Just off the plane, and it’s raining, a careless, drizzle and everyone looks miserable.
Such a contrast to my last few days in Iceland where the scenery, the people, the tales are lively and always entertaining. It’s true, at this time of year, there isn’t a lot of sunlight but the little there was, we made use of to the full.
I am utterly overwhelmed by our experience this weekend; the weather didn’t start that well and even before we got off the bus transfer at the hotel, I already received an email to inform me that our long trip the following day was cancelled due to extreme weather. What extreme weather? I asked, not realising that there was a strong wind chilling the air from -2 degrees centigrade to around minus 15. I have been to cold places and not felt this cold. In the balmy southern corner of the UK, we just aren’t used to it.
But, I learnt quickly to dress in the many layers I had packed and apart from standing in a freezing field watching the Northern Lights, I wasn’t too badly off. Preparation is obviously the key to this, and a good range of thermals.
Once I had sorted out the cold, it was only the darkness to deal with; at this time of year, it is dark from 16:15 to 10:00 and it nearly was the end of me, as I walked out in front of a car because I thought it was like 6:00 am or something and therefore nothing would be on the roads then! Thankfully, the Icelandic drivers seem to be the politest in the world and the white van man slowed down, and stopped for the careless tourist, no gesticulations or impolite words!
The Aurora Borealis
The Aurora Borealis or the Northern Lights as they are commonly known are caused by interactions of solar particles in the planet’s upper atmosphere.
The sun’s many magnetic fields distort and twist as it rotates on its axis. When these fields become knotted together, they burst and create so-called sunspots. Usually, these sunspots occur in pairs; the largest can be several times the size of Earth’s diameter.
At the center of the sun, the temperature is 27 million degrees Fahrenheit (15 million degrees Celsius). As the temperature on its surface rises and falls, the sun boils and bubbles. Particles escape from the star from the sunspot regions on the surface, hurtling particles of plasma, known as solar wind, into space. It takes these winds around 40 hours to reach Earth. When they do, they can cause the dramatic displays known as the aurora borealis.
There are so many sights in Iceland that can only be described as amazing – my language skills are no match for Mother Earth. There are a few things that can be described with words and one of those is the capital city of Reykjavik. A small peaceful city seems such a contradiction. But with an island population of 340,000, that may explain it. These locals, however, are dwarfed by the tourists who flock to visit this special mid-Atlantic island with 2 million visiting every year.grabbed a map and set out confidently from the hotel, pointing out the landmarks that matched the map, the swimming pool, for example. We definitely knew where we were! Until we found that none of the road names actually matched the map and we gave in and headed for the nearest restaurant, a Ruby Tuesdays. The waitress was very helpful, took one look at the map and said, “you are looking at the wrong city!”
Reykjavik is really easy to negotiate, once we were orientated and with our unexpectedly spare time, we headed for the City Bus, a hop on-hop off experience that I had enjoyed before in Budapest. These city buses are good value and if you are short of time, head you straight to the major tourist attractions in the city. 4000 isk, is that good value? We worked out it was about £28.00 per person so maybe not such good value, but hey, we were in Iceland, and my bank balance had been informed!!
There are 15 stops on the bus and our highlights included the Perlan Museum, the Harbour and the Hallgrímskirkja church. The lack of stain glass windows let light flood the interior and it was one of the most peaceful places I have visited, and that with a huge influx of tourists for the Thanksgiving weekend.
Keep checking over the next few days as the pics just get better and better!
© Jacqui Thatcher 2017
Credit for all images: © Alex Thatcher 2017