Tag - Iceland

North by East to Iceland: Part 5

Geothermal Pool in Iceland by R. Fleck

Geothermal Pool in Iceland by R. Fleck

Not Coal Nor Oil, But Icelandic Fire

Iceland is situated atop the Great Atlantic Rift that is quickly (geologically speaking) dividing Iceland in half by 3 centimeters per year. This rift is separating the North American tectonic plate from the Eurasian plate to create powerful volcanism in Iceland with a hot spot of magma only 1500 meters below the surface that creates not only geyers, mud pots, cauldrons, and hot springs, but also volcanoes. Iceland is a volcanic anomaly in Europe with ten percent of the Earth’s volcanoes.

How did all of this happen? What caused these tectonic plates to rift apart? One wild and disputed theory comes from the Russian scientist Immanuel Velikovsky in his book Worlds in Collision (1950) in which he contends that a huge asteroid hit the North Atlantic region at a phenomenal speed of over 17,000 miles per hour tens of millions of years ago to fracture the planet and create present-day Iceland. It would be like hitting a marble ball with a hammer to make a very noticeable fracture.

Other less wild theories attribute Iceland’s volcanism to gradual tectonic shifts of the Earth’s floating plates that ultimately result in serious rifts like the great African continental rift or the upper Rio Grande Valley rift in northern New Mexico or Iceland’s very own rift. If one looks at a map of the underseas of our planet, he will see multiple fissures in the Atlantic as well as the Pacific with its rim of fire.

Geothermal Bore not yey capped, by R. fleck

Geothermal Bore not yey capped, by R. fleck

On our second day in Iceland we toured Pingvellir National Park north of Reykjavik to experience with our own eyes the very noticeable rift with two lava walls separating bit by bit in the middle of a valley that has become the border between Europe and North America. We got off the bus to take a mile walk deep within the actual lava-wall rift. Who knows what sounds a person could hear in the dark of night if he decided to camp right in the midst of the rift. We all emerged from this lava valley to walk across a river and see the spot where the ancient Vikings held council a thousand years ago that started the gradual process of a political rift of Iceland from Denmark when Iceland finally became an independent republic in 1944.

An hour or so later we stopped at a cafe near Gullfoss Falls to enjoy a steaming, lava-hot bowl of wild mushroom soup with fresh-baked Icelandic bread. My wife Maura and I then quickly proceeded along the trail to this famous waterfall of a glacial river that first tumbles one hundred feet over a black lava bed and then turns abruptly at a right angle to drop another hundred feet over a lava bed into a narrow, misty canyon where the river continues its journey toward the sea. Gullfoss reminded me a bit of Niagara Falls except that it is a double-decker so to speak. Its constant roar is hypnotic and, in a way, soothing.

Later in the afternoon we proceeded to Strokkur and have a first hand glance at a gigantic geyser whose steaming waters shoot into the sky every five minutes or so, far more frequent than Yellowstone’s Old Faithful.. Strokkur’s geyser first forms as a huge blue bubble that bursts open into a sudden, skyward torrent. Just above this geyser lies a steaming spring that looks much like Morning Glory Pool in Yellowstone (see digital image).

Geyser at Strokkur, Iceland, by R.Fleck

Geyser at Strokkur, Iceland, by R.Fleck

In the far distance rose icy, glaciated volcanoes not unlike the famous Eyjafjallajokull that erupted in 2011 when we were visiting family in Ireland. I remember well that Iceland’s volcanoes that year caused Ireland coldest summer on record! It actually snowed at sea level in Donegal in early June. Many flights to Europe were cancelled in 2011 because of so much volcanic ash in the atmosphere, since this ash can cause damage to jet engines.

Our last stop of the day was at Iceland’s geothermal plant some thirty miles north of Reykjavik. Our driver stopped within several meters of a somewhat terrifying uncapped steam bore 1100 meters into the fiery earth below. The volcanic steam erupted out of this bore hole that sounded like being inside Vesuvius. The ground actually shook. Eventually such a bore will be capped and piped to the power plant (along with hundreds of other such steam bores) to turn turbines to generate electricity for Reykjavik and environs.

