Iceland day 8

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We had booked a Golden Circle tour from the front desk the night before. I had to wake Helen up as she slept through her alarm. A shuttle got us from the hostel and picked up other people from hotels along the way. They took us to a petrol station and transferred us to a bigger coach with other people on it. We had a tour guide waiting on this one.

We drove for about an hour to get to Þinvellir. The view on the way was incredible, it was a lot snowier that it had been previously. The tour guide explained the history of Reykjavik, which was actually discovered by the Irish slaves of the first Viking settler in Iceland. The sun was coming up on the way, which was bright orange and looked incredible against the snow. At one point we ran into really thick fog and it was pure white wherever you looked, the tour guide chose this point to tell us the myths about the trolls, the hidden people, and the ‘yule lads’.

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The sunrise was still happening when we got to a very snowy Þinvellir. I had already seen it, but it was especially beautiful in the new light and with the snow and all the information we had learned on the bus. We were amazed by the lack of health and safety measures, we took a walk down ‘the crack’ and took some pictures from the viewing platform.

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When we left it was about a 40 minute drive to the geyser. It’s never hard driving around in Iceland when the views are always so incredible. We learned about the summer houses people in Reykjavik have out in the country. When we got to the geyser we had some time to eat lunch. We walked out first to wait for the geyser to go up. The sun was still low and bright orange, which looked amazing coming through the geothermal steam. The geyser went off and we were prepared, but didn’t film it. We ate our sandwiches and bought more snacks and coffee inside, including an Icelandic donut thing.

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It wasn’t a long drive to Gulfoss waterfalls. There was another raven flying around, which Helen appreciated as much as me. It was awesome to see it in proper light. It was icy so we kept away from the sides but we still got some amazing pictures. Helen’s camera was much better than mine so we got some great pics to send to people back home. There was one guy waling around with his toddler on his shoulders which freaked us out a bit.

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It was getting dark when we got to our final stop, which was a volcanic crater (they think). That was the most unsafe place, there was a 1ft rope fence on the edge of this massive drop into a crater with a frozen lake at the bottom and a decking covered in ice (which people stepped on). It was a short picture stop there before we got on the bus back to Reykjavik.

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It was around an hour’s drive back to Reykjavik. We learned more about Iceland on the way, like how every town and village has a swimming pool. We were the last stop in Reykjavik and we were both pretty tired by this point. I went for a nap in preparation for my 7am flight but I didn’t fall asleep in the end. I came out about an hour later and had more bread and cheese with Helen.

We chatted for a while and then I tried to go for another nap but once again I didn’t manage to. Some people from New Zealand were talking away in the room. I gave up and decided to stay up for my flight. I bumped into Shamak and he invited us over to come and talk with other people.

We spent the rest of the night sat round the table by the window. There was a German girl and a French guy I hadn’t met before and Helen joined us. Dina, the German girl, did a really bad British accent that she insisted was totally accurate, and me and Helen showed them scouse and geordie accents. I was desperate for some booze but the bar closed after a while so I tried to walk to the petrol station. The wind was really high and there had been rain so the ice was extremely unsafe. I had to shuffle most of the way. It felt like an Arctic expedition despite the fact it was only up the road, and when I got there they weren’t even selling any alcohol. I was devastated. Helen went to bed not long after I got back.

The other German girl, Marlene, joined us and Dina showed us ‘Dinner for One’ on youtube, a sub-par British slapstick sketch from the fifties that is apparently an incredibly popular holiday tradition in Germany. She couldn’t believe I had never seen it. We then got to talking about hostel creeps. Both Dina and Marlene had guys who had attempted to get into their beds for ‘a cuddle’. Shamak was disgusted but this young Polish guy who joined us didn’t seem fazed so we told him never to try it. Marlene showed us this love letter a Mexican guy had left in her bag after they had like one conversation.

