Monthly Archives: August 2016

Iceland – Days 3 & 4 (Holmvik, fjords, Reykholt & Bifrost)

I woke up bright and early Friday morning. I cursed my lack of forethought regarding earplugs (something I resolved to always travel with after the beer guy and I spent the weekend in Bend over Memorial Day and I was awakened obscenely early every morning by the loudest birds in the history of the world). I will also never again travel without a sleeping mask, lotion, and every hair product known to humankind (I am still upset about my hot-spring damaged locks).

I rolled over, hid my face, and managed to pretend I was asleep for another couple of hours. Finally, I was forced to give in to the inevitable – the looming checkout time. I roused myself, showered, conditioned 100 times, and then headed out for coffee and breakfast.

I ended up at the Loki Cafe just up the street where I had a delightful coffee and NOT the cream cheese and marmalade bagel I ordered. Instead, my bagel had ham, cheese, hard boiled eggs, and some kind of yogurt sauce. It was pretty good – and it least it didn’t have the “mushed fish” that the woman next to me ordered.

After breakfast, I got in the car and headed north to the West Fjords.

The drive was gorgeous. And horrible. And stressful. And so pretty. And also, sheep.

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So much pretty – but so few places to safely pull over and take pictures. And then, the wind picked up. And then, the rain. And then, fog thicker than I’ve ever seen it during a rain storm meant I couldn’t see the road at all, but there was nowhere to pull over (and no shoulder markers – only the center line marker).

And before that – I drove UNDER a fjord. I drove through a 6km tunnel. Under water. That was a bit claustrophobic making. then, I drove OVER two fjords. Less claustrophobia, but not so fun for other reasons.

Finally, though, I made it to Holmvik. I took a few pictures and then headed in to my primary destination – the Holmvik Museum of Witchcraft and Sorcery.

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It looked super sketchy from the outside – and even though I was expecting that, it gave me pause. BUT – I’d driven three hours to get there, through wind and rain very long under water tunnels, so I was going in.

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It was fantastic! So interesting! Twenty-two people were burned for witchcraft in Iceland at the height of the European witch trials (and in Iceland, all but one were men). Reading about the history of witchcraft and sorcery and about those sentenced to death over it was fascinating. One of the men burned for witchcraft claimed as one of the crimes worth mentioning – creating spells to cause women to fart.

 Amy Cissell August 26 · Edited  ·  These are necro pants! A sorcerer had to get permission from a living man to dig him up after his death and skin him. Then the sorcerer put a stolen coin in the scrotum of the pants and put them on. This would bring him riches. He just had to make sure to find someone to hand them off to before he died. These pants could work for generations of people who want to wear a dead man's skin.


These are necro pants! A sorcerer had to get permission from a living man to dig him up after his death and skin him. Then the sorcerer put a stolen coin in the scrotum of the pants and put them on. This would bring him riches. He just had to make sure to find someone to hand them off to before he died. These pants could work for generations of people who want to wear a dead man’s skin.

A tilberi,  the short version: To acquire a tiller, a woman has to steal a human rib from a churchyard and store it between her breasts, spitting the wine from Communion onto it, which will bring it to life. When it gets big, the woman must make a nipple in the inside of her thigh and attach the tilberi there where it will hang on and feed on her body fluids. The creature can move very quickly and steal milk from sheep and cows, which seems to be its only function.

A tilberi, the short version: To acquire a tiller, a woman has to steal a human rib from a churchyard and store it between her breasts, spitting the wine from Communion onto it, which will bring it to life. When it gets big, the woman must make a nipple in the inside of her thigh and attach the tilberi there where it will hang on and feed on her body fluids.
The creature can move very quickly and steal milk from sheep and cows, which seems to be its only function.

After Holmvik, I headed 30 minutes south to my hotel in the middle of nowhere. I stopped for a few pics and got to admire the view now that we were no longer socked in by fog.

Steingrimsfjörður near Holmvik

Steingrimsfjörður near Holmvik

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I checked in to my hotel and as soon as the dining room opened, went for my dinner.

