoss is also popular because(according to our guide), this falls is a popular stop you can walk behind the cascadingbecause of its proximity to Thorsmork’s entrance water. We thought it was spectacular(visitors dont have to go off-road to get to it). (i.e. by Shenandoah standards). 429 In addition to the Seljalandsfoss, there are many smaller falls emerging over the ridge. The water is only partially from the summer melting of snow. 426 Much of it is precipitation that falls on the island.View from the other side of the falls - thedirection the mist was blowing. 29
  30. 30. 445 The Golden Circle excursion started along back roads just outside the Reykjavik metropolitan area. We drove through lava fields that do not have much vegetation taking hold. We came to an area where geothermal steam vents reach the surface. Thingvallavatn (the lake), our destination area, can be seen in the distance. 446 View of bore holes (the white domes) that tap into the natural source of energy. Pipes carry the hot steam and water to the energy plant (later in the tour). 448 The Golden Circle excursion is one of the most popular tours. Cruise ships offer this tour to their passengers. Plus it was a Saturday, so each stop was shared with many people. The white bus is ours - the largest of any excursion we took. The other bus is with the same company (Iceland Excursions - Grey Line) and on the same run; only it was conducted in German.Another view of the natural steam vents withThingvallavatn in the distance. The thick mossthat has grown on top of the lava rocks is verysoft and cushiony. Our feet sunk down into it. 452 30
  31. 31. 465 Thingvellir National Park is extensive and contains many natural wonders. It is popular with tourists, and also is a vacation spot for Icelandic people. There are numerous summer cottages throughout the area. The lake is very clear. Excursion companies offerThe Atlantic Ridge that separates the North 463 scuba tours (with very warm wet suits) to view theAmerican teutonic plate and the Eurasia plate underwater formations and water life.runs through this part of Iceland. These two plates(and therefore the island) are pulling apart at abouttwo centimeters a year - leaving a deep anduneven trench in the landscape.Notice the two columns of steam on the side of themountain in the distance; that was our first stop. 467 471 Another view of the separating teutonic Two of the massive number of tourists. plates - looking away from the lake. There is a large multi-bus parking lot and a visitors center at this site. Pay toilets, though. 31
  32. 32. 478Althingi is the site of the annual gathering ofancient leaders and their entourages from acrossthe island. They met to rule on official business,form agreements, and govern themselves. This isseen as one of the earliest parliamentary forms ofgovernance in the world. If you remember page 7,the current Parliament Building has the samename (Althingi). 480 Example of how clear the water is.The day we visited, the interior part of the island This is a view of rocks on theactually reached 23 degrees C (upper 60s - 70 F). bottom of the stream (not algaeShort sleeves in Iceland! floating on top). 482 View of the surrounding landscape. It was 483View from the spot where the Icelandic fairly lush along the small rivers thatleaders conducted official business. Social meander through this valley. It could easilyand competitive events were also part of support a large gathering of people and theirthis annual gathering. animals. 32
  33. 33. 484 More picture at Althingi. Another view or the valley - looking towards the lake (Thingvallavatn). 490 View of a large stream that falls from the cliff, then cuts a parallel course along its base. 493 The stream then enters the ancient meeting grounds.The flag pole marks the spot of the officialmeeting. The lush streams and vegetationseen on the previous pictures lay inbetween the near and far rock formations. 501 33
  34. 34. 508 Gulfoss is a crowning jewel on the Golden Circle Tour. Truly awesome display of nature. 509 View of the distant mountains that are a source of the water. The vast flat land funnels the water to the falls 510Once the water falls, it takes a 90 degreeturn to cut a deep and narrow gorgethrough the hard volcanic rock.Tremendous amounts of spray chimneyup above the gorge.Very unique and awesome. 513 34
  35. 35. 518 More pictures of Gulfoss. Directly above the falling water - looking along the narrow gorge. 523The sound of thundering water was awesome. Atthe National Gallery of Iceland in Reykjavik, thereis a display that encases a series of large panels.When you pull one out, you see a transparentpicture of one of Iceland’s prominent falls, and alsohere a recording of the sound it makes.Of course there is nothing like the real thing. 525 A view downstream from the falls. A partial and distant view of a large glacier - Langjokull. The ice extends beyond the full length of the picture. This is as close as this excursion came to it. 536 35
