May 14, 2023
We made it to Iceland! This is really exciting because last time I was here I got COVID and was confined to the ship. So this time I got to see more than the docks. And we made the most of it!
We are staying in a nice local hotel, which included a yummy Icelandic pastry that tasted like a dense donut. Then off on an excursion to the Blue Lagoon! I had always believed that the Blue Lagoon was a natural phenomena, but no. Although Iceland has lots of natural hot springs, the Blue Lagoon formed next to a new geothermal power plant. The designers of the power plant thought the water from the plant would seep down through the porous lava, but because of the silica in the water (which creates the blue color), it pooled up instead. Locals began talking about the healing properties of the water, which drew others to create a spa-like health center there. We were a little hesitant to go in the water at first, but we took the plunge! Going from the 40 degree air temperature into the 100+ degree lagoon felt wonderful. We thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
Iceland presents amazing contrasts between old and new. The island itself was formed millions of years ago by volcanic eruptions caused by the divergence of the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates, creating a hot spot. The volcanoes of old are long extinct, but there are still active volcanoes that continue to erupt and reshape the landscape. The most recent eruption was in 2021. (This story is similar to the formation of the Hawaiian Islands).
This contrast shows itself again in the architecture of the area. The island was uninhabited until explorers from Norway first discovered it and recognized its potential as a base for fishing around 874. The island was part of Denmark for awhile, but eventually it gained its independence in 1944. The U.S. was the first nation to recognize their independence. Sometime after this, Iceland rose in popularity, and the growth that followed reshaped the island and its culture. These changes can be seen in the contrasts between the buildings over time. Both pictures below are of churches from different time periods.
Tomorrow we head off on an excursion around the island that will include Thingvellir National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site, Geysir hot springs, Gullfoss waterfall, and the Kerid crater.