The power plant also provides hot water for the faucets of hotels, businesses and homes. Since half of Iceland’s population of 320,000 people live in the Reykjavik area, they are truly fortunate to be free of the need for coal and petroleum. The average utility bill for a household in this area of Iceland is only a little over a dollar a day. As expected, many of their cars are hybrid. No wonder Iceland’s carbon footprint is practically non-existent!

 

Approximately half of Iceland’s population is in the Reykjavik area which is completely geo-thermally powered.

North by East to Iceland: Part 4

Whale Watching Cruise

Whale Watching Cruise

Iceland At Last!

At long last we arrive at Keflavik Airport some thirty miles east of Reykjavik! I may have dozed on the IcelandAir flight between Goose Bay and the Labrador Sea half way to Narsarsuaq, Greenland and the great land mass of glacial ice. Perhaps next time we’ll plan on touching down at Nuuk, Greenland for an Ice Age visit. But now we boarded a bus for Reykjavik, and I couldn’t help our hearing a conversation between an old rural New England man and a young woman from Boston. The gentleman said, “I know Boston–it’s a place that makes me feel claustrophobic. I’m picking up a flight out of Reykjavik bound for Isafjordur for a 21 day stay in this remote fishing village in the northwest corner of Iceland. I think that’s my kind of place.” The Bostonian responded with a “Hmm.”

Well if only a place like Isafjordur is isolated enough for him, thought I, what the heck is all this vastness of lava fields, snowy plateaus and white humps of glaciers down here in southern Iceland is good enough for? We drove through landscapes of space like none I had ever witnessed before. My God, what a marvelous place is this!

But both my wife and I felt a bit weary after a nighttime flight from New York on IcelandAir. We were delighted that our hotel let us have our room at 8 a.m. as we both needed a nap before taking a whale watching cruise out of Reykjavik harbor at noon.

Within minutes, or so it seemed, we headed out of colorful Reykjavik harbor with its blue, gray, yellow and red-roofed buildings fading in the distance. But before proceeding far out into Faxafloi Bay, our ship slowed down near several small, treeless islands packed with birds including colorful orange-billed puffins, arctic terns, guillemots and gulls. It reminded me much of my birding trip to Newfoundland.

Way

Harbor Area

But whales remained our objective as we sped up heading out to sea. We felt the sting of 38 degree wind as opposed to a warm and muggy mid-May in New York. The huge snowy bluffs of the Icelandic seacoast looked exactly like those described by Pierre Loti in his classic nineteenth-century novel Iceland Fisherman. But we all intended to be fishers, not with harpoons and hooks, but with eyes.

There are over twenty different species of whales off the Icelandic shores including Humpbacks, Minkes, Blues and Orcas. The captain announced over the PA that harbour porpoises could be seen surfacing at 2 o’clock off the bow. They were too far off, but we did see their splashing movements for a few seconds.

We continued farther out into Faxafloi Bay with Reykjavik gradually disappearing to the north. And then, a large Minke whale surfaced just off the starboard bow to splash back in and vanish to the depths below combing for tiny fish and plankton, Within a half hour or so, we spotted two or three more Minkes surfacing after trying to fill their stomachs with arctic krill and plankton by combing the sea bottom with open mouths. A Minke whale can consume up to one ton of food per day. They need to do so as the food in tropical seas (where they spend winters) is not as plentiful as it is here in Iceland where they flourish during the summer months under skies that never darken.

Hilltop Church in Reykjavik

Hilltop Church in Reykjavik

Out here in Faxafloi Bay, it had become so cold (May 16th) with biting winds, that we retreated to the warmth of the galley for some hot and flavorful Icelandic coffee and chat with new acquaintances from Colorado Springs, Colorado. They had planned on renting a car the next day to take the coastal highway all the way around the island, but they were told not to drive too far northward as the roads remained snow-packed and icy. I wondered about the old codger from New England staying in Isafjordur. Hope he had some winter clothing!

