Iceland Travel Blog with National Geographic
I am so excited to bring a new journey across the world to you! Stay tuned. The adventure begins shortly!
I am sad to have to bring this adventure to a close. By all means, if you ever decide to go to Iceland, GO! I cannot tell you enough how beautiful it is, how incredible the food is, and how nice the people are. Plus, they speak English! That makes travel all that much easier.
Slide Show of Developed Photos
I have been trying to share images and video with you as they happen real time. The positive for that is that you get to experience everything in the moment with me. The downside is that most of the images I have shown are unedited, undeveloped and untouched. Basically, they are raw. I want to share some slideshows of various images AFTER they have been developed using technology.
Flatey Island was one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. It has only one road and is so peaceful. Icelandic people come here to relax and get away during the summer months.
The puffins are so very cute. Honestly, they are very hard to photograph. I almost thought I wasn't going to get to see any. They like to hide in their rock dwellings and then dart down really fast to the to catch some fish. They are much faster than penguins!
Everywhere you look there is a postcard to be taken! I took so many photographs is mountains and hills - just because I don't think I get to see them that often. It really makes it easy to take a good picture when you have a small colorful house in the shot with a majestic landscape in the background.
Sheep and Horses
I should have told you about the sheep. They are EVERYWHERE. The Icelandic people release them to the mountains to eat and live during the summer. Then, during the winter, they go into the hills to feed them and keep them safe during the wintertime. It is very trusting to let them go up and away like that. They don't fight over who gets which lamb at the end of they day. Some are marked. Some are tagged. At they end of they day, the Icelanders live in peace.
Waterfalls and Geysers
.So, I can honestly say that I think it is hard to take good photos of waterfalls. The geysers are very mystical and neat. I hope you like what I have shared with you so far. I did notice that in the beginning of my travels, I spelled geyser differently. In Iceland, they spell it, "geysir." So, ifyou noticed a difference, it is because I have switched back to American spelling.
A Troll Photobomb!
I mentioned that trolls live a long time the other day. But, they can live for SEVERAL hundred years! But trolls do not have a ton of kids in their lives. This is largely due to the fact that they spend so much time sleeping. Trolls also take much longer to grow up. A child that is 1 years of age is basically 10 in "troll age." Now, they don't look like 10-year-olds. They look like babies at this point. Troll children do not live one their own or even particularly with their family. For the first 15 years, they live in a communal group called a "creche." What really happens is whichever adult troll is awake, is the one who has to watch the children who are not sleeping. I guess it means that all hands are on deck! As the trolls get older, they sleep more - sometimes for even years! A newborn/young troll will only sleep for weeks at a time. Because the trolls spend so much time underground they don't mind it much. They don't have a day and night like we do - they have "sleep time" and "awake time." Trolls children are hairy; so, you might think that is a little weird. They have dolls like you do - almost like Ken and Barbie dolls. It wouldn't shock me if some of the little handmade dolls I have seen in the gift shops are made by them!
Don't worry! Even though I am returning home.... I will be sharing more about trolls! Stay tuned!
So, we are coming to the end of our journey very soon. Iceland is really amazing in so many ways. First, the people are so nice. The fish is delicious. The views everywhere are breathtaking. One thing we have noticed is that the clouds here seem different. While we know that the can't possibly be, I have never noticed so much "cloud sculpture" back home. Lastly, there has been so much to learn about earth and science from this trip. It is amazing that Iceland really relies heavily on magma below for heating and the waters for hydro-power. We could learn a lot from them!
Some shopping - and a big purchase!
Where exactly is Mr. S.?
Some New Facts About Trolls
I do feel like I am becoming a bit of a "troll historian." So far, nobody is getting sick of me asking about trolls. Did you know that trolls are very individual creatures? From what I gather, Icelandic trolls are very big in size. They range from "large" to full on "enormous." I guess that would be XXXXXXXXXXXL size.! Trolls are so big because they don't use up very much energy. They, too, rely on the volcanic nature of Iceland for their energy. In fact, they mostly reside underground. So, they are warmer than most because they hang out where the lava is molten! Also, they sleep A LOT! Like all the time! So, when they are done doing whatever they are doing - they just go right back to sleep! Nice life!
There are a few characteristics of trolls. They typically have very big noses. This is because they live for a very, very long time. Some troll shave horns, some trolls have jagged teeth (like fangs) that come out of the bottom of their mouths. Some, though very few, even have tails! For trolls, having warts on their face is a GOOD thing. They view it as a fashion statement. In face, they even gather up natural ingredients to help grow new ones as a fashion statement! While we might think these appearances are very, very scary, no need to worry. Trolls have very high sense of self-esteem and think that they are beautiful just the way they are! Everybody tells me that they are actually very loving creatures, though sometimes full of mischief!
Day 7 - Museum Day and Countryside
Today, we disembarked the boat, and Mr. S. had to say, "goodbye" to the National Geographic Explorer. It was a lovely 3 days with the ship. I was amazed that many of the staff remembered me - waiters, cleaning people, reception. I am sad to leave them at this moment.
