Posted by: tim ellis | August 21, 2005

Reykjavik/Rockport, Ma. – Saturday 31st July , 2001

After breakfast it is all pile into the minibus for the Golden Circle tour. We have a different guide/driver today, whose name I didn’t catch (but whom we subsequently christen Swen). He normally acts as a guide for Swedish parties, but his English is good (if quite accented) and throughout the day he provides us with plenty of information, stories (and statistics!).

Our first stop is the Garden of Eden in Hveragerði, “The Greenhouse Town” – It is a nursery/gift-shop. From there we move on to Kerið – an explosion crater – a lake formed in a large volcanic crater, where we stop only long enough for a quick photo, before it’s back into the bus to drive on through low scrub (or “forest” as it is known in Iceland. Q: What do you do if you get lost in an Icelandic forest? A: Stand up and look around!”) on to Skaholt, or “The Bishop Place” as Swen calls it.

This was where Iceland’s bishops lived, worshipped and ran a religious school, from the coming of Christianity until they moved to Reykjavik when the old church was destroyed by an earthquake. A new church has now been built there, with donations from all the other Scandinavian churches. It is very small but quite impressive for all that.

From there it is on to Gullfoss waterfall. The water is a milky white apparently due to clay carried down from its glacial source. From there we go to Geysir (from whence all Geysers get their name). The great Geysir itself is no longer active (although it is steaming away quite nicely) but the adjacent geyser Stokkur erupts every eight to ten minutes, after watching this, and trying to get a photo just as it erupts. Then we go to the Geysir Hotel for lunch, when we finally decide we ought to introduce ourselves. There are two married couples, Peter and Mags, and Tom and Sylvie, a mother and daughter, both called Glenda, and Jenny and Morag from Scotland.

After lunch we drive up to Þingvellir national park, the home of Iceland’s original parliament (founded 930), and also home to the rift caused by the American and Eurasian plates sliding apart at about 2-2.5 cm per year. We hike up the rift while the bus drives round to meet us at the top.

On the way back into Reykjavik we agree to start an hour earlier tomorrow (10 not 11) and add the Blue Lagoon to our itinerary.

Tonight I go to the Kaffi Vin, a Viennese Coffee-house for dinner. The food is good, and the price is reasonable, but the service is so slow I have time to read most of a book on the downfall of Stormont between courses. (The only other English book was an Agatha Christie – and not realising how long it would take I thought a whodunit would be a bad idea!)

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