Snaefellsnes Peninsula


July 3: 002Our last long day on the road. When we started out,  I felt like we were on a road rally, which by the way I think Iceland would be a great place to rally, because we had a discrepancy between our map and the GPS (again). The only obstacle for a rally would be the lack of hotels for a big group.  The first part of the day was really not so interesting to us. We were in farm land with mountains in the background. Much like the western states in the US. However, the setting became more stunning as we drove along. Unfortunately, the weather and roads deteriorated. We drove wet, sometimes muddy gravel much of the way on route 54 with plenty of one lane bridges. (I washed the car twice today!)012

 

 

008We made a stop at Glaumbaer at a site which had been a farm for 900 years and is now a heritage museum. Many of the original sod houses and buildings have 007been restored to their original state.

 

 

We ate lunch in a small village along with the locals. Fish of course. I think it was Arctic Char and very fresh. 011

 

 

 

 

Before reaching our hotel, we drove 015through the Snaefellsjokull National Park with unusual landforms and lava fields. It is the oldest national park in Iceland and named for the 4446 m tall stratovolcano and glacier. It is popular with the paranormal community and in 1993 hundreds of UFO enthusiasts gathered in the  hopes of greeting alien visitors. They were disappointed.  We only made one stop because of weather but are lots of things to see here if you have the time.

Our hotel, Budir is the most elegant one on our trip. It is set on an isolated point on the Snaefrellsnes peninsula. 020023This is the view from the lounge. Dinner was excellent and well presented in a dining room looking over the water. Can’t say enough about this stop.

I must add one thing that in all our travels seems to be unique to Iceland. Each morning the breakfast buffet is complete with a bottle of Icelandic cod liver oil! 008

 

 

 

 

 

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Natural and Cultural Wonders


July 2: Still in Northern Iceland. Our travel guide suggested a stop at Gooafoss, the waterfall of the Gods. We hadn’t really intended to stop. We’ve seen a lot of waterfalls along the way and I have come to realize I like the small, narrow ones that cascade down rocky cliffs to the big ones. 011

However, Gooafoss can be easily seen from Highway 1 so it’s hard to miss. It’s horseshoe shape reminded me of Niagara Falls, just not so big. But the thing about Iceland as you can get up close to all these natural wonders. Guess they think if you chose to do so, you also assume your own risk. What a novel idea!  004

Our route took us off I, through the towns of Siglufjorour with its Herring Era Museum-we didn’t stop and Akureyri and eventually on to 76 where we encountered three tunnels. The longest was 8 km but the most tense was one that was one lane with pull offs for the car heading north-that was us. 009

Much of this country is farm land set among impressive mountain ranges, meaning we drove mountain roads with no guard rails.  I don’t know what is raised other than sheep, an abundance of Icelandic horses and even cows. Fields do yield hay and maybe wheat, but the growing season is so short we’ve not seen signs of anything else. By the time we reached Hofsos we were very hungry.

012Hofsos is a picturesque town on the water. Fishing seems to be the norm along here but there is also a thermal pool with a great view over the Arctic ocean. We didn’t go in, but on this Sunday, the pool definitely had more cars than any church. Religion doesn’t seem to have a big effect on people here. 010

Our final stop today was unexpected. We came across a vintage auto museum and Ed had a great time exploring. This upscale Opel was imported in Iceland by the German embassy and used by a German spy in WWII. After the war, it was discovered hidden in a stack of hay. They even had three Type 1 VW Beetles and I left our car with Stewball’s photo with their guest book. 017022

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We  are now at Hofsstadir Guesthouse  which has the reputation of an excellent restaurant. We look forward to that.

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Fjords and Fishing Villages


June 30, July 1: We are in picturesque Husavik, the “Whale Watching capital of Europe”.019

Everyday we learn more about Iceland. The population of Iceland goes like this. First are the sheep, second are horses and a distant third are people, tourists outnumbering Icelanders by a huge margin. I have nothing  to back this up but we have dodged free-range sheep and no people. 009

We drove through the densely forested area of Iceland. It took 15 minutes. That’s an exaggeration, 10 tops. So here is an Icelandic joke.