View from the room, hotel #2

View from the room, hotel #2

 

***

Saturday – i.e. the best day ever.

I got up much earlier Saturday morning – before 8 am! 🙂 I packed up and headed out to the free hotel breakfast. Y’all, I know I’m Scandinavian, but I think that I cannae subsist on the sheer amount of smoked, mushy fish that are part of everything. There was rye bread (my least favorite), swiss cheese, hard boiled eggs, and like…buckets of fish stuff. There was also yogurt and granola, so obviously that’s the direction I went. (I’m pretty hit or miss on fish in general, but am generally very miss on anything smoked [except gouda], so smoked fish = no.)  And coffee. Obviously coffee.

After breakfast, I drove around the nearest fjords – Porskafjörður and Berufjörður. I once again cursed the lack of safe pull over spaces, but managed to find a few places to get some pics. They are gorgeous (GORGE-ous), but don’t capture the true beauty I could see with my eyes.

Reykhólar

Reykhólar

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After fjording, I headed back south and drove through that ridiculous wind some more. It was a beautiful drive – made more so by the fact that it was clearer than the day before, so I could see more scenery – and more sheep.

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Eventually I made it to Reykholt – my number one destination for this trip. Why? You might ask? Because of the OS (Original Saga-ist) Snorri Sturluson. This was his home town – where he was born, lived, and died.

I got to see his fancy bathing pool.

This is where the awesome pics of Reykholt should be. But do you know what? Every single picture I took on the fancy camera in Reykholt and in the fjords looks like this:

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I cannae even begin to tell you how upsetting that is. These were supposed to be the cornerstone of my trip, and a way to get a really good photo to complete one of my 40 before 40 goals – take a good photo and have it framed. I am heartbroken.

There had been some archeological digs, but sadly they were mostly not visible/not there/covered up. The museum was very interesting, and it delighted me that the subject of the book I’m researching (a very much fiction book that will take place during Snorri’s time) mentioned the protagonist of the story – someone that I’ve only seen mentioned by name a couple of times in all my previous digging.

Me and Snorri

Me and Snorri

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I bought a couple things at the gift store – little souvenirs for me, my kiddo, and my favorite adult person – but things were wicked expensive there, and I did a lot of *head cocked* “am I really converting that correctly? Oh, yes. Yes I am. So sorry, beer guy, about not getting that hand carved beer glass with protective runes on it. It was really cool. REALLY cool. But…I thought my funds would be better spent buying you Icelandic beer instead of an overpriced, hand-carved, potentially magical beer glass. Forgive me?

As I was getting ready to leave Reykholt, I was struck with an aural migraine. I’ve been getting them every 7-10 days for the last few months, and I am less than impressed with this. I had to stop driving for about 20 minutes before I could continue. At that point, I just headed to my hotel, had a late lunch, and chillaxed until check-in.

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View from my room - hotel #3

View from my room – hotel #3

After hanging in the room for a bit, I decided to go down to check out the night life. Of which there isn’t much. So I wrote. And chatted with friends. And drank beers. The bar scene was…non-existent. By 9:30, I was the only person in the bar. This is not excluding the bartender. It was seriously just me.

I am a Viking!

I am a Viking!

Stay tuned tomorrow for my last day in Iceland and the exciting trip home!

 

Iceland – Days 1 & 2 (Travel & Reykjavik)

Wednesday morning started on the early side (but not too early, and it was a pleasant start). Everything was packed, so all I needed in the morning was to shower, dress, and toss in my tooth brush.

Then, a quick stop for coffee and I was on my way to the airport.

I got me and my bag all checked in and was delighted to find that for the second time in one month, I’d been granted TSA pre-check status. Hooray!

Of course, that meant that my 2 hour early arrival at the airport for international travel had me at the gate approximately two hours early.

I had more coffee. Ate some breakfast. Read a little. Did some crosswords. Waited.

Finally it was time for flight the first! I think the flight time was only a bit shorter than the airport wait time. 🙂

My layover in Minneapolis was excruciatingly long. Five hours is a long time to hang out. I drank some Minnesota brews. Ate some incredibly disgusting pizza. Wrote a couple of blog posts. And agonized.

