If your idea of the perfect vacation is warm days full of continuous sunshine, then Iceland should definitely NOT be on your bucket list. If, however, you are intrigued by quirky experiences, visually spectacular landscapes, geology, elves and trolls, go ahead and book your trip.
Those of you that have been following me know that I am a lazy, somewhat random blogger, but my friend Nancy is not. If you want interesting, timely accounts of our trip, hop on over to her blog. She’s done such a fine job, There is no need for me to take you over the same ground. Instead, my post is a loose collection of whatever caught my eye.
Although Mike and I arrived in Reykjavik a day before the tour officially started, we took it slow, using our extra time TRYING (and failing ) to get over jet lag.
While in Reykjavik we DID manage to make it to the museum Nancy (intentionally and wisely) missed. Unless you are particularly intrigued by pickled whale penises, I recommend you do likewise. Save your $15,000 kroners admission fee ($10,000 for seniors) and buy a glass of wine instead. Good news: You can tour the gift shop for free.
My family will be pleased to know I did NOT do any Christmas shopping there.
I am particularly fond of outdoor art and Reykjavik had plenty of it, both traditional, like the statue of Leif Erikson ( a gift from the USA), and unconventional (on the sides of buildings).
Icelanders are hearty souls. Check out this sign above one of the restaurants. For those of us not familiar with the metric system, 5 degrees Celsius translates to a balmy 41 degrees Fahrenheit. While we were in town, the mercury skyrocketed all the way up to 52 degrees, still WE drank our coffee inside!
The Hilton Reykjavik is a lovely hotel some distance from the town center. No matter. During our stay, we were content to spend our evenings at the hotel. One night, Mike organized a surprise party to celebrate the start of the last year I’ll be in my sixties. Yes, that banner DOES light up and yes, it WILL be used again for the August birthday girl in my life.
The second night at the hotel, everyone was gathered either around the big screen TV in the lobby area, or by the smaller one in the bar, to watch Croatia win the soccer semifinals.
Although ours is an organized tour, it is possible to go off on your own. Sam did just that, hiring a guide to take him salmon fishing on a “two rod river”. What is THAT, you ask? Well, for that one day, Sam and the guide (2 rods) “owned” the river. No one else was allowed to fish there. Was he successful? Well, OUR tour guide took home two of Sam’s three salmon. (Photos courtesy of Sam’s guide).
While Sam was fishing, the rest of us were touring the Ocean Cluster House, an absolutely fascinating place. With most of my family still living in or near New Bedford, Massachusetts, I am well aware of the impact changes in the fishing industry can make on an area’s economy. Icelanders dealt with fishing restrictions very creatively. They don’t (can’t) catch as many fish, so they have figured out how to extract maximum value from every pound of fish they are allowed to catch.
This jacket is made entirely of processed fish skin. It is incredibly soft. Yes, I touched it.
Fish skin is also being used as bandages. Apparently, the fibers in cod skin are more similar to human skin than the skin of pigs, so the bandage can be absorbed into the body.
Other products are used for cosmetics—fish intestines for hand cream, because (according to the Ocean Cluster House guide) someone noticed that Icelandic fishermen have very soft hands, and figured they got that way from handling fish intestines. (My Dad must have steered clear of fish intestines!)
Even fish heads are utilized. They are dried and exported to Nigeria for use in soup!? By using all parts of the fish, Icelanders have upped the value from $8 per pound to about $3000.
Better yet, because these products are manufactured in Iceland, they have created new industries and new jobs. That’s a good thing, because today’s Icelandic trawlers are able to catch 200 metric tons in one trip, with far fewer fishermen, doing very little actual fishing; they now just monitor computers that run the equipment.
Our last stop was at the National Museum, an incredibly beautiful building, where we learned Iceland’s history through artifacts, clothing and household items. Given that we will be riding Icelandic horses in a few days, I was particularly interested in the saddle exhibit.
Fortunately women are no longer required to ride sidesaddle or wear corseted riding habits.
Next stop, Stykkishólmur. Okay, so we have already been there for two days, and are now in Aqua-ree-ray (That’s how it is SAID, not how it is spelled). I’m just having too much fun to keep current!