What do you do if you are lost in an Iceland forest?

Answer: Stand up.

If you have visited Iceland, you’ll get this, if you haven’t you need to know Iceland with all its vastness has almost no trees. No one has been able to give me a definite answer why. Perhaps the regular volcanic eruptions and ash, maybe the glaciers, maybe the long, dark winters, maybe Vikings or Trolls.

Next, we were under the impression (I’m sure I read this somewhere) that Highway 1 is asphalt all the way around Iceland. Well, it’s not. I turned the driving over to Ed and we had several hours of gravel-make that muddy- road. We also detoured onto 87 to get to Husavik on a shorter route which turned out to be a slower route because of the road conditions. But we learned something else. All the gas stations we have encountered have free self-serve car wash. It’s needed now in summer and I am sure this is worse in the winter. We have already washed the mud off our car twice! Not so worried about the car, but every time we get in or out, we get mud on ourselves.

So Husavik. It was primarily a fishing town, but now, the main economic support seems to be a perfect tourist destination for whale watching. It was windy, cold,  and misty but I decided to go. Ed, being the smarter, stayed in the hotel. This was the restored wooden boat I went on. 007

I was  hoping to see Puffins since our trip went to Puffin Island. The Puffin part was a disappointment. We saw hundreds of Puffins in the air and in the distance on the island but we were never close enough to get photos. I may end this trip with no Puffin photos. Whales on the other hand performed beautifully, my photos were not good because I was so excited to see them, that I was too late with my camera. You’ll have to trust me. I saw a lot of whale and got wet and cold from waves breaking over the bow of the boat. Define fun. 010

The day ended with dinner at the charming, water front Gamli Baukur restaurant made of driftwood. I can only say the atmosphere was better than the food. 005

Tomorrow across the top and on to Skagafjorour.

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Icebergs and Glaciers


June 29. We left our hosts from the Glacier View Guesthouse and drove through what can only be described as a lunar landscape. These are lava fields actually made of smooth, moss-covered rocks and nothing else. Miles of it. It reminded us of the desolate landscape of the Australian Outback but with snow-covered mountains as a backdrop. Nothing grows here.007

We drove the Golden Circle, the Ring Road, or Highway 1 to the Icelanders. The highway is good, smooth asphalt, one lane each way. But maybe the best thing is NO billboards to obstruct the landscape. There are only three things missing- shoulders, guard rails and two-lane bridges. Oh, and toilets at the parking areas. There doesn’t seem to be any particular pattern regarding  who gets to cross a bridge first, but drivers are polite and flash their headlights to let you know they are crossing. 008

The stop I wanted to make today was at the Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon at the southern edge of the Vatnajokull glacier. It was impressive. I have never seen huge chunks of glaciers floating in a lake. I watched one big chunk calve off and float away from the mother hunk. Kind of like a child leaving the nest.014

 

 

 

Now you would think one couldn’t get lost following the only road that rings the entire country. Well, we did, in a town of Hofn, only 2,000. Our GPS froze and we realized how dependent we were on it. Circled the town harbor twice. 018

Yes, I know I have maps on my I-phone, but I never think about that. Nordic Visitor provided us with a hot-spot. Finally I put in our hotel (by the way, the most charming one so far and complete with a washer and dryer.) in Djupivogur, a fishing town of 460 people on a colorful bay. This is the view from our apartment balcony.  Already wish we had more time here.002

 

 

 

 

On the road to northern Iceland and Husavik tomorrow. 017

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Waterfalls, Volcanic Beaches and More


June 28: I told Ed I wanted to make three stops on our route today and we made five! Leaving Hella, we first stopped at Keldur to see the sod houses left (and restored) from centuries ago. Most likely from the 11th century. Looks like something out of a fairy tale. 007 (2)

Seems we arrived before opening, but a closed-and not locked- gate never stopped me. I made a brief tour against the background of  sheep baaing and cows lmooing. A short way down the road, I photographed this sod roofed barn with its own sheep. 015

 

 

Second stop. Seljalandsfioss waterfall.  I didn’t have rain gear and didn’t want to spend the rest of the day in the car dripping wet so I didn’t walk the trail behind the falls.

