Monday, October 21, 2013

Last day in Iceland : City and Blue Lagoon

We spent the last day in Iceland in Reykjavik looking around the city. The stand out site was the Lutheran Cathedral especially as we happened on an organ practice. Lots of historic buildings and modern structures like the National Concert Hall.

In the afternoon we did the local thing and stopped on the way to the airport or at least to return the car, and swam in the blue lagoon.

We are now in New York and back from a steak dinner ( We would need to rob a bank for that in Iceland ) and with the 4 hours time adjustment it is 4am and not midnight

We fly to Sydney tomorrow evening.
The organ pipes

Gail in the Blue Lagoon

A sea monster in the Blue Lagoon

Waterfalls and Geysers

Driving from the Western peninsula we went up to the famous Lava falls. The water flows out under the lava and makes a magical little waterfall. Size doesn't always matter. Adjacent was another waterfall, the Barnar or Children's falls where the is a natural stone bridge. Several young children lost their life at this spot.

We couldn't cross the mountain due to snow so had to retrace our steps and go almost into Reykjavik to join the Golden Ring to visit a series of places. We saw Pingvellir where the tectonic plates of Europe and America clash. All was quiet during our visit. It is also the home of the first democratic parliament. One of the special sites was seeing giant brown trout swimming upstream to spawn.

WE went on to Geyser the one that gave us the word. It is quiet thesedays but a short walk away is Strokkur that blows its top regularly. A good nickname! Can you suggest anyone?

The Lava Falls

Too icy to sit

Gail at the Children's Falls. Step carefully on those icy boards!

Strokkur blowing its top

Gail and Rob at Gulfoss top of falls

Ice above and below from the frozen spray

The power of Gulfoss

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Around the rugged coast the ragged rascals ran.

We have spent the last few days driving around the North and West coasts of Iceland. The road hugs the coast with the mountains looming above and the Arctic Ocean below. The scenery is extