Iceland - June 20 - July 2, 2017
We went on a REI Adventures trip called Hiking Iceland. We spent 3 nights on our own in Reykjavik before the
guided hiking tour started. Iceland has a population of about 333,000 and has an area of 40,000 square miles. It is
the most sparsely populated country in Europe. The capital city Reykjavik and the surrounding area has over 2/3 of
the population. The country is volcanically and geologically active. The interior is a plateau characterized by sand
and lava fields, mountains, and glaciers. Many glacial rivers flow to the sea through the lowlands. Since it is warmed
by the Gulf Stream, it has a temperate climate despite being just outside the Arctic Circle. Highs were in the 50s
while we were there, with lows in the mid 40s. In 2016, the country was ranked as the 9th most developed in the world
by the U.N. Human Development Index. The country runs almost completely on renewable energy. It was deeply
affected by the worldwide financial crisis in 2008, with its banking system failing, leading to a deep depression and
to political unrest. Some bankers were jailed. Since then the economy has made a big recovery, due in large part to the
surge in tourism. The settlement of Iceland began in 874 AD when a Norwegian chieftain became the first permanent
settler. In the following centuries, Scandinavians, especially Norwegians emigrated to Iceland. The island was governed
as an independent commonwealth under a legislative assembly. It came under Norwegian rule in the 13th century. The
Kalmar Union in 1397 united the kingdoms of Norway, Denmark, and Sweden, and Iceland therefore became part of
the Union. It gained independence in 1918 and formed a republic in 1944.
Sculpture of a Viking ship along the coastline in Reykjavik
Hallgrimskirkja Church, easily seen from many spots in Reykjavik.
Named after poet Rev. Hallgrimur Petursson, who wrote Iceland's most
popular hymn book. The church took 44 years to build.
The statue of explorer Leif Eriksson in front predates its construction.
The statue was a gift from the U.S. in honor of the 1930 Albingi Millennial
Festival, commemorating the 1000th anniversary of Iceland's
parliament at Pingvellir in year 930.
Organ inside the Church that has 5,275 pipes.
We took an elevator up the tower of the Church to get a 360 view of the city.
This is looking toward the Old Harbour area and the main street.
Icelandic Phallological Museum in Reykjavik, only one of its kind in the world,
they say, which does not surprise me. The museum has a large
collection of penises, mainly of mammals. However, some men
have donated their manhood in their wills. I could write a few
jokes here, but I'll refrain, though I didn't hold back when
we were in Reykjavik.
Seagull at Tjornin, a lake in the center of Reykjavik, locally called The Pond.
A merganser in the water near City Hall at The Pond
After making fun of the Phallological Museum, we were captured by
trolls on one of the main streets.
Legend has it that trolls arrived in the country as stowaways on Viking
ships and made their homes in caves and cliffs. Most trolls do not appear
in sunlight, since they might turn into stone. Trolls are tough and menacing,
ugly, and often alone. It's best not to cross them.
After escaping the trolls, the next day, we took a day long bus tour to Snaefellsnes Peninsula and
Snaefellsnes National Park. Note the green moss on the mountains that grows over lava.
The peninsula is in west Iceland and has Snaefellsjokull glacier, black sandy beaches,
bird cliffs, mountains, and volcanic craters.
Harbour seal, the most common seal in Icelandic waters, on southern
coast of the peninsula.
Oystercatcher not far from the seals.
Landscape view from the southern coastline. Overcast skies, are common in the
summer, but that does not necessarily mean rain, though rain is common.
In fact, the weather can keep changing.
Later in the day, we had sunshine for a while.
Waterfall as seen from the highway
Northern fulmars nesting on the side of a cliff. We saw many
sea birds on cliffs along the coast.
We did a short, 1 1/2 mile hike from Arnarstapi to Hellnar,
the next village to the west. The trail is in a nature reserve and
is a popular seaside hiking route. This was taken at the start of
Link to Page Two - Iceland
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