Before getting to our hotel, we had a full day of scenic drives and touring of 3 museums in Reykjavik. I am pleased that I am now able to spell the name of Iceland's capital city without looking at something! I guess after a week, you can almost do anything.
Historical Open Air Museum of Arbaejarsafn.
National Museum of Iceland
Trolls versus Fairies - what is the deal?
They are very different. From what I can best gather, the fairies are very small. I think they have wings - but I am no expert. The trolls are much larger and stronger than humans. As for now, I am getting more information from the local folk on the trolls. Will keep asking about fairies though.
Some Troll History
So, trolls were living alone and in total happiness in Iceland before the Vikings came. When that happened, their world was turned upside down! The Vikings were not very nice; they were very aggressive. Because of this, the two groups (trolls and Vikings) were not really compatible island-mates. When the first trolls happened upon the new Viking settlers, they found weapons (axes, swords, etc.) that they never had a need. Because the trolls are nocturnal, their initial meetings happened at night when they Vikings were around a camp fire in the dark of night. You can imagine how frightening this was for the Vikings! Their reactions to the trolls was less than peaceful. This initial meeting and manner of interacting with the Vikings really resulted in the reluctance for trolls to come above ground ver much - if at all. And, this remains to be the way in which they live to this very day, even though Vikings behaviors and methods are long gone.
Rough Waters in the Morning
We were expected to visit a small, remote island that one family (seriously ONE family) lives on to get some up close, personal looks at life on an outlying island. It had promised to get us closer to puffins and the many other beautiful creatures of this land. It was just not meant to be. The winds were blowing quite hard and two zodiac boats disembarked with one group even getting ashore. They were quickly called back to the Explorer because getting back ON the ship would be a huge challenge. Imagine being on a small zodiac boat rising 10 feet up and down... trying to go through the opening of the ship. Mr. S. was still in bed remembering the hypnotic music from the night before... and he was MORE than happy to roll back over in bed when he heard over the intercom that ALL morning adventures were cancelled. The explorer then made its way to calmer waters that were protected by land. I have a video here of what it is like to ride in a zodiac boat. This was the actual landing for these falls.
Dynjandi Waterfalls - in a protective cove
Oh.. and some things about trolls!
Trolls are actually related to us! Many humans have been afraid of them because of their tremendous strength and size. Mostly, I think we were probably just jealous of them. They are said to be harmless and quite loveable (probably like my little minions in first grade - smile - ). They are nocturnal - which means they sleep during the day and come alive at night. They used to spend much more time above ground. That is... until people invaded their land. After their first horrific encounter with humans, the trolls made it their business to stay way from us as much as possible. It is because of this that it is so difficult for any of us to come across them. They only come out under complete cover of night. Right now, Iceland has almost the ENTIRE day of daylight. It makes it hard for humans (like Mr. S. ) to sleep and for humans (still like Mr. S.) to find them! I will continue to gather stories and be on the look out. If I have to stay up all night, I will do so for my smelly, little minions that I love so much! Until tomorrow!
Flatey Island and Puffins!
Ethereal Musicians of Iceland
Day 4 – Walking Tour of Reykjavik, Icelandic Horseback Riding and Return to the National Geographic Explorer!
Today we were able to get a little later start in the morning! Much rest has been really needed because every day is packed with so much to see, do and experience. I have to remark that fish and lamb is the center of almost all of the meals here. I prefer the fish and it is by far the best I have ever had. Cod, salmon and shell fish… you name it! Every bite seems like the fish was caught an hour before!
Walking Tour of Reykjavik
The Trolls the Trolls!
I do have to tell you one more anecdote. One of our tour guides today told us about how Iceland has 13 different Santa Clauses! Sounds like a good thing? Well, not so much! I only heard about four of five of them. They are notorious for causing so much mischief the weeks before Christmas. They turn chairs over, mess up rooms, slam doors and enjoy making the lives of the children of Iceland a little challenging. However there IS one very, very mean troll, the mother, who lives in the giant mountain by Reykjavik! The guide explained that the mother troll is VERY big, VERY mean and VERY scary. She comes down from the mountain with a giant sack on her back on December 24th. She walks through the town and finds all of the naughty boys and girls who normally would be on a “not nice” list for Santa. Not here! She collects the misbehaving children and cooks them for her Christmas dinner! OMG! I couldn’t believe it. I told the tour guide that all of MY kids are always nice, lovely and caring little love bugs. Be warned if you every come to Iceland! You don’t want the momma troll to get you!
Day 3 - The Golden Circle of Iceland - Gullfoss Falls, Geysir, Thingvellir National Park and Videy Island
We have been enjoying the sighs, smells and sounds of Iceland very much. I am not sure why, but the air has a freshness unlike any place I have ever been. Perhaps it is because the city runs on the geothermal energy and there is very little exhaust being put in the air to run the city. There is never any harsh traffic - rush hour means there is another car passing you on the road. It is quite a welcome change from the fast pace, congestion and sounds of Chicago.
