a brief primer on Iceland

In June 2009 I went on my big adventure for the year, a trip to Iceland, there were about 14 emails which accompanied the trip and this was the first:

Late last night I returned from a 17 day tour of Iceland in which I drove around the entire island taking lots of pictures of the sights. I’ve created a gallery for each of the days and I’m going to email them to you one or at most two galleries at a time (depending on the number of pictures in the gallery) to avoid overwhelming you all. I’ll also try to provide a little more background on the areas in which the pictures have been taken since these areas and their history and geology will be unfamiliar to most of you. We’ll see how long this resolution lasts, but for a first go I’ll give you some overall background on Iceland.

If you just want to get it over with and look at the galleries you can go here:

First for help with pronunciation here’s a little guide (from http://goscandinavia.about.com/od/languagehelp/a/icephrases.htm):

To start learning Icelandic, some pronunciation tips for Icelandic phrases:

  • a = like a in father
  • e = like e in test
  • i, y = like i in little
  • u = like German ü in für or French u in tu
  • ö = like German ö in höher or French eu in neuf
  • æ sounds like eye
  • ð = like th in weather (voiced th)
  • þ = like th in thorn (unvoiced th)

Some history (from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iceland):
“The Republic of Iceland is an island country located in the North Atlantic Ocean.[2] It has a population of about 320,000 and a total area of 103,000 km².[3] Its capital and largest city is Reykjavík.
According to Landnámabók, the settlement of Iceland began in 874 when the Norwegian chieftain Ingólfur Arnarson became the first permanent Norwegian settler on the island.[4] Others had visited the island earlier and stayed over winter. Over the next centuries, people of Nordic origin settled in Iceland. Until the 20th century, the Icelandic population relied on fisheries and agriculture, and was from 1262 to 1918 a part of the Norwegian, and later the Danish monarchies. In the 20th century, Iceland’s economy and welfare system developed quickly. In recent decades, Iceland has implemented free trade in the European Economic Area and diversified from fishing to new economic fields in services, finance and various industries. ”

According to the reading of tourist literature I’ve read there were probably Irish monks living there first, and the Norwegian settlers brought many Irish slaves with them as well.

The liveable area of the island is mostly on the outer edges. The interior plateau of the island is pretty much a volcanic wasteland. There are roads going into the interior but the main road is a ring road around the island, highway 1. Even this highway is not paved for it’s entire length. There are plenty of dirt sections, and most of the secondary roads are dirt roads of variable quality.

Again from wikipeadia:

Located on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, Iceland is volcanically and geologically active on a large scale; this defines the landscape. The interior mainly consists of a plateau characterised by sand fields, mountains and glaciers, while many big glacial rivers flow to the sea through the lowlands. Warmed by the Gulf Stream, Iceland has a temperate climate relative to its latitude and provides a habitable environment and nature.
Anyhow, on to my trip. On June 13th I flew out of Los Angeles, connected through Boston, and landed at 6:15 in the morning of the 14th in Iceland. I was picked up at the airport and dropped off outside my guesthouse in a drizzly, cold Reykjavík. While I waited for the early afternoon to roll around so I could get into my room and get some sleep I wandered around with my pocket camera and took a few snapshots of the area. My main camera was still packed up in my luggage so I didn´t feel inspired to take too many pictures. My guesthouse was very near the big church Hallgrimskirkja so I took a look in there. There was a nice museum/gallery right next door with some wonderful sculptures in a garden which I also walked around and I took some nice pictures there. This first day yielded a gallery with a grand total of eight pictures:

Iceland 2009 Day 1: LA to Reykjavík

The morning of the fifteenth I was picked up by the car rental place and shuttled to pick up the little Ford Fiesta diesel which was to be my home for the following 16 days. I drove on back to my guesthouse, picked up my luggage and the I was off to the races. This first day on the road featured Þingvellir National Park, Geysir, and Gullfoss.

þingvellir is a beautiful valley located right over the mid Atlantic Rift. It is the place where the Alþingi, the icelandic parliament was first founded in 930. This is one of the oldest parliamentary bodies in the world and has sat almost continuously (except for a few decades in the 1800’s) every year since then.

Geysir is the origin of our word Geyser so you can guess what is featured there. At the moment Geysir itself only goes off once a day or so, so I didn’t get to see it, but one of the other geysers in the park, Strokkur, was erupting every 10-15 minutes, so Iwas able to get some great pictures of that one. There are also mudpits and other pools of hot water at the site.

Gullfoss is a beautiful 2 tiered waterfall where I manged a few more pictures before I headed to the guesthouse to end the day.

Here are the pictures for the first day on the road:

Iceland 2009 Day 2: Reykjavík to Fluðir

Anyhow, I think that is more then enough for the first post.

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