ICELAND, Day 1, July 21

We made it to Reykjavik, Iceland after an overnight flight, tired but ready to roll.  These postings are a catch up as we continue our RV sojourn.  I wasn’t able to post pictures from my iPad so I’m looking forward to going through the trip again on the blog….

Why Iceland?  Wait ’til you see the whole trip.  It’s so much more than the long weekend trip to the Blue Lagoon!  Iceland is the most western point of Europe and everything here definately has a European flavor.

 One important trick we learned was to stop at duty free on your way out of the airport.  We stocked up on wine and chocolate (two of our basic food groups) then rented a car for our vacation, slowly following the Ring Road around the island.  We learned some basic vocabulary…Takk fyrir or Takk takk (thank you).  Hallo/ bless (bye) , ja and nei.  That’s pretty much all we’ll need. Everyone seems to speak English beautifully- even the European travelers we’ve met.  The airport scultpure depicts a hatching Skua, an aggressive sea bird, in the gull family, that is very common in the area.

1airport

With Susan and John, our partners in crime– and fun–on many of our adventure vacations, we traveled to our hotel in Hveragerol, for a quick bite and a nap.  On the way, we were struck by the geothermal steam vents everywhere in this area. 

Geothermal_vents

 

The sauna at the hotel even had a sulphur tinge—heated directly from underground sources.

3_ork

At breakfast at the Hotel Ork, we immediately became fans of the yogurt they serve at all breakfast buffets…great on cereal, instead of milk.  We also were introduced to Skyr, a unique product of Iceland, part of their Norse Viking heritage. This tastes a bit like Greek yogurt on steroids.  We looked it up–Internet info lists it as a superfood, high in protein, actually a fresh cheese made from skim milk.  Plus it is available in some stores in the US…we definetly going to look for it when we get home.

Our afternoon adventure begins navigating the Icelandic roads to nearby sites.  We have chosen to rent a Land Cruiser so we can drive the Ring Road ourselves.  We have opted for 4-wheel drive because some of the gravel roads in the Westfjords are tough going (like driving on marbles, we’re told).  We did use a travel agent to book our hotel reservations, but we will be on our own schedule to start and stop as we choose.   Much of this area is volcanic, so large portions are all lava rock with a shaggy moss cover.

2b_lava_and_moss

Away from the lava fields, the area is lush.  Green grass and beautiful wild flowers everywhere.  Many of the vistas include fields dotted with round white plastic balls,  Turns out, this is the way they keep hay for the animals in the winter.  We were told they ball up the green feed tightly and vacuum pack it in plastic wrappers so mold, etc, can’t grow.

Bales_of_hay

One surprise is the huge number of Icelandic ponies- horses and foals everywhere.  Many are lying down in the green fields. The Icelanders seem to have an almost mystical connection to their horses.  There are few barns for over 100,000 horses.  This supports what we’ve heard…although it is on the same longitude as Alaska (Reykjavik and Fairbanks line up perfectly), the weather is relatively mild because the Gulf Stream swings close to shore and gentles the winters.  We regularly see groups of kids, teens and adults riding.  It appears this is a national past time and we are planning to join in!  We’re told Icelandic ponies are unique because they have 5 gaits giving them a very smooth motion.  We’re planning to ride while we’re here–we’ll let you know!

Horses

Finding our way is easy, and our first stop is Eyrarbakki, a charming coastal town with houses in every color of the rainbow.

4_eyr_houses

 This once was once the main port in southern Iceland.  Now only cement underpinnings and volcanic rock breakwaters remain.  There must be tremendous tides because we saw a beach and shore pools when we visited- no way to dock a ship.

4_eyr_water_edge

The town had a beautiful church at its center–a perfect fit with the multi-colored houses.

4_eyr_church
4_eyr_blue_house

Whooper swans, the Eurasean version of the Trumpeter, kept us entertained as they bobbed in the shallows of the Atlantic shoreline.

4_eyr_water_swans

We drove to Stokkseyn and had lunch beside another quaint church. They certainly seem to have more churches per capita.  Iceland, the size of Kentucky, only has 270,000 people and 2/3 live in the capital.

5_stokk_church

This town, on the southern coast, also was once a major shipping center and is known for it’s troll and ghost museum–apparently trolls, ghosts and elves are a big deal in Iceland.  More to come on that….

Again beautiful flowers are everywhere.  Much like Alaska, it seems the long summer days spark the flowers to colossal sizes during their short growing season.  (This is the land of the midnight sun- sunrise is at 0330 and dusk is after 10 but it never does get dark.)

 

Susan_f5_stokk_church

The people are a hearty lot and they make the most of their summer.  The mercury hit a balmy 15 degrees C (about 60 F) and all the natives were in short sleeves, some in shorts.  While we sat in three layers, we saw a group of kids head down to the water- a few in sketchy wet suits- and jump from the old pier into the ocean.  Brrrrr!  A fun day in the Atlantic.

5_stokk_jumper

Tomorrow we head off on the Golden Circle–to the geothermal steam vents that gave geysers their name and to a world class waterfall, Guilfoss.

 

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