The "Golden" Rule of Iceland's Golden Circle: Pack Snacks.

Is it just me or did everyone else learn as a child that Iceland was supposedly green and Greenland was actually ice cold? Either my 7th grade geography teacher, Mrs. Routzahn, was having a bit of fun with her job, or it was a helpful way to pass a pop quiz… I don’t remember. Good story, huh?

Anywho, I happen to find myself working on a ship with a chilly, albeit picturesque, itinerary. Time to see Iceland for myself and solve this riddle once and for all! To be perfectly honest, I am seeing Iceland in June, so I cannot comment on just how ”icy” it is during the winter.  BUT, seeing as I wore my Michelin-man style winter jacket outside in June, something tells me the winter may indeed be a bit nippy…

The first stop on our cruise was Reykjavik. What’s the first thing you need in Reykjavik?  A rental car. What should you book in advance? A rental car. What did I not book in advance? A rental car. Vielen Dank (many thanks) to the lovely folks at Enterprise Reykjavik Cruise Terminal for saving the day.

So off we went! Me, another singer, a dresser extraordinaire, and an aerialist on the open roads of Iceland! It should also be noted that I loaded my breakfast tray at the crew mess this morning, full of bread, veggies and cheese to make sandwiches for lunch at a cost of Free Ninety Nine. A little contraband food goes a long way in Iceland, where elf-sized drip coffee will cost you five dollars. Moral of the story: Pack snacks. But more than snacks. Pack breakfast, lunch and dinner.

So, stocked with snacks, our little vehicle, with the help of Google Maps navigation in Dutch (imagine a Drunk German choking on something and you’ve found Dutch!) was on the open road of the Golden Circle: The massive loop through Iceland where you can find most of the gorgeous, natural attractions.  First Stop, Pingvellir (SP) park, full of stunning landscapes, water and cliffs. What’s missing? Trees. No trees. They must’ve found cheaper rent in Greenland… Even without trees, Pingvellir is a gorgeous place to walk around. I would know, I walked around for fifteen whole minutes! Time is money, folks… or my employment… hehe.

The landscape in Iceland is a stark contrast to what I’m used to in the good ol’ US of A. It’s a kind of strange beauty.

So, walk to nice view? Check. Tourists spotted jumping into the water caves to dive? (looks incredibly awesome, not going to lie. Considered selling my left leg to afford the adventure…) Check. Aforementioned elf-sized drip coffee purchased? Check.

Next Stop. The Geyser. I was sitting here chastising myself for not remembering the name of it. Guess what? It’s called Geysir. One point for Emily. (and one point for Google…) SO, Geysir is just that, a geyser along the route of the Golden Circle. Steam rolls across the barren ground, and on a sunny day like I had, it does look pretty cool and Mars-like. Lots of small, steaming, sulphur-filled pools litter the ground around the main attraction, the Big Kahuna, if you will. Find a sardine-like line of tourists in various bright colored down jackets and you’ve also found Geysir. Every now and then you’ll hear a big, wet sound, see fifteen thousand iphone screens immediately react like shields, water shoots into the sky, and then BOOM, it’s all over. Is it cool? Yes. Nature has a way of doing some really neat shit.  (sorry mom)

We saw Geysir! Fifteen minutes of wonder, now back to the car. Sandwich number one consumed. Next stop: The Waterfall! Gulfoss. This one is a solid two hours outside of Reykjavik, but also conveniently located along the same Golden Circle route. Sandwich number two may have disappeared somewhere around here as well…

How do you know you’ve reached Gulfoss? The road ends and you’re in a Harry Potter-like maze of massive tour buses and strange pimped-out trucks that are somehow attractive vehicles for tourists? After scoring a perfect parking spot for our pint-sized car, I descended the well-maintained stairs to see the waterfalls. It’s gorgeous. Huge, powerful and downright cool. If you’re feeling warm (it’s Iceland. You won’t be) you can trek right up to the front door of the falls and have a nice, natural shower. I did not opt for this excursion, but I admired the bravery, and raincoats, of those who did.

What’s also cool about Gulfoss? A lovely gift shop and clean bathrooms. Well done, Gulfoss.

So, I saw “the waterfall.” Another fifteen minutes of glory, then back to the car. The two hour drive back to Reykjavik is lovely. Everywhere you look are untouched landscapes, littered with horses! Seriously, so many horses. Icelandic horses, to be exact. They’re a bit squattier and look like a regular horse and a show pony had a good time, and out came the Icleandic horse. They’re a serious business in Iceland. If an Icelandic horse leaves Iceland, it is never allowed to come back, and NO other horse is allowed to be imported into the country. It’s true. (two hour drive +extra data to burn = history lesson on the open road) Iceland cares a lot about their horses. So much so that they eat them. Also true. L

Two hours, and lots of random Icelandic facts later, I was back “home.” In total, we whizzed through the sights of the day in about 6 hours. Not how I’d normally want to absorb a country, but the express version was surprisingly thorough. I didn’t feel cheated out of a single experience. Next stop will be seeing Reykjavik itself.

Now if you’ll excuse me I need to go play the Galinda to Holland’s actual Elphaba on stage tonight. Just another day…

Emily HughesComment