Featured Post

Dubrovnik back to Budapest

View from Cavtat Harbor toward the Hills The owner of Villa Olav & Jo  say their goodbyes Today we left Dubrovnik, fly...

Monday, April 24, 2017

Reykjavik Redux

Not the first monument in the boonies we've seen this trip

Mated pair of elves

In Iceland Ila and I left no STONE un-turned in investigating the existence of the ever secretive Icelandic elves. True, we're BOULDER than most in presenting such cryptozoological evidence, but there you go!

A lone Bull Elf

No really. Whether you believe us ORE not, we saw these 3 elves right out in the open. These photos are absolute, ROCK solid proof of the existence of Elves on Iceland.

That's enough of that.

Today we completed the last of Iceland's Ring Road, which took us back to Reykjavik. We saw a lot on our way aside from wayward elves.

The weather was sunny today and it was a great birding day.

Barnacle & Pink Footed Geese
The Barnacle Geese are stunning birds
Pony-tailed Tufted Ducks and a couple of Slovian Grebes aka Eared Grebes at the rear
We passed a cute valley where there was a circular coral for sheep sorting on a ranch.
Sheep sorting pens in Réttir, a northern valley
North Atlantic scenery or Wyoming interior shot? You tell me!

Right around the time we viewed the elves crossing the roadway (or was I just sleepy and imagined it all?) a sign featuring a massive seal stood.

A Seal Center! Sounded like a 'must happen' side trip to me. So off we drove to the town of Hvammstangi.

Our time at the Seal Center was brief. There was a souvenir shop and Ila gave me a gift of a cool book on unusual foods of Iceland.

Then being eager to see the seal exhibit, I bought a 5 Krona ticket to it. I took one step into the show area and froze - could NOT force myself to move forward into exhibit that featured taxidermied seals. Sheepishly, I backed out. The ticket vendor lady told me I wasn't the first person to freeze, unable to enter the exhibit area. I've often heard people say they felt 'negative energy' and boy howdy, I now know what they mean. Talk about unexpected & discombobulating experiences.
Photo of stuffed, 'Claire-repellent' seals at the center (taken from center website)
 On our way back out of Hvammstangi we stopped a likely wool goodies target area.

It was the Kidka wool factory. There was a little shopping area up front with woolen garments and thingmabobs, and a HUGE wool factory in the rear or the building. We were welcomed to enter the factory work floor for a look around. 

Someone gave into temptation, buying the largest sized T-shirt they had, all about the volcano that erupted in 2010

The remainder of the trek to Reykjavik was fun, with continuing bouts of spectacular scenery.

We stopped for lunch as a nifty restaurant/hotel that raised its own veggies, cattle and piggies.
There, we enjoyed what is arguably the best hamburger I've ever eaten. They raise their own veggies and burgers on the hoof.

The same restaurant featured artwork by the entrance, on the numerous types of fairy tale/cryptic/indigenous beings of Iceland. I took photos of all the beings because they were too interesting/cute to ignore.

Here's one of the wee folk.There are many different species, living in hillocks, mounds and rocks. There are 6 different types of elf beings. They make use of physical matter to bond to the environment but appear on the mental plane.

Hermits are hairy, dwarf-like and appear to be ancient. The Hermit here at Hraunsnef is around 300 years old and he is this area's guardian. He is solitary and needs to be approached with respect and care as he does not like to be disturbed when he is immersed in his reading. But do try to have a quick peek into his abode.

Driving back to Reykjavik took us through the 2nd... 3rd? Long Massive tunnel with a tunnel fee of a whopping 10 Krona.

 Once in the tunnel, it seemed to go on forever. I joked that the fee was 'one Krona per mile'. After five minutes, I decided my joke was truth!
It took us 7 minutes to get through the tunnel
Following our 'tunnel' adventure, we made it back to Reykjvik. There we claimed our room at the 'City Park Hotel'. Checked in, we were off again for a stroll downtown.
Downtown Reykjavik
View towards the Harbor and the Atlantic Ocean
Old timey whimey view of downtown Reykjavik
There are many Murals
and lots of murals
The I DON'T SPEAK ICELANDIC souvenir Store
I love this poster in a store window
Wow. How often do you see Martin Luther toys?
This has been a long post, apropos for a long day - and we only have one more full day to enjoy here. We had dinner at a deli around the corner from our hotel. It served simple, local food, and we figured it was good food as there were several off duty Iceland policemen eating there, as well as many bachelors. I must say, we were the best looking women in the joint!

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Why it's Called 'Iceland'

Wow! We've had a few snow flurries this week, but today's onslaught of the fluffy white stuff was dazzling. We navigated via GPS which took us up on a high plateau of roadway. Driving at one point I stared at the swirling snow, looking like styrofoam-gone-wild in front of me. It gave me an Alfred Hitchcock level of vertigo. My brain momentarily swam in a blizzard of dizziness.


And more ice.
 I think that today is the day Iceland decided to demand our respect for the power of ice & snow. Um... yes, and all I have to say about that is thank heavens I thought to don my long johns this morning.
check out the temperature
Minus 8 degrees centigrade is equal to 17.6 degrees Fahrenheit, or as they say in Iceland, ' a mite nippy out' (give or take an umlat). Honestly, for all that cold, it didn't seem too frigid to me, aka 'she who sets her thermostat at 55'.

