As a kid, when I thought of Iceland (which, you know, was probably only during geography class), I always imagined that it would be super-boring. Just a flat sheet of ice, adrift in the northern Atlantic. Never once did I think that I’d actually go there someday.
But then, for a brief time in 2009, Winnipeg was blessed with Icelandair flights, and we immediately took advantage of flying Icelandair to Norway. This fantastic ticket allowed us to spend a four-day layover in Iceland!
Pretty much the first thing we did was book the Golden Circle Classic Tour, which is kind of like a quick “greatest hits” of Iceland, leaving from Reykavik. Apparently the weather in Iceland is a little unpredictable and would most likely be a little chilly, but we really had the best weather possible on this July day — the sky was clear and sunny.
Iceland’s topography is so strange and other-worldly… I mean, the entire country was formed by lava. So the mountains all have a kind of flowy strange shape to them. Everywhere there’s black lava rock covered in the very greenest moss. Occasionally you’ll see a collection of saplings. The guide on our tour explained that this was an “Icelandic forest”, which was not to be mocked. I kind of wanted to laugh, but kind of also got it — I mean, imagine living in a place where you have to do some extreme coaxing and coddling just to get your little saplings to grow a few metres high.
Our first stop was Nesjavellir Geothermal Power Station in Thingvallavatn. Reykavik’s power comes from here — so eco-friendly it was blowing my mind. Beyond that, further proof that Iceland is incredible: we learned that all the sidewalks and streets in Reykavik are heated with geothermal power from Nesjavellir, so that they never need to clear streets when it snows. THEY NEVER NEED TO CLEAR THE STREETS WHEN IT SNOWS! Hey! We need that HERE!
We then proceeded to Thingvellir National Park, where the Icelandic parliament Alpingi was founded in 930 AD. This thrilled me because I’d just finished reading “Egil’s Saga” (at the influence of Andrew), so I’d been reading about this very place… and imagined Egil taking care of business there in the beginning days of their parliament.
Arriving at Thingvellir, we approached on a pathway between two tall rocky cliff-like rock formations, emerging into the sunlight to see the Alpingi area. There we found out that these cliff-like features were created by the tectonic plates actually pulling Iceland apart. The plates have shifted over 30 metres in the time Iceland has existed, and they continue to pull the country apart today: every year, Iceland grows by a few millimetres.
Here I was thinking, “Oh, okay, a path through the rocks. That’s cool. I like paths, I like rocks.”
Then we emerged to see this. Oh Iceland, you stunner.
See these little yellow flowers in the foreground? This is about where I thought Egli had his podium or mound or whatever. (I forget what the book said… it’s been nearly 6 years since I read it!)
Whoa. I say that in my head a lot on these trips. Whoa.
I also say an awestruck “whoa” when I see this handsome guy. Man I love him.
After sipping the clearest, best-tasting water ever from a stream, we then piled back on the bus and made our way to Gullfoss waterfall…
Then went a little closer…
It was at this point that I exclaimed, “There’s a path?!” I wanted to go on that path. Andrew was not a fan of that idea, so I went solo. I did not take the camera! REGRETS! So, that photo above was taken by Andrew while I was down there. I’m probably in this photo, standing on that rocky outcropping. The velocity of the water was incredible and I found myself becoming dizzy… like the current wanted to draw me in, and it was beginning to feel natural to just jump right in. Well, these thoughts freaked me out and I immediately trotted back up the path to Andrew. We then went for beers, and I stole a Viking beer glass. As we got on the bus again, we noticed everyone was looking at something in the distance — a glacier!
Our next stop was Geysir, where we saw Strokkur… the original geyser! Unfortunately we didn’t get a picture of the exact time it exploded, but the image is imprinted in my mind: we were standing around this barren area, just waiting… waiting… waiting… then a strange rushing sound and a giant pure aqua marble blossomed out of the ground before morphing into a stream of water bursting into the sky. “I must remember this,” I thought fervently. We stared and stared for another long time and saw it spout twice more, but never saw it burst quite the same as that first one.
That was the Golden Circle Tour. I think it was an important introduction to Iceland for those staying in Reykavik a bit before continuing on to mainland Europe, sort of like a quick sampler. I REALLY want to return someday and see WAY more. In fact, while we were there, I kept saying I wanted to move there. I still do. That would rule. Someday…
Oh, and we also saw this church.