4 Oct 2015

This morning Robin and I were picked up by Reykjavik Excursions for a 6 hour tour of Thingvellir (Þingvellir), Gullfoss and Geysir.  It was raining this morning and by the time we got to Thingvellir National Park (31 miles east of Reykjavik) the rain was coming down pretty good and the wind was blowing hard .  It was so disappointing because it was very pretty.  There were some good shots but with the cold vertical rain it was impossible to take our cameras out.  Robin got a few shots with her iPhone.  The vegetation was really amazing; pink, yellow, gold, dark pine green, light lichen green with so much texture.  I don’t know what the plants were but they were wearing their fall colors and did look so beautiful!  Þingvellir – literally “Parliament Plains” and was named such because the Alþing Parliament met at this location from about 930 to 1798.  It is in this area that the Atlantic Divide cuts through Iceland.  We crossed from America to Europe and back today!  Pretty cool.  You can see deep fissures in the land where the two plates are moving away from each other at a rate of about 2 cm a year!  It is dangerous to walk through the landscape as you can fall into one of these cracks.  There are wooden footpaths that you must stay on.

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Our next stop was at Gullfoss.  It is a beautiful waterfall, spectacular and again it was impossible to take a proper picture.

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Our final stop of the tour was at Geysir.We did see small geysir blow and there were many areas where steam was rising from the ground.  There were some mineral pools as well.  I had never seen any geothermal activity before so it was pretty interesting.  Robin says it’s not nearly as good as those at Yellowstone.

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The trip back was damp, foggy windows, wet cloths, poor visibility due to the weather.  We were glad to get back to our room and dry off and relax before meeting up with our photo tour group.

The husband and wife team leading our tour (Neal and Charlotte) are very nice.  There are 10 people signed up for the tour, only two of them are men.  I was somewhat surprised by that.  We had introductions and a brief description of the places we plan to visit before heading down the street to a very nice dinner at a seafood buffet.

Lovely Reykjavik

3 Oct 2015

My friend Robin and I arrived to a cold and rainy Reykjavik this morning.  The flight was not too unpleasant,  We sat next to a man on his way to Zurich, a dual citizen now living in Seattle, on his way back for a visit.  He was very nice and we enjoyed his company.  Behind us was a woman with two young boys.  The younger of the two was a very exited child about 4.  About the time we were hoping to get a bit of shut eye he got loud and fidgety, kicking the back of our seats, making it impossible to fall asleep (although I almost never get to sleep on an airplane so it may not have mattered either way).  Robin was inclined to strangle him at one point but logistics save his wee little neck!

After dropping our luggage off at the hotel, Robin and I wandered around Reykjavik city center.  We had a marvelous breakfast at the Laundromat (there is actually a laundry facility downstairs we discovered when we went down to find the toilet).  Everything was very good.  Fresh baked bread, excellent butter and the coffee – superb! (…and I am VERY picky about my coffee!)  The service was very relaxed (read slooowwww).  Also, we might have sat there for quite a time waiting for the check if the Canadian couple at the adjoining table hadn’t warned us on their way out that they did not bring you a check.  You walk up to the register, point to your table and the order is brought up by table number.

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The Laundromat

We visited Hallgrímskirkja Cathedral; a very lovely Lutheran church and the Harpa Concert Hall.  My camera battery died as we reached Harpa which was most disappointing as it is a beautiful building.  I hope to get back to it before we come home.  The cold apparently drains camera batteries quickly!

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Reykjavik city center is very picturesque.  Beautiful little buildings on narrow streets and lots of interesting things to see.  We saw trolls hanging out on the street and vikings guarding some of the store entrances. It is easy to walk around town, as long as you watch out for the motorists. Our Fly Bus driver from the airport this morning ran a stop sign.  This afternoon walking around town we saw a car driving the wrong way down a one way street.  Rather than queuing up behind the other traffic traveling in the correct direction, that had edged over so that this wrong way driver could get by, a car pulled up onto the sidewalk to go around him!  Those of us on the sidewalk turned around and quickly went back the other way to make room for the sidewalk driver!!!

