Monday, June 30, 2014


"Always rise
  to an early meal,
  but eat your fill before a feast
  If you're hungry
  you have no time
  to talk at the table."

I almost forgot a big important part of any trip.  Food.  I was surprised at how Icelandic the food was!  Weird statement, but they pretty much stick to what's, fish...oh  We had fish almost every night...and it was great.  Mostly cod, a bit of salmon, and some wonderful char( lake trout).  It was prepared perfectly and we never tired of it. (Speaking for ourselves here)  For the people who were weary of all the fish, there was wonderful lamb...and one night I went that way...because I knew those lambs were "happy lamb" until...well you know.
Since Iceland has to import a lot of fruits and veggies, there wasn't much variety and I did miss lettuce...I mean as in BIG salads as we have here.  They were expensive.  Strangely, we had alot of tomatoes....grown in Iceland.  There is so much geo thermal power that they have built green houses that are perfect for fact, they are so successful in growing them, that they are going to start EXPORTING tomatoes!   Some of places we stopped had tomato stands with bags of tomatoes one bought on the honor system.  300 krona a bag.....about 2.75. I bought them and ate them for snacks.

LUNCH = SOUP.  I think every lunch we had in Iceland was soup, always accompanied by wonderful homemade bread.  EVERY lunch, because, that is just the way it is in Iceland...soup at lunch.  Of course we had fish stew too and one memorable day we had a lobster soup, which was brought as a shallow bowl with small lobster in it....artfully arranged with herbs and a big hunk of butter or cream.  Then the waiter brought a hot lobster broth and poured it all over the tidbits in the bowl.  Yummy.
We ate alot of Skyr (skeer), mainly for breakfast and dessert.  It is better than yogurt of any kind,very low fat, and packed with protein. Skyr cake was really just whipped skyr with maybe a sprinkling of licorice or fruit on it.  That faked some people out, who were drooling for cake.  I bought a huge bag of licorice to bring home.  Typical Icelandic licorice is "salted".  It is soft and fresh with a hint of salt.  Very delicious.  
As in most of what they do, they use what they have, especially food wise. I never did see a McDonalds, but Subway is big there, with a local menu twist.  Another treat that is indicative of the country is "smoked trout" cured in the ground in geomthermal areas.  They also make a very dark bread that is baked in the hot earth next to the trout.  The pictures of the dark bread with pink fish on it, is this combo, and it is available many many places,  especially in the Northern regions.  The bread is a very dense sweet rye, and it is great.  It feels like a brick when it comes from baking and they slice it thin.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014


"Better weight
  than wisdom
  a traveller cannot carry.
  The poor man's strength
   in a strange place,
   worth more than wealth."

Iceland and it's people's are the cat's meow!  We have loved the scenery and the culture.  Our driver, Olaf, from the Netherlands was an unexpected treasure of humor.  Our guide, Steingrimur, Icelandic through and through, is justifiedly proud of a country, who little more than a hundred years ago, was still  medieval, and in that time has jumped with both feet into modernity. We were accompanied by Chair of Scandanavian Studies at the UW, Teirje Leiren.  Steve hung on every word as his described the Icelandic culture from the time of the Vikings.  It was great travel and great learning. The people of Iceland are intelligent, educated, and unfailingly courteous.  The had a bad period and a MAJOR hit  to their  economy and culture when the world banks failed in 2008.  They dug in deep, found what was important to them as a nation, and hit the ground running is pulling themselves back up.  The crime in this country is almost non exsistant.   I never saw police person, althoug Steve "thinks he saw one!". They do not spend their hard earned money on endless wars, but education, health, and taking care of one another.  There are no railroads in Iceland, no snakes, reptiles, or frogs, and no pollution. There are few guns, and few trees. What they do have is abundant geothermal energy that heats almost every home for pennies. They don't burn polluting fires, they don't pay for healthcare, college, denistry up until 16, retirement, or nursing homes.  It is a very stunning beautiful country and the peolple are also beautiful.  They have simplified their life to use what they make and make what they use.  We are definetly coming back! Anyone know where we can buy "Skyr" in the US?  We  are addicted! 


"The cautious guest
  who comes to the table
   speaks sparingly.
   Listens with ears
   learns with eyes.
   Such is the seeker of

From horses and hiking we had a surprise waiting for us in Akureyri one evening.  We thought we were on our own after a long day, but our guide said we had been invited to an art reception in town. Even though, we were tired, most of us went and I was so glad Steve and I chose to go.  They wined and dined us with lovely wine, and platters of apps(or canapes as they call them). The owner only works with natural things like wool, wood, FISH SKINS, and even lamb's stomachs and intestines.  No by-product is wasted...and remember, they are happy lambs while alive. The artist's daughter wasjust fresh   from her own show in London, where her hand made wool (yes, she made the yarn too) was chosen to be on the runway.  They also had a Inuit woman from Greenland with them and her art display of handmade paper with silver threads was stunning.  A few of the women who went bought gorgeous silk and wool scarves/shawls that were all so different.  The material in the dress pictures I am posting were cod skin, salmon skin dress, and spotted catfish with mink trim.  The skins are cured and are soft.  The lamps are made from wool.


