EDITOR’S NOTE: Burien resident Fred Feiertag’s column for The B-Town Blog will help you start your week every Monday. Fred shares his observations, travel stories, musings, wanderings and more…
Story & Photos by Fred Feiertag
After the grandeur of Gullfoss and the spectacle of Geysir we said our farewell to such dramatic displays. Now we were on the road back to Reykjavik. There was more to see on our route and our driver, Snori, was not about to skip what was to come.
Iceland has so many contrasts. Being a lightly populated island north of usual routes, it has to be very self-sufficient wherever practical. During my visits, the somewhat limited bills of fare that make up the traditional diet are easy to understand. It’s the twenty first century and much more variety is possible with modern forms of international commerce. Iceland still manages to feed themselves with only a few significant exceptions. It is nearly impossible to grow grain in their cold climate and nearly all is imported. Most fresh fruits are as well with some interesting exceptions. Wild berries are a common food in the stores, restaurants, and homes. Native berries such as crow berry, bilberry, and wild strawberry are all used. Most other fruits are imported. Vegetables and greens are increasingly being grown in geothermal heated greenhouses.
It so happened that we stopped at a commercial greenhouse that specializes in tomatoes. The operation was obviously a serious industry. Friðheimar farm was the place we stopped to see. There we found over 60,000 square feet of greenhouses. The operation produces nearly 90% of the tomatoes consumed in Iceland. None are exported. They also grow cucumbers on a smaller scale. Each greenhouse is heated by geothermal heated water from a well on the property. The artificial lights are powered by hydro power from a nearby river. Water to grow the tomatoes is also from the same glacier-fed river. The quality of this produce couldn’t be higher. They grow only four varieties of tomato. None of these are able to be transported very far. The desire to grow the very best is seen throughout.
This family-owned business is very savvy. They have added a very tourist friendly front to their farm. Inside one of the greenhouses is set a large number of tables. After a brief tour, we were invited to sit down at a table and have a sample of tomato soup. Large tureens were set with the hot soup and freshly baked bread. It was all you can eat. Local beer and other beverages were also to be found. It was a fine warm visit after the cold outdoors. The soup was excellent.
Fed, informed, and charmed we set out for the road back to the city. There was one more stop on the way and it was a nice sight to conclude the Golden Circle. Iceland has over 130 volcanoes, and some 30 of those are considered active in some degree. It is hard to go on a tour of the Icelandic countryside and not see, or pass, volcanoes. For that matter the entire island is a jumble of the outpourings of volcanoes. The oldest part of the island is 16 million years old and most much less than that. We stopped at a lovely example of a recently active volcano that is retired and now serves to dazzle passing tourists. Kerid’s crater is a small volcano cone with a lake inside. It is in a park next to our highway. Trails circle the crater providing great views. We had our chance to examine it but the wind rose, the temperature dropped and soon enough we were back in the mini bus heading to our lodging.