Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Iceland 26: The Golden Circle (part 1)

We slept late this morning, but as soon as we opened the curtains it was clear that the weather forecast had been correct.  It was raining heavily, and there were very low clouds over the town and up into the hills.

We picked up coats and cameras from the room, and then embarked on "The Golden Triangle" - our homage to the Golden Circle from the Icelandic guidebooks.  We needed to decide which place to visit first - Thingvellir, Geysir or Gullfoss - but since the weather was so shitty we decided to tackle the longer and slower part of the journey in the morning.

Next stop was an Information Centre in the Thingvellir National Park, which had an all-important loo and a bookshop.  It was still raining, unfortunately, and we'd rather hoped there would be an exhibition about the Park which we could spend some time reading.  As there wasn't, we assumed it couldn't possibly the principal Information Centre.  Well, it soon became clear that it was the principal Information Centre, and we eventually found a signpost to the main attraction.

The car park was heaving, which was a foretaste of things to come for the rest of the day, unfortunately.  The rain had almost stopped, though, so we donned our waterproofs and started to walk towards the "great crack" where an earthquake had split open the basalt which formed the main rift.  The whole area is a rift valley, caused by the separation of the North American and Asiatic plates, and Thingvallavatn (the lake) was created as part of the rift when the outlet was blocked.  As well as the rift, there were lots of examples of fairly recent volcanic and tectonic activity in the area.

We walked along the crack, which formed a natural amphitheatre that was was used by the Icelanders for their annual "Althing" (a kind of parliament).  There was a stone on which anyone was allowed to stand and speak during the annual meeting, which sounds remarkably like the system used by the Ancient Greeks.  It wasn't all civilisation, though, as there was a rather macabre plaque about how women were drowned in a pool there as a punishment for assorted misdemeanors.  Time to look at some of the abundant flora instead.

We then carried on walking through the flat area below the rift, heading out towards the church.  Again, lots of tourists milling around, and plenty of idiots who were ignoring the "don't throw coins into the water" instructions.  Stupid people.

Look out for part two of our exciting trip around the Golden Circle: Geysir.