Before long my airport shuttle bus arrived and I wished goodbye and Merry Christmas to my fellow hostel guests. Keflavik airport was a lot easier to get through and given the time of day, extremely quiet. The flight was only about two hours long, I had a bottle of duty-free whisky and snoozed the whole way. When I woke up I got some beautiful views of the sunrise over the Scottish mountains. I arrived with no trouble, in time for a relaxing day out.

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Iceland day 7

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Me and Helen ate breakfast together before heading out into the city centre. We stopped at the Cathedral for pics, before going to the harbour to look at the amazing views. It was very windy and after my fall at the longship statue I was quite nervous being there.

Helen loved the mountains but with the wind and the ice it was really difficult getting around. We went into a bakers and got some bread and cheese to have back at the hostel, as well as a huge iced bun to share between us. While we were there we looked up directions to the penis museum which wasn’t far away, nothing is in Reykjavik.

The Penis Museum was opposite where me and Simon had gone for noodles. The museum itself wasn’t big (har har) but it had a lot of amazing specimens. We took a lot of pictures with the sperm whale penis which was about six feet tall. Other specimens included a giraffe, a killer whale, a seal, a horse, an one human penis. There was a few contracts from people promising to donate their penis when they die.

They had hundreds of penis bones, which is a thing many animals have. They also had a ‘mythical’ section which included troll penis and a ‘ghost penis’ (empty jar). They also had dirty limericks on the wall and various pieces of phallic art. The gift shop had penis key rings, Iceland theme condoms, underwear, and kilts with penises on the front. They also had penis pasta and penis chocolate.

After we left we looked for Reykjavik Chips. It was a small place with a lot of pictures of old school rappers on the walls. They basically just did chips, but with lots of different sauces. I got garlic sauce and Helen got mayo.

Afterwards we went to look around shops. We went to a few souvenir shops and a cool geeky place. We ended up settling in Dillon’s bar after a while, choosing a window with a view of the mountains. We had a few glasses of red wine and kept in touch with people back home. There was an Everton sticker on the hand dryer so I sent a picture of it to Eugene. After that we went back to the hostel. We had cheese toasties and beans made with the bread and cheese we bought earlier. We spent the rest of the evening in the bar area drinking and chilling.

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Iceland – Day 6

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Icelandic art

Today I had a ticket for the Iceland Culture House that came with my museum admission. I stopped off at a few souvenir shops on the way but I didn’t buy anything.The building was lovely, I was advised to start at the top and work my way down. The whole exhibition was about reflections on Icelandic society and culture, past, present, and future.

The first (top) floor was about the country’s landscape and the relationship between people and nature. It was half-museum half-gallery, mainly paintings and photographs of nature. There was some real stuff and some more abstract stuff. I’m never too keen on landscape art and photography, I’m from the Lake District so I’m used to seeing pictures f mountains all over the place. That being said I really liked a photograph called ‘Mountain’ which was a man lying on a stack of wood with a pile of shows on his legs, bread on his belly, and books on his head and chest, that one really stuck out to me.

Other parts of the exhibition had a more museum feel to them. There was an interesting section about religion and power that included beautifully illustrated manuscripts and other artefacts. They had letters and sketches of wildlife and more portraits. There was more art throughout and a lot of varied interpretations of Mary in the religion section of the exhibit. My favourite part was Christmas trees throughout the years in the country. Iceland couldn’t grow fir trees for years so there were a lot of interesting fake ones made out of things like feathers and felt. They were all quite small too and some still had the original decorations.

When I finished there I went to the cafe in the building to check it out, it was really lovely and relatively cheap. They had these great retro style green lamps and Christmas decorations, and music playing on vinyl. I got a slice of ‘hygge’ cake and a coffee. They had a gift shop too, but I didn’t get anything. They staff in the whole place were all really nice.

I stopped at a few shops on the way back, including a very hipster one where I bought a mermaid makeup brush and a Bart Simpson sticker. When I got back to the hostel I hung around the bar waiting for Helen but I didn’t drink too much.

