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Published: February 3rd 2019
Iceland Road Trip
Another day dawned in the most northern capital city in Europe. The plan was to get up around 7 AM and drive along the more southern tier of the Golden Circle. Good plan, but not perfect execution. We got up at 9 AM and hit the road just before 10 AM.
It was a little colder today than yesterday, with a temperature forecast of -10 C. Also, we had a bit more wind to help drive the temperature down further, so we bundled up with everything we had and hit the road. Our first stop Reykjafoss in the Botanical Gardens in Hverageroi. The big attraction in the gardens is supposed to be the water falls or FOSS in Icelandic. In conjunction with that, there was a geothermal park right outside the gardens, so we have a two for one planned.
Once again there was limited traffic and we made good time and arrived at our destination within the hour. The small town of Hverageroi is really nothing more than a wide spot in the road. It consisted of a gas station with a small store, a restaurant (closed
for the winter,) and a mall that had a deli and some clothing stores and an exhibit dedicated to earthquake preparedness. More on this later.
Good old Ms. Google guided us right to the main entrance to the gardens. Only problem, the gates were locked for the winter! That was not expected for sure. It turns out that was not a problem because the water fall was visible from the street. We trekked a short walk to view the waterfall, which was frozen but running at a trickle. Looking at what was there, we guessed we would not have been too impressed if it were flowing hard anyway. It was just a small rapid in the river, so no great loss.
We literally turned around and headed back to the car and saw a chain link fence surrounding what appeared to be a cement swimming pool. Upon closer inspection we could see two older ladies and one much older gentleman in swimming attire. The gentleman was swimming in the outside pool and the ladies had just left what looked like a soaking pond and headed toward the locker area. We guessed this was the
hot spring park. We were more than appropriately disappointed, so we headed back to the car and into the bustling metropolis of Hverageroi to see if they had a coffee shop or a place to get a quick bite.
As we often do at home if you want information, we stopped in the gas station. In most cases they know the locale better than anyone and the proprietor here did not disappoint.
He was a gentleman of about my age and spoke excellent English as well as Icelandic. He was a local but had spent many years in the US, mostly in the west coast area. His mother was American and Father Icelandic.
He was able to direct us to the mall across the street which he assured us had a deli that was known for selling low cost but high-quality sandwiches. It was where all the locals went to eat. Since it was nearly noon, I decided to take his advice and see what they had.
We entered the deli and encountered a que of locals waiting to be served, this was a good sign. I perused
the selection and saw they had not only sandwiches but cookies, pastries and a variety of soups and salads. Figuring I could find something here, I pulled a number and waited in line.
Bob, however, took one look at the prices and said, “I’m not going to pay that for a sandwich,” and walked into the mall where he had spied a Bonus Store which was somewhat of a grocery and sundries store that is prevalent throughout Iceland.
When my turn came, I ordered a croissant sandwich, a cup of coffee and a bottle of water. Total cost about $15, a little pricy but what else could I do? Once I was served, I stepped over to find a table and settled in to dine waiting for Bob to return.
Almost finished with my meal, I spied Bob coming back with a bag of goodies. He had purchased some salmon, some bread, what appeared to be a large donut and some kind of sweet cake like snack covered on the bottom with chocolate. It looked okay.
I finished lunch, made a second cup of Joe and waited as
Bob finished the Salmon and started on the donut. “These taste empty, there is no flavor at all,” he remarked as he finished the last bite.
I decided a trip to the WC was in order. I headed into the mall and passed a demonstration set up in the mall just near the bathroom entrance. On my return from the WC, I stopped to see what they were showing.
It seems this area is prone to earthquakes. They must be frequent enough that the state was attempting to prepare the locals for what to do during an earth quake. The display included some earthquake safety points and a full-scale kitchen set up to look like it just suffered a major quake. There was also an earthquake simulator in case you just couldn’t wait for the next real tremor! I decided not to partake in the simulation and headed back to find Bob.
Carrying the sweet cake for later, we headed back to the car, where I retrieved my lens cap which I must have dropped earlier. Good thing I followed the exact same path to the car that we took to
Disappointed at the first stop, we settled in and prepared for the drive to Skalholt to visit to the historic church that has been functioning on this very spot since 1056. It took us about an hour to negotiate the rough roads to the parking lot in front of the church. On the way, Bob reached into the bag with the sweet cake and offered me a piece. It looked pretty good, so I took a bite and nothing. It wasn’t sweet or tasty. It was flakey and bland, even the chocolate on the bottom was dead. These folks could really use a bakery that knew what they were doing, for sure.
The church at Skalholt is a very important cultural site for Icelanders as it was here that many of the history books written during Iceland’s Middle Ages were written. The first bishop was installed in 1056 and there has been a bishopric here ever since. There is also an archeological dig of the surrounding area which has uncovered several out buildings, a school, homes and farms that once made up this town. There is still much to discover, and the
digging continues. Today, however, it was frozen and the only thing open was the church.