We boarded for a 10 pm central time flight. Some guy asked if I’d change seats with him so he could be closer to his friends. Even though I am not a nice person, I agreed. I need to be even more not nice. He ended up with a nice aisle seat and an empty behind him. I ended up next to a woman and her five year old. He talked incessantly and loudly for hours, and then when he did fall asleep, he woke up a lot. Screaming. Or kicking. Me usually. Or he’d have to pee. Or his mom will have to pee. He sneezed on me twice. I got maybe 20 minutes of sleep, but I did get to watch The Force Awakens again, so yay?

I landed at 9 am local time in Iceland after getting to watch the sun come up over Greenland.

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Customs in Keflavik airport was easy breezy. I stood in line for five minutes, confirmed I was planning on eventually leaving, and got my stamp.

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Getting my rental car, on the other hand, was not easy. I don’t know who wrote all the positive reviews of the car rental company I chose, but the fact that it was a few euros cheaper than other options in no way made up for the hassle in collecting my car and the fact that my car appears to be made out of papier-mâché and held together with chewing gum and old rubberbands.

After breezing through customs, I’d began to regret scheduling my Blue Lagoon stop for noon, positive that I could’ve made it by the only other available time that day: 10 am.

Turns out, it was good I was conservative. By the time I got out of the rental car place, it was well past 10 and my car was running on empty, so my first order of business was to locate a gas station and determine how it worked. Mission accomplished, I headed to the Blue Lagoon.

I headed in at the appointed time and got all checked in. I anticipated having to make myself stay for an hour. I couldn’t check into my hotel until 2, so I thought if I could just make myself soak for an hour, by the time I got out and showered and on the road, I wouldn’t be pushing the check in time.

I got my free drink – I went with bubbles – and then just kinda floated around. It was weird, because I think I was the only solo person there. It was also really interesting people watching. I played a fun game called “Is that man from the US?” based solely on swimsuit styles. It was not a difficult game.

After an hour, I wasn’t ready to leave. I decided to try my first Icelandic beer – Gull – and then floated around for another hour. I found a place to sit in the water and just watched. There was an American woman from the deep south who looked to be pushing seventy there with five men in their 30s and 40s who did everything she said at the snap of the fingers. There were a couple women of indeterminate nationality who slipped from English to Spanish to Swedish in their conversation. There were families from all over, lovers young and old, friends there for a girls’ trip or a guys’ trip.

I ended up staying for over two hours and accidentally on purpose soaking my hair in the springs…I spent a good deal of time in the shower, conditioning my hair, but to no avail. At this point, I think I might have to shave my head and start over. 🙂

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I headed into Reykjavik next, a little worried about navigation. No need to be, though. Between the fact that I am a damn good city driver when I allow myself to have the confidence (I am so used to pretending to be less confident than I am to boost the confidence of others that I forget from time to time that I am, in fact, a confident capable bitch and that anyone who has a problem with it isn’t someone I need to know) and the GPS, I found my hotel with no problem. I had to make one circle of the block to find parking, but I had arrived!

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I walked in, immediately caused a middle-aged british woman to spill espresso all over herself, and checked in. I had a great view of the Hallgrímskirkja if I leaned awkwardly out my window.

The awkward window view

The awkward window view

A much better photo with a 75% less likelihood of breaking my phone while leaning out a 2nd story window.

A much better photo with a 75% less likelihood of breaking my phone while leaning out a 2nd story window.

I got cleaned up, realized I’d forgotten my swim suit at the Blue Lagoon, and laid down for a nap.

An hour later, refreshed and starving, I headed out. I wandered for a bit, familiarizing myself with the streets and the neighborhood. I found the bar I’d wanted to try, but decided that food was a better first order of business.

 

Menntaskólinn í Reykjavík is the oldest junior college in Reykjavík, Iceland. The school traces its origin to 1056, when a school was established in Skálholt, and it remains one of the oldest institutions in Iceland.

