30 April 2007

Iceland

Yes, a real post this time. With pictures.

Iceland was wonderful. It wasn't a very long trip, but we did surprisingly much in less than five full days. Monday consisted mostly of everyone being very tired, but excited and hyper, and one of my friends being very very late because someone *coughmecough* forgot to tell her we were supposed to be there at 8.30 instead of 9.00. We then spent a ridiculous amount of time waiting on airports before finally arriving at Keflavik airport in Iceland sometime in the evening.

Then it was straight to the Blue Lagoon, which I didn't get any pictures of except this one taken from the bus.
It was very weird - swimming in hot water while it was raining and cold outside. And of course it didn't smell very nice either, lots of sulphur. One of my friends said something that I think sums it up pretty well: "This is the first time in my life I've felt like a boiled egg."

There's a two hour time difference between Norway and Iceland, and that made it much more bearable to get up early in the morning. I actually slept about seven hours a night instead of my usual five or six. That, combined with the fact that I had enough sense to buy a packet of tea at the first supermarket, made me much less like a zombie than I usually am in the early morning. A good thing, because Tuesday we first went on a guided tour through Reykjavik. We visited Perlan, a viewpoint-restaurant-museum-thingy where I got some pics of Reykjavik where the surrounding mountains weren't half-hidden in clouds:









The church in the middle of the left pic is called Hallgrímskirkja - there'll be a better picture of that one later. On the pic to the right you can just see Mt. Esja in the background. It's a volcanic mountain range, some 900 m above sea-level and popular amongst hikers. If you google it you'll find much better pictures of it but we had pretty rainy and cloudy weather so this is the best I got. The next part of our little tour was much more interesting, at least I thought so, because we went to see a collection of very old, highly droolable manuscripts. The Codex Regius, Skarðsbók, Möðruvallabók, Jónsbók... I wasn't allowed to bring a camera and it was too dark to sketch properly, so I haven't really got any interesting pictures to show you. You can go to their website though, they've got some nice pictures there. It's in Icelandic (unless I've somehow missed the 'English version' button, wouldn't be the first time) but clicking around a bit and making educated guesses as to what the text all means can be quite effective too.

We were also allowed to try writing with quill and ink on parchment. I've got an inkling that those quills are made for right-handed people, so lefty that I am I made a bit of a mess of it. It was fun to try, but I very much prefer my own quill even though the one I used there was much bigger and prettier. At least I can write with mine half-decently. Or maybe the parchment was just nasty - it's the first time I've written on parchment.

After my best friend finally managed to convince me that I couldn't take the Codex Regius with me as a souvenir (dammit!) we went off to explore Reykjavik on our own, which of course ended up with us getting completely lost. We're really good at that. Luckily Hallgrímskirkja is a tall building, so we could follow it in a sort of city-centerish-direction. Here's the better picture of it that I promised you. The statue in front is of Leif Eiriksson, and it's the closest I got to actually meeting a real viking.

Aaaaand a close-up of Leif. I think all these pics are making my post a bit messy but who cares. Mum has learned to open my sock drawer without getting a heart attack so I guess you can handle a messy post.

Uh... Iceland. Yes, Iceland. Not sock drawers. Sorry. I've been through double physics and triple maths and taking my cat to the vet (she's not ill or anything, it's just her yearly check-up, but getting her in the cage is a bit tricky. And painful.)

Anyway, Tuesday also included a lot of squeals of joy from me and groans from my best friend because I found two bookstores - three if you count the museum bookstore - and wouldn't leave until I'd looked at just about every single book. I spent 2/3 of my total expenses there too, and had a bit of trouble getting my suitcase to shut on the return journey.
With some cramming and jumping up and down on it and putting 7 kg in my hand luggage I managed. The one on the top is Gunnlaug's saga, in Icelandic. I saw it on a shelf and listened to the little voice in my head saying "Buy it!", because, really, who am I to say "no" to the little voices in my head?

Wednesday was much calmer for my wallet and much busier for my camera. We went on the Golden Circle tour, which is a very popular tourist route. We had a cool bus driver/guide who told stories on the way (about trolls and vikings and volcanic eruptions) so it was a lot of fun. The first stop was Þingvellir, the place where the Alþing met, and also highly interesting because you can clearly see signs of continental drift. I could've spent the entire day there, but it was a school trip, and most people really aren't interested in historical sites like that, so I had to hurry a bit. I didn't even get time to read all the signs (I took pictures of them though).