Coming downhill off the mountain, we stopped at a scenic vista parking lot. Below us spread the ironic view of natural Icelandic hot springs in the snow filled, icy plain,
Steam rising from geothermal springs

close-up of thermal springs

Mývatn geothermal springs are famous for their hot bathes, beloved by tourists. The warm waters are around 96 degrees Fahrenheit to 104 degrees (yikes!). We opted to skip the hot springs and even if we wanted to use them, we hadn't made the v. necessary reservations - maybe next time.

Continuing on our way to our evening stop in Akureyri we stopped to look at a short wall composed of volcanic rock. No signage here so no way of knowing 'the tale of the serpentine rock wall.' 
Eyjafjörður Fjord visible in the background
Just behind the lava rock wall is the source of the rocks, the Hverfjal Volcano.
Hverfjal Volcano - awesome!
In the afternoon we visited Goðafoss falls. Icelandic legend tells at in the year 1000, give or take a eon, a heathen badass tribal chieftain hurled statues of Icelandic gods into the frosty waters. The toss symbolized Christianity replacing the old gods. Goðafoss  means 'Waterfall of the gods'.
Goðafoss, a beautiful horseshoe shaped falls
The falls are located on the mighty Skjalfandafljot River.
A little foot bridge crossing the Skjalfandafljot River. 
We left the beautiful falls and headed to our hotel for the night, located in Akureyi. Driving around the curve of a low hill a estuary and mudflats came into view, our target town. An estuary? HURRAH! You better believe I quickly parked on the miracle - a road shoulder - and began to photograph the little birds that scarpered along the mudflats.
Black-tailed Godwit
Common Ringed Plover
Black-headed Gulls
Prowling Eurasian Oystercatchers
Later we entered the town of Akureyi, located in north central Iceland. At the Akurevi Hotel, we were offered rooms on either the third or the forth floors. As there was no elevator, I whined a bit, then we climbed up the long staircases to see the rooms.

Well, bless my lazy arse, it was the 4th floor room we went for, climb up & all (I know!). It was large with a vaulted ceiling & a cool, circular window with curtains.

the 2nd window had a lovely view of the Egilsstaðir fjord

This is the most unique and interesting room for this trip, we've has thus far. And although there was only single bedded rooms available (didn't book ahead) at least the bed was large enough to allow us each enough space to preserve our dignity (feel free to giggle a little).

After we'd hauled our bags up to this aerial room, we took a drive around the town for the hell of it. We were pleased to find some more Icelandic Elf houses, all located in residence yards.
Cute Turf House, 'home sweet home' for an elf or two
Upscale and colorful Elf dwelling
It is a fact that 70% of Icelandics believe in elves. It is argued, that as road building in Iceland is sometimes held up by 'elves' in residence in rocks along the projected roadways, surely there must be elves, otherwise why would the Icelandic central government hold up their projects to appease the mighty mites? While you puzzle that out, I will say that the houses we've seen thus far are adorable, and if I were an elf, I'd set up housekeeping in one.

Akureyrarkirkja - Lutheran Church

Akureyi is the second largest Icelandic city after Reykjavik. It's most striking feature was located near where we had dinner. It's Akureyrarkirkja - a large Lutheran Church, .

Akureyri downtown scenery - ooooh I so love stone paving
The harbor is at the side of the town
The sign on the right reads 'Public Library' in English. What the...?
A little window shopping

We did some souvenir shopping. I had to turn my back on loads of cool stuff. Did get my
'obligatory' Cloisonné pins because its the law. Sort of.

After strolling about downtown, we were hungry. We scrutinized  menus outside of several of the restaurants. Again, the target was interesting food that is typically Icelandic. With a little luck, maybe there'd be a restaurant serving a lovely cold  Hákarl (rotted shark) salad, some succulent Hangikjöt (smoked lamb) or perhaps a nice bowl of fresh Ábrystir (sheep's colostrum pudding) -  or not.

We saw these menus. Tempting... but I'm not eating anything related to Mr. Ed.

Surprisingly, I turned my nose up at the Grilled Whale. Told it was Minke Whale (not endangered). No crossing the line to the 'dark side for me today.

I tried the Guillemot, which is a wild sea bird. Consider that these birds dive and fly over as well as under water. That means they have oxygenated muscle that yields quite dark meat, in the manner of beef. Here is my dinner. Ila had the same.

Icelandic Guillemot

That, you must admit is one yummy
looking meal. It lived up to its looks.

This is what the guillemot looked like as I attacked it. It might gross some out, but to me that is the look of 'YUM'!

I thought it tasted like beef. Ila - obviously having a more delicate palate than my raccoon-like sensibilities, said the bird's meat tasted of anchovies.

It was later in the evening that I checked on my European birds iPhone app, that I realized that Guillemot is what we in the States call the Common Murre. That info totally horrified me as I adore Common Murres. Had I known that I'd have had the lamb shanks instead. Oh well. Earth Mother forgive my carnivorous heart!

A quick video showing snow on the highway and the Goðafoss waterfalls in action. For the full effect I strongly recommend using full screen here (click on the bottom rightmost square).