The church itself is not the original, we learned that came down long ago. The present building was built in the 1950’s. The first bishop died in 1211 and he was buried in a stone sarcophagus right on the church property. According to legend, the earth was wracked by storms and earthquakes when he died. He lay at rest until 1956, when his sarcophagus was unearthed again while digging the foundation for the new church. Strangely enough there was a storm and an earthquake when the stone was removed from the ground. It now lies in repose in the church basement and is on display for all to appreciate.
The church interior was simple yet elegant due to the presence of several stained-glass windows apparently imported from Germany. During the latest restoration, all the windows were removed and sent back to Germany, to the original manufacturer, who restored them to their original elegance. They were simple yet beautiful as the sunlight played off the windows making colored light sparkle on the church columns. Nice photos for sure.
From Skalholt the plan was to go to Piorsardalur/Thorsardalur valley to see the waterfall where the river splits in two and become two separate falls. Given the temperature conditions, we figured the water was not moving but we headed over to see it anyway as it was on the way to the next stop. Back on the sketchy roads, ice, snow and wind made travel a little difficult. It took a little longer, but we finally made it to the park entrance to see the falls.
Well it wasn’t exactly a park entrance. It was really a turn off onto an unplowed side road that wound up the back trail to another unplowed parking lot. Good thing we had a 4 X 4 as it was a bit difficult negotiating the trail to the viewing area. When we exited the car, the icy cold wind was whipping around so hard I had a hard time fighting the polar blast to get the car door open. I bundled up as best I could, pushed hard and fought the wind to get to the viewing sight. I held my ground as I pushed forward to the railing. I
lifted my head against the onslaught only to see the water was frozen solid. There was nothing to really see here. Another wide spot in the road, that I am sure is beautiful in summer; in winter, not so much. In retrospect the way the water cascaded down the two streams it looked like a mini, very mini, Niagara Falls. We took the appropriate photos and headed out.
Our next stop was supposed to be Aegissioufoss, yup another waterfall. Now we are smart enough to known by now in this weather the water is not falling so we decided to skip this stop and head to the major attraction Gullfoss
Back in the car and off to Gullfoss, you guessed it another water fall. Would we ever learn, you say. Nope I reply.
Now light was beginning to wane, so we had to hurry if we had any hope at all of seeing anything at this, our last stop of the day. It took more than an hour to climb the paths to the entrance to the falls, but this time there was traffic, a good sign that there was actually
something to see.
I was driving and I had to circle the parking lot three times to finally get a parking spot. We could hear the wind whistling through the narrow valley as ice began to form on the car windows. It was cold, bitterly cold.
I wrapped my scarf about my face, put on two sets of gloves and pulling my hat down over my eyes, I felt somewhat prepared to brave the elements. Opening the door, I was hit, and hit hard, by the arctic blast. Leaving the car, I put my head down and I pushed against the wind to the viewing area. This time it was worth the trip, as the water fall was active with the cascading water splashing down a frozen ice wall. It was indeed beautiful. Looking toward my left, I spied a set of stairs that led to a second viewing area.
Against our better judgement we headed over to the stairs to find they were frozen in most places and open in others. Again, we were admonished not to fall, by the appropriate signage. We headed up braving both wind and ice.
It did not seem possible, but it was colder at the top of the hill than at the bottom. We had to walk at lest 100 yards directly into the wind to get to the viewing area. There were a few dozen well wrapped people enjoying the view. I snapped the appropriate number of photos and headed back toward the stairs. I had noticed a welcome center about another 100 yards up the path and decided to get warm and see if there was a WC as well.
I was well rewarded for my efforts. Not only was there a WC, but a cafeteria and gift shop. It was also warm. Heaven on earth!
I took a gander at the food choices and discovered they had meat soup, that delicious soup made from Lamb and vegetables. I ordered a soup, some dinner rolls with butter, and a coffee, then found a nice seat away from the door and began to eat as I waited for Bob.
Satiated and warm, I did a quick walk through the gift shop. Not much to buy so I asked Bob if he wanted a coffee or a bite. Not interested in food or drink, it was time to bundle up against the elements and take the long drive home.
It was getting dark, Bob was more than a little tired, but he braved through and by 8:30 we were snug as a bug in a rug back in the Hostel. Bob was hungry, I was not, so he hit the road for some food in town while I rested.
Bob was gone about 2 hours and had an interesting story upon his return. Remember my run in with the drunk Irishman from last night? You know the one who was the “master of his own fate.” Yeah that guy.
Well, Bob was passing the same corner we first saw him last night. Our friend was drunk again, but this time he was not alone. It seems he was with several police officers who were trying to subdue him and put him into their patrol car for a nice ride to the pokey. Bob said they struggled, fell several times, but the officers remained in control, not beating the man or using their TASR, something the Toledo Police would not have done. After quite the struggle, our friend was in the car and on his way. Score one for the local police.
I was soon out like a light and preparing for our last day tomorrow, Super Bowl Sunday.
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