My first full day in Iceland began with a slow sunrise over the many cranes viewable from my hotel room window.
I had some breakfast in the basement restaurant and was impressed by the fine pattern on the tea cup and saucer, which I discovered was a design found on the crockery in most of the places we stayed in Iceland.
The first activity of the day was a wander around the town centre of Reykjavik.
We stopped in front of the parliament for some photos of the building, built of volcanic rock and featuring the four guardians of the country – the dragon of the East, the eagle of the North, the giant of the South and the bull of the West. Dora told us that the giant is considered the most important because we know where he lives. This is why he’s featured on the back of Icelandic money.
In the square is a statue of President Jon, who wasn’t actually a president and couldn’t have been because he lived during the time that Iceland was ruled by Denmark.
We walked around the town a little more with Dora pointing out the Norwegian “kit homes”, which were shipped in pieces, and the rare volcanic rock buildings, which weathered more than the cement holding them together.
I was delighted to see swans, ducks and geese in the pond in the city centre!
Our next stop was the Lutheran Hallgrimskirkja Church (which isn’t the cathedral), designed by Iceland’s most famous architect. It has an impressive pipe organ and reversible pews so that concerts can be held with the audience looking at the organist.
There are also some Russian Orthodox and Catholic artefacts given to the church as gifts…
Outside the church was a statue of Leif Erikson, early discoverer of North America. Leif was also the son of Erik the Red, the founder of Greenland and the person responsible for naming the country after the tiny cluster of trees near where he landed, rather than after the rest of the landscape (which was covered in ice).
#jonestip The streets around the church are all named after Norse gods – Loki street, Thor street and so on. I was just thinking how much this would appeal to you Adam, and then, as if it were a sign from Thor himself, I saw the sign for Hotel Adam. You belong here and the gods have already prepared your accommodation!
After the church visit, Dora drove our minibus away from Reykjavik, across the edge of the North American tectonic plate, over the Icelandic tectonic plate, and then onto the European plate. It didn’t take nearly as much time as you may imagine. Just a few minutes.
Dora told us some stories about the Icelandic parliament which had been meeting in this area since 930AD. It sounds a bit more like a folk festival combined with a law court than what my understanding of parliament is, but what would I know? My home state doesn’t even bother having an upper house of parliament! It really does sound like the Viking place to be!
The first stop following our Golden Circle route was Þingvellir National Park, otherwise known as the entrance to The Vale, a kingdom of Westeros in Game of Thrones. I went for a wander, pretending to be Ayra Stark, and took some photos.
We continued our drive, stopping to pose in the snow and with some Icelandic horses.
Dora instructed us not to call the horses “ponies” (despite their small stature), but one of the Canadians did. The horses were so offended that one of them bit me on the stomach! Interestingly, in Iceland, horses are fair game for cuisine, so I assume at some point I shall be avenged.
The horse bite left quite a bruise, but did make an interesting souvenir of my holiday in Iceland!
The next natural wonder on the list was Geysir. The Strokkur was the most active while we were there so I got several photos of the jets of water shooting up into the air! I also found it very calming to look at the Blesi pools, one which is boiling hot and clear while its matching pair is blue and cold.
At the adjoining building, I had Icelandic meat soup for lunch, which was very similar to the soup I usually make when I’m feeling under the weather, except the locals use lamb instead of chicken, which makes sense given the prevalence of sheep in the country.
Dora was explaining to us how much lamb would have been eaten by Icelanders of yesteryear. This would explain why eating fermented shark (an Icelandic delicacy) would have been desirable – simply because it was something different!
The last stop on our Golden Circle drive was Gullfoss, The Golden Falls, which is the reason the Golden Circle is called Golden. The Golden Falls are so called because of the rainbow which is usually seen there.
We were lucky enough to be visiting on a fine day, so we could just glimpse the rainbow. It was incredibly windy, though, and the spray from the waterfall stung my face as I was trying to enjoy it from a park bench, so I eventually retreated back to the mini-van.
Dora drove us to our home for the night, Hvolsvollur, a secluded farmhouse guarded by two bulls (one of which was named Onsie).
The bed in my room was like a giant marshmallow and I really appreciated the underfloor heating!
We had a pork and lamb buffet for dinner with incredible potatoes and life-changing homemade bread, and then I retired early to snuggle into my marshmallow bed and dream of snow and rainbows.