The same scholarship program that lets me study in Norway also brings Scandinavian students to the University of Washington. Grétar is one such student, hailing from Iceland. He started his masters degree at the same time I did and although I haven’t seen him since 2007, we’ve exchanged emails here and there over the past few years. When I mentioned I’d be in Iceland for a few days, Grétar graciously offered to show me around on my first day in town.
Grétar and his wife, Erna, picked me up just a few hours after I arrived and supplied me with food and fresh air, two things that certainly help with jet-lag. After the obligatory Icelandic hotdog (yum!) we headed east on a mini-road trip. We did a loop outside of Reykjavik, stopping in Þingvellir (part of the Golden Circle, which I’ll tell you about later, I went there twice) and at quite possibly one of the most interesting parts of the whole trip – Hellisheiði Geothermal Plant.
I knew next to nothing about geothermal energy or its significance in Iceland. Not only does this plant (one of many) produce more electricity than the whole country needs, there is also no need for hot water heaters because their hot water comes straight (ok, well not straight) from the geothermal source. Geothermal energy is safe, efficient, environmentally friendly and produces very minimal waste. And there is potential for it in a lot of places all over the world (specifically at tectonic plate boundaries)! In fact, the guide showing us around said that an energy secretary from Japan (or someone fancy like that) had just visited to learn more about geothermal energy and its potential in Japan. Another interesting fact, when we were there only 4 people were working in the entire plant – 2 of which seemed to just be acting as guides!
From our drive:
Geothermal hotspots everywhere! (look closely for the smoke)
A summer cabin in the middle of a boulder field in a highly seismically active country. Eeek! My Golden Circle tour guide told me a man built it for his mother-in-law 🙂
Back in Reykjavik we made a quick stop at Reykjavik 817+/-2. Yes, +/- 2. Historians aren’t quite sure just exactly when the Norwegian Vikings first made it to Iceland. Considering it was over 1000 year ago, I think a range of 4 years seems reasonable. The museum is based upon the discover of a 10th century viking house found during construction of a hotel, but what I found most fascinating was the use of technology in the museum (the power plant exhibit used some pretty cool technology too – must be an Icelandic thing). Their website gives a little taste of it: http://www.reykjavik871.is/.
We ended the day of exploring with a wonderful dinner (wine, lamb, chocolate cake) that I am still thinking about days later. They dropped me off at my hostel and I think I was fast asleep by 8 – I give myself major props for making it that long on essentially no sleep the night before.
Grétar and Erna, thank you for such a wonderful day. As much as it was wonderful to see some of Reykjavik and the surrounding areas, the best part of the day – by far – was to learn about life in Iceland from you both! Maybe I’ll be seeing you in Trondheim some day!