Reykjavik gradually reappeared, dominated by its national cathedral high above the rest of the city of some 170, 000 people, about half of Iceland’s population. As we said goodbye to our new friends, we looked forward to an all-day “Golden Circle” tour the next day under bright and sunny skies. After a nice cordial of Icelandic Crowberry liqueur, we went to sleep with a red northern sky shining through our hotel windows.

North by East to Iceland: Part 3 The Birds of Newfoundland

Map of Newfoundland

Map of Newfoundland

As our IcelandAir jet flew over a piece of Newfoundland well on the way to Reykjavik, my mind drifted back down to Port Aux Basques over fifty years ago.

On June 3, 1958 we arrived at North Sydney, Nova Scotia to board the car ferry early in the evening bound for Port Aux Basques, Newfoundland. The ship pulled out of a very foggy harbor at 11 p.m. for a seven- hour journey to a wonderfully wild Newfoundland, now part of the Province of Newfoundland-Labrador.

Newfoundland was part of the Dominion of England until 1949 (just nine years before our arrival) when it joined the Dominion of Canada. Two small off-shore islands named Saint Pierre and Miquelon still belong to France to this day.

I joined an ornithological expedition of the Newark Urner Club to get a chance, before my senior year at Rutgers, to experience some true wilderness of maritime Canada. Before we left Newfoundland, we would observe 86 different species of birds. Our final destination by car from Port Aux Basques would be the Argentian Peninsula (not far from St. John’s) with its immense sea cliffs housing countless thousands of subarctic shore birds.

We got off the ship at 6:30 a.m. Newfoundland time which is a half-hour ahead of the Atlantic Time Zone for New Brunswick, eastern parts of Quebec, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia. I well remember the bald cliffs of coastal Noofy (as we called it) with the colorfully painted homes and buildings of Port Aux Basques, each building being a different color. It reminded me very much of Inuit villages upcoast in Labrador or Baffinland. After a hot mug of coffee and a sweet roll, we proceeded north on the wide dirt road of the Trans-Canada Highway for about five miles beyond the harbor to see clumps of spruce forest in protected nooks away from the icy winds of Noofy’s seacoast. We stopped by a small grassy meadow surrounded by forest to see Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Water Thrushes, Blackpoll Warblers and listen to the ah tee-tee-tee notes of White-throated sparrows. We spent the rest of the day birding, except for a grocery stop in Corner Brook where I practiced my French to purchase some basic necessities for camping nine nights on Newfoundland from Port Aux Basques to Argentia on the eastern shore.

All the while that we were in Corner Brook, a Newfoundland Hound puppy dog barked and barked in a very high and annoying pitch. To this day every time I hear a similar kind of barking, I am brought back to the chilly, foggy, spruce-clad hills of Newfoundland. It’s sort of a time anchor that all of us experience in one way or another. For the French novelist Marcel Proust, it was the taste of absinthe.

We pushed onward along the dusty Trans-Canada Highway to look for a suitable campsite. The four of us spread out our sleeping bags on the open tundra studded with a few spruce and fir trees. I slept soundly until pre-dawn when I sensed that something stared at me. When I opened my eyes, there stood a huge wild horse looking down at me and snorting. No one ever got out of a sleeping bag as fast as I did early that morning. The horse, along with a few others, lingered around our camp and slowly ambled off into the fog.

The next morning, a day later, after birding and driving north by east, we all woke up with a heavy frost on our sleeping bags. Though we camped not far from a “highway,” we could not help but sense the immense wilderness that surrounded us. To our north roamed a herd of 45,000 caribou who migrate from the northern-most peninsula to the southern shores in winter and the reverse in summer.

On our fourth or fifth day the Trans-Canada Highway came to a roaring halt at river’s edge. The only way across was via a one-car cable ferry that took about ten minutes. As we crossed we spotted Red-breasted Mergansers, Spotted Sandpipers, Winter Wrens and Fox Sparrows. Somehow this river crossing made me feel like I was somewhere out West in frontier times.

