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.

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Quorn again

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So I thought I’d do a post on vegetarian living and the weird stuff we have to put up with.

I haven’t eaten meat in around five years. After a lifetime of being able to separate the living, breathing animal with the edible thing on my plate it just didn’t click any more. I have always loved animals and been opposed to hunting and cruelty, and it got to a point where I could no longer justify eating meat. I stopped seeing food and started seeing the lump of cooked flesh that had once belonged to a living being killed specifically for me to eat. I had alternatives and I knew what I was doing, so I gave it up. I phased it out for a while before stopping altogether. And yes, Mum, it was partly Morrissey’s fault.

These days I know I couldn’t stand to eat meat, no matter how tasty it is. It grosses me out. I worked in a cafe for a year and the smell of bacon did not tempt me to leap over the counter and snatch the full english breakfast from a customer’s hand and declare I could no longer stand a life without it, it made me feel sick. Seriously, why do people talk about bacon like it’s the second coming? It smells like burning pig flesh! Even when I did eat meat I never got the bacon hype. “How can you life without bacon!” relax, it’s a thin strip of pig meat, not wifi access. I particularly hated having to handle raw meat. I did a trial in a coffee shop that sold breakfast sandwiches and found myself in a situation where the bacon was burning in the oven and neither me nor my Muslim co-worker wanted to take it out. Meat freaks me out. Having to pick up something from the butchers for my boss was like walking into a nightmare sequence. And they took FOREVER to get whatever carcass lump I went in there for. If I accidentally eat something with gelatine or some other animal product in it (WHY THE HELL DOES YOGHURT NEED GELATINE?) I feel it sitting uncomfortably in my stomach for hours.

Being vegetarian isn’t easy. It’s a huge inconvenience. Vegetarians don’t open a menu and marvel at the many delicious sounding options and weigh up which one is the best, we scan though pages of inedible options to find the two half arsed veggie options and decide which sounds the least boring. You know what sucks? Being a vegetarian who doesn’t like mushrooms. Welcome to mushroom city. Also cheese city, but that’s pretty good. Many restaurants simply don’t put enough thought into vegetarian options. It’s usually something just thrown in there to keep us quiet and is usually much less substantial and appetising than the rest of the options. On a school trip to London we ended up in a place where the one vegetarian option was the only one that didn’t come with chips. I was starving for the rest of the night. There seems to be an idea that veggies have smaller appetites, we like “rabbit food”. The options are usually salad, vegetable lasagne, boring veggie ‘burger’ or… no that’s it I have genuinely run out of examples. For some reason huge fast food companies who would knock down old people’s homes or screw up the entire rainforest for profit seem fine with ignoring the veggie market and putting almost nothing on the menu for them. Not that I ever would set foot in a mcdonalds out of choice, but when I’m dragged in there by a friend I would like to get something besides their nasty cardboard fries and weird milkshakes (those probably aren’t suitable for vegetarians either). I am a British northerner and I like stodgy comfort food and big portions. It’s no fun to be poking at your individual vegetable lasagne with a who cares? salad while your family happily enjoy huge roast dinners. Of course you can’t complain, because you chose to be vegetarian, as everyone reminds you when you ask why the hell we are in kfc when there’s a lovely vegetarian place a ten minute walk from there.

The worst part about being vegetarian is having to deal with carnivores. I don’t hate meat eaters, don’t get me wrong, I don’t sit opposite people and scoff while they eat ribs. I silently wonder WHAT THE HELL HOW CAN YOU EAT THAT IT STILL HAS BONES IN IT but I don’t say anything. I ate meat for years, defiantly. I was one of those “I could never be vegetarian!” people, it seems hypocritical to act like I’m St Francis now I swapped chicken for Linda McCartney . It’s just that people can be very antagonistic when you sheepishly tell them that no you can’t have a fry up to cure your hangover, you don’t actually eat meat. The same questions come up over and over again. “Do you eat fish?” is something I have heard hundreds of times. No I don’t eat fish. I miss it way more than anything else and I stare longingly at chip shop fish, but no. I have an iron will. If it’s dead I won’t eat it. “Is this just because you don’t like meat or is it like a….moral thing?” people want you to say that it isn’t a moral thing, because that makes them feel like I’m judging them. It is in my case, but like I said I don’t hate meat eaters. “Ok if you were on a desert island with only a chicken and it was a choice between eating a chicken or dying…” Please just stop. People can also get annoying and jokey. “Hahaha meat is murder! Tasty tasty murder!” or “haha plants have feelings too you monster haha!”. Hilarious. People seemed threatened by it, as if you plan to shove it down their throats. That’s another thing, people say “I’m fine with vegetarians, just not the ones who try and convert you or have a go at you for eating meat”. Where are these vegetarians? I have never met these people. More often than not I have to put up with obnoxious carnivores trying to convince me to go back to bacon. “Uhm, actually humans are evolved to eat meat” I don’t care. “Look at it! Look at the chicken! don’t you want some mmmm!” get it away from me. “You know farmers rely on meat for their income” what about tofu manufacturers? “It’s just the circle of life” Yawn. “Animals are bread for meat, if we didn’t eat them it would mess up the whole system” So? I haven’t eaten meat in five years, the smell of bacon makes me want to gag. My mind is made up and you aren’t going to convert me. I don’t try and convert you so leave me to my goat’s cheese salad and Smiths albums. It’s the same kind of people that have to argue for atheism every time someone says they’re religious, it’s just to try and prove how clever they are and get the upper hand. The most annoying thing is when carnivores find out they quite like the vegetarian thing at a buffet or barbecue or any food sharing thing and hog it for themselves. Every time I am home Mum buys these southern fried quorn burgers which are amazing and every time my carnivorous siblings eat them. When I complain I get told it was my choice to go veggie and it doesn’t give me a right to hog food everyone else likes. The problem they aren’t seeing is they have other options. They don’t HAVE to eat the quorn burger, they can have the cold chicken in the fridge. Or the beef burgers, or the fish fingers, or the bolognese. I JUST have the quorn burgers. Tasty as they are, they’re my only option and it’s hugely frustrating when the same people who irritatingly waft sausages in my face are happy to ride the veggie bandwagon when it turns out we have some pretty nice food. If you go out for tapas with a veggie for God’s sake don’t take all the patatas bravas. They may be tasty but that’s all we have. It’s also disheartening when family or flatmates decide to cook a big meal and leave you out. I ask what’s for dinner, I get the reply “WE’RE having chilli. You can eat…eggs or something I don’t know.”

There are some perks to vegetarianism. I used to be a picky eater but I’ve discovered some incredible food I would have otherwise avoided for a good reliable burger. Goat’s cheese is my favourite thing ever, and I have recipes in my arsenal and cooking skills I would have otherwise not bothered with. Vegetarian food comes with a lower risk of food poisoning and apparently plenty of other health problems, like heart disease and high cholesterol. Didn’t cook your veggie burger properly? it won’t taste as good but it won’t kill you! You get a smug sense of superiority when a story about contaminated meat or a new disease contracted from eating a certain animal makes the news. The horse meat scandal was hilarious. Just fantastic. And the best part is you can interact with animals knowing you aren’t part of a system that hurts them. I mean just look at their little faces, how can you eat that?!