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Published: August 22nd 2013
Reykjavik City Map
Painted on the side of a store
Iceland was the last stop of our summer journey, and what a delight it was. The scenery was unique and the weather was good. But, my oh my, was it EXPENSIVE!! Being a little smaller than England and due to the high costs of tours and transportation, we were able to just get a taste of the country. Reykjavik was a delightful city with a nice homey atmosphere. The menu boards advertising whale and puffin were a bit disturbing, but the fish soup, lamb stew, and skyr (Icelandic yogurt) were excellent.
The BIG tourist attraction in Reykjavik is the Hallgrimskirkja church. This imposing structure can be seen from 12 miles away. It's a great landmark when finding your way around the city. The Harpa Concert Hall and Convention Center sparkles near the harbor front with its thousands of convex and concave glass panels. It is lovely inside and out. The reflections of the harbor and of the sunsets on the glass panels were beautiful. An example of these reflections is shown in the panorama photo at the beginning of this blog.
We had the time and the money for only three excursions. One was a small boat cruise to
Reykjavik's famous church at the end of our street.
see the puffins nesting on a nearby island. They were adorable and full of energy. They spend 3 months on land to mate and raise their chicks. The rest of the time they live totally in the water.
The Golden Circle Tour is the easiest way to see some of Iceland outside the city. So, we joined the many other tourists and hopped on the bus. This tour included the Thingvellir National Park, the Gullfoss waterfall, the geyser Strokkur, a few ancient churches, and a geothermal plant. Most of the topography is moss-covered lava with large and small volcanic mountains. There were many areas of pasture land with sheep and Icelandic horses. Both of these were impossible to photograph from a moving bus. We were able to see their biggest volcano, Hekla, in the distance. The volcano, Eyjafjallajokull, or "E-15", that erupted in 2010 and stopped air traffic in Europe was not visible on our route. They call it the "E-15" because it's next to impossible for tourists to pronounce and it starts with an "e" and has 15 letters.
Thingvellir National Park is an important historical and geological site. Iceland's first democratic government began in Thingvellir in
The statue of Leifur Eiriksson in front of the church.
930 AD. This was the meeting site of their first parliamentary councils. It is also the location of the rift valley where the North American tectonic plate meets the Eurasian tectonic plate. Lake Thingvellir, the nation's largest lake, is located within the rift valley. This was a great gathering spot for the early settlers. But, one major earthquake and the realization that the lake was growing led the people to believe that the site wasn't the safest place to hang out. The rift valley continues to widen and submerge yearly with the constant movement of the two plates. The word Thingvellir means - land between the continents.
Gullfoss, or Golden Falls, is one of the nation's largest waterfalls. The weather was rapidly getting colder and windier when we arrived, so it was a cold, wet hike down to the rocks overlooking the falls. The hot springs area of Geyser had several active geysers. The most frequent to erupt was Strokkur. It performed admirably.
Our third excursion was to the Blue Lagoon. I thought it was wonderful. The lagoon is filled with silica rich, 100 degree water. The water comes from a geothermal plant and has created a very
AKA - Lief Erikson - the first European to stumble across North America.
large lagoon. Iceland capitalized on this fact and built a spa resort on the lagoon. Swimming in heated pools is something the locals do daily, and this was a really cool place to join in with the local tradition.
The language is a challenge with names like Hallgrimskirkja, Eyjafjallajokull, and our street, Skolavorduholt. Still, by shortening the words and making up nicknames it was more fun than frustration. And some words are just fun, like "plasapoki" or plastic bag.
One interesting fact that we learned about the language is that all last names end in "son" or "dottir", which means son or daughter. As the generations pass, the root of the last name changes, according to a set pattern, to accommodate this tradition. Within a family there will be several different last names. So, within the country there are just a few standard names. Consequently, their phone books are alphabetized by the first name and not the last. Most people never use last names and call each other by their first names. This is true for teachers, businesses, and other professionals. I think this was one of the reasons the people were so outgoing and friendly.
The tower is approximately 220 feet tall and is visible from 12 miles away. The concrete columns represent the columns of volcanic basalt found throughout the country.
so much to see and do here that I'd love to return for seconds. But, the cost and the climate will make that a difficult goal. This little taste will just have to do.
We've been home for the past 2 weeks walking the beach, seeing friends, and "enjoying??" the heat. Another trip is in the works! We'll be leaving soon for Indiana and then heading west to Wyoming and Colorado. I told Ron I didn't like FL in August and September and he was happy to oblige with another cool destination.
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