Arriving at Gambo, we had another surprise coming. The highway ended at Gambo! We had to drive our car up onto a flatcar of the Canadian National Railway and walk forward to a passenger coach for a 90-mile ride all the way to Clarenville. They called it a “train ferry.” Again I felt that I was in the frontier West. That night we camped under tundra-clad cliffs and I immediately dozed off into a deep sleep until I was awakened by a loud cawing of a crow early the next morning. But it wasn’t a crow, it was Don Kunkle, head of our expedition, making sure that I did not over sleep.

At last we arrived at the foggy, rainy sea cliffs of Argentia where we would watch the graceful flights of Herring Gulls and Great black-backed Gulls, Gannetts, Razor-billed Auks, Puffins and Kittiwakes. Though we quickly became as wet and fog-soaked as the landscapes, we remained unconcerned about the weather, because each of us had become entranced with the birds of Newfoundland.

North by East to Iceland: Part 1

Arriving in Iceland

Arriving in Iceland

Flashing Memories Over Nova Scotia

Well into our cruising altitude out of JFK, we sat aboard IcelandAir for our first ever trip to Reykjavik, Iceland. I looked out my window far above the Bay of Fundy to see the wee flash of Cape Sable lighthouse way to the south near Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. Seeing that tiny light in the distance brought a flood of Nova Scotian memories

There’s a beautiful Micmac Indian legend that poetically explains the Bay of Fundy’s huge tides. Glooscap, a great native giant, wished to take a bath and ordered a beaver to build a dam across the mouth of the Bay of Fundy to trap the high tide waters deep enough for Glooscap’s bath. After the beaver completed the dam, he enraged a whale who proceeded to break apart the dam with his huge tail. Ever since then, the bay’s waters slosh back and forth with tremendous power up to this very day.

I well remember my first ever visit to Nova Scotia as a young college student who got talked into selling magazines in Halifax by a man called CJ on the ferryboat from Bar Harbor, Maine. I just wanted to walk around Yarmouth to enjoy its people and its rugged landscapes. But no, CJ said I could make good money (in 1956). So, I made sure I had enough money for return train fare up to Halifax and rent a room at the YMCA.

After CJ trained me on how to sell Chatelaine Magazine subscriptions, off I went to a suggested residential area to push Chatelaine. After two or three days of zero subscriptions, I wondered if I should not return to Yarmouth. But, I tried once again to be a successful salesman. One young lady asked me point blank, “Why should I subscribe to Chatelaine when have three kids to feed and rent to pay?” I replied, “You’re absolutely right. You should not subscribe.”

Within a few hours of this brief conversation, I found myself aboard the train to Yarmouth breathing a sigh of relief. But I was in for a surprise! Half way to Yarmouth, the conductor announced not to be frightened by a huge forest fire the train had to pass through. Shortly thereafter I saw billows of pine smoke high in the sky. Then I noticed that these clouds began to reflect shimmering red flames underneath. And soon the train passed by flames so intensely hot that my faced burned from heat through the glass window. The train kept rolling along through a frightening inferno. It’s amazing the tracks didn’t buckle.

Gradually the smoke and flame cleared with views of the Bay of Fundy. Was the whale still angry at Glooscap for building that dam? Did he set off sparks by bashing his tail against the shoreline?

God it was great to sip a cup of Labrador tea and eat a fish sandwich at a waterfront cafe in Yarmouth as I awaited the Blue Nose ferryboat to Bar Harbor, Maine.

 Click here for North by East to Iceland: Part 2

Copyright-Richard Fleck © uncharted101.com

Iceland Tourist Attractions and Travel Destinations

Iceland is a very small country, but full of rejuvenating experiences, be it Blue Lagoons, Gullfoss, Northern lights or breath taking experience of Whale Watching. You will fall in love with nature.