  36. 36. 540 Geysir is the name of this location - from which our term geyser came from. This is the most popular and accessible site of geothermal pools and geysers. Not nearly as extensive as Yellowstone, but still wonderful. 541We hiked, on our own, up a small ridgeflanking the Geysir area and cameacross this hot spring bubbling to thesurface, then flowing down to join themain area of geothermal activity. Bubbling hot springs in Geysir. The area is open for people to wonder as they wish. We even saw a camper rinsing a metal pot by dipping it into a spring (not a smart move). 551 36
  37. 37. View of the Geysir area from the ridge we hiked up. Happened to catch the main geyser erupting.544 Another view from the ridge – the upper portion of the hot spring area..545 View of the other side of the ridge; which opened to a lush (relatively speaking) valley.546 37
  38. 38. 563 Skalkolt – site of the first bishops’ compound on Iceland. This is a reconstructed old church. Archeological digs are discovering numerous structures and providing insight into how they lived and interacted with others in the area. 565 Distant view of Hekla, Icelands most active volcano - erupting about every 10 years. The guide said it was due.Our last stop on the Golden Circle excursion was at theGeothermal Energy Plant outside of Reykjavik. Use ofgeothermal energy sources is why Iceland exists today (inthe words of the plants guide). It supplies reliable andinexpensive heating and hot water to most of theinhabitants. Recently, a contingent of Japanese energyexperts visited the plant to learn how they can tap into thissource of energy on their island (they had made thenuclear choice years ago, but are rethinking the decisionafter the tsunami disaster). They commented on the ironyof going to Iceland to see how to utilize geothermal powerand finding the generators and equipment weremanufactured in Japan. 570 Some of the generators. Notice the pipes coming over the hill carrying steam and water from sites such as the one the Golden Circle excursion started with. 571 38
  39. 39. 591 594The largest brewery in Iceland (Egils brands) A sample of the offerings. Gull is their awardis in a suburb adjacent to Reykjavik. The tour winning beer. It flowed freely – which the ladswas a surprisingly small group (11 of us). took full advantage of.When we arrived, a local resident dropped The other major brewery (Vifilfrll) creates Vikingoff 5 young English soccer players and and Thule brands and is in Akureyri in thearranged for them to joined our group. northern part of the island. The clean Icelandic water does not require chlorination – a reasonThis tour was not about the plant and brewing for the great taste. Unfortunately, we have notprocess. The hostess talked about the found Icelandic beers offered anywhere in thehistory and cultural aspects of Icelandic beer. northern VA area.It was all about entertainment (Heather The hostess asked everyone in the group wherethought the hostess was an actor by trade). they were from. There were the British Lads ofThe British "Lads" (as the hostess referred to course, another person from Britain, a couplethem) added to the entertainment experience from Canada, one lady from Australia, and the(leading the group in a pub song at one rest from America. Everyone who signed up forpoint). the brewery tour was from an English speaking country - go figure. 596 597The hostess gathered cameras for group The hostess took a second picture with ourpictures as we toasted "Skal". The Lads are camera after the posed "Skal".the enthusiastic ones in the back. Clearly everyone had fun. Allow us to say "unique" once again. 39
  40. 40. 611 View from the back of the building. The Reykjavik harbor is behind us.Heather had arranged to meet with the Youth 610Services librarians at the Reykjavik PublicLibrary to share experiences and informationon programs. View of the Library which islocated near the Reykjavik harbor.The top floor of the building houses theMuseum of Photography; which rotates worksby Icelandic artists. There is a colorful and fanciful mural painted along the entire wall of the building (parking lot side). When Heather asked about it, the librarian answered that an American artist offered to paint the mural, which was accepted. They had no real idea of what he had in mind. She was clearly not thrilled with the result. But she accepts it in true Icelandic spirit. 643 40
  41. 41. 628 Heather with an example of the public art that was on display throughout the library.. 630 View of the library interior. Dave read magazines while Heather met with the staff. They provide magazines in English as well as Icelandic. We close our highlights with this statue – the likeness of a prevalent ancient icon found throughout the island. There are differing opinions of what the icon represents or symbolizes. People don’t agree on what the figure is holding. Icelandic people don’t worry about any of this. They still revere it as part of their heritage (as much as the trolls, elves, and hidden people.)This trip was more than we could have imagined.Awesome country and awesome people.We returned with more memories than couldbe captured in this summary.Very unique experience! 262 41

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