To the left is the view from Lögberg - the Law rock - which was the centre of the old Alþing gatherings.

They punished criminals too at Þingvellir. Women were drowned in Drekkingarhylar - the Drowning pool, which you can see a picture of on the right. There was a list there of the women who were drowned: 18 women, the first in 1618 and the last in 1749.

The next stop was less bloody, but smelt of rotten eggs: Geysir. The Great Geysir itself hasn't done much erupting the last few years, but its neighbour Strokkur is still pretty active. It erupts every five minutes or so, though of the four or five eruptions I saw only one was really spectacular. I was lucky enough to get a good picture of it, too.






The third major attraction on the Golden Circle is Gullfoss, an absolutely stunning waterfall.
It sort of "curves", almost like it's going down a winding staircase. The picture on the right was taken from a viewpoint at the top. The one below is taken from the path that goes above and along it. And yes, that's yours truly.


These three - Þingvellir, Geysir and Gullfoss - are the main attractions on the Golden Circle, but there are others as well that are well worth a look. If you only visit these you're missing things, really.

There is a very beautiful little volcanic crater lake called Kerið. It was just next to the road - though don't ask me which road. My sense of direction is, as you probably gathered from me getting lost in Reykjavik, not very good.
But road or no road, I have a pic of it!
Can I quote the bus driver? "Please don't fall in." :P

We also stopped at Skálholt, which was one of Iceland's two episcopal sees until the 18th century. It also freaked my best friend out completely - she had a project about it and as a result of that she has developed Skálholtophobia.

I've got plenty of other pictures of the Golden Circle tour, but I'll save them for the rants-about-physics-posts so that you have something interesting to look at then too:P

Thursday was the last full day we had in Iceland, and that day we went riding on those cool Icelandic horses. They're special because they've got five different gaits. The last time I sat on a horse was when I was twelve so mine walked most of the time. It trotted a bit too but I don't think it went into one of those special gaits. It was really great, I actually managed to steer it pretty well (and I managed to steer it into the newbies group instead of the experienced riders group, where it wanted to go, thank Eru). I haven't got any pictures of the riding, because I had my hands full with the reins (literally) and had to try to stay in my saddle (that was difficult due to the fits of laughter from seeing my math teacher on a horse).

And on Friday we went back to Norway again. There was time for some last-minute sightseeing in Reykjavik, where I bought the coolest letter opener since the creation of the universe:

The return journey was, like I said, a bit of a mess. We were supposed to have one hour at Oslo airport. None of the teachers knew we were supposed to take our luggage through customs. Then the plane from Reykjavik was almost half an hour delayed, and we had to wait for almost another half hour for our luggage to turn up. Five minutes to go through customs in other words. Everybody was freaking out except me, I actually thought it was fun (it might have something to do with the chocolate I bought at the tax free store). Then, I got home in the middle of the night, thirsty and tired, and decided to start spring cleaning. Hmm... Definitely the chocolate.

Okay, a few traveller's tips perhaps? First of all, on the pictures everything looks nice and sunny. Don't be fooled. We had half a dozen different types of weather each day and it changed every five minutes or so. Rain, sun, wind, hail, wind, a bit of sun, lots of rain, and wind, wind, wind. I guess it depends a bit on the time of year, but during the five days I was in Iceland there wasn't a second without wind. Don't bring an umbrella. It's pointless, unless you bring one of those really strong ones that don't "flap over", but they're usually too big to fit into a suitcase anyway. I was very happy that I'd brought my scarf and a pair of woollen mittens.
I've read on a few sites that Iceland is an expensive country, but I didn't really notice that. It might be because everything is expensive in Norway too, or because my parents were paying anyway so it didn't matter much:P Tickets to the swimming pools are cheap though, at least compared to Norway.
Oh, also, the hot water smells quite strongly of sulphur, at least it did in the youth hostel where we stayed (the hot water at the swimming pool next door didn't have the rotten egg smell though). It's not so bad as it sounds, you get used to it after a while (unless you're my dad that is).

A sculpture in the harbour of Reykjavik. It's called Sólfar, the Sun Voyager, made by Jon Gunnar Arnason. I wish the light had been better. It looks like a fun thing to take pictures of at sunset or something. The mountain ridge in the background is Esja again, very much hidden in clouds this time.

Now I'm off to bed. Seriously. It's 2.30 AM.

1 comment:

Gabriele C. said...

Ohhh, beautiful landscapes, manuscripts and ponies. Sounds like you had some great days.

Too bad you couldn't take the Codex Regius home. :)