Saturday, September 1, 2012

Ireland/Iceland Trip, day 9: Iceland's "Golden Circle"

This was our day for cross-country driving and nature sightseeing in Iceland.  Again on Solveig's excellent advice, we toured the Golden Circle (well, thanks to slightly wonky GPS, call it our "extended, special" version of the Golden Circle).

Our first stop was Þingvellir, the meeting place of the Icelandic parliament for hundreds of years.  The Icelanders are rightly proud of their status as one of the earliest democracies to survive into modern times.  When chatting with us the day before, for example, Kjartan was quick to mention the 11th-century writings of Adam of Bremen, who described Icelanders thus: "They have no king except the law."

Wandering around the volcanic rock and dramatic streams and lake of Þingvellir, it was remarkably easy to picture representatives gathering to create and recite the law of the land here more than a thousand years ago...

The next stop was Geysir, from which English derives its word "geyser."  Impressive bubbling and shooting pools, with boiling-hot water sloshing around.  Also, a surprisingly cool cafe where we grabbed lunch and watched vintage videos showing matches and instruction in Glima (Icelandic wrestling), which is the national sport.

Then, it was on to Gullfoss ("golden falls"), which felt like an up-close-and-personal Niagra to me.  Also an important spot for the modern conservation movement in Iceland, since an early conservationist successfully worked to prevent the damming of the falls.

We then moved on to the Kerið crater, whose dramatic reds were a little muted on this gray and drizzly day.  Quite a sight, nonetheless.

It's easy to focus on the sightseeing destinations on a day like this, but I think the thing I'll remember most is just the look and feel of the Icelandic landscape sliding by during our long stretches in the car.

After returning to Reykjavik, we enjoyed a dinner at Solon, where we had a drink combination that was likely the beginning of a lot of great (or terrible) nights for Arnar and Solveig in days past ... [brennevin in front, Egils Gull beer waiting in the wings]:

We then relaxed and chatted late into the night at a few local spots, including the Lebowski Bar (some concepts transcend all geographic boundaries, clearly).