Iceland


This is part duex of the Goecco Adventure tour we took to the Snaefellsnes peninsula. Part one was the last post on this blog. So onward little vikings! The next place we visited was the church where Jonas and his wife got married. It was a very picturesque place with magnificent views of Snaefellsnes and the coast as well as some of the many gorgeous waterfalls dotting the hillsides. We walked around and went into a shop that a locally known witch owns. I’m not into that stuff but she had some cute plants growing out of old boots.

Next up was an area of the coast with cool rock formations—the basalt rocks that form due to the volcanic eruptions could be seen here. After first taking in the Snaefellsness Viking god statue, we walked along the cliff side (not ski-boot friendly terrain) in the rain. It was worth it to see the colors and shapes of the coast line. My patient group of friends waited for me to finally get in the van and we headed on to the black beach.

It was raining super hard when we got to the black beach so my leg and I limped only a little of the way. The rest of the crew went down for awhile to soak up the energy of the black rock beach—supposedley it’s one of those “energy” places around the earth—kind of like Sedona is. I thought is was nice and took a walk around the top area where once again I could see numerous faces and characters in the various rocks and landscape.

The sun came up just in time for us to get a fabulous view of the Snaefellsness glacier. As we drove, the scenery just changed from beautiful to a different kind of beautiful. Our final stop of the day is ahead—at a local farm. We get out to see a yard full of the unique and wonderful Icelandic horses that we’ve seen everywhere on our trip. Amy is going to partake in a trail ride while the rest of us tour the farm and pet the dogs. Yup, they had those friendly dogs we saw previously on our trip. They are super friendly and cute. We walked along the coast—the farm was on the water with the glaciers and mountains on the other side—not a bad way to live if you ask me.

Back in the garage of the barn, Ymir and Villi were cooking up some treats for us on the grill. Jonas offered up something that appeared to be chunks of delicious steak. It was delicious but it turned out to be whale. I know what you’re thinking but it was good and they assured us that the whaling laws in effect prevent the species from being endangered. Give me some more! I have to say that the meal they served us was one of the best I’ve ever had. Juicy lamb and perfectly grilled cod, tasty potato salad from the restaurant Dill, one of Iceland’s top-rated establishments, and salad, veggies, and wine rounded out the mouth-watering experience that was our dinner. Can’t say enough about how fun that was. We met another family from Colorado and Nebraska that were on our tour but traveling in another van. Nice people, just like everyone we met there.

Time to head back home. The tour took longer than anticipated and we hugged Jonas goodbye sometime around midnight or later. What a fabulous day. A great tour, great guides, and yet again, stunning beauty everywhere. Thanks guys!

Beautiful scenery on the Snaefellsnes peninsula.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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July 28, 2011

Just us hippies, outlaws, and snuffleupagas’.

Posted by Grendel's Mother under adventure, Friends, Iceland, travel
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This is Jonas’ Saga. Just kidding—Jonas was our tour guide for tour number three—day four in Iceland. I found Jonas’ group online—the Goecco Outdoor Adventure tours. What got us interested was that their promotional copy said they would take us to “secret places.” Now during the booking process, I noticed that Jonas was a pretty laid back guy and was worried at first that he wouldn’t show up or our tour would be cancelled for some random reason. No worries—although he is a self-described “hippy and conspiracy theorist” he’s also a very responsible businessman who is well attuned to delivering exceptional customer service and protecting his business.  

Jonas picks us up at 8 a.m. in a mini van that we will be sharing with a nice couple from New York. I get to sit in the front for a lot of trip and am entertained with Jonas’ view about the irresponsible spending of the Icelandic people and the lack of attention drawn to the economic disaster that they are in. Between politics and history he slips in the “we didn’t go to the moon” theory, but overall he was a fascinating character and we had a wonderful day.

Our trip was north east to the Snaefellsnes peninsula. At first—and still a bit today—we didn’t know how to pronounce it so we were calling it Snuffleupagus (you know the Sesame Street character). Anyhoo, the volcanic glacier of the same name is where Jules Verne’s characters in the Journey to the Center of the Earth actually enter the path to the center of the earth.