"Eat well
  when you're off to a visit
   be clean though your clothes
                                      are poor.
  Be not ashamed
  of your shoes and socks
   Still less of the horse you have."

On a cold but clear day we visited a beautiful horse farm in the north. The Icelandic Horse is so well loved in this country and it has become the favorite pet here ...many more horses than dogs and cats combined.  In the rural areas, EVERYONE has one or more.  After visiting the stables, we saw why.  Though small in stature, they are big of heart.  Very gentle, even the stallions.  The ride, so I am told, is to a different cadance than a regular horse, and easy on the rider.  We saw a demonstration where a rider held a FULL glass of beer at a full gallop and didn't spill a drop. The horse is very popular in Europe, and is exported, but once a horse leaves Iceland, it can never come back, to prevent many problems.  The  horse was riden by the Vikings and farmers alike, and they come is  many many variations, so we saw every color and combination.   Some people took a midnight ride one evening at one of the lodges, and said it was wonderful.

The farm we visited was a breeding and boarding stables and kids from as young as 6 come and stay and learn how to ride and take care care of their horse.  They also served us coffee and wonderful rhubarb cake. 
Everywhere in Iceland, the Icelanders enjoy a sweet and coffee in the afternoon. 

Tuesday, June 24, 2014


"A man needs warmth,
   the warmth of a fire
   and of the shining sun.
   A healthy man
    is a happy man
    who's neither ill not injured."

First morning in Reykjavik and also the evening of the Summer Solstice Midnight Run.  I had signed up on the Internet before I even arrived in Iceland, thinking it would be a great experience to mingle with the locals and explore part of the city on foot while doing the 5K part of the Marathon.  While we were traveling around the country I was trying to find someone to do it with me, since Steve wasn't going to partake.  I met a fun lady named Dianna, traveling alone and seemingly up for adventure. 

After a morning spent in museums, she and I  decided we would try and find the staging area, get her registered, and just generally get familiar with the area.  We walked to a bus station and figured out the transport and made it to the big sport complex in the city, only to find out we could not register til late afternoon. A young man heard us talking and offered to show us a place to have coffee and sweets.  He was very tall, red haired, and sported the biggest, darkest, hairiest fur coat I have ever seen, draping down to the ground. It was more like a cape and making quite the statement, but not sure about what.  As we trouped down the lane with him,I  finally asked him what his great fur coat was made of...and getting ready to cringe at the answer.  He proudly explained it was 100% POLYESTER! He would never kill an animal for clothes or even food..........except the Icelandic lamb who had a very pleasureful (but short life) and because they were such happy creatures...their meat tasted better.  It was a bizarre but fun meeting and he led us to a wonderful "kaffi" spot in the Botanical Gardens, called "Cafe Flora".  So our afternoon took a fun turn as we snacked on sweets and had coffees.

We got all the prelims done and returned to our hotel to wait for our late night excursion. Unfortunately, we had a dinner party to attend with free wine (a rarity in Iceland) and lamb for dinner!  Happy lamb! Never having actually run a race at midnight, I did everything wrong.  Stayed awake all day, ate meat late, drank wine, and as we were leaving for the race (via Taxi we decided), Dianna told me how old she was...older than me...hahha.., and had never ever done a walk or a race, and didn't have any tennis shoes or even work out clothes with her! We got to the staging area along with a couple thousand other "young, stately, athletic Icelandic warriors and warriorettes"..... And just went for it. Dianna was a champ, chatting all the way, while running along side, and enjoying everything, even the strong cold wind that had blown up. Along with our entry fee we received a ticked to the big thermal pool near by and we could soak in the heated water after the race.  We walked over to do just that, and could not believe the amount of people squeezed into the hot tubs.  We could not have even put a toe in the water without a shoe horn! 
Taxi time! Back to the hotel.  But I got medal. 

Sunday, June 22, 2014


"He is truly wise
  who's travelled far
  and knows the ways of the 
  He who has travelled
  can tell what spirit
  governs the men he meets."

