Posts Tagged ‘Iceland’

Our exploration of some of the wonders of Iceland continued on our Golden Circle Tour. We visited a special church, found wildflowers (lots, much to my delight) and visited a most fascinating geological site, Thingvellir National Park (Þingvellir in Icelandic).

Skálholt Cathedral  (P1000702 © DY of jtdytravels)

The new Skálholt Cathedral was built between 1956 and 1963 to celebrate the millennial celebrations of the episcopal see.  At around 50 m long, it’s quite large compared to most churches in Iceland. It contained a fabulous tapestry and some striking, modern windows.

Interior of Skálholt Cathedral  (P1000689 © DY of jtdytravels)


Tapestry above the alter  (P1000696 © DY of jtdytravels)


Modern stained glass window  (P1000690 © DY of jtdytravels)


Another of the many stained glass windows in the cathedral  (P1000693 © DY of jtdytravels)

Even though it was a rather long driving day, I was pleased that there was time for me to seek out some plants to photograph.

Alpine Lady’s-mantle  [Alchemilla alpina]  (P1000668 © DY of jtdytravels)

Most of the plants I saw were small ground-hugging specimens, due to the shallow soils and severe climate.

Gentianella campestris var. islandica  (P1000669 © DY of jtdytravels)

These unusual looking buds were about 15cm high.

?  (P1000671 © DY of jtdytravels)

Any suggestions as to what this flower is?

Seed heads of Mountain Avens  [Dryas integrifolia]  (P1000744 © DY of jtdytravels)

I think these are probably the seed heads of a clematis species – but not sure.

Bog Bilberry [Vaccinium uliginosum]  (P1000710 © DY of jtdytravels)


Very small, bright orange mushroom  (P1000726 © DY of jtdytravels)


Parnassia palustris  (P1000713 © DY of jtdytravels)


close up of Parnassia palustris  (P1000714 © DY of jtdytravels)


Silene uniflora  (P1000718 © DY of jtdytravels)


Downy Birch [Betula pubescens]  (P1000709 © DY of jtdytravels)

The only plant that attained any height at all was this birch which grew to about 2m in height.  Being deciduous, it could survive the wintery conditions.

A mushroom called Brown birch Boletus [Leccinum scabrum](P1000711 © DY of jtdytravels)

Another highlight of our day was a visit to Thingvellir (Þingvellir in Icelandic). This is not just a fascinating geological area but is also one of Iceland’s most important historical sites.  The world’s first Parliament,  the ‘Alpingi’, was founded here in around 930AD.  Icelandic chieftains assembled here each summer to elect leaders, argue cases, and settle disputes – sometimes peacefully, sometimes not. This continued until the end of the Old Commonwealth (of Cheiftains) in the 13th Century.  After that time it functioned as a court of law until 1798.  The information Board added that: “Many crucial events in Iceland’s history took place here, such as the adoption of Christianity around 1000AD and the foundation of the modern Icelandic Republic in 1944.  Thingvellir thus has a special place in the Icelandic consciousness.  Since 1930 Thingvellir has been a National Park, and in 2004 it was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List.” .

Thingvellir National Park  (P1000773 © DY of jtdytravels)

It’s here in, Thingvellir National Park, that the landscape really shows the geological history of Iceland because here the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates come into contact.  It’s actually recognised as the best place on earth to see this phenomenon. The faults and fissures of the area show up the rifting of the earth’s crust. Regularly, gaps have to be filled in or bridged to overcome the movement of the plates as they pull apart. It’s said that the ecosystem of Lake Þingvallavatn in this Park is a perfect example of species evolution in nature.

Thingvellir National Park  (P1000793 © DY of jtdytravels)


Lakes within Thingvellir National Park  (P1000800 © DY of jtdytravels)

It had been a truly memorable day full of interest and variety. And we had yet another day of Icelandic explorations to come.   D

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All the good weather I’d been experiencing so far on this trip came unstuck in Iceland.  I checked the forecast a couple of days before we arrived to find out that it was to rain heavily on both the Saturday night, and Sunday night, with rain and showers in between.  On arrival at Keflavik International Airport it was raining fairly heavily and the fog was almost on the ground.  Oh! well, all good things have to come to an end, sometime.

Iceland is the second largest island in Europe after Great Britain and has a population of 309,000 people – and it’s a relatively young population.  One in five Icelanders is 14 years old or younger.  The fertility rate is high at 2.1 which makes it one of only a few industrialised European countries with a birth rate sufficient to sustain stable long-term population growth.

