Thursday, May 21, 2015

The history of Iceland

Today we learned about the history of Iceland. We also visited Reykjavik and had the opportunity to explore the city and try new food! (Spoiler alert: Icelandic foal is my new favorite meat.)
After spending yesterday looking at the modern applications of Iceland's geothermal power, we spent today learning about the history of Iceland. Bo Løkkegaard provided us with a descriptive history of the founding of Iceland.

Bo beneath Law Rock
Bo (center) standing below Law Rock.

We learned about the Vikings, who set out to start a new life free from the oppressive taxes back home and ended up finding Iceland.

The Vikings established the world's oldest parliament around 930 AD, which is still operating to this day. This parliament was held each session at Lögberg or "Law Rock", a dramatic rock outcropping at the trailing edge of the North American tectonic plate situated in the breathtaking Ϸingvellir plains.

The area holds a sacred significance to the Icelanders, and many consider it to be the birthplace of their modern society.

Law Rock
Law Rock marked with an Icelandic flag. The cliff in the background is the edge of the North American tectonic plate.

Ϸingvellir plains
Ϸingvellir plains. All of Iceland would arrive at these parliamentary sessions and camp on these fields.

We also had the opportunity to visit Gullfoss or "Golden Falls," a waterfall widely considered to be the most beautiful in Iceland.

Gullfoss-better version
The group with Gullfoss in the background.

This waterfall was repeatedly assessed by investors looking to build a hydroelectric power station in the early 1900s. But the continued work of the landowner's daughter eventually fought off the investors, and the waterfall is now protected.

This beautiful waterfall demonstrates that while it can be wonderful to take advantage of the renewable resources around us, that doesn't always mean it's best to do so.

Our travels for the rest of the day brought us to even more intriguing sites. We got to visit a small cave in the side of a hill that was a family home for many generations, until only 100 years ago. (Iceland has few trees, making the construction of a wooden house very expensive.)


We also had the opportunity to visit the hot springs that are home to Geysir, the first geyser known to Europeans. The word Geysir was derived from an Old Norse verb meaning "to gush."

In addition to this main geyser, there are other smaller ones along with thermal pools filled with clear blue water.

Hot springs near Geysir

After our day's travels, we crossed a mountain pass and descended into Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland and home to over two-thirds of its population.

The group had the opportunity to explore the city and try Icelandic foods unavailable in most of in the world, such as puffin, minke whale, and Icelandic foal.

I was fortunate enough to try all three. I found them all to be excellent, but the Icelandic foal was hands-down the best meat I have ever tasted (sorry Mom!). If you ever get the chance, try Icelandic foal.

Sadly, today was our last day in Iceland. Tomorrow we will head off to Copenhagen. We have all loved our experience here, and we look forward to what our future adventures will bring us!

It's been a long day, so it's time for some rest in spite of the midnight sun.

Midnight Sun
Midnight in Reykjavik.