Monday, March 16, 2020

June 23, 2019 – Reykjavik, Iceland – Mostly Sunny – 52F

Land after five super smooth days across the North Atlantic.

The forecast was wrong because I was greeted at breakfast by brilliant sunshine and blue skies.  Hoping it lasts.  I captured both the sail in and Rejkavik Harbor.

We needed to be in the Cabaret Lounge by 8:30 AM to assist in dispatch.  I beat my wake up call and disconnected the phone so it wouldn’t ring in the room.  I still had time for an unrushed breakfast and to bring breakfast to Ellen in the room.

Although it was touch and go, we are both on the same all day tour today, "The Golden Circle and Icelandic Horse Show".  We have 22 people in a huge bus so lots of room to spread out.  Our guide, Phillipp, is from Germany (came to Iceland in 2008) and is very knowledgeable and easy to understand.  

Our tour departed at 9:50 AM and headed to Thingvellir National Park (about 45 minutes away).  Iceland has about 350,000 inhabitants and 250,000 live in Reykjavik.  This means that when you leave the city you are instantly in a volcanic wilderness.  The countryside is notable for its table-top mountains (we call them buttes back home) formed by the immense weight of ice age ice.

There are also ubiquitous lava fields – I noticed that this time out, the lava seemed to be covered with some kind of moss (instead of being just black mounds).

Thingvellir was the home of the Icelandic Parliament - or Althing - from 930 to 1978.  The park itself was established on the millennial anniversary of the parliament, the oldest in the world, in 1930. 

At the park, you can see the meeting of the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates (picture below).  It is this conjunction of plates that gives Iceland its volcanic terrain.

The first thing we did was visit the gift shop and I picked up a Thor’s Hammer, Mjolnir, key chain.  I looked at this version of the hammer,

but this is the Marvel version of the hammer.  The real hammer, according to the folks at the shop, looks more like a blunt axe. Supposed to be good luck – it will join my other superhero amulet on my key ring.

We joined the group at the beginning of the ”Canyon”,

a walkway between two volcanic walls that goes from the Visitor’s Center to the other parking lot.  Phillipp said the walk was 0.7 miles but it seemed to be a little longer.  On the plus side, it was all downhill.  Along the route you had several view points and a good look at the amazing waterfall that runs down the left side of the canyon

The grounds are covered in purple Lupine making the whole walk colorful and interesting.

We made the walk easily (in spite of my recent re-injuring of my annoying disc).  After taking some nice pictures,

we met Phillipp and the group at the bus at the bottom of the hill and soon we were off to our next destination.

We drove around Lake Thingvallavatn

the largest freshwater lake in Iceland, on our way to Gullfoss, a magnificent waterfall.  Gullfoss means “Golden Falls” in Icelandic and refers to the legend of a man, who tossed all of his gold into the falls as he found religion.  I’ll have to check into that.  We took some great pictures at Gullfoss.  Some folks in our group climbed the 100 stairs to get a better view of the falls and you can walk even further along the falls to get even more angles but, of course, we had to pass.  I did that walk when I was healthy and in good shape four years ago and it was still difficult. The sun was still shining brightly so a coat was not needed – however, near the falls, the winds kicked up and it got a big cooler. Still not an issue. (you can tell from the pictures below that my back had started to become an problem).

Our next stop was the Geysers, specifically Strokkur, a mini “Old Faithful”.  After a short visit to the gift shop, we hiked up a small incline to Strokkur, which erupts on a more or less regular schedule.  On our last visit, we were able to get a lot closer to the geyser but this time, the ropes kept everyone back a bit further.  Even though I had to dodge other cell phones in front of me, I managed to get a shot of a pretty sizable eruption.

All of our stops so far have been pretty short – 30 – 45 minutes.  We barely had enough time to get a picture of Strokkur.

Our next stop was a late lunch (after 2 PM) at Hotel Edda.  Phillipp wasn’t sure that we were at the right place as there were no cars in the parking lot and the hotel looked closed.  It was indeed the venue and we went downstairs to the dining room – it was just our bus so it wasn’t crowded or noisy.  The lunch started with cream of mushroom soup (vegetarian according to the owner) – it was so good that I had three helpings.  That was followed by salmon on a bed of purple cabbage along with small roasted potatoes.  The salmon was better than anything we have had on the ship – maybe it was a local salmon and cooked Icelandic style.  The dinner was topped off with some coffee.  All in all, perfect.  The service was good.  And like everyone on Iceland, the staff spoke perfect English.

Our final stop was at the Harmfriden Stables for the Icelandic Horse Show.  To get there, the driver took us down a very rough and bumpy road and at high speed (maybe making up time) and for a while, all I could see was another disc injury.  I apparently made it without getting hurt.  We walked a bit to get to the stands for the show – it was very difficult for mobility challenged folks.  Two women in riding gear gave us a small introduction and then the horses were put through various types of gaits – “Walk”, “Tolte”, “Canter”, “Gallop”.  Kids were riding the horses for the demo.  

The horses were colorful and beautiful – the Icelandic Horse is a breed alone because of its isolated status.  The manes are lush as are the bangs.  The show was very interesting and we were invited to try some coffee in the stable afterwards.  We could only stay a little (I did like the coffee) as we are city folks and not fans of manure.

The trip back to Reykjavik was just as scenic as the trip out - we caught glimpses of the Katla Volcano, one of the largest and most active Icelandic Volcanoes.

There were also other volcanic features as well as rivers along the way.

Phillip said it would only be 40 – 45 minutes back to Reykjavik but we got stuck in a one lane traffic jam and we arrived at the pier 10 minutes past all aboard time (an hour and 20 minute ride).  The weather also worsened and showers got everyone wet as they went from bus to security and then up the gangway.  I hung my clothes in the shower to dry when I got back to the room.

But, all in all, a very nice scenic and comprehensive tour of Reykjavik and the surrounding areas.

We decided to go to the last half of the production show, “What the World Needs Now”, the music of Burt Bacharach.  All the usual songs and done well by the singers and dancers.  This was a new show for us.

From there, we had a little dinner up in the Panorama Buffet.  The Buffet had the Eggplant Parmigiana appetizer offered in the Dining Room. After chatting a bit with some guests, we went back to the room.  I ordered an iced tea and hot tea from room service – what a treat.

We have tours for tomorrow in the afternoon so we are hoping to get some sleep in tonight.

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