Our first stop was Borgarnes—a town just on the other side of the whale-fjord which we drove underneath saving us hours of time. A bit up the road we stopped off along a beautiful river flowing around a house where a few guys were fishing for our dinner that evening. With the Lupin dotting the foreground and the mountains providing the background, it was a lovely photo op and chance to take in some truly fresh air.

On to the drive through the lava fields toward the fire volcano. This was truly mouth dropping pretty. Despite my ski-boot wrapped ankle, I hiked up this red crater following my friends to get a better, then more better view of the sorrounding countryside. The lava fields had some kind of addicitive power. They were just a bunch of craggly rocks covered with moss but it was ever changing and everywhere. I coudn’t stop clicking away on my camera because each scene changed and presented something unique to look at. While standing on this red fire crater, we could see miles of the lava fields to the green and ice covered volcanoes that once spewed forth the lava before us. After getting our fill, we drove on through the lava field to one of the secret places.

Jonas began by telling us of a story about vikings killing outlaws around the year 1200. This was the place because there have been some ancient artifacts dug up in the area providing credence to the tale. And here, in the middle of nowhere was a nice naturally occuring hot spring. Amy, Jen and I (and the husband of the couple) changed behind the van (not all together at once mind you) and settled into the hot spring for a relaxing dip. Jonas served some rather decent wine (out of a box in plastic cups) and some shark. The shark did not smell good but I tried it anyway and it tasted like crab. Yummy. Some of the others did not think it was good. To each his own I guess. While we bathed, Jonas got out his metal detector to look for any ancient relics that might still be buried in the area.  The bugs were a plenty and Butter was wrapped up like Yenta and taking our pictures for us. So time to get out and head for the beach area where the seals hang out.

Jonas offered us some sandwich type snacks as we searched the rocks and saw a couple of seals off in the distance. The beach was interesting, full of colorful kelp like stuff. It was an okay stop and more lovely views to see.

For now that’s it. This was a very long day, so hang in there with me—some great things are coming. I’ll tell the rest of the Goecco day in the next post. Coming up: energy rocks, whale meat, and more.

Amy on our first stop where they were catching our fish for dinner.

 

Walking around the fire crater on the Snaefellsnes tour.

 

Beautiful Iceland

 

 

The secret hot spring in the middle of nowhere.

 

Moss covered lava field on the Snaefellsnes tour.

  

July 26, 2011

Puffins, trolls, and Bob. More adventures in Iceland.

Posted by Grendel's Mother under adventure, Iceland, travel
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Day three of the grand tour of Iceland and Norway. Our third day and second tour was to the south of Iceland. This time our guide was 180 degrees opposite of the first tour guide. This guy talked and talked and talked. And his name was Bob. Bob from America came to Iceland and fell in love with the country and then an Icelandic woman and never left. We got some great background on this tour and met a few really nice couples who shared our bus.

Our first stop was the magnificent waterfall called Seljalandsfoss. The guide told me I would not be able to go on the path behind the waterfall to which I replied, “Huh, we’ll see.” I got up to the path and wondered how anyone—bum leg or not—got up and down the treacherous path. So I went the other way and got a great view on top of a tall platform. I stopped when the mud started but got a good laugh at the two Japanese dudes in suits who navigated the path down—arms flailing to their sides. Hilarious. The entire area was a vision of green carpeted cliffs, wildflowers, and water. While Amy and Jen scoped out behind the falls, Butter and I took photos in front. I scooped out some crystal clear water from the creek that flowed from the waterfall that flowed from the glaciers above. It was drinkable so I had some and then brought it home for a time when we will not have any drinkable water. The last of it will be in my bottle on my shelf.

That was some of the last sun we saw that day. On the way to the next stop Bob pointed out the volcano Eyjafjallajökull and we asked to stop there. We could see the glacier above the volcano in the background of a sprawling farm. It was very cool standing in front of this famous glacier/volcano and Bob gave everyone a lesson in how to pronounce it. I already knew how—you know from those geeky science shows I was watching prior to the trip. No one was impressed. Oh well.

Next up, we were going to the coast to hopefully see some puffins. By now the wind was howling and the rain was pounding. I managed to click a few shots in the vicinity of where the puffins were nesting. The sea was beautiful despite the rain but the van was a welcome refuge. There was a unique rock, Dyrhólaey, standing up and out of the sand. We took some quick photos and made our way to the comfort of a warm lunch.

