Thursday, September 1, 2016

The Golden Circle, Iceland - Part 1

I realized after many hours of working on this Golden Circle blog, that it would have to be subdivided into parts, just as my Reykjavik ones were. Here's part one of what might be two or three.

Sadly, we did not have the best of weather when travelling this famed, 300 km route. It was approx. 10-12 C with unusual precipitation. We were told that the rain never comes down so heavily, nor does it come straight down, but rather from the side. On this day, July 25th, 2016, the weather created some new rules. Nonetheless, it was easy to see how spectacular the landscape was. Our host and tour guide, knew the way well. He also took us to off the beaten track points of interest, and a small town where we enjoyed a spectacular lunch.

I noted with interest that the Icelanders are very protective of their environment. For example, the beaches are not to be driven on. In fact, vehicles are only allowed to go where there are tracks. I think there are a lot of rules which tourists need to learn. I recently read that some tourists had to pay 800 Euros for entering a restricted area. I was also surprised to read about the many tourist accidents and fatalities particularly on the roads. Most likely, isolation is a contributing factor. It's not easy to get help when something goes wrong on a deserted road, and cell phone reception is minimal.

 As we left Kopavogur the sense of a barren landscape was obvious. Except for some errant sheep, it was truly eerie and deserted. At one point, hubby announced, "How can there be random wandering sheep without a farm house anywhere in sight?"
Creations made specifically for tourists are for sale
Our host readily responded with, "There are farm houses wayyyyyyy on the other side, away from the road. In the summer, the sheep are allowed to roam free."
We passed one postcard like farm area
As we approached an area that looked particularly scenic, we pulled off the road to marvel at the volcanic black beach sand.

Although it was beginning to rain heavily, we stopped in an area of interest somewhere between Kopavogur and Arborg for a photo op and some bubbling lava. Pictures are limited because of my new camera and unusual precipitation.

 After the lava stop, we approached the Strandarkirkja, in Selvogur. It was a Lutheran Church built in 1888, and facing the sea to protect travellers. The original church was erected on this site in the 12th century when a group of sailors prayed to navigate the rough waters and promised to put a church wherever they landed. It is said that many miracles have been attributed to this church and as a result, the church became quite wealthy from donations. There is a sculpture entitled "Land in Sight". It faces Angel's Bay and commemorates the church's founding. There are also elf houses behind the church and cemetery.  These are an essential consideration in any Icelandic landscape.

It was time for lunch. How fortunate we were to have a host who knew his way around Iceland and also great restaurants. We stopped at a fishing village  (pop. around 600), formerly a major trading port, called Eyrarbakki. It is known for historic buildings, great food, and a prison Litla -Hraun (prisoners are not counted in the population) which is the largest in Iceland. 

One building, now a museum in the village dates back to 1765 and is the oldest timber dwelling in Iceland. It once belonged to a wealthy Danish merchant and his staff. 
We dined at the Rauda Husio (Red House), another historical building. The seafood chowder, the lobster tail appetizers, the breads and the salads were fantastic, 

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