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Third stop, Skogafoss waterfall. One of the highest in Iceland. Doesn’t compare to Victoria or Niagara Falls, but pretty impressive anyway.  017

 

 

 

 

 

019Fourth stop, the Solheimajokull glacier. I intended to walk out on it, but it turned out to be quite a hike. Take note: if you travel Iceland, I highly recommend hiking boots. I don’t have them and many even short walks are on  loose gravel. The tiny specks in this photo are people walking on the glacier so you see how far I still had to go.

Fourth stop was lunch (very disappointing) at the Black Beach restaurant near Dyrholaey. However, the black volcanic beach and strange basalt columns made up for the “tourist” food. 024

 

 

 

 

We arrived early at the Glacier View Guesthouse in sunshine and the warmest day we’ve had. Our host and hostess are very accommodating. Our only disappointment is the late dining hour, but our hostess Elin, brought us homemade lamb soup, fresh bread and wine to hold us until 8:00. Now to stay awake.

I Couldn’t resist this photo of her freshly washed sheets blowing in the wind with the Myfdalsjokull glacier as the backdrop. 039

Our distance wasn’t far but we made the day longer with interesting stops.

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The Golden Circle-Day 1


June 27. We picked up our car this morning and began our adventure. We only drove the Golden Circle, aka, Route 1 for a short time before driving a longer, more picturesque route before joining Route 1 again to finish the day.

First impressions: No trees. the landscape is green with low ground cover, but the only trees we’ve seen have been planted. Is this the weather? or the rocky terrain? Don’t know, must ask someone.

horses-Iceland

horses-Iceland

Lots of horses. Icelandic horses. They look hardy and sturdy. I am guessing but I don’t think many breeds would survive this climate. We are here in summer and it is only 10 C with wind. I can’t imagine winter. We have learned that any horse that leaves Iceland cannot return. They do not want cross-breeding or disease. Horses are valued here.

Our first stop was the Pingvellir National park then on to the geothermal area and the Strokkur geyser. For those who have seen “Old Faithful” the only thing outstanding about this geyser is it erupts every 15 minutes.IMG_3124

This leads me to another interesting tidbit about Iceland. Over 90% of homes and businesses are heated with geothermal energy.  Hot springs are everywhere-even the horses know where to find them- and there are 150 to 200 active volcanos in Iceland. The last major eruption (some of you may remember) was in 2014 when the ash from Baroarlunga stopped air traffic to Europe because of the dense ash in the air the threat to airplane engines inhaling the particles.

We are in a lovely, unique hotel tonight. Again, clean, simple Scandinavian furniture IMG_3133and saunas. Dinner was good. You need top like fish and lamb to eat well here.

Some one is still dealing with jet-leg.

Travel tip: Bring your own toiletries. Soap, shampoo and lotion. We have not found them in our hotel rooms.

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Welcome to Reykjavik


My first impressions of Iceland come from the trip from the airport to Reykjavik through jet-lagged eyes. Mostly this was rocky, rather barren land with the ocean in the distance. A 40 minute drive to our modern hotel which is reminiscent of hotels in northern Germany with its small, clean no-frills room.  Good fresh food, in the dining room.

A bit of history. Iceland was discovered by a Nordic Viking by the name of Arnarson in 871. Don’t think he found much here, but he established Reykjavik which means something like “Smoky Bay” based on the a false impression that turned out to be  steam rising from the hot springs.

145 Second bit of more modern history was the Hofdi House. This was  particularly interesting to us since our current writing is a novel set in 1952 Germany, in the early years of the Cold War. This  house was built in 1909 and was the meeting place between Reagan and Gorbachev in 1986 and marked the end of the Cold War.

We walked much of the city center. Had to photograph the iconic HallgrimskirkjaFullSizeRender (34) church which dominates this city. Not the most picturesque church I’ve seen, but impressive in its size and location.

Reykjavik is now a progressive, cosmopolitan city known for social tolerance, art and a little bit of everything in between. I couldn’t help but be impressed with the street art which includes many buildings.141

IMG_3108Much more to do and see here, but tomorrow we pick up our car and begin our drive around the Ring Road-Highway 1.

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