After lunch I walked to a beach with black sand. The waves were rough and there was a river of water cutting through the black sand that looked stunning with the green background of the hills behind. There were some cool sea stacks in the distance. We moved on to the town of Vik and some of our group ventured out over some tough terrain to sea some caves, trolls, and basalt rocks that form from the volcanic eruptions. If you are interested, they make some beautiful formations—some of which we saw the next day and in other areas of Iceland. (More geeky stuff that looks beautiful.)

Moving on, we stopped at the glacier snout of Sólheimajökull. In our minds we were thinking of bright white snow like expanses. This was more like what D.C. looked like about a week after snowpocalypse in 2010. Mounds of dirt covered ice and snow. Okay, it wasn’t that bad and there were some really cool formations in the ice. But next time I’m going to one of the big glaciers they have there.

The rain lightened up a bit and we finished our day at another gorgeous waterfall called Skógafoss. This one had a path that went way up to the top. I chose to stay below and see how close I could get to the falls. As everywhere, I kept seeing some funny faces in the landscape—this one was a big troll like head. I’ll post photos of all the funny faces in another post so you don’t think I’m completely crazy.

Once again, a big two thumbs up for the natural beauty of Iceland. And this time, our tour—Go Travel Iceland (gti) was very good. I do recommend them!

Back at Inga’s we decide to go out to have a nice meal. On our way to dinner, a nice couple passed by us and gave a hearty hello to Amy. I asked her who they were and she said, “Oh, that’s [Cindy and Dave].” When I asked where she met them she said they got to know each other at the bottom of that volcanic crater the other day [Kerid].” Yes, Amy can make friends in three seconds with anyone, anywhere.

Back to dinner…we ate at a swanky type place called Domo’s. I had a very expensive and delicious meal of lamb and some lobster meat. The lamb was very yummy but I could pass on the lobster stuff they had. The other girl’s liked their meals as well. Then on to home base. Many people have asked me if I could sleep while I was there. My usual reply is I don’t sleep much anyway, but yes, I did have trouble going to bed. I think I just didn’t want to miss anything and it felt like I might since it never quite got dark. But I loved it all the same.

Next time we go exploring with our pals at Goecco!

Seljalandsfoss. A beautiful waterfall on the south coast tour of Iceland

Seljalandsfoss. Amy and Jen behind the falls.

 

Eyjafjallajökull in the background of this farm.

 
 

Skógafoss

Seljalandsfoss. A beautiful waterfall on the south coast tour of Iceland.

 

Our awesome guide, Bob.

 

Dyrhólaey.

 

July 24, 2011

All kinds of mouth-watering eruptions going on in the Golden Circle.

Posted by Grendel's Mother under adventure, Iceland, travel
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The saga continues…day two of our fantastic trip to Iceland and Norway.

The Golden Circle Tour is very popular in Iceland. It covers some of the big highlights and every tourist company covers these hot spots and calls their tour, the Golden Circle Tour. It may be full of tourists but if you go to Iceland I do recommend it. Having said that, make sure to pick a tour company that is good—not the one we took.

So, day two we begin the day by waiting for the bus to pick us up at Inga’s. And then we wait and wait. They got the wrong address but after my call they finally came back around and we get on our way to the first stop at Thingvelir National Park. We were expecting to hear the driver talk about things we were passing or give us some history behind where we were going—maybe even an overview of the day’s schedule. That was not to happen. All day. Nothing.

Okay then. First stop was Thingvelir, the site of the world’s first parliament. Beginning in 930 AD, each year, the Icelanders would gather (at what was known as the Althing) to hammer out disagreements and vote on issues—one being if they would adopt Christianity or not and how that adoption would play out in their laws. It was very cool—lots of rock formations, a river, and mountains in the background. During the Althing, each family would dig in and stay in “booths.”

Coincidentally also at this site is a split in the earth—a place that the earth is actually forming and expanding the land mass of Iceland. The North American and Eurasian tectonic plates come together here and because of the unique nature of Iceland—being located over a hot spot where there is a massive lava plume coming up from inside the earth, the lava comes up and new land is formed and the earth seems to split apart. I watched an episode on the history or science channel about it and thought it was cool. Evidently I was the only one who thought it was cool. Anyway, we got back on the bus—amazingly we all found it because the driver did  not tell everyone where he would be—and went on to another site close by where we got some great shots of a huge and deep lake formed from glacial ice melting.

