Tag Archives: Iceland

Northern Iceland is Seldom seen.


It is a pity that few tourists in Iceland see the north part.  It is beautiful and thanks to the Gulf Stream is actually the warmest part of the country.


We spent 2 days exploring the are around Akureyri.  It is wonderful area.


Of course I am a wild flower guy, so I had to pay attention to them even in Iceland. They were extremely hard to photograph because it as so windy. Someone said, “Iceland is the third windiest country in the world and no one lives in the first two.”

Few people visit the north. That is a pity.

I was very surprised how beautiful Iceland was, even though friends who had been tried to tell me.

I can hardly wait to go back to Island

Strange Food in Iceland


Part of menu from a restaurant in Iceland

Icelanders are strange. In many ways, and not least in the things that they will eat. Here is a partial list of things that they eat:

Fermented shark

Happy marriage (a pie with oatmeal crust0

Love balls (a desert)

Moss soup

Kleina (twisted pastry)

Sheep’s head soup

Black death ( schnapps made from fermented potatoes and caraway seeds.

Sour ram’s testicles

Blood pudding

Fish stomach

Added to that, horses are popular in Iceland. So is horsemeat. Many people cringe at the thought of horsemeat, but the fact is that 90% of that horsemeat is eaten by tourists!

Of course what seems  strange to us is natural to others.

Booms follow Busts; Busts follow Booms



The National Bird of Iceland: Cranes


Our coach driver, A.O.,  pointed out how Iceland was coming back from their recession that was brought about when  their 3 major banks failed in 2008.  He said that Iceland was the only country to have paid back its IMF emergency loans. He said that now the country was back in a big spending mode. I had already noticed that cranes were omnipresent. It reminded me of Shanghai, which at one time reputedly had 1/3 of all the cranes in the world. In China our guide had said the crane was China’s national bird. Perhaps that was now true of Iceland. I hope that this spending  spree does not mean that another bust will follow the current boom. Busts are not pleasant.  Yet that is how capitalism seems to work. Booms are followed by busts. Bust  cause a lot of pain. I remember what John Kenneth Galbraith had said, “A balloon never deflates in an orderly fashion.”

I love Churches


I confess (the appropriate word here) that I love churches, but not to go inside for worship. I love them to take pictures of them. If they don’t have art inside or stained glass windows, or sculpture, I rarely stay long. My bad. I like churches; I just don’t like going there very often.


In Reykjavik one evening after dinner Chris and walked up the hill to get a view of Hallgrimskirkja, the largest church in Iceland that was designed to resemble the columns of Iceland’s basaltic lava that we saw later at Reynisdrangur (near 4 pillars). It is the second highest building in Iceland at 73 metres (240 ft.)

Blönduóusskirkja in the town of Blönduóuss. We thought this was interesting because to us the church looked like a rock. I thought that was significant.

The church in Siglufjorour in northern Iceland was silent and empty. The bar was filled with Icelanders madly cheering football (soccer) fans

This Church at Modrudalur was built by a man to honour his deceased wife. Like many churches in Iceland it was very small.  The mega-churches of the U.S. and Canada don’t seem to have many any headway in Iceland. I prefer the small ones.


Stöovarfjördur church i another tiny church. In fact it has been “converted” into a Guesthouse.

Most churches in Iceland are Lutheran. They “won” the wars of the reformation. This one is in the south of Iceland. AO, our guide, said that in Iceland only 2% of people now attend church regularly. Do they need a revival?


Pingvallarkirkja church (which you can see in the distance on this photograph) is inside the National Park and is associated with the original Parliament of Iceland which they claim was the first in the world.


This is a Catholic Church. To me it looks more like a grain elevator than a church. I should say I also love grain elevators. I call them prairie castles.

Best Tour Guides Ever!

On the way to the Saga Museum, in Reykjavik Iceland about 8 of our  group hopped on one bus and then transferred to another  On the second bus, I sat beside 2 lovely young girls, after asking their permission of course. They kindly obliged. After all, I looked harmless enough. Soon I engaged them in conservation. “How old are you,”I asked?  “Almost 13” they confidently replied. I told them I had a granddaughter nearly the same age, back in Canada where I was from. I told them we had lots of Icelanders in our province. They were surprised at that.

I asked them if they could be my tour guide. I started off asking if they knew where the Saga museum was. It took them a while to catch on what I meant. I probably did not pronounce Sagacorrectly. But they figured it out and assured me we were on the right bus and headed the right direction.  Good.

“What I should I see and do in Iceland,” I asked.  They hesitated but only briefly. They mulled over the question, then one of them said, “The hop-on, hop-off bus was really cool.”  I said I had been on one in London and Paris and really enjoyed it. I could see a lot of the city easily and efficiently.  Great idea.