Iceland, cr-Wikipedia

Iceland, cr-Wikipedia

Iceland alone has more than 10,000 waterfalls and we have chosen the best among them and have included in our travel itinerary. Be it geysers’ or waterfalls you’ll get goose bumps for sure!

Blue Lagoons: Enjoy Rejuvenating experience in natural spa in Blue Lagoon. Recently nominated one of the wonders of the world.  The Blue Lagoon is located only 20 minuets from Keflavík airport. It is known for it´s healing powers, it has worked wonders on people with psoriasis and other skin related deceases. Therefore people around the globe visit the blue lagoon to experience it´s sheer power.

Since the lagoon is very near Keflavík airport, it´s the perfect first destinations after a long flight.  I would also recommend for travelers to go to the lagoon before they travel back home, nothing relaxes you more then to soak yourself in warm blue water, gazing at the beautiful lava fields while drinking a cold beverage.

Northern Lights: Get Amazed with the Natural Northern Lights.

Seljalandsfoss: Beautiful waterfall to observe. Go behind it and see the wall made of water.

Myvatn: Explore surrounding area of Myvatn with full of natural wonders

Dettifoss: Mightiest waterfalls in Iceland – Dettifoss  in Vatnajökull National Park

Mountains around Dettifoss: Adds the value of mightiest water fall – Dettifoss

Famous Geysir: – Strokkur erupts in every 5–10 minutes. Amazing natural phenomena to observe for.

Geysir: You will be mesmerized when the geysers erupt around you. Feel life beneath your feet.

Touring Inside Glacier -Must for all Ice enthusiasts. Explore magical icescapes, sculptures and strangely shaped ridges only in Iceland. Explore the untouched Iceland where mother nature is in its purest form.

Puffins: – Known as Sea Parrot, breed in colonies.

Horse Riding: Supreme breed of horses available in Iceland… Take a ride!

Boat ride around the glacier:  a magnificent and beautiful experience to connect with nature.

Whale Watching: Unforgettable amazing experience of whale watching. 23 varieties of whales to watch for!

Iceland is the best place in the world to see the beauty of the glaciers surrounded by huge mottled fields with cracks. Holidays in Iceland with amazing Iceland Glaciers will be the unbelievable trip for the any travellers.

Experience the most beautiful, enhancing and charming majestic waterfalls in Iceland. It gives the visitor an opportunity to walk behind the water falls. Holiday in Iceland with Majestic Waterfalls will be an unexpectable experience for all tourists.

Take a Tour of Top Travel Attractions & Destinations in Iceland, Iceland is lovely planet and People will Find many things to do in Iceland Like the northern lights, Reykjavik., The tourist attractions in Iceland start and end with Reykjavik. Blue Lagoon, Whale Watching and many more destinations to spend your happier moments at Iceland.

View complete Tour of Iceland Tourist Attractions and Best Travel Destinations http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mkr0UKWxh4c

Iceland? In JANUARY?!?!?

Every time I mentioned that I’d be going to Iceland for a 4-day weekend in January brought the same question with the same intonation with the same look: Iceland? In the WINTER???

 Iceland, Cr-bnp.org.uk

Iceland, Cr-bnp.org.uk

GEOGRAPHY LESSON:

Due to the tilt of the Earth’s axis and the position of the island, the country is in the heart of the Jet Stream, which pushes warm air north.  That means despite the fact that Iceland is farther north than Newfoundland and Nova Scotia, it is considerably warmer.  In fact, there was little snow on the ground, and they experienced a “heat wave” while the rest of Europe suffered extreme cold temperatures.  So, YES! Iceland in the WINTER!!!

It’s a 5-hour flight from JFK to Reykjavik, faster than JFK to LAX.  However, unlike most days in Los Angeles, sunrise was around 10:30AM, and sunset was around 4:00PM for about 5½ hours of light.  But due to the Earth’s axis, the sun never got higher than just above the horizon, so not really light, per se.  More like kinda sorta lightish.

FREE BABIES!

