Reykjavik, Iceland

Reykjavik was settled in 874 by Ingolfur Arnason, a Dane who built a farm in what is now the centre of the capital.  He called it Reykjavik, Smoky Bay, to describe the prevalent geothermal steam.  The country was established as the Republic of Iceland in 1944.  We docked in strong winds on Saturday afternoon.  It had rained every day at sea and it continued to rain here.  The average summer temperature is 12 degrees C and that was the average during our stay here.  On our arrival, I went in to town on a shuttle bus and had time to visit the National Gallery and a Culture Centre, the Culture House.  Both contained art, both older and modern, from Iceland’s most famous artists.  As you can imagine, landscape featured heavily in most of the art.  One interesting piece was a collection of pictures of waterfalls printed on glass.  They were set into a frame which required you to pull each one out to see it.  As you pulled it out, you heard the sound of that particular waterfall. Yesterday I went on a tour which the tourist literature refers to as the Golden Circle.  It featured Thingvellir National Park, the site of the first Icelandic parliament established in 930.  It is also where the continental plates of America and Europe divide.  They are currently separating at the rate of 2 cm per year and at the moment the rift valley is about 2 kms wide. I have a photo of the valley and of a fissure at the American side of the valley. We then went to see the Gullfoss (Golden)Falls (photo) which were saved from being the site of a hydro-electric plant only when the British lessees of the property, who obtained the lease by getting the owner drunk,  defaulted on the rent payment. The next stop was the original Geysir which has given its name to the English language.  The original Geysir has been plugged up but its brother, Strokkur, (photo) is still going strong.  After a nice lunch of typical Icelandic food, we headed for a geothermal plant to see how they use geothermal steam to run turbines for electricity and then use the steam to heat clean, cool water for heating homes and greenhouses (photo) and providing hot water. During the tour we also saw lots of Icelandic horses (photo) and beautiful scenery though it was often raining too hard to take pictures.  After a very rushed supper, I headed out for an evening tour to the Blue Lagoon (photo) for a couple of hours of swimming in its milky blue, steamy, therapeutic waters.  The white silica mud from the pool, which you can use as a mask is said to make you look younger!!  It was very enjoyable even in the rain.   Today the sun finally came out I went into town to see some of the notable sights.  The Lutheran Hallgrimskirkja Church with a statue of Leif Erikson in front can be seen from most of the town and is definitely the most striking building to be seen on the sail in and out of Reykjavik (photos). There are many older homes still to be seen but modern sarchitecture  as seen in the new concert Hall, predominates. (photos)  The next port which we reach tomorrow is Djupivogar, Iceland.

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