Friday, 18 October 2019 – Home to Sydney prior to Iceland trip

Friday 18 October 2019 – Home to Sydney prior to Iceland trip

Robert drove me to the Canberra Airport and I caught the Virgin Flight VA667 leaving at 6.35pm to Sydney. I arrived at 7.35pm.  Caught a taxi to the Ibis Hotel. Feeling still unwell with bad hayfever so went to bed soon after arrival.

Saturday 19 October 2019  –  I had a late departure from my room so for the rest of the day stayed at the hotel and chatted to some other guests, had nibbles, drinks and read my information on my destination – ICELAND. This was a trip to me for my birthday. I wanted to go to Iceland as I thought it sounded very different to the other trips I have been on – Iceland has The Blue Lagoon, 10,000 waterfalls and 130 volcanoes, lava and moss fields, mountains, glaciers, rivers, caves, black beaches, the Icelandic horses, streams, lagoons, geysers, sheep, hot springs, lakes, turf houses, icebergs and the hope to see the Northern Lights – (Aurora Borealis). The other attraction was that Iceland was just a small island so wouldn’t be jostled about in huge crowds. I hope I won’t be disappointed.

BRIEF HISTORY OF ICELAND

The first people to settle in Iceland were probably Irish monks who came in the 8th century. However, in the 9th century, they were driven out by Vikings. The first Viking to discover Iceland was a man named Naddoddur.  Following him, a Swede named Gardar Svavarsson circumnavigated Iceland about 860. However, the first Viking attempt to settle was by a Norwegian named Floki Vilgeroarson. He landed in the northwest but sailed back to Norway. However, he gave the land its name. He called it Iceland. Then from 874 many settlers came to Iceland from Norway and the Viking colonies in the British Isles. A Norwegian named Ingolfur Arnarson led them. When he sighted Iceland, Ingolfur explored Iceland in the southwest of Iceland and he and his household settled there. He called the place Reykjavik, meaning Smokey Bay. Many other Vikings followed him to Iceland.

The land in Iceland was free to whoever wanted it. There were very good fishing grounds around Iceland and the land was well suited to sheep. Many Vikings brought flocks with them and soon sheep became a major Icelandic industry. The population of Iceland soared. By about 930 there were about 60,000 people living in Iceland.

At first the Icelanders were ruled by chiefs called Godar but there were some local assemblies. About 930 the Icelanders created an assembly for the whole island called the Althing. In 1402-03, the Black Death struck Iceland and the population was devastated.

However prosperity returned in the 15th century. At that time there was a big demand in Europe for Icelandic cod and Iceland grew rich on the fishing industry. Icelanders traded with the English and with the Germans.

In 1397 Norway was united with Denmark. Afterwards, Iceland was ruled by the Danish crown. The people of Iceland gradually accepted Protestantism and in 1584 the Bible was translated into Icelandic. In 1661 the Danish king made himself an absolute monarch. During the 17th century the Icelanders suffered and the Icelandic economy suffered severely. In 1707-09 Iceland suffered an outbreak of smallpox which killed a large part of the population.

 In 1783 the fallout from volcanic eruptions caused devastation in Iceland. By 1786 the population of Iceland was only 38,000.

In the 19th century ties between Iceland and Denmark weakened. Iceland began to prosper once again. The population rose (despite emigration to Canada) and in 1911 Reykjavik University was founded.

In the 20th century ties with Denmark were loosened. In 1904 Iceland was granted home rule. In 1918 Iceland was made a sovereign state sharing a monarchy with Denmark. In 1915 Icelandic women were allowed to vote.  In 1944 Iceland Mount Hekla erupted causing much destruction but Iceland soon recovered and in 1949 Iceland joined NATO. In the late 20th century Iceland had a series of ‘cod wars’ with Britain. Iceland relied on its fishing industry and grew alarmed that the British were overfishing its waters. The ‘cod wars’ were ‘fought’ in 1959-1961, 1972 and in 1975-1976.

In 1980 Vigdis Finnbogadottir was elected president of Iceland. She was the first elected woman president in the world.

The people of Iceland benefit from natural hot water, which is used to heat their homes. It is also used to heat greenhouses.

In 2008 Iceland suffered an economic crisis when its 3 main banks failed. In 2009 demonstrations led to the fall of the government. Today Iceland still relies on fishing but there are many sheep, cattle and Icelandic ponies. Iceland suffered badly in the world financial crisis that began in 2008 and unemployment rose to over 9%. However, Iceland soon recovered and unemployment fell.

Today Iceland is a prosperous country with a high standard of living. In 2019 the population of Iceland is 339031 approximately (In 2020 approximately 364134).

Saturday 19 October 2019 At 6.00pm I got a taxi to the Sydney International Airport.  I went through all the normal security checks and boarded Qatar QR909 (seat 53A). We left at 22.15 to Doha. Arrived at Doha at 5.40am on Sunday 20 October 2019.   The duration was 15 hours 25 minutes approximately.