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By the way, it is really cold here!  Looking at the weather forecast for tomorrow we have seen predictions for snow, rain and mostly sunny!  I guess that means be prepared for anything!

We had a nice dinner at Hofnin Restaurant on the harbor.  The food and the service was very good.  We had a nice view and a very pleasant dinner.  Considering is has been over 24 hours since either of us has slept that we managed  to carry on a conversation was pretty amazing!

Icelandic Surnames

In preparation for my upcoming trip to Iceland, I have been reading “The Little Book of the Icelanders” by Alda Sigmundsdottir.  It is very entertaining and if you are interested in the ways of the Icelandic people I highly recommend it.   I found the section on Icelandic surnames very interesting.  In a typical Icelandic family the father, mother and children will all have a different last name because Icelanders still use patronyms or matonyms.  (Think, Johnson, Jackson, Peterson, etc.)  So according to this system the surname is made by taking the father or mother’s first name and adding “son” or “dottir”, while the parents last names are made from the first names of their parents…. It must make genealogy research VERY confusing! There are some family names in Iceland that are from the past and came from Danish aristocracy.  Most of them came into the Icelandic language in the 17th century.  In the 20th century family names became popular and people were making up their own and so in 1991 family names were declared illegal.  Today the only way a new family name will be registered is if a foreign citizen moves to Iceland and has a child with an Icelandic partner; then that child can adopt the foreign parent’s family name.  Adopting a husbands surname is pretty much unheard of in Iceland.

There is a long history in Iceland of giving people nicknames and that tradition is still widely practiced especially in the smaller communities.  Someone known for fox hunting prowess might have “rebbi” (fox) added after their name, or someone known for drunkenness might have “skand” (short for skandall) added after their name.  Famous people are also given nicknames.  For example, Iceland’s best known astrologist whose name is Gunnlaugur is called “Gulli the Star”.

Also, after reading her section on Icelanders and their driving habits, I am quite happy to leave that part of the trip to someone else!!!

Yesterday I spent almost the entire day packing my checked bag.  I thought there was going to be loads of room left over since I am taking a larger bag than usual.  I joked with my friend Lynnette that I would be able to bring back a load of reindeer meat with all of the room I was going to have left over.  Needless to say, I was positively shocked to see the suitcase, piece by bulky piece of clothing, become completely full!!  I am taking way more clothing than I normally travel with.  Snow pants and gaiters, a down jacket plus an extra pair of hiking boots, and the next thing you know the case is full! I’m dreading handling this heavy bag.

Fun Facts about Iceland

Some interesting information about Iceland from Rough Guide web page: Though geographically as big as England, Iceland’s population is tiny – at barely 310,000, it’s no bigger than many towns in other countries. Two out of three Icelanders live in and around the capital, Reykjavík.

  • Iceland sits atop the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, the fault line where two of the Earth’s tectonic plates are slowly drifting apart; as a result, Iceland is getting wider at a rate of roughly 1cm per year. Either side of this ridge, from the northeast to the southwest, earthquakes and volcanic activity are commonplace.
  • There are no motorways or railways in Iceland. The country’s only main road, the Ringroad which circumnavigates the island, was completed in the 1970s following several unsuccessful attempts to bridge treacherous glacial rivers on the south coast.
  • Iceland is home to the third-biggest glacier in the world, Vatnajökull, covering an area equal to that of the English county of Yorkshire. One of the country’s greatest sources of geothermal energy, the Grímsvötn caldera, sits directly beneath the icecap.
  • Thanks to the existence of countless medieval documents, many Icelanders can trace their ancestors back to the time of the Viking settlement, around 800 AD. Low immigration over the centuries means that today’s Icelanders have one of the purest gene pools in the world, providing an invaluable research opportunity for scientists.

The Icelandic language has not changed much since it’s inception, partly due to their isolation and low immigration.  It is very close to Old Norse and it is possible for Icelandic speakers to read the Old Norse sagas in the original without too much difficulty. Considering Old Norse was spoken during the 9th to 13th centuries that is pretty incredible.  Ever tried reading Old English?!