Luxembourg - Reykjavik - New York with Icelandic Airlines used to be the cheapest way to fly across the Atlantic before Iceland became a fashionable place for European tourists to visit. Now it is still cheap in winter but the price soars to more than 1000$US one way with a stopover in summer.
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I wish I had come here 20 years ago before it got to be the tourist trap it has now become. Even in the off season, the cheapest place in town is this Salvation Army Hostel where a bunk in an 8 bed dormitory costs 21.00 US$ per night
The weather was cold, wet and gloomy and the welcome was impersonal and almost bureaucratic, I discovered what a hamburger patty must feel like on the assembly line of a Mac Donald packing house.
Against all odds I had the good fortune to bump into Barry Kowals whom I had met in Shanghai's Pujiang Hotel 5 months ago and again in Beijing's Jing Hua Hotel one month later also purely by chance. Neither of us cared too much for the run down Salvation Army Hostel so we moved to the Reykjavik Youth Hostel which was not as central but had better facilities.
The Rekjavik Youth Hostel looks pretty drab in this weather but it is quite modern inside.
It is not easy to get around Iceland by yourself except by hitch hiking which is what Barry did. I did not feel up to that, especially in this weather, so I joined a group tour contrary to my normal practice. The longest stop we made was at this tourist trap greenhouse, restaurant and souvenir shop heated by hot springs. That's par for the course and is to be expected I guess...
We all dashed out of the bus and ran into this church where we heard how the Catholic Church, that had been introduced in 1153 by Isliefur Gissurarson, was eliminated by the Danish government in 1550 by the simple expedient of executing the Catholic bishop and putting a Lutheran one in his place.
In spite of the weather, the great Gullfoss waterfall, about 100 kms from Reykjavik, was certainly the highlight of the tour.
The stop at Geysir was really a dud not only because of the long walk in pouring rain but because the geysers did not blow half as much as those I had seen in Yellowstone Park in the USA or in Rotorua in New Zealand. Maybe we would have waited longer if the weather had been nicer but as it was, we all rushed through and did not see much action.
At Pingvellir, everybody got out of the bus for the planned three kilometer walk to the spot where we could all board again, rain or no rain.
I am sure I would have enjoyed this walk if I had done it by myself on a nice sunny day for the scenery around here must be great when it's not pouring.
Pingvellir or the assembly plains is where the first norse settlers, who started coming here in 890 to avoid submitting to the tyranical king Harald Haarfager, set up their first parliament called "Alping" in 930. According to our guide, the round grassy platform before us is the exact spot where these rough and ready norsemen would gather to democratically debate and decide matters of common interest more than one milena ago.
As you can gather from my comments, I was not overly impressed by Iceland. To be fair however I must say that maybe I would have enjoyed it more in full summer when it's hot but maybe not for the place must be chock full of tourists now that it is fashionable to have been here.
Anyway, another six month around the world trip was over and I was glad to be getting back to my friends and the comforts of home in Montreal.