August 4, 2015

August 4, 2015

Iceland, Day 5: The Silver Circle

The last full day of my Iceland trip, the day of the Silver Circle tour, dawned sunny and clear (TWO DAYS IN A ROW, WHAT WHAT HEY-O). There was some initial confusion, because between the time I booked the tour and the time I went on the tour, it changed names. “The Silver Circle” became “Vikings, Waterfalls & Hot Springs.” IMO, the new, more-explicit name is at least 30% less sexy. But whatever, man.

We were a group of five: me, TheBoy, a couple from Norway (!), and the guide. We got a fancy van (technical term) and drove from Reykjavik to our first stop: Hvalfjörður, the whaling fjord.

Not our actual fancy van, but very similar. We each got, like, a whole row of seats. SWANK.

What with the worldwide popularity of the “Save the Whales” movement, Hvalfjörður is home to one of the last remaining active whaling plants. We drove past but couldn’t stop, because the place was locked-up, Fort Knox style.

I assume Auric Whalefinger sits inside, stroking a white cat.

According to our guide, his childhood involved field trips to this place. Now? You’re not getting in for love or money. THANKS, PETA.

Anyway, the fjord had much more to offer in the way of scenic beauty. I mean, mirror lakes, big skies, hills-are-alive kind of beauty.

Taken from the middle of a road. The guide said it was fine. You know what? It was.

Next, Borgarnes, home to the Settlement Museum. Two lengthy exhibits, one about the founding of Iceland and another about one of its mythic figures, Egil. You were forced to use the audio tour, which worked out okay because the exhibits were basically stories told via folk art. I wasn’t allowed to take any pictures (and for once, I didn’t), but here’s someone else’s to give you some idea of what I was dealing with.

Credit where credit’s due: The exhibits were creative and varied. I’m just spoiled by the Smithsonians.

Since all that audio touring was hungry work, lunch in Fossatún was next. Fossatún, as far as I can tell, consists of one motel/restaurant/camping ground. Luckily for me, the view from the patio was GORG.

Added bonus: My lamb stew came with an egg on it for no obvious reason.

That side salad is the very definition of "anemic."

The first afternoon stop was Deildartunguhver, the highest-flow hot spring in Europe. Imagine 200-degree water gushing out of the ground at 48 gallons per second and you’ve pretty much got the gist.

Our next stop was Reykholt, where we learned all about Snorri Sturluson, one of Iceland’s most significant historic figures. He’s sort of their Homer; he wrote down a lot of the myths and history back in the early 13th century. His original homestead now has a church, school, and other stuff on it, but there’s a little museum and the Norwegian couple traveling with us LOVED it. Apparently Snorri’s huge in Norway. Who knew? (Answer: The Norwegians.)

The man, the myth, the Snorri.

Now here’s where things get hairy, and the one regret I have about the trip. The next stop was supposed to be a drive through the second-highest pass in Iceland to a glacier walk, which was something I knew TheBoy really wanted to do. This tour is only offered in June, July, and August because the pass is snowed-over and impassable (ha) the rest of the year. Alas, IT WAS STILL SNOWED OVER. BOO. Obviously global warming is a myth.

Our consolation prize was Hraunfossar and Barnafoss, two waterfalls. Hraunfossar was more visually impressive…

…but Barnafoss legend is cooler. Quoth Wikipedia:

Many Icelandic folk tales have been associated with Barnafoss, the most famous being about two boys from a nearby farm, Hraunsás. One day, the boys' parents went with their ploughmen to a church. The boys were supposed to stay at home, but as they grew bored they decided to follow their parents. They made a shortcut and crossed a natural stone-bridge that was above the waterfall. But on their way, they felt dizzy and fell into the water and drowned. When their mother found out what had happened, she put a spell on the bridge saying that nobody would ever cross it without drowning himself. A little while later, the bridge was demolished in an earthquake.


Fittingly, our last stop was a return to Þingvellir. Our visit during the Golden Circle tour of Day 2 was an overcast bust that we'd tried to make the best of. I didn't mention that we got separated from the group and I almost threw my first Unesco World Heritage Site tantrum. This time around, it was partially cloudy and our guide stuck with us, so we got to better understand the significance of the site as well as partly-sunny views of it and the local wild horses.

Since the sixth and final day or our trip involved going from hotel to airport, this is where I’ll leave it. Iceland’s a strong recommend: the perfect mix of unique nature and ancient history.

0 Fish in a Sea of Diet Coke: