Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Icelandic Impressions

First a note about leaving...
It was harder this year to leave than last year. Perhaps our eagerness to fly away has been traded for an even deeper desire to feel rooted. But the adventure goes on. We have a life to live, students to teach, friendships to build and a great God to follow in Bishkek. I think we'll be okay ;)

Back to Iceland...
We arrived in the Icelandic airport at 11:50pm, and waited for our hotel pick-up. And we waited. And waited and worried and waited. The worry ceased once we found another couple who was waiting for the same van. Our need for community is deep – as long as I know someone else is in the same boat as I am, then everything is okay (even when it's not)!

We were picked-up (thank goodness), registered at the hotel, signed up for a tour and fell into bed. We were up and waiting outside by 7:45 for our Golden Circle Tour.

(Okay, okay, so this isn't actually the vehicle we went in!)

A note about Iceland - they heat their homes using the readily available geo-thermal heat.  Hot water from the ground is piped all over. Waterfalls are used to generate electricity.

We loaded up in a bus with 1/1000th of all the other tourists in Iceland at the moment, and off we went. Stop # 1 was a famous church where the first bishops lived. Beautiful!

Of course, Peter and I had to stretch our legs and move around in the countryside a bit.

Because on the bus sometimes we felt a little crazy...

On our way to stop # 2, we caught a glimpse of the 2nd largest glacier in Iceland. It looked like frosting spreading out and oozing down a cupcake. Not at all like the glaciers I think of, which are tucked up between the nooks and crannies of large mountains.

Stop # 2 was at the Gullfoss waterfall. It was different to hike down into a canyon to see waterfalls. We also went into a gift shop and this is where the prices we saw made our jaws begin to drop. My jaw is still down to my collar bone but more about that later. 

Stop # 3 – the miniature Yellowstone in Iceland, with one geyser whose name “Geysir” is where the term geyser comes from! Geysir itself rarely spouts off anymore, but there was one called Strokkur (which means churning) that performs its show once every five minutes. We found the cheapest thing to eat - grilled ham and cheese sandos for $4.00 -yum!

Between stop # 3 and # 4 I took a good nap, unable to hold my eyelids open anymore. The nap continued, and Peter participated in one too after our last stop at Thingvellir. It was here that in 930A.D. the world's first parliament gathered. For the next 300 years people journeyed to this place once a year to elect leaders and argue cases. It was also in this place where I paid the most I ever have paid to use the restroom -the equivalent of $2.00. Ah man.

We were dropped off in Reykjavik's city center. We found the tourist information place (ahh, if only Bishkek had one of those!) and figured out how we would get back to our hotel which was located out by the airport later that evening. We wandered around and realized that we are not so good at being tourists since we forgot to worry about changing money until it was after 6pm and all the banks were closed. (Okay, Bishkek wins in terms of the availability of places to change money!). We ate dinner (hamburgers) for a total of $35. Luckily they took U.S. dollars and gave us Icelandic money back as change (At a much more favorable exchange rate than any bank would ever give us... seriously). We wandered some more, bought an ice cone for $5.00 and waited for our bus at 9pm. 

A 30 minute drive back to the hotel meant another nap for Katie! The next morning we were on our way again, back at the airport (which was filled, I mean filled with tourists leaving).  We were lucky to get out ;).

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