Today we hit the road running and had many small adventures.  First we drove to the volcano area called Eyjafjalljokull, which had a major eruption in 2010.  We meet a farm family that lived directly below this volcano, but survived major destruction because the wind happend to be blowing away from them.  They still had rivers and mountains of mud land on their land,but none of their family or livestock was killed.  They made a very good "real time" video and  showed it to us.  It was quite well done and they have made a little store to sell volcanic artifacts and are doing quite well, now.
Then we went to the huge Skogafoss waterfall where Steve and I climbed the steep stairs to the top.  It is a beautiful area and the main area for most of the old Norse Sagas.  There have been alot of movies filmed here too.  It is so easy to imagine the Vkings living and trampling on this green landscape.
A short distance from the falls is the Skogar Folk Museum.  At first, I was thinking this would be a dull same-o, same-o museum tour.  Boy, was I wrong.  We had a very engaging docent who really knew his stuff.  He also had an operatic voice and sang some of the oldest hymns in the history of the Christians in this area.   2 hours went by very fast and then we had lunch in the museun cafe.

After lunch, we ventured to black sand beaches of Reynisfjara.  It was cold and windy, but we beach combed and walked about the basalt formations.  This area is always featured in "Viking boat landing scenes" in the movies.  In truth, many fishing boats were launched in these cold waves.  The old Norse fishermen were unbelievably tough and survived brutal conditions to survive.  Impressive.
From sea to mt, we drove up  a bumpy gravel road until we came tomthe approach of the Solheimajokall Glacier, where we hiked a bit until we came to the edge of this "sliding glacier".  Steve wanted to actually spend some time walking on this ragged old icey area, and we found a trail to get onto the glacier that wasn't too steep.  So we spent some time on this giant before heading to one more adventure.
One more BIG waterfall called Seljalandfoss beckoned.  This waterfall had a muddy path that took hikers around it and wound into the back of the fall.  The trail wasn't too hard, but it was wet!  Like walking through giant sprinklers that were on full blast.  We got drenched and I was so glad it was almost time to head back.
Couldn't resist a drenched selfie!


 "A newcomber
  needs fire
  his knees are numb,
  A man who has made
  his way over mountains
  needs food amd fresh linen."

Viking sayings from 1000 years ago!  They nailed it.  We did make our way over the mountains today, and our kneeS WERE sore, with a few differences.  We flew in a plane, and on the way to our hotel, we  stopped to see Skogar waterfall.  Steve and I decided to climb the almost 400 steps to the top of the falls to see the view.  Trouble is, we only had 15 min to get up and back and somwe were on a fast track.  We made it, but "the knees were numb"!

We arrived at Hotel Ranga on the Ranga River and were shown to our cozy room.  All the food served is local, even the wonderful Salmon and duck which were caught on the river  in front of us!  Many people come here for the Northern Light display, and yes, they are still in the sky, but we can't see them because of all the daylight.  They have these interesting log chairs/lounges that people can sit on  and snuggle on with big blankets when it is dark and cold.  We tried them out, but it was still sunny and NOT cold.

Saturday, June 21, 2014


"Better weight
  than wisdom
  a traveller cannot carry.
  The poor man's strength
   in a strange place, 
   worth more than wealth"

I decided to add a few of the  "sayings from the Vikings, which served as words of wisdom and, spiritual provisions on for the Vikings on their long journeys over the rough seas tomdiscouver new lands.  I bought a book and like these from the book of Havamal.

So today we packed up and took a small plane and a short flight back to Reykjavik, but we didn't stay long, as we went to explore the Southern coast for a few days.  The landscape changes so dramatically in Iceland, all because of volcanoes and there ever present activity.  We stopped at a huge lake in Pingvellir National Park and had a delicous lunch of fresh lake Char (trout).  We went to see the  Great Geyer which erupts about every 10 min.  Of course Steve had to stand as close as he could, and he got drenched.  It was pretty funny to see all these people running from a 90 foot spout of steaming water because they wanted to get a picture close up. My picture was better abd taken from a safe vantage point!
We also went on a beautiful short hike in the Icelandic woods.  We climbed around on some great stone outcroppings left by volcanic eruptions and a saw a serene pool of water with colorful reflections and many birds and ducks.
In the late afternoon we drove to our gorgeous hotel in Hella on the Ranga River.  We were greeted by the owner and host in this exquisite rustic lodge.  Then we headed straight to the bar for happy hour.  Any time you can get a glass of wine form less that 15 dollars is a big deal!


