The second day of our trip dawned bright and early, in that Iceland gets about 21 hours of sun a day in June. Geographical phenomenon aside, we were about to embark on a daylong tour of the so-called Golden Circle, a troika of Iceland’s most famous sights.
We started, for some reason, by stopping at Nesjavellir Geothermal field to take pictures of the steaming ground. Since this was my first encounter with geothermal activity, I was down with it. As the week progressed, I became less so. “The ground is steaming?” *snaps picture* “Let’s keep moving.”
First official stop: Þingvellir, site of the world’s first Parliament in 930. (Icelandic note: That letter that looks like a capital P is pronounced “th.” So Þingvellir is “Thingvellir.”) That Parliament was called the Alþingi (Althing), and is the source of the word “thing.” BOOM. KNOWLEDGE BOMB.
As if that weren’t enough, Þingvellir is also where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates meet. The area’s quite seismically active as a result, and those ponds in the picture above have all formed in the millennium since 930.
“In this corner…North America…and in this corner…Eurasia…ARE YOU READY TO RUMBLE?!”
In the parking lot at Þingvellir, we were reminded that 54% of Icelanders believe in elves:
During one tour, our guide told us all about how elves are in the Bible. Not the KJV, obviously.
Second stop: Gullfoss, one of Iceland’s many notable waterfalls.
On a sunny day, there are delightful rainbows. Google it.
For quite some time, the Powers That Be wanted to turn Gullfoss into a power plant. They were prevented from doing so largely by the efforts of Sigríður Tómasdóttir, known as Iceland’s first environmentalist. She’s memorialized at Gullfoss.
Don’t mess with Siggy. Also, probably don’t call her Siggy.
Third stop: Geysir, a geyser whose name is in fact the derivation of the English word “geyser.” BOOM. SECOND KNOWLEDGE BOMB.
Before we were let off the bus, our guide made sure to tell us not to touch the water, stand downwind of the geysers, etc. The whole site was covered in caution signs, too.
Too bad I only speak Fahrenheit, baby.
The geyser erupted every 5 minutes or so, so I was able to see it both close up and from afar. You really needed both perspectives, since the thing’s so huge. (That’s what she said.)
Note TheBoy at far left.
After a quick visit to Skálholt Church, one of Iceland's sees from 1056 until 1785, we made our final stop: Hellisheiði Geothermal Power Station, third largest in the world. Our tour guide was from Florida, so insert gripes about foreigners coming into our country and taking our jobs.
That Florida-to-Iceland move has to entail some climate whiplash.
The plant’s interior and exterior were filled with heavy machinery, all of which is probably interesting to people who like heavy machinery.
I myself at this point was ready for dinner, because it was to be the spotlight meal of the trip: the seven course Icelandic Feast at Sushi Samba.
Course 1: Brennivín Shot. According to Wikipedia, brennevin is schnapps made from fermented grain or potato mash and flavored with caraway. Tasted like licorice.
Course 2: Smoked Puffin and Minke Whale
Course 3: Arctic Charr. Very similar to salmon.
Course 4: Lobster Cigar. Think spring roll.
Course 5: Reindeer Slider.
Course 6: Lamb Chop. At this point, I was in such a food zone that I almost forgot to take a picture.
Course 7: Skyr Panna Cotta and Raspberry Sorbet. Ditto on forgetting to take a decent picture.
Stick a fork in me; I was done.
In Day 3: I eat a glacier, go behind a waterfall, and find my Icelandic soulmate.