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Chamber trip to Iceland finds ‘magical place’

Staff report

Nine people took part in the Rowan County Chamber of Commerce’s trip to Iceland on April 15-21.

Participants were Amie Morgan Baudoin, Patty Crocker, C.C. Crofton, Lisa and Richard Painter, Cyndi Osterhus, Keyth Kahrs and Elaine Spalding.

They were part of a larger tour group with the Pittsburgh Airport Chamber. The trip was offered through Aventura World, which works with chamber of commerce groups across the county.

“Iceland is a magical place — a land of geysers, glaciers, volcanoes, epic sagas, heroic legends, elves and trolls!” said Spalding, Rowan Chamber president.

She described Iceland as “an otherworldly place” where people can swim in geothermal-heated pools, trek across a mossy lava field and drive over a glacier, all in one day.

“Participants were enchanted by the striking and raw beauty of this extraordinary and geologically young island,” Spalding said.

Iceland has an equally rich cultural life, from medieval sagas to contemporary novels. “The effortless style of the local people is simply mesmerizing, as is their friendly and self-reliant spirit,” she said.

Highlights of the tour included the Viking World Museum, City Tour of Reykjavik, Golden Circle Tour including Thingvelir National Park, Gullfoss “Golden” Waterfall, and Great Geysire Geothermal Area, South Coast tour including Seljalanfoss and Skogafoss Waterfalls and the Thermal Pools of the Blue Lagoon.

Iceland fun facts to know:

  • Population for the entire country of Iceland is 330,000; two-thirds of those live in Reykjavik.
  • Kronas are the nation’s currency, although credit cards are accepted for most purchases. The exchange rate was $1 U.S. to 100.546 krona (a very expensive cost of living, according to Spalding).
  • There are very few trees in Iceland; the Vikings cut the trees down for housing and they have such harsh conditions, it’s hard to regrow them. Also, sheep eat whatever sprouts up.
  • Driftwood became a valuable commodity, not just for fuel but also to create household tools and boat components. Landowners would mark their stash of driftwood with their brand — to come back and retrieve more for continued use.
  • Many rural Icelanders lived in sod-covered huts until the mid-1940s. The British and then Americans occupied the island during World War II. The U.S. Navy built much of the infrastructure that launched the country into the 20th century.
  • Iceland has an average of one homicide per year and is a very safe place to travel.
  • To purchase a firearm, you have to undergo a mental examination and rigorous testing. First, you apply for a .22 caliber gun and/or slide action/single load shotgun with waiting period of two/three years before next acquiring a high-velocity handgun or high-powered hunting rifle(s).
  • Energy is completely geothermal — hot water and electric provided from the underground source — magma. Energy plants drill down to hot layers in earth, water and heat create steam which is forced through turbines to create electricity. Hot water is combined with cold to pump through systems that run into living structures throughout populated areas. So, energy is affordable and plentiful.

The Rowan Chamber has conducted trips to Cuba, Peru and now Iceland. A trip to Tuscany is planned for 2019. If you are interested in the international trips, contact Elaine Spalding at 704-633-4221 or espalding@rowanchamber.com

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