Thingvellir National Park
The video is of Mr. S. first walking through the park. At the very end is a geyser eruption! Walk along with me.. This one was much smaller than the one photographed.
Day 2 - Reykjanes Peninsula Tour - Garoskagi Lighthouse, Hot Springs of Seltun/Krysuvik and the "Pearl"
Rolling Hills of Iceland
Earling explains our location.
Smelly, Stinky Encounter
Our next treat for the day was stop at the Hot Springs of Seltun/Krysuvik. Earling must have told us to NOT even think of getting off the path to see if the water was hot - it is! As we walked up to the pathways, you suddenly were faced with this thick smell of rotten eggs. There weren't any chickens. It was the sulfur mixed with the vaporous steam coming out of the ground. Walking further brought you to wooden planks that allowed you an overlooking view into the "bog of hot, smelly, bubbling stench. Many people had to cover their noses as they made their way. To the skin, you could feel the heat being released into the air. Low sounds of percolating bubbles could be heard if you stood absolutely still. Various mists of noxious fumes blew in the wind. It was spectacular, beautiful and exceptionally stinky!
Above are the bubbling, smelly fields. Beautiful, but stinky!
First bubbling fields I came across.
Sitting at the top of the World - well kind of!
Earling was in a bit of a hurry at this part of the journey. We had lunch reservations and apparently dilly-dallied far too long and were an hour behind! We had to stop at "The Pearl" which is one of the plants that takes the heat from well below the earth's crust, brings it up and uses the steam to heat almost EVERYTHING. It was remarkable to hear Earling explain how they even have outdoor heated pools in the winter. They also don't have to ever shovel snow because they use this energy to melt the snow on the sidewalks. Going to The Pearl offered beautiful photos of Reykjavik. The Pearl is called so because it has a mirror, rounded exterior - looking like a grey pearl shining in the sun.
Here you have it! A fairy, a fairy! I was so excited. Though, she just ran off and disappeared in the blink of an eye! Also, I came across Santa's boots hanging out next to this mailbox. I might have put some of my love bugs names in the mailbox! Well, maybe it was a naught and nice list for next year. ;)
So, perhaps I was in denial or still basking in the glow of Antarctica but this was one HECK of a journey! We started in Chicago at 4:30 and made our way without problem to New York City. The flight was easy and calm. In less than 2 hours, we were in the Big Apple waiting for our flight to Iceland leaving at 10 o'clock.
After waiting and waiting, we finally were allowed to board our flight and off we were! It was an overnight trip to Iceland. I have to tell the truth. Mr. S. was squished for the five hour flight the entire time. Sleep did not happen at all. We arrived in Keflavik, Iceland at 8 a.m. in the morning! We arrived in Iceland hungry, VERY tired and honestly - cranky.
Mr. S. had a bit of a problem. He was tired, hungry, cranky. AND, we had planned for my mom and I to take a bus straight from the airport to the famous Blue Lagoon. The Blue Lagoon is known for being a geo-thermal place for people to go and bathe. It is ACTUALLY blue! We got there pretty quickly and were greeted by very friendly staff who walked us through the ropes. My mom and I had paid for a premium package which meant we had a lovely fruit juice and lunch waiting for us! We really had not had any food since the night before! We made our way into the beautiful lagoon. The waters were a crystal blue and you felt the immediate heat as your toes entered the water. This was in a complete contrast from the 50 degree temperature outside of the water so there was a mystical mist that rose over the waters.
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So, Mr. S. and his mom became very, very hungry! It was almost unbearable. Luckily, we had a list of restaurants with many incredible suggestions. We decided to go to a restaurant by the name, "Steak House." I had a terrible taste for beef - not just any beef but a hamburger made with premium grade Angus beef, topped with truffle oil and bone marrow. Quite the delight. However, it didn't begin there! Mr. S. had WHALE. Seriously, whale! Baleen Whale was on the menu and while I had serious reservations, it was highly recommended by the waitress. I thought it would taste like fish - wrong! It was more "beefy" in texture and taste than anything else. It had a Chipoltle jelly and Japanese fine crackers placed on top of it. Mr. S.'s mom opted to have the Langoustine Fritters - those are balls of delicately fried dough around Icelandic lobster. All of that was sitting above a bed of cream green, ginger, pesto sauce. YUM!
After our delicious dinner, it was time to walk home. We were amazed at the wonderful colors of this beautiful city bringing to life the culture of Iceland. We have only just begun. One of my favorite pictures was of a huge mural on the side of a building, reflecting itself giving its views a second glimpse of its beauty.
Mr. Szymanski is a First Grade Teacher at Walt Disney Magnet School in Chicago, IL. He is a 2014 National Geographic Grosvenor Teaching Fellow. Last December, he traveled to Antarctica and shared the experience with his students through his Antarctica Blog.