Sunday, 20 October 2019  –  Day 1 of Tour.  Left Doha on flight QR167 (seat 31) leaving at 7.35am to Stockholm.  Duration 6.25 hours.  Arrived at 13.00.  Very short transfer to Icedlandair at 13.50 to Reykjavik – Duration was 3.15 hours.  Arrived at Keflek Airport 15.05 local time.  I collected my luggage and went to the ATM to get Icelandic krona as I didn’t have any with me. It was quite cold and drizzling rain. I caught the Skybus to a terminal where we had to change buses. It was very confusing as quite disorganised – so many different coloured buses –  but a lovely girl stayed with me to make sure I was on the correct bus to the hotel in Reykjavik – about 45 minutes away.

I was dropped off at my accommodation – the Hotel Klettur.  After having a meal, I sorted out my luggage as I was going to leave my big case at the Hotel as on our last night we would be returning to Hotel Klettur.  I was really, really tired, so went to bed quite early.

Monday, 21 October 2019 – Day 2 of Tour – Reykjavik City Tour and Borgarfjorour Saga Valley

Monday, 21 October 2019 – Day 2 of Tour – Reykjavik City Tour and Borgarfjorour Saga Valley

It was very cold and windy. After breakfast met our Tour Guide, Erik and group of 30 others. Our coach driver was Gudmundur.   We boarded the coach and had a city tour, passing Alpingi, Parliament House, Harpa Concert Hall and Catholic Church to mention some.  We headed down to the Marina and then headed to Hofdi House.

Outside Hofdi House

Höfði house is best known for hosting the 1986 Reykjavík Summit meeting of Presidents Ronald Reagan of the United States and Mikhail Gorbachev of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. That was a step to the end of the Cold War. Höfði was the exclusive residence of poet and businessman Einar Benediktsson for four years. The larger-than-life statue of Einar Benediktsson by Icelandic sculptor Ásmundur Sveinsson stands on the grounds of Höfði house in Reykjavik. The sculpture of Ásmundur Sveinsson (1893-1982) shows the poet standing near the harp as one of his poems was translated into “Harp of the North” – about the Northern Lights.

Einar Benediktsson, often referred to as Einar Ben, (31 October 1864 – 12 January 1940) was an Icelandic poet and lawyer. 

Our next stop was at the Perlan. (The Pearl)  a museum and a rotating glass dome built on top of 6 hot water tanks each holding 4 million litres of geothermal hot water atop Oskjuhlio hill.  From the observation deck, you had panoramic views of the city and surrounding mountains, and Mount Esja.  This was virtually a short comfort stop and photo stop.  

We boarded the coach and headed west to Borgarfjourour, through the Hvalfjorour Tunnel. The tunnel is a road tunnel under the Hvalfjaordour fjord and a part of Route 1. It is 5,770 metres long and reaches a depth of 165 metres below sea level.  It was opened on 11 July 1998 and shortens the distance from Reykjavik to the western and northern parts of the island by 45 kilometers.

Our next stop was at the Grabrok Volcano Crater.  Only the young or fit ones ventured out.

After they returned, our next stop was at the Hraunfossar Waterfalls – a series of spurting from beneath a wide lava field.  It was very, very windy so Erik let me use his prized handmade walking stick – otherwise I would have found it very difficult fighting the strong wind.

Once back on the coach, we went to the Hahitaswaeld Geothermal Fields. Vast clouds of steam float upwards from the geothermal power station. Here we went down to Deildarlunguhver,  – Europe’s most powerful hot spring which produces 180 litres per second of water that is nearly boiling – 97 degrees Celsius. In Iceland energy generation comes from 100% renewable resources. Today all of the country’s electricity comes from renewable resources such as hydro, wind and geothermal.  Around 70% is currently generated by hydro power and the rest by geothermal and wind power. Geothermal energy provides heating and hot water for the majority of buildings in Iceland.  Icelanders have the good fortune of having access to an almost limitless inexpensive supply of both hot and cold water.

The renewable energy has helped in sectors as diverse as genetics, health-related tourism and fish farming. It plays an essential role in growing vegetables all year round in geothermal greenhouses as well as providing enjoyment in the form of geothermal all around Iceland. Iceland has always been a leader in sustainability and remains one of the purest environments in the world.  There is little pollution.

We travelled towards Borgarnes to our accommodation at the Hotel Hamer.  (Room 135) After we settled in, we heard Erik give us information about the Northern Lights. After dinner, – a nice meal of Asian chicken and shrimp  – we mingled about quite late hoping that the Lights would appear but we gave up at 2.30am.  We kept ourselves warm with hot chocolate.

Fell into bed after a very full and interesting day. Travelled approximately 245 km

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