As the rain began, the tour continued to the erupting geyser. Guess what it was called. Don’t know? Geysir. Seems that our word for erupting water spouts comes from the old Viking term that means the same thing. This one was the “great geysir.” What I saw looked like an ice version of that sand monster in Star Wars—the one that Jabba the Hut tried to throw Luke into but he and Han and Leah and Lando all escaped. Anyway, it sort of bubbled up like it was blowing a water bubble or burping then BOOM! Didn’t see much at that point—just a lot of water on my camera lens. But it was pretty neat four minutes later when it erupted again.

So we passed up a cool gift shop and warm yummy food at the geysir because the tour driver said the next place was better. Turned out the line was huge, the food was not better and the gift shop was no good. Thanks dude—very helpful. After lunch we walked through the pounding wind and rain to see a gorgeous waterfall. It’s called Gulfoss (I think foss is the word for water fall). I hobbled down the stone path and was rewarded with a brilliant view of a tremendous and huge waterfall that cascaded down a wide river into a narrow gulf surrounded by luscious green hills. Magnificent. Truly breathtaking.

Back in the bus, we got to chatting with the other travelers. One young woman was on her own—originally from down under but working in London. So she had popped on over to Iceland for the long weekend. Must be nice. Another couple was from Seattle. Very nice people—we ended up seeing them again later on. I know we have photos of everyone somewhere and Amy surely has all their e-mail addresses. We got to know each other very well at the next stop—since we were there for about two hours more than is usually recommended for the tour. The Kerið volcano.

Kerið was a stunning crater volcano—with reds and greens and blues dotting the inside of the crater. The bottom of the crater was filled with brilliant blue water. Some young soul went swimming but we passed on that. Amy and Jen hiked to the bottom and got some great shots there. I spent a lot of time at the crater petting one of the cutest dogs I’ve ever seen. This poor thing looked abandoned and was greeting every single car as if it held its owner. Really friendly and cute! The reason we were there so long was that our tire blew out. Earlier I noticed the windshield wipers weren’t really working which troubled me considering how hard it was raining.

Once the tire was fixed we were on our way to some gift shop. The tour promoted it as a greenhouse. Okay, sure. Then on the way home we passed by a plant where they produce a lot of the energy that is used to heat the homes in Iceland. They all use geothermic energy so their bills are only a few dollars a month. Nice!

So, in conclusion—I give two thumbs up to the beautiful wonders of Iceland as well as their historic landmarks. But an absolute minus zero to the Time / Timi tour group. The driver did not speak more than about five words the entire time and they had a major equipment failure among other things.

After the tour we decided to reward ourselves with a trip to one of the geothermic pools. We soaked in the hot tubs and swam a few laps. These hot tubs are known to be a place where Icelanders gather to gossip and talk politics. We talked to a few people but mostly just soaked our bones. On the way back we had a nice conversation with our cab driver. He told us he was in love with a girl from the Miami area who had gotten in his cab one day. When I saw he was learning to speak Spanish I asked if she was Cuban and he was shocked that I would guess that. Dude—I’m pretty sure the only people who speak Spanish in Miami are Cuban decent. Anyway, I couldn’t pronounce the street we lived on but luckily Amy had taken a photo of it. Phew. But first—we wanted dinner and we wanted to try out the famous hot dog stand.

The driver knew where it was so we offered to buy him a dog if he would take us there first. Yes, the hot dogs were very yummy!! I think it had more to do with the toppings but we all would highly recommend the hot dogs at Bæjarins beztu pylsur. The name translates to “the best hot dog in town.” Brilliant. Another wonderful day in Iceland!

 

 

 
 
 
 
 

July 16, 2011

Hop on, hop off. Adventures in Reykjavik.