Icelanders leave their children unattended in strollers outside shops and cafes!  The first time I saw a baby abandoned and alone in a buggy on the sidewalk, I pretty much freaked out, which probably identified me as a tourist.  That and the fact that I’m not 20 pounds overweight and the color of wallpaper paste, as Icelandic women tend to be, shall we say…hefty and pale.

SUCH A SAGA…

Iceland’s isolation is due mostly to a clever misnomer intended to deter future settlers, which obviously still works as evidenced by the reaction from people who learned of my travel plans.  As a result of this isolation, the modern Icelandic language has changed so little that Icelanders can read the original documents written 1100 years ago.  As a literary freak who loves language, even I had to use a side-by-side translation when I read The Canterbury Tales thanks to the changes in the English language over the past 600 years.  How remarkable that a living language can remain so unchanged in a millennium.

I visited the Culture House in order to view the Sagas, the original documents that serve as the foundation of Iceland’s literary tradition.  They’re prose histories that recount the evolution of the Icelandic culture during the 10th and 11th centuries.  Unfortunately, albeit in keeping with the theme of disappointment for this trip, the documents were being restored, so I wasn’t able to view them.  I visited their Natural History room to hang out with some stuffed Puffin, and saw an installation of 100 years of Icelandic film-making.  I know…who knew there were 10 never mind 100 years of Icelandic film-making!

Unsatisfied with the depth of history offered at the Culture House, I went to see an exhibit entitled “Reykjavik 871 +/- 2” in the basement of a hotel.  The title refers to the fact that they cannot pinpoint the exact year that Reykjavik was founded, but thanks to a volcanic eruption that covered the land, they know it was within 4 years of 871, hence 871 +/- 2.  As there are no humans indigenous to Iceland, the exhibit is an excavation site of a house from when the Vikings settled the country. The exhibit includes the structure (lots of dirt and peat and rocks) accompanied by several computer-generated video and audio installations to create a realistic interpretation of life and culture in the late 9th century.

CALLING ALL GENETICISTS

They say we all originate from a common ancestor, and Iceland stands testament to that claim.  Clearly, Leif Erikson is the father of the country – in more ways than one.  He must have been quite a playahhh!!!  Iceland was founded by men from what is now known as Norway.  Now, these men were undoubtedly strong and capable of tolerating harsh conditions, but perhaps not all that bright.  How long do you think it took those brave jarheads to realize that, after departing from their homeland, forging on to settle a new land in boats full of men, that they would need to procreate?  So, they made a minor detour and swung by the Shetland Islands off the coast of Scotland to “pick up” some women.  They also threw in a few slaves for good measure.  As a testament to the country’s historic seclusion, the DNA composition of modern Icelanders is approximately 60% Nordic and 40% Scottish, and you see it in their features.  Let’s just say no one tans easily.

THE BLUE LAGOON

My visit to the Blue Lagoon falls among the most extraordinary in my travel experiences.  It felt surreal to be in a bathing suit when it was 35 degrees Fahrenheit.  The water originates from geothermal seawater, which also provides the hot water to Reykjavik.  In fact, when you turn on the hot water in a public bathroom, it smells of sulfur.

I arrived at 11:00AM (just light enough), and among the first few people there.  The water is a beautiful milky blue and it’s all built into lava rocks so the contrast of the blue water against the black rocks adds a dramatic effect.  I put the silica on my face because it’s been proven to have anti-aging properties, and I’m obsessed with not looking old.  I helped myself to some silica that caked the bottom and sides of the lagoon, because it makes for a good story, and is better than paying $70.  To switch it up a bit, I used the sauna and steam, and then stood under the heaviest waterfall I’ve ever experienced.  It was like a massage.

I had packed a sandwich for lunch, but someone at the café scolded me for bringing food from an outside source, so I packed up and went to the viewing platform to take some pictures.  Then I headed to the bus where I ate my sandwich, and napped on the ride back to the city.  It was a beautiful day – mostly sunny with big puffy clouds in the blue sky.  I hoped that the weather would continue to remain clear, since it was my final opportunity to see the Aurora Borealis.