She arrived late in the evening, I think she was pretty surprised at being welcomed by everyone. The older Scottish guy, Tony, chatted a lot of rubbish to her, singing and saying how much he loved Welsh people. I gave her the Christmas presents I got for her, a Danish ceramic ‘ghost’ that matches one I have and a monkey science candle, which she loved. We stayed up for a bit and sent a few pics to Gabs, but mainly chatted with other people in the hostel. We went to bed not too long after so we could pack in a lot at the weekend.

Iceland Day 5

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Skeleton grave Iceland(Yes I know ther’es been a long gap between these but I lost the original diary. Whadareyagonnado?)

Today I went to the National Museum of Iceland, which was not too far from the hostel. Admission was expensive, like everything else, and I got a little badge thing to wear. I came into a main room that covered pre-Christian settlers and the introduction of Christianity. There was the original figure of Thor that mine and Lois’ souvenir figures were based on, Viking weapons, tools engraved with runes, and woodwork.

Perhaps the most striking thing was the graves of settlers. There was the grave of a rider and his horse, as people were often buried with them (sometimes even dogs), the grave of a woman with tools and jewellery, and the grave of an 8 month old baby who was buried alone. I find exhibitions of human remains weird, they’re fascinating and allow you to connect with the past, but I don’t know how I would feel knowing my skeleton would be on display in a few hundred years.

There were some cool artefacts from the start of the Christian church in Iceland. I always like looking at that kind of iconography. It hasn’t changed much since then, and they’re always so beautifully made. It’s easy to see how people became disillusioned with the church when they lived in mud huts and they go to a church with elaborate carvings and tapestries everywhere. From a modern perspective it seems quite quaint.

They had a room with costumes, my favourite thing, but most of them were drab peasant clothes. They had a Viking style helmet, shield, and sword, but they were attached to the ceiling and it was impossible to wear/wield all three and take a selfie at the same time.

I got to stuff from more recent Icelandic history. There was oil portraits, and a cool exhibition on racism in Iceland. They didn’t censor the n-word which I thought was not cool, but the exhibit was pretty insightful and offered a different look at Icelandic people, who are usually perceived as very progressive. It projected some internet comments on a wall which needs to be done a lot more to understand the worst of humanity. They had a wall where people could write what they would miss about their homeland, and some people posted Office quotes including “I love in jokes, I’d love to be a part of one some day.” – Michael Scott.

By the time I left the museum I was starving, so I walked to cafe Loki. I considered getting rye bread with cheese, which was cheaper, but ended up getting rye bread with boiled eggs and herring. I ended up regretting it as it was pretty much raw herring and a boiled egg, and very strong. I got enough of it down though, and it was probably best for keeping me full. After that I went back to the hostel and spent the evening drinking at the bar with the lads from the hostel.

Iceland Day 4

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I got up a little later than I intended with no specific plans. I had to go to the Kriglan Mall to run a few errands, Heiner caught up with me at breakfast and offered me a lift there. I got what I needed and picked up something for Helen as a Christmas present. Heiner found me again and gave me a ride back to Laugervagur.

I spent more money on Laugevagur than I had done previously but I got some cool stuff, including a ‘norsey horsey’ cuddly toy. I had a look inside the cathedral and got myself a pizza for lunch, which is the first proper money I’ve spent on food, but so worth it. I found Cafe Loki opposite and had some Icelandic herb tea while the sun went down (so round about 3:30 pm).

I attempted to find the National Museum but I thought it might close too soon after I got there so I hung out in the park. It was pretty but totally frozen, even most of the large pond at the centre. It was David’s anniversary so I sat down for a little while. There was one small area of the pond that wasn’t froze, with swans and ducks swimming in it. I went down a nearby street that looked cute and it had an English Bar, an American bar, and an Irish bar, which already sounds like a joke. I found a souvenir shop selling cheap hot chocolate.

