Our last day of the Iceland tour was something called the Golden Circle Tour. This has nothing to do with Trumpian hijinks. The Circle Tour is a famous one-day trip around many sites within a couple of hours of Reykjavik. That is all most tourists see of Iceland. Don’t get me wrong, it is a a wonderful part of Iceland, but it is only a small part. We were very fortunate to be able to see large part of the island from west to east and north to south.
Skálholt, which is Iceland’s first Bishopric (that is not Bishop’s prick). Christianity in Iceland has been a powerful religious force for more than 1,000 years. This power was carefully built up over hundreds of years by an influential dynasty of chieftain priests. Naturally, like the rest of Europe no one believed in the separation of church and state. The first of the bishops was Gissur the White a bombastic priest who led the pro-Christian faction at the AD 1,000 Alpingi where the people’s leaders decided to convert to Christianity mainly to improve their chances of trade with Europe rather than out of any sincere religious convictions. The people of course had no say in their conversion to Christianity, not unlike the princes of Germany in the German Reformation. Commerce was more important than religion. Sort of like it is now.
Often the best part of church interiors is the stained glass. This was one of those churches.
On the Circle Tour was Geysir which has lent its names to all water spouts around the world. Actually Great Geysir started erupting in 1294 and reached heights of 60 metres (200 ft.) but it has not kept up for decades. In the 20thcentury, eager (read stupid) tourists tipped gravel and garbage into its mouth hoping to cause an explosion. They also used soapy water on special occasions such as Independence Day but that did not help either. As a result of this abuse, the geyser became nearly dormant. Surprisingly, in 2000 it sprang back to life spouting 40 metres (130 ft.) into the air. It is no longer that robust but still lifted off impressively.
I am supposed to be the orchid guy, but while we were looking at the geyser and some hot pots of water, Chris spotted an orchid with her eagle eye. According to a German tourist near us it is called Knabenkrautin German. I think the common English name is marsh orchid or Common twayblade. I tried to photograph it, but we were too far away and were not allowed to walk closer.
After that we drove to Gullfoss(Golden Falls). No this was not a golden shower either. This is one more spectacular waterfall. Actually, it is a double water fall. First the River Hvítá tumbles 11 metres and then the lower falls drops 21 metres. The rock of the riverbed was formed during an interglacial period. Apparently it has flowed for thousands of years. It was a very impressive falls.
We learned that at one time Iceland was planning to build a hydro electric dam and plant here, but a heroic protester led the opposition. She said, “I don’t sell my friends.” Now it is a UNESCO world heritage site, one of two we visited today on our golden circle tour. No doubt Iceland has earned more money from tourists visiting the site than they would have from the electrical power from one more damn dam. I promise this is the last waterfall I will show from Iceland.
Our last stop on our Golden Circle Tour was Thingvellir National Park the historical heart of Iceland and now the second UNESCO world heritage site we saw in one day! It is a fantastic natural site as well as the site of the Viking Parliament, the first in the world. The National Assembly was established there by the Vikings in 930 AD and was regularly convened there until 1798. As well the geology there is incredibly important because one can see the continental tectonic plates pulling apart.
This was the end of our tour around the island of Iceland. we finished our visit with a couple of days in Reykjavik.