Call of the North (10): Geysir

July 20

I decided to do a few “standard” trips. Touristy to the bone, but found it the optimal way to cover as much as possible in the little time available. Mass tourism, much like Spain and Turkey, with pickup at the hotel, transit to a bus, with a big group, travel to the “objectives”, a little time for photos, that’s it.

The first was the “Golden Circle”.
I was going to get picked up at 8 a.m., so at 5 to 8 I went down, to make myself a sandwich. While I was busy toasting n stuff, a tall blond guy with shoulder-long hair, around 45-50 years old, was standing in the middle of the kitchen, staring at me.
“you need to get rid of those, there’s no room at the table”. ‘those’ were my backpack and jacket.
“it’s ok, i’m not staying”.
“aha. good.”
while he keeps watching me, i finish the sandwich
“you done?”
“Good. Now go.”
I look around for a napkin.
“whar are you looking for?”
“a napkin”
“we dont have any. only at the table”.
“ok.” i take a napkin from one of the tables.
“right, you’d expect people to eat at the table, not like this, on the way. Not nice.”
„Now go.”
I smile, and go without a word, down the stais. He comes to the stairs and watching me go, says:
“be careful not to spill on the floor. Making it dirty. Not nice.”

I walk away smiling. Dani and Vero get along well with him; I admire that. It must have taken a while for them to “crack his social code”.

I get “collected” by the minibus, which takes me to the big bus, and off we go. Through lava fields, along hot water pipelines.

The first “warm-up” stop is on a hill from where we can see a geothermal plant and several hot water-collection points.

The plant serves the city of Reykjavik – one part of it, including the one with the Pavi Guesthouse, being directly supplied with hot water from the ground, ~80-90 degrees Celsius. From here. The other part of the city is served by cold water heated using some other ground water, which comes at 120 degrees. celsius. That’s possible, i found out, due to the higher pressure below the surface, which pushes the boiling point above 90 degrees.

The lake in the distance will be talked about later.

The giude told us not to step on the moss. It takes a few seconds to destroy and some 50 years to grow again. As per the picture.

Iceland has the oldest ground in the world (somewhere in the west), and also the youngest. This. Hardened lava.

They have the youngest island in the world, UNESCO world heritage. Born around 1960.

Moving on, along the idyllic Þingvallavatn („thinkvadlavatn”) lake, one of the most memorable landscapes from the entire trip,

Next target: Þingvellir (Thinkvedlir), the place of the first parliamentary session in the world, 1078 years ago. It was called Alþingi. A Viking parliament, every tribe was sending over a chieftain + a small escort, to debate and settle community issues, including Supreme Court type stuff. Interestingly, the Court was just giving the verdict, the execution remained with the accusing party. Also, there was no death penalty – the toughest penalty was exile, rejection by the community. You were not allowed to live with people, and anyone finding you had the right to kill you. The penalty was effective 20 years. If you made it, you could come back to ‘society’. In the Icelandic sagas, there is a story about a man who survived 18 years alone. Lived on an island. People were preparing to welcome him back to community, thinking that he had paid his toll. One didn’t agree, went out and killed him. No other made it that far.

Sagas, by the way, are their most important literary creation. Sort of legends, written around 1200-1300, accounting for viking life from colonization till then.

Another cool thing about Alþingi is the fact that you can see, probably best in the world, how two continents join/drift apart. The Atlantic Ridge is the place where Europe and America meet. Here, in this valley.

These rifts are made during earthquakes. I liked their puzzle aspect, if you join them they fit. And we’re talking about continents.

Every earthquake they drift apart a few centimeters, or even meters (last time, 7m). This is how these corridors were made,

where we walked down

with the English girlscouts following.

This corridor has some outstanding acoustic properties. If one stands at a certain point, he can be heard along the entire corridor, making it possible for a few thousand people to hear a single speach, without microphone.

They had a Law Speaker, since before year 1000 there was no writing here. Writing came with Christianity, which was also adopted in a parliament decision that year, right here.

Our next target was Gullfoss (Gudlfoss), the Golden Falls, second largest Icelandic waterfall

Nice view, getting you wet if walked down. Which I obviously did.

In the distance, the glacier where the river making the cascade comes from

Next, the attraction of the day, at least for me.

The word Geysir comes from this place, from the first hot water-bursting spring internationally acknowledged. It was called


In time, it became a common noun, like “xerox”. The “Old Faithful geysir”.

Those people in the picture were not supposed to be there. It’s damn dangerous. Geysir erupts very irregularily, now not perdictable. 50 metres column of 90 degrees boiling water – you don’t wanna be there. The old Geysir had been silent for many years, but started erupting again after an earthquake in 2000. First often, then even less so. Now maybe once every two weeks.

Of course he was silent while we were there, but his younger brother, Strokkur, is much more reliable. On average every 5 minutes, he has something to say. And spit.

The surprise for me was the blue/turquise bubble.

But first to explain the mechanism, which I only now understood.

There’s hot water in the ground, right. Like 80 meters deep, i donno. Because of the pressure it is still liquid at 120 degrees celsius. But because it’s so hot, it climbs up if it finds a crack. Climbing up, the pressure decreases. So does the boiling point. And the water cools down. At some point both water and boiling point reach 90 degrees – that’s when the water boils and turns into vapors – i.e., gas. In the meantime, the cold water which fills the pond at the top, being cold, is falling down. at some point, it meets the gas, which is trapped between the boiling water climbing from below and the cold water falling from above. This gas pocket expands and expands, with even more water boiling, and finally the direction with less pressure gives in – and that is upwards. So when there’s enough gas gathered in the pocket, it breaks the cold water barrier and erupts at the surface.

What we see at the surface is how the geysir “breathes”


and when there’s too much gas for the water to hold,

it bursts,




Filmed, it looks like this:

After spending about half an hour with Strokkur, to get the images above, i climbed a small hill to get a panoramic perspective

and to tape another eruption (somewhere around sec. 22)

I liked the geysirs a lot. On departure, I found Little Geysir as well, who was mumbling something all the time, all by himself, without any height ambitions though. Yet.

On the way home, we stopped at a smaller but very neat waterfall,

with green spring water (unlike grey Gullfoss, which was glacier water),

And that was it, went home. Arrived around 7pm, in time to make it to the thermal pool, a “compulsory” experience in Iceland. Water at 32 degrees, perfect for outdoor swimming in cold weather. Thermal pools are social meeting points for Icelanders, where they discuss from gossip to business and politics. The one I went to has a large Olympic pool and a smaller pool where I played waterbasketball with a family from Sheffield.

Which should help for a good sleep, because tomorrow is about listening to the Call of the North, big time.


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