Thursday, June 19, 2014


We got up early and left for a small northern town called Husavik to  board an old wooden sailing boat and go out into the frigging cold North Atlanitc to see some Puffins.  A LOT of Puffins.  About 200,000 Puffins who roost on.....ta da.....Puffin Island.  Somehow I was thinking this was going to be a small pram in a small park inlet.  What was I thinking!!! We lined up for our survival suits.  I was last, and all the smalls were gone and I got an extra large humdinger of a survival suit, even bigger than Steve's! I couldn't even stand up without feeling like a bobble head doll.  Steve looked pretty dang good in his, and I was miserable.  The captain immediately announced the safety stuff and also added that there was no shame in chucking one's cookies because of rough seas in the NORTH ATLANTIC! I was worried, considering my propensity to do just what he said.  Luckily the trip out to the Island was only about 45 min so I survived. There were alot Puffins flying and floating and diving, but we just could not get close enough to this island with all the wave action.  The crew brought around hot chocolate and cinnamon roles, but I did not partake.  We learned much about Puffins and they are a special bird in these parts.  The population loves them, and even eats them.
The town of Husavik is a wonderful small harbor town that is so picturesque, but then everything in Iceland is picturesque!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014


I really love this town and we are here for 4 days.  Lots to see in surrounding area.  They call it the capital of the North and it is delightful in every way.  About 18,000 people with the main industry----fishing. People make a good living here and lead a good life with good health care, good schools, and an easy town to walk in.  Our hotel in right in the middle of town and we enjoying walking each evening and seeing the locals. It has the best skiing in winter and a pretty mild climate ( Icelandic wise), and now since there is daylight all the time, one can play golf at midnight or just go anywhere, and people do! There are good resturants, a nice park and cultural center and virtually no crime.  Here are a few pictures I took on a walk tonight...and I mean at 10:00 pm!


We are hunkered down in the most wonderful town of Akureyri in the northern area of Iceland.  We had a long but fun day sightseeing and a few small hikes in a very bizarre landscape.  Everything a volcano can to to a landscape is here and it is hauntingly beautiful.  The snow covered volcanos, the huge waterfalls, the boiling sufuric mud pots, the strange lava contortions and the most wonderful natural spas are all here. There are Norse Sagas aplenty to go around and explain these natural wonders. We just walked and hiked and enjoyed it all.  
After visiting Lake Myvtan and expeiencing the massive flys that just pester the hell out of everyone, Chris and I bought fly nets to wear while walking.  They worked!
 A few of us ended up at Myvatn Nature Bath which was the highlight of the day for me. We brought out bathing suits and slipped into the most wonderful pools of geothermal water that comes from the fissures deep in the earth. The pools are huge, very warm,(and in some areas... too hot) and the water contains a unique blend of mineral, silicates, and micro-organisms that soothes the body.  We loved it, but finally after almost an hour, we had to get dressed and continue the trek in this area. I didn't get any pics of the pool.  I was so anxiuos to get in!  But, here's  a bugnet selfie!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014


I keep forgetting to mention that we have been joined on our Icelandic adventure by Steve's sister, Chris and her husband Fred.  So there will be some stories about these two from Minnesota, I am sure!
And I know this is a boring subject, but just let me say Iceland has Sheep..a LOT of sheep.  They are everywhere, even in the middle of the road.  There are no preditors here,except the restaurants,  and lamb is on EVERY menu.  They aren't in herds, there are no fences and they are just all over the place...on the lava rocks,the fields,roads, hill and dale and enjoy a fairly peaceful,life until the fall round up, and then....well, you know...lamb chops!  The reason I even mentioned this is yesterday we were headed down a dirt road to see some site and this crazy sheep and her babies decided to run down the road in front of us...for about a mile! They would not scurry over to the side or the fields.  Sheep are dumb.
Then we visited a Shark Farmer.  Well, he really isn't a hunter, but he is a fishermen and a farmer on the Snaefellnes Peninsula.  We went there to taste rotting shark meat.  There is a huge lave bed that goes down to the sea and a big wooden shark on a pole letting the familiar know where to turn and drive thru more lava  until one comes to the "Shark Farmer". Hundreds of years ago,when things were really tough in Iceland...the people were tougher!  They caught and ate shark to supplement their meager diets.  Now, it is restricted to catch them, but these huge "Greenland sharks"  get caught in fishing nets by commercial fisherman, and the Shark Farmer buys them so their death doesn't go to waste.  This meat is actually poisen, but someone long found out if you just let it rot for a few months, it can be eaten and the oil is actuallu good for you. So after a tour and a short talk about all things "shark" we were invited to sample this.  Now days it is served at celebrations and to idiot tourists. The farmer explained that you spear a piece of shark and put it in a little jigger filled with a clear potent liquer called "black death".  You let this fermented shark meat soak for a few seconds then eat it, followed by gulping down the rest of the black death and then a piece of dark rye bread.  Quite ceremonial.  Guess who was standing in the front with a crap grin on her face? So I was given the honor of going first.  I could not let my fellow travel mates down, so I did it.  The outcome was: the shark wasn't all that bad, but the "black death" white lightening was horrid.  My call is that the liquer is to take one's mind off the putrid shark.  Thank god no one took a picture of me, but I got a few of Steve and Chris.
Well, the fellow informed us that he was very sorry they didn't actually sell the shark meat there but they did sell it at the airport in the "Made in Iceland" shop.  Yeah...right.