Saturday, June 12, 2010

Iceland Day 3: Grand Golden Circle

Finished my first guided bus tour a few hours ago. Sooooo tired now, but good tired. Once again, my body clock permitted me only a few hours sleep and then today was a full day of sight-seeing with plenty of walking, though thank god I didn't have to drive. That would have been brutal. Hooray, bus tours!

Grand Golden Circle is a seven-hour tour through parts of southern Iceland that includes a stop at a geothermal power plant (really cool), a volcanic crater, a salmon ladder, the literal mother of all "Geysirs," agorgeous water fall, the rift valley, and Iceland's original Viking parliament. ...

Stop 1: HellisheiĆ°i Geothermal Power Plant

That's the view inside one of the turbines, which is down for maintenance right now. The country is trying to use its expertise in geothermal energy to become a world leader. The relatively easy access to underground steam makes this a no-brainer for Iceland. Fun times. Short stop and they had a very nice tour guide. PR is big biz for the geothermal energy plant and the power company. On the gift shop counter each PR person had a full-color business card with his/her picture on it. And there were at least 6.

And yes, the geothermal power plant had a gift shop! And I solved the great T-shirt conundrum. One of my goals here was to get a "cool" (defined by me) T-shirt. That meant nothing "too obviously touristy" like "I love Iceland" or "Lost in Iceland."

That's me in front of the Strokkur hot spring, which is literally the mother of all geysers in the entire world. At one time this was thought to be the only spring that erupted with regularity and the word for it "geysir" became adopted as "geyser" everywhere else. This is actually the second biggie in Iceland. The first died after seismic activity in the 1940s, according to what I remember our awesome tour guide saying.

This bus tour brought out the best in traveling alone. I met two great traveling companions who were in town just having attended the 12th Deep-Sea Biology Symposium. They were interesting to talk to, very chill and Lindsay (who is from outside Halifax, Nova Scotia and spoke with the always-endearing Canadian accent) was nice enough to take pix of me throughout. So a solo vacation that has pix of me!

Next ... Gullfoss

Don't worry, dad, I didn't get "too close" to the edge. The Picassa album of this trip, which I won't be able to create until I get back because of a wonky net connection, will have way more photos of this place.

Thingvellir National Park, the site of the first Icelandic parliament, Althing. Basically, it's where the Vikings had parliament and held high court. Pretty civilized! The flag marks where it was. Sadly the ruins are pretty overgrown and poorly preserved. It must be something they learned from the Greeks.
Other discoveries/lessons of today: Iceland has 90,000 horses and exported 2,000 last year. There are only 320,000 people in the country. I am too short to live in this country. I've had to stand on my tiptoes to use three urinals. Icelanders don't say "V." It's Pavel Chekhov all the time.
MUST 2. Saegreifinn, or Sea Baron. Insanely amazing lobster soup. I learned of this place watching Three Sheets on the former Fine Living Network. Host Zane Lamprey traveled the world partaking in different countries' or regions' alcohol traditions. He tried this place because it was famous, cheap and a supposedly good hangover cure. I don't know if it cures hangovers, but it was amazing. And also cheap. My hearty-sized bowl of soup costs just 1100 krona. That's only $8, as of this typing. The currency fluctuates a lot. In Reykjavik that's a steal for a meal. I saw the old man who owned the place whom Zane had on. He was funny. In the middle of dinner he brought out a whale vertebrae. He just carried it into the dining room and laughed and smiled at all of us, as he set it down on the table and then floor. One guy picked it up and the owner gave him thumbs up. It was really weird, because none of us knew what we were supposed to be doing other than smiling. And with that I am signing off the blog today.
Tomorrow I finally take on the unpronounceable volcano. I seriously at least hope to learn how to say it. This is a bus tour that takes us to superJeeps that can access the back country roads. Hopefully can find traveling companions on this excursion who are even close to Lindsay and Leo. Hooray deep-sea biologists!

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