I checked out the Irish bar and went for a coffee. They had a stuffed rabbit dressed like a fenian holding a shotgun, so it was wholly authentic. I headed back to the hostel after that with the plan of drinking what I had there to save money. I had the same dinner of boil-in-the-bag rice and kidney beans and sat with the same crowd as yesterday. I had one of my beers, a wine, and a pint from behind the bar.

We were all drinking and eventually decided to go to some bars in Reykjavik. The plan was Lebowskibar but we passed Dillon’s on the way, which I had heard a lot about, so we checked that out. I had a shot of brennivin and a whiskey, and still felt totally sober. There was a band in there but we didn’t spend too long listening to them.

Next stop was the infamous Lebowskibar. It was super cool in terms of references to the movie, but like everything in the country, expensive as hell. None of us bought anything to drink as a result but a few of the guys found some girls to chat up. I was determined to go to this gay bar across the road called Kiki’s, recommended to me by a friend, and dragged two very straight Californians along with me.

Neither of them were too happy about it at first but they were playing some absolute bangers so they quickly got very into it, especially the young guy from LA. It was only a small place but the music was at a good volume where you could still hear yourself. I had another pint there, but still felt absolutely fine. We chatted to other people in there, before heading to the American bar where everyone else was.

The guys wanted some food so we went on a mission for some, eventually finding this takeaway place and getting fries. After that it was a walk back to the hostel in the cold. There was no falling on the ice luckily. I went straight to bed once we got back. I still felt completely fine, despite the mix of booze I’d had.

Iceland day 3

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Once again I managed to hijack someone else’s trip! Me and the three Spanish girls got invited along for a drive with this guy from San Fransisco, who, unlike our driver yesterday, only asked for fuel money. We left early to miss tourists and played some 90s R&B classics along the way.

We got to the black sand beach in the south coast just as the sun was coming up. One of the most surreal, beautiful places I have ever been to. There were these huge rock formations on the cliff side not dissimilar to the Giant’s Causeway. There were flocks of seagulls flying around and the sea was pretty wild. There were cavernous spaces in the cliff face that looked like the mouths of caves, and two crooked rock towers out in the sea to the left of the sun. I picked some volcanic rocks for people back home.

We then drove to another part of the beach that was home to the wreck of a WWII bomber plane (everyone survived the crash). It was about a 2 mile walk from the care but that made it more special. Anywhere else it might have been taken to a scrapyard decades ago, or become a tourist trap. The lighting was beautiful and there were a few professional photographers. I carved David’s name on the side of the plane and inside, it would have fascinated him. We took loads of pics, including one of me stood on top and frozen in terror! After the walk back to the car we ate some sandwiches and took some pics on the road.

After that we moved on to an amazing waterfall, covered in ice. It was less cold, and we had visibility problems in the car due to rain. There was still plenty of ice around, however. Lee, our driver, spoke some Spanish and was trying to improve, so I was mainly surrounded by Spanish speakers for most of the journey! It was fine, however, I learned a lot myself!

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After that we moved onto a glacier, which was truly awe-inspiring. We had to walk over a fair bit of ice to get there but luckily no one fell. If my Mum had been there she would have had a heart attack! It was huge, a gorgeous blue colour, and sat amongst more mountains. There was a small blue lake coming off it with frozen patches and small bergs of blue ice, like a miniature Arctic sea. The banks were made up of black sand and shiny black pebbles. Iceland has to have one of the most surreal landscapes on the planet. There was a tiny little cafe where we could use the toilet and buy some food, I can’t imagine working somewhere so tiny and remote.

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We managed to squeeze in one more waterfall before driving back to Reykjavik. It was getting dark and starting to rain, so we basically just ran out, took some pics, and ran back to the car! Although, I did squeeze in a quick visit to the gift shop, and two of the girls bought Lee a donut for his trouble.

