The Golden Circle – Gullfoss

Linda Lou Burton posting from Center Hotels Plaza, Reykjavik, Iceland – I like a good story. And this one is pretty good, in fact, it’s legendary. While Rick was riding the bus around the southwestern part of Iceland on the Golden Circle Tour, getting wet in the rain, and geyser spray, and waterfall mist, I spent some time (between naps) reading about what he was seeing. “Did the Tour Guide tell you about Tomas Tomasson and his daughter Sigridur Tomasdottir?” I asked him when he got back to the hotel. He shook his head. “No, but I want to tell you about the Icelandic horses we saw.” Since we had stories to swap, we decided to head for what was now our favorite restaurant (just across the street), and talk while enjoying the lamb dinner we’d promised ourselves. Saeta Svinid (Sweet Pig) was buzzing, a good Friday night crowd, and we got our orders in quickly: lamb shoulder slow cooked for 12 hours, perfect for two to share, and oven-baked lobster tails with sweetcorn-chili salsa. I told my story first.

Gullfoss, translated Golden Falls, Rick’s third major stop today, isn’t Iceland’s biggest waterfall, but it is a showstopper, a roaring spectacle that angles water left and then right as it plunges down a curved three-step staircase into Gullfossgifur canyon. It’s the Hvita River, coming from the Langiokull glacier; walkways down and around let you get close enough for a good drenching by Mother Nature’s power. In 1907 that power caught the attention of an English businessman by the name of Howell who wanted to build a hydroelectric plant there. At the time, a farmer named Tomas Tomasson owned Gullfoss and staunchly refused to sell; though eventually he leased some of the land to Howell, not realizing the contract had a loophole favoring Howell — oops. Sigridur Tomasdottir, who grew up on her father’s sheep farm, was determined to preserve the land; she hired a lawyer and the fight began. The case continued for many years; as the story goes, Sigridur walked to Reykjavik (62 miles) many times, even threatening to throw herself into the waterfall if any construction began. She eventually succeeded! In 1929 Howell withdrew from the lease and the waterfall came back into the hands of the Icelandic people. Sigridur is hailed as “Iceland’s first environmentalist” and her contribution is marked in stone – a plaque bearing her image sits at the top of Gullfoss. And the lawyer who helped Sigridur? He became the first president of an independent Iceland in 1944! Good story, I say. Good job Sigridur!

“Did you eat lunch at the Gullfoss Restaurant today? It overlooks the falls, doesn’t it?” I asked Rick. “No, I skipped lunch,” he answered. “The restaurant looked nice but the line was long and we only had a 45-minute stop. I chose to spend my time looking at the falls.” No wonder our slow-cooked lamb dinner was disappearing so fast!  We were both starving and it was primo delicious. Rick’s photos below, his story of the Icelandic horses in the next post.


Golden Circle Tours

 Center Hotels Plaza, Reykjavik, Iceland

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