I complemented the girls on their excellent English. This pleased them greatly. I meant it too.  It was amazing how proficient they were with a Grade 6 or so education. It was indeed impressive. “How did you learn English,” I asked. “In school,” was the response.  Clearly they enjoyed practicing their English in a real life situation.

I think my complement gave them confidence and they were off and running with a blizzard of suggestions. They quickly pointed out a school, and then another school. They also gave suggestions for restaurants. “Sushi is very good,” one exclaimed.  The other quickly added, “And the fish’n chips near the museum are really good too.”  “That is the restaurant where my sister works.”

They had a wealth of ideas about shopping explaining about all the wonderful things we could buy. They worried that their advice would be too costly. I assured them that old men like me would die very soon anyway so there was no need to save what little I had.

By the time we reached the museum they had to get off the bus and insisted this was where we had to get off too. They were a bit disturbed that we did not get off. One of our friends had talked to an adult who said, “Next stop.” It turned out, of course, that the girls were right. We would have been better off getting off when they said we should. The adult was wrong.

All in all the conversation, over heard by all our friends was a classic example of what one can learn by taking public transportation in a foreign city.  Often they are the highlight of the trip. This was certainly the highlight so far. In fact with their bubbling enthusiasm these 2 young girls where the best tour guides I ever had. I thanked them profusely.

I was only disappointed in myself. I should have got their names and had a photo taken of us. Darn I muffed that!

Iceland: A Warm Welcome is in our nature


When we arrived in Iceland, our first stop was not the hotel. They were not ready for us. So we drove to the Blue Lagoon.This is Iceland’s most famous tourist attraction and gives a real feel for the country. According to my guidebook, it is a “dreamy, steamy spa complex that epitomizes the country’s faintly unearthly reputation.” ]Interesting little wooden bridges covered with thin strips of wood to ease traction and which cross  the lagoon’s milky turquoise waters and hot pots in front of steaming vents of hot water.

The lagoon is not actually a natural phenomenon. It is a by-product of Iceland’s nearby Svartsengi geothermal energy plant. It pumps mineral laden hot water from up to 2 km (1.2mi) below the surface of the earth (not the centre like Verne envisioned) at 240°C. This is later cooled by a procedure that harnesses the hot water for electrical power and fresh water.

The runoff water is close to the body’s natural temperature 100°C. it is claimed that psoriasis and eczema sufferers (like me) often feel relief. Sadly, I did not notice the relief, but I enjoyed it.

Iceland has captured the power of the natural forces underneath the surface. The homes of Iceland have been provided with cheap and environmentally friendly hot water produced by geothermal energy.  This is water heated naturally under the earth’s crust that escapes near to the surface here. About 80% of Iceland’s power is provided by geothermal conditions. The largest geothermal plant in the world is located right beside the Blue Lagoon and supplies water to the lagoon.

This allows the Icelanders to take an open-air swim when it is cold outside. It often gets cold, though I was told it is warmer here than Manitoba in the winter. And colder in the summer! Apparently about 1.6 million people visit the geothermal pools in Iceland each year. They have made it part of their lifestyle.

As you can see, I found some very scary creatures in the pool.

We all took a turn in the pool and all enjoyed it a lot. A free drink for each of us was provided with our admission. The water is partly fresh and partly salty. I found it easy to float. It was a delightful way to spend a couple of hours soaking up water and the rays of the sun. I left early to take some team pictures, without me of course.




Travel/ Travail

Notice Chris’ Finger!

As I have said before: the words travel and travail are similar for good reasons. They both share the shame common root and like all of life, when we share a common ancestor that sometimes is experienced sharply. Today was one of those days. As I have also said before, life is hard when y ou are stupid. Again, sadly that was experienced again.

We decided on a trip to Iceland about 10 months without giving much thought to it. After all, why would anyone leave sunny Manitoba during its finest season to travel to Iceland where the temperatures now average between 10 and 15 °C? That is a darn good question. Sadly answers are not as good.

First we got up in Winnipeg at 4 a.m. so we would have plenty of time to have a bit to eat and arrange for boarding the plane. After that we flew to Toronto and arrived at about 10 a.m. We thought we arrived in Toronto in plenty of time to catch our connecting flight to Iceland. WRONG! We arrived LONG before that! We had about 11 hours before our flight to Iceland thanks to insufficient care and attention to travel details. These were details that bit us in the rear end BIGLY. We had a long boring half day in Toronto sitting and waiting for our flight to Iceland.  We sat on our seats long we had burns on our butts. All of this made our 5 our tortuous flight to Iceland even more barbaric than could have been expected because we were too sore to sit any more. What do you do in aircraft when you are unable to sit?

Later when we arrived at our hotel, early in the morning they were not ready so we had even more sitting around to do. This was almost enough for us to swear off traveling for ever. This was among our worst and most boring traveling days ever. It was not suprising we were all in bad moods.