FOOTBALL OR FOOTBALL?

After returning to Reykjavik, I walked around the city, visiting different neighborhoods, stopping for a quick coffee because my ears burned from the cold.  Honestly, Icelanders drink more coffee than any other country I’ve visited – including Italy, France, Greece, and Puerto Rico.

On my tour, I found a sports bar where they were showing American football.  I walked in during the “ESPN-America” pre-game being shown on one small old TV getting reception from rabbit ears held in place with aluminum foil while the rest of the bar was glued to a soccer match.  I enjoy soccer, but tend to watch major cups and rivalry matches, so the random equivalence of Pirates vs. Reds held little appeal.  I committed myself to the pre-game, despite the poor reception and screen not much larger than an iPad, until the bar manager started playing God with the satellites, and changed the pre-game from the one measly screen.  I smiled at him and said, “I guess I’m alone wanting the see the American football playoffs.”  He looked up and replied, “No, there are others.  I’ll put it on the big screen in a minute.”  So, I ordered Viking beer (I’m not making that up) on tap, positioned myself in front of a good TV, and prepared to watch as the rest of the bar cleared out.

Interestingly, the game was between Dallas and Minnesota. I pointed out to the bartender how symbolic and fitting that the two teams playing were the Cowboys (America’s team) and the Vikings, and that here I was, an American, in Iceland, the country of Vikings.  So, guess which team everyone cheered for?  Yup.  The Vikings.  Go figure.

VDDS – VITAMIN D DEFICIENCY SYNDROME

I just coined that term as a joke, so if your evening news is interrupted by a pharmaceutical company pitching treatment, I want royalties.  Perhaps attributable to the time of year and the fact that the country sees less than 5 hours of  natural light a day, the only feeling I got walking around Reykjavik is sadness.  I didn’t sense laughter or joy from locals.  Granted, the country was still recovering from the collapse of the banking system and governmental upheaval that occurred in 2008, and graffiti tags bore witness to a certain sense of protest.  But Italy is a country of constant political and economic chaos – especially pre-EU, and the Italians ALL have such an “amore di vita.”  It just felt so serious all the time.  I later learned that in the winter, Icelanders experience “lost weekends” after crawling into a bottle Friday after work and emerging Monday morning. One thing is for sure, they know how to drink.

To that end, the girl at the hotel suggested that I go to Boston.  Having grown up in Boston, I tried to make a joke with her, but she didn’t get it.  Boston is a bar – imagine that.  I ordered a (you guessed it) Viking Beer on tap to start.  After I finished, and feeling full from beer, I thought about ordering some wine.  I approached the bar to review the list when the bartender recommended one with the caveat “It’s the okayest, but I can’t promise anything.”  I don’t remember the wine, but I really want to incorporate “okayest” into the vernacular.  P.S. The bartender was wearing a vintage D.A.R.E. t-shirt.

I hadn’t eaten since lunch, so I was pretty hungry by the time I left the bar, but restaurants stop serving food around 10.  I couldn’t even get whale, which is advertised every block, like the Icelandic version of Starbucks.  So, I visited the convenience store and bought some sandwiches and chips, and lamented the fact that I couldn’t find beer or wine for sale anywhere!  I really wanted to bring some Viking Beer back to the States!

YOU WANT SUN?  OH, WE GOT SUN!  JUST…NOT RIGHT NOW

I had planned on seeing the Aurora Borealis, obviously, but the weather never cooperated.  So, for my last night in Reykjavik, I decided to sulk at a restaurant close to my hotel.  Since my experience with food in Iceland to that point had been boring, I wasn’t expecting anything different than the under-seasoned and over-priced fare I’d been used to.  Ha!  The food was delicious, and the chef/owner created a remarkable space.  It was beautifully decorated, boasting local artwork and magnificent crystals that she has found on glaciers over the course of her life, starting with one that she found when she was only 9 years old.