I snoozed in the car for most of the journey home, and woke up with the rain and blizzard level snow covering the road. Poor Lee was having to go about 2 miles an hour, and his windscreen wipers only seem to make things worse! We pretty much just followed other cars. If Mum was there she would have freaked out. Luckily, we got back in one piece, and me being lazy, I went for a nap.

I got talking to other hostel guests at the bar. It was happy hour, so we were able to get pints cheaper than normal. They were all really nice, and a cool thing about hostels is getting together with people from all over the world. If I was staying in a hotel I wouldn’t have taken trips and I wouldn’t have anyone to hang out with in the evening. We spent a long time talking about the penis museum, and Icelandic witchcraft.

At around nine o’clock me and the same group went out to try and find the aurora. We got out to a spot near þingvellir. The lights we out, but once again it was very faint. It was still a nice night, however, the skies were clear and we spotted a few shooting stars. I t may have been purely imagination but the stars seemed twinklier out there, too. Lee took some long exposure pictures which showed the Northern Lights a lot brighter and more impressive than they were in person, so we always have the option to lie and say we saw them. We drove back and I pretty much went straight to bed.

Iceland – day 2

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I agreed to go on an unofficial (and possibly slightly illegal) golden circle tour with Heiner, the guitar playing German from the hostel, and three Spanish girls travelling together. We packed ourselves into the small car with a loud and somewhat oversharey German playing Rammstein, but it was way cheaper than proper tours and far more flexible. We stopped at the supermarket first for snacks and I picked up some food for the week, I tried to stick to canned and cheap stuff but even that was stupidly expensive.

We started at Þingvellir which I was able to really explore after just passing through the day before. I got some great pics and learned some facts, like how it hosts the Icelandic Prime Minister during the summer. I also believe it’s home to the world’s oldest parliament.

 

 

In the car Heiner mainly stuck to his rock music, but we all got a turn with the auxillary cord and even managed to play some Christmas tunes! David would have loved the whole thing – viking history, Rammstein, and geological weirdness. We stopped at other spots, like an amazing frozen lake, The whole country is like an alien planet.

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After that we went to this pool/spa place to try this famous rye bread, traditionally baked by burying it for 24 hours next to the thermal springs themselves. It was pretty nice, a little sweet but easily balanced out with salt and garlic oil. The thermal springs and the lake were so cool, they smelled a little eggy due to the sulphur, but that just made it all the more surreal. It’s very freaky, you’re walking on three inches of solid ice, then you dip your hand into a stream and it’s hotter than bath water. With the big lake and the steam rising up, it was amazingly cool.

 

 

After that was the geysir, which was fun to see again. I got such a fright when it exploded while I was taking a picture that I dropped my phone and cracked the screen a little – but it’s a great story so I wasn’t bothered! It’s quite literally an icebreaker (or a screenbreaker). After that we went to this weird little place that had a greenhouse full of tomatoes (Icelandic people love tomatoes – who knew) and a restaurant. It also had the Icelandic ponies, bred for horse racing, ans a small track. We got to see a little demonstration of one going round the track, they trot in a really funny way.

 

Before the light was completely gone there was just enough time to visit Gulfoss waterfall. It was truly epic, made more so by the fact it was half frozen. God knows how that even happens! Not enough safety measure though – a small rope fence stopping you from falling down a cliff face and into a waterfall, with icy ground. I saw two ravens flying around – Huginn and Munnin keeping watch on Midgard for Odin?

It was about a 2 hour drive back to Reykjavik so I snoozed in the car and had another nap when I got back. I made tortellini pasta for tea and chatted to my fellow hostel guests. Me and the three Spanish girls were due to retake the Northern Lights tour, but the forecast wasn’t good so we decided to forgo the bitter cold and stayed in with a beer. Plus, an American guy offered to drive us out another night to see them anyway, so it’s all good.