A few bracing days in Iceland - cold, at times fearsomely so, but in Reykjavik (the world's most northerly national capital) it was bright and sunny too. What an enticing city. Stylish, prosperous, and surrounded by beautiful scenery. And at the City Pond in the centre of town, the ice was sufficiently sturdy to allow these kids to play a game of football.
Thingvellir, below, was the site of the world's first Parliament. Iceland was settled by Norwegians in the late ninth century - Icelandic is basically Old Norse. After a few centuries of independence, it was ruled by Norway and then Denmark, becoming independent as recently as 1944. It has a population of 320,000 - about 10% of them immigrants - most living in and around Reykjavik in the south-west.
Iceland is said to be the world's most feminist nation. So here's a conundrum. According to a tour guide - and it seems to check out with what I've read on the net - of the 25,000 or so original settlers who came across in the first decades, new DNA-style research has revealed that 70% of the men were Scandinavian ... and 64% of the women were Celtic. In other words, Iceland's national origins appear to lie with the mass abduction of Irish (and perhaps Scottish) women. Ouch!
Whale watching off Reykjavik delivered ... not a whale in sight, but hundreds and hundreds of white-nosed dolphins. They were everywhere, at times encircling the boat - and some showed off by jumping and shimmying. Magical!
Our basic cameras are not fully up to the task of capturing now-you-see-them type wildlife - but you can get a sense of what it was like from the photo on the right, and Rohan's sequence of shots below (from now on, all the photos on this post are his) showing a dolphin leaping.
We were also in luck in our search for the Northern Lights - a wonderful display, with shapes dancing across the sky, and touches of lime green and traces of red. They are really difficult to photograph - you need a strong lens and long exposure times. But Rohan's photo here gives you some sense of the display:
And some more stunning images - of respectively the dramatic Gulfoss (golden falls) waterfalls, the thermal water fountains at Geysir (Iceland has such abundant thermal energy that it's now - a guide told us - the world's biggest producer of aluminium even though it has no bauxite, the cheap energy makes it worthwhile to ship in the ore), and Reykjavik again.
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