Icelanders refer to each other by their given name, not their family name.  Consequently if you want to check out the Icelandic telephone book, it’s listed alphabetically by first name.  Equality between the sexes is very high and income inequality is amongst the lowest in the world.  Iceland is consistently ranked as one of the top three best places for women to live.  The constitution explicitly prohibits the use of noble privileges, titles or ranks.

Iceland lies on a join in the tectonic plates and therefore is an active volcanic area.  As a result the majority of the country is barren lava beds, mountains, glaciers and ice fields.  Only one fifth of the island is vegetated. With many fjords, the coastline of Iceland is long – 4970km.

When we arrived in Iceland, we were supposed to have a tour of the town and pay a visit to Blue Lagoon, a thermal pool resort on our way to the hotel.  We scotched that idea pretty quickly partly due to the weather and partly due to the fact we had been on the ‘road’ since our 05h30 wakeup call plus an hour in a time zone change.

The Grand Hotel Reykjavik is modern.  The rooms were big and airy but the plumbing was again a challenge.  Why do the Europeans make something that can be so simple, so difficult?  I could not get hot water in my shower.

Now, that didn’t mean I couldn’t clean myself up.  The bathroom had a bath, so a bath it was, the first for me in decades.  The bath also had a shower head on the end of a wandering lead, the excess lead being wrapped around the taps.  I got water into the bath, but I couldn’t work out how to get water up into the shower part of the apparatus.  Sitting in my nice hot bath studying the scenery, and my navel, I spied a funny little bit on the end of the nozzle from which the water comes.  I played with this to find it moved up and down a fraction, enough to change the direction of the water from filling the bath to flooding the bathroom floor because the shower-head was pointing up, not down.  I’m not sure I got off on the right foot in Iceland, as into the bargain, the head cold that hit the African bus caught up with me!  Or, was it the huge changes in temperature from being inside to outside in these climes.

I still couldn’t get hot water next morning so down to the front desk I went at 05h30 to ask for directions on how to break the ‘code’.  One of the guys from the front desk went up while I wrote an email or two in the lobby (free WiFi in lobby but you have to pay if you log on in your room) and came back down saying everything was working OK.  Must be some Icelandic trick I hadn’t worked out, or, was he spinning me another Nordic legend?  I needed to go up and try again before it was time for breakfast.

Fancy that, he was right!  Even so I couldn’t get hot water straight away, and it wasn’t because it took time for the hot water to get through the pipes.  Each of the twisty bits of the tap have a black rocker button.  If this is activated when the twist is at its maximum, it allows the twist to become greater.  On the flow side of the tap, this resulted in a flailing shower head that wet everything within its now much greater range, including me if I stood too close, which I had to be, to be able to reach the bleeding taps!  You’d have thought I’d have learnt from my earlier experience!  The other side of this complicated tap allows the twist to go further to get water that is hotter than the faded numerals indicate.  Of course you need a greater temperature than the faintly indicated 32-42 degree range and by depressing the rocker button, water at an acceptable showering temperature is achieved!  How depressing to think it took two lengthy attempts on my part, and for a guy to tell me that it was me, and not the system, that was at fault!  Without sounding too pious, our system for bathroom taps at home is so simple.

Anyway, I was now clean and ready to explore this country of Iceland.   D

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Another travelling day, this time taking us from the Orkneys to Iceland via Aberdeen and Copenhagen.  One of the problems of getting from one group of islands to another is that they belong to different countries.  This necessitates heading for airline ‘home’ countries before being able to go on to the next country.  At least we were able to book our luggage straight through to its final destination.

Danish countryside  (P1000650 © DY of jtdytravels)


Flying over the Danish coast (P1000652 © DY of jtdytravels)


High above the clouds
(P1000653 © DY of jtdytravels)

From my window on the flight from Copenhagen to Reykjavik, Iceland.

We flew over the Faroe Islands  (P1000662 © DY of jtdytravels)

[Somebody asked me how many flights I had to do from the time I left home until I got back to Canberra again?  I sort of knew I had a lot but was somewhat surprised when I counted them up and got a total of 21. This including a ten minute helicopter flight to get from Tasiilaq, where our hotel was in Greenland, to the airport on Kulusuk Island.]

Including a number of time zone changes we arrived in Reykjavik, Iceland, at 15h10.  It was raining, cold and windy.  We were supposed to visit the Blue Lagoon Spa Resort and do a drive along the Kelifarvatn Mountain Road to get to our hotel in Reykjavik, some 40kms away as the crow flies.  The group didn’t think much of the idea so we went straight to the hotel.  The other two activities could be done on another day.

I had a lazy afternoon in my room catching up on some writing.  D

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