My first impressions of Iceland come from our journey from the airport to Reykjavik through jet-lagged eyes. Mostly this was rocky and rather barren land with the ocean in the distance. It was a 40-minute drive to our modern hotel which is reminiscent of hotels in northern Germany with its small, clean no-frills room. Good, fresh food in the dining room.
A bit of history: Iceland was discovered by a Nordic Viking by the name of Arnarson in 871. Don’t think he found much here, but he established Reykjavik which means something like “Smoky Bay” based on a false impression of steam rising from the hot springs.
A second bit of history was the Hofdi House. This house was built in 1909 and was the meeting place between Reagan and Gorbachev in 1986, marking the end of the Cold War. This was particularly interesting to us since our current writing is a novel set in 1952 Germany, in the early years of the Cold War.
We walked much of the city center, and of course had to photograph the iconic Hallgrimskirkja church which dominates this city. Not the most picturesque church I’ve seen, but impressive in its size and location.
Reykjavik is now a progressive, cosmopolitan city known for social tolerance, art and a little bit of everything in between. I couldn’t help but be impressed with the street art which includes many buildings.
The following day, we picked up our car and began our adventure. We only drove the Golden Circle – Route 1 for a short time before driving a longer, more picturesque route and then joined Route 1 again to finish the day.
First impressions: No trees. the landscape is green with low ground cover, but the only trees we’ve seen have been planted. Is this the weather? The rocky terrain? Don’t know, must ask someone.
Another impression: Lots of Icelandic horses. They look hardy and sturdy. I am only guessing but I don’t think many breeds would survive this climate. We are here in summer and it is only 10 degrees Celsius with wind; I can’t imagine winter. We also learned that any horse that leaves Iceland cannot return. They do not want cross-breeding or disease; horses are valued here.
Our first stop was the Pingvellir National park then on to the geothermal area and the Strokkur geyser. For those who have seen “Old Faithful” the only thing outstanding about this geyser is that it erupts every 15 minutes.
This leads me to another interesting tidbit about Iceland: more than 90 percent of homes and businesses are heated with geothermal energy. Hot springs are everywhere — even the horses know where to find them — and there are 150 to 200 active volcanos in Iceland. The last major eruption (some of you may remember) was in 2014 when the ash from Baroarlunga stopped air traffic to Europe because the dense ash in the air was a threat to airplane engines inhaling the particles.
We are in a lovely, unique hotel tonight. Again, clean, simple Scandinavian furniture and saunas. Dinner was good, but you need to like fish and lamb to eat well here. We’re thankful for a good place to sleep off the jet lag; more adventures to come!