Posted by Grendel's Mother under adventure, Friends, Iceland, travel
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On our first full day in Iceland we toured the quaint and lovely city of Reykjavik (pronounced rake ee uh vik). It really seemed more like a town. Our apartment was only a few easy blocks away from the downtown area—close enough to walk, far enough not to hear the very late night partying. Before hopping on the hop on, hop off bus, we found to our amusement a U.S Coast Guard tall ship docked in the harbor. Okay, come thousands of miles to tour a Coast Guard ship that hails from Connecticut. But on to the local landmarks…

First stop, the Iceland National Museum. They have collections from waaaaay back when the Vikings landed and kicked the little Irish monks out. I was delighted to get some history lessons here as well as see the fascinating works of art they created. The Vikings called the monks, Papar.  Now I see where the words papist, pastor, father, etc. could possible have come from. There were cases full of weapons, jewelry, household goods, and more. But what really got me was the collection of horns. Some were drinking horns and others made to hold gunpowder. They were stunning—carved from wood and ivory in delicate, beautiful patterns. The Vikings also carved chests, door posts, chairs, and other items. There were also sections that covered how Christianity came to Iceland and seemingly spread fast and far. Some of that had to do to with the democratic society set up in ancient Iceland—but more of that later. In any event, the the Lutherans won out in the end. A great stop on our tour—the museum was two thumbs up!

So back to the hop on, hop off bus and our next stop, the Perlan. The Perlan is an observation deck, restaurant, and saga museum that of course—why not—sits on top of several very large water tanks high up on a hill with a view over the entire city. It was a sunny, perfect day to see the colors of the Lupin flowers (weed actually) laid out in front of the cityscape and ocean beyond. I dragged my fellow travelers into the saga museum which consisted of some interesting exhibits of various characters from real life Icelandic history as well as their epic sagas. Just in case you’re not sure what a saga is, it’s a fictional story about bigger-than-life characters from around the turn of the first millennium. These sagas were written about 700-800 years ago and are a chief source of pride for many Icelanders. I have read a few and while interesting, they aren’t quite as exciting as Harry Potter or the Lord of the Rings (or even Beowulf for that matter). The style of the story telling is unique but it does give you a sense of the mind of an ancient Icelandic author telling an old tale. The museum was interesting enough. Kind of like the sagas—not quite Disney World but worth a trip (in my opinion).

So after the museums and scanning the city from far above, we ran to catch the bus. The bus driver lady was a bit put out by having to wait an extra 20 seconds while I hobbled my way to the door in my big ol’ ski boot (see previous post about bum leg). We all agreed that we didn’t think she liked her job too much.

Oh well, time for lunch and a chance to sample the menu at the highly recommended Icelandic Fish and Chips restaurant. The food was very tasty and the customer service was good (they were helpful about my leg—unlike a certain bus driver). My fish was a bit watery for me but good nonetheless (the sauces that came with it were good) and lots of people love it.

Now off to the Hallgrims church. First we had to wait for a funeral to end, but then we got to go in to explore and rode up to the top where there was an observation deck that kind of reminded me of the one in the Washington Monument. The views were fantastic of course and the church itself was a wonder of modern architecture. I’ve actually never seen a church that had windows in the front. It also had a huge pipe organ. Quite pretty.

From there we walked on home. While walking down our street, several cats came out to say hello. I wasn’t sure if they were feral and looking for a treat or just friendly like their human counterparts. One night when Amy and I came home I swear we were being seduced by a little “hooker” cat. She was standing on the corner and when she saw us, came right over and meowed. I patted her but Amy (smartly so) said with a smile, “I’m not touching that thing.” Little miss prostitute cat then ran ahead of us and proceeded to lie down and roll around showing us all her pretty parts like she was displaying her wares. Yup. Hooker cat.

We spent a relaxing night at the apartment laughing and having a dinner that was a tasty mix of cheese and fruit from the store—too tired to go out! Next up…the “magic bus” and the Golden Circle Tour.

 
 

Amy emerging from the Icelandic Fish and Chips restaurant

 
 
 

Butter and Jen do the sailor impression. Lots of fishermen in Iceland!

 

The street we lived on. Quaint sitting places dotted the area.

 

Hallsgrim Church. Some reseblance to the basalt rock formations off the coast.

 

The Perlan

 

The observation deck of the Perlan. The windows reflect the pretty sky.

 

The good ol hop on hop off double decker bus.

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