I dined next to a pane glass window offering a view of the mountain and the harbor, and my attention to the view inspired her to share a story that piqued my interest to return in summer.  The position of Iceland and the earth’s axis make the winter a very dark time.  However, the summer is a very light time, and the summer solstice (the longest day in the northern hemisphere) is unique in Iceland as there is only one hour of “night.”  Her husband is a drummer, so he and his drummer friends line up along the promenade overlooking the harbor with the mountain in the distance.  As the sun sets, they play their drums.  Yet, since darkness never really sets in, the amber glow of sunset leads into the amber glow of sunrise.

Among the artwork were enormous photographs of the Aurora Borealis, just to rub it in.  More conversation with the chef revealed that the photographer waited 12 hours to capture just 10 minutes of light.  As disappointed as I was not to witness it in person, I felt happy to have met her, and to have gained some insight about Iceland not found in the guidebooks.

Things to do in Iceland – Reykjavik

R, Cr-landlopers.com

Reykjavik, Credit-landlopers.com

by Andy Paolacci,

If you’re planning a short stay in Iceland, then these natural spectacles will prompt your getaway to develop into a memorable lifetime experience. Not sure what to do in Iceland? It can seem like a pretty intimidating place for a first-time traveler journeying to this isolated wonderland. However, taking Iceland with most hands (careful, it might be slippery) and embracing its whimsical culture will ensure that this little piece of Scandinavia will stay with you forever.

The Blue Lagoon

No great trip to Iceland is complete without soaking yourself in the geothermally-heated waters of this nation’s little treasure – the Blue Lagoon. The silica-sulphuric based liquid will moisturize your skin, while keeping your body reliably heated, as the water’s average temperature ranges anywhere from 37-39°C (98-102°F).

The opaque, light blue water provides itself with a murky appearance; and due to the volcanic, black rocky surroundings, it almost gives you the impression that you’re in a foreign land – almost as if you’re on another planet or even the moon. Take pleasure in applying the silica-like sludge to your face while enjoying one of the Blue Lagoon’s finest cocktails. Relaxation is justly taken to a new level at the Blue Lagoon.

The Golden Circle

The Golden Circle encapsulates three of Iceland’s most awe-inspiring natural beauties. Firstly, you will discover Gullfoss (pictured), which is Iceland’s major multi-layered waterfall. Produced by the slowly melting glaciers, Gullfoss gives off a multi-coloured appearance while the icy cold waters gush out into an immense rift – a truly wonderful sight.

Geysir, the second part of the Golden Circle, sits in nearby proximity to Gullfoss and is known for spewing up an abundance of boiling steam up to 70 meters in the air at any one time. While the Great Geysir was blocked by tourists hurling objects into it during the 1950s, Iceland’s most dependable geyser, Strokkur (Butter Churn), is situated 50 meters away and erupts on average approximately every four minutes.

Finally, Þingvellir National Park allows one to grasp the historical aspect of Iceland. Complimenting the Golden Circle, Þingvellir is actually the location of the world’s first democratic parliament, which was established in around 930 AD. Aesthetically, the National Park is also a sight to behold as it has now become a vast creviced dale, which was brought about by the dividing Eurasian and North American tectonic plates.

The Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis)

In the cold hours of the night between November and March each year, the Northern Lights can be best viewed from the skies of the more secluded regions of Iceland. Away from the city lights of Reykjavik, undulating bands of green or red light that glitter across the otherwise night sky will leave you with a breathtaking view of our atmosphere as we know it.

However, the cosmic phenomena can only be seen when the conditions allow for it. Not only is darkness essential, there needs to be little cloud in the sky and crisp cold air for the scientific spectacle to take place. Despite demanding perfect conditions, the celestial sensation is one to make the effort for; and if you do get a chance to observe it, you will not be disappointed!

Booking a tour through your hotel to see these natural sights is easy, but for more information on any of the following sights or to book a tour, ask the staff at your hotel how to go about witnessing these unique marvels.