Menntaskólinn í Reykjavík is the oldest junior college in Reykjavík, Iceland. The school traces its origin to 1056, when a school was established in Skálholt, and it remains one of the oldest institutions in Iceland.

Because I am weird, I will often not order something on a menu if I’m afraid I’ll mispronounce it, even if the description sounds amazing. But this is Iceland and I am obviously American – so I ordered some lava cooked chicken stuff because I can!

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And a beer. A Viking beer. I didn’t do a beer selfie, because that seemed crass, but I totally thought about it.

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After dinner, I headed to the pub, determined to try every single one of their Icelandic beers.

I ordered the sampler tray, which covered all six of the Icelandic beers they had on tap. The taproom only served Borg beers from Iceland (although it had a smattering of beers from around the world, most notably the US and Denmark). Once I’d finished the samples (well, finished all but one), I started chatting with the bartender. I did NOT take a picture, because it didn’t occur to me, but he was delightfully bearded, man-bunned Icelandic sex-on-a-stick.

Borg Brewing taster tray at Skúli Craft Bar

Borg Brewing taster tray at Skúli Craft Bar

He invited me behind the bar so I could look at his bottles. I chose a beer that he warned me was a big expensive. It was a festival beer, and it was the last bottle in his taproom, possibly the last in existence. It was a blueberry beer (the blueberries had been CRUSHED BY HAND) and was a joint project with (other brewery).

After a bit, I wandered into a another bar (Micro Bar) but didn’t stay long. I then began wending my way back to my room, stopping for a couple night time pics.

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I slept for about three hours before waking and being WIDE AWAKE. I eventually fell back asleep, only to be awakened a couple hours later when someone tried to get into my room. Pretty sure it was a lost drunk hotel stayer, as I heard him try to get into every room, but it sure does get your adrenaline up in the middle of the night.

I didn’t get as much done the first day as I’d hoped, but I had a wonderful time. One of the beautiful things about solo travel is the ability to change the agenda at any time and getting to hit the relaxation part of a vacation as hard as I want without feeling guilty.

End of Days 1-2….stay tuned tomorrow, for then there shall be SORCERY!

 

Protected: Ripping off the bandage

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40 Before 40 – Update the Sixth

You guys! I am six months into my 39th year. I am at an airport on my way to Iceland. I got carded and had to show my driver’s license AND my passport to buy beer.

I haven’t updated at all since my fifth update a month ago. It’s not because I don’t have things to say – but because I’ve been overwhelmed with life, the universe, and everything.

I have, however, managed to knock a few more things off my list.

I managed #10 – cooking class. I went to a knife skills class, which is almost the same thing. I loved it and now want to take an actual cooking class.

#17 – I took Bean to South Dakota for his summer vacation. We did a lot of fun things. Swimming – once in a pool and once in a lake, visited the Falls that gave Sioux Falls their name (and got to do some rock climbing), and hit a butterfly house/mini-aquarium to view some Rays and pet a shark. We didn’t go fishing (#20) as planned, but we touched a fish, so same thing?

#25 – I’ve been doing a lot more meditation. I’ve had a wicked stressful month, and the meditation has been helpful. (And no, Facebook friends, the meditation is not ALWAYS drinking a beer.)

By this time tomorrow, I’ll have checked #35 off my list – passport stamp! I am en route to Iceland as I type!

#37/38 – fitness and self care: I am working on this. I’ve started yoga-ing again. I’ve gotten to a much better place. I’m being forced into a place I didn’t want this year, but I think life is going to get better in the long run. Apparently 2016 – the year I named the “year of me”  See me later for the bandaid analogy post.

 

Overall, I’m not sure I’m going to hit all my 40 before 40 goals – but I’m not entirely sure I care. I’ve had a hard year. Things have been both harder than and more wonderful than I could’ve imagined. I’ve had challenges I didn’t anticipate and have been both more miserable and happier than I’ve ever imagined I could be.

 

I’ve got six more months, and however it turns out, I know that 39 is going to go down as one of the most memorable years of my life.