Morning brings more rain. Suitcases whirl hastily across puddled pavement assisted by glove clad hands. Paul shrugs his shoulders and nods apologetically as the German woman in the adjoining parking space surveys our Land Cruiser spilling across the white lines on either side. Wedging herself between the two vehicles she lifts the door handle. With two fingers buffering the friction between the armored shells she extends the door and sucks in her tummy inching herself inside. Her free hand pulls the door closer as her exposed fingers recoil from the outer handle. Having fully established ourselves as true American tourists we hit Costco for the second time of the trip to fill up our hulking vehicle before heading to Selfoss.
A few minutes later dad returns to the car with a paper receipt. How much was that? Do I dare ask? Paul does some quick math converting kroner to dollars and liters to gallons. That would be $6.50 a gallon. Gee, what a bargain!
Located approximately 45 minutes southeast of Reykjavik is Selfoss, a frequent stop for visitors on the infamous Ring Road which runs the perimeter of Iceland. We stop along the way to explore Kerid Crater.
Typically, craters are the result of a volcanic explosion; however, Kerid is unique among crater lakes in that its caldera is said to have taken shape when the empty magma chambers beneath imploded. I’ve never explored a crater before, and I have to say it’s pretty cool. The lunar-like landscape is covered in deep red lava rocks which cascade down to a glassy pool. Lava rocks have a peculiar feel, porous to the touch with a strange fragility, and an unexpected lightness which makes them feel almost like a hardened sponge in your palm.
From the top, the water is a brilliant aqua green reflecting images of moss and trees above. However, from the base it’s so crystal clear I can see straight down to the bottom.
Access to most areas is pretty good. Well-worn paths provide eager tourists the opportunity to explore from crest to bowl. We start by descending into the magnificent belly catching an impetuous skate across loose gravel from time to time. A few speckled fish ripple the surface here and there, but void of their disruption the pool is perfectly still.
From down here, people exploring the rim appear dangerously close to the edge; however, the upper path actually sits back a ways from the fringe and giant boulders provide ample separation from the fall zone. Nevertheless, I somehow find myself having to remind Paul over and over again to stay within the confines of the safe area. He begrudgingly complies; however, at one point he ignores my warnings, sliding out across the rolling gravel onto the cusp in search of the perfect picture of his boots on the steepest edge. Fortunately, hunger is a pretty good motivator and I’m able to woo him back to the car with a promise of lunch.
Our first planned meal of the trip is at Friðheimar’s about 30 minutes away. Although this restaurant is not close to any other attractions it gets great reviews and we are all eager to try tomato themed cuisine inside its greenhouse.
Friðheimar’s is the largest tomato greenhouse in the country producing over 18% of all tomatoes consumed in Iceland. With advanced ecofriendly biological controls and open access its a great place to eat and explore. The greenhouse is heated by geothermal water which circulates though pipes at 200 degrees F that keeps the temperature a tomato perfect 78 degrees year round. Bumble bees shipped in weekly from Denmark pollinate the plants while the Macrolophus pygmaeus, a little green predatory bug provides organic pest control.
The lunch menu consists of tomato soup with cucumber salsa, fresh ravioli with homemade pasta sauce, grilled tortillas with tomato, basil and mozzarella and home baked bread with fresh butter and herbs. We try them all! And for dessert, tomato and apple pie à la Friðheimar with whipped cream and cheesecake with jam of green-tomato, cinnamon and lime served in little terra cotta pots.
My favorite part of the whole experience has to be the bumble bees. Who doesn’t love these fat fuzzy friends. Its so much fun to watch them wiggle in and out of their hives and fly around haphazardly in blissful reverberation. They will even tolerate a gentle pat, but only once. Repeated petting will get you a swift kick on the finger with one of their sticky black legs.
Having well exceeded our daily food allowance on tomatoes, we decide dinner will be a lowkey local favorite. Who knew Icelanders consume more Coca Cola products per capital than any other country and that they love hot dogs more than we do! Made mostly from Icelandic lamb, along with pork and beef (all free range of course) they do differ a bit from your classic American dog but are certainly delicious. This fast food favorite is served on a warm, steamed bun topped with raw white onions and crispy fried onions, ketchup, sweet brown mustard called pylsusinnep, and remoulade, a sauce made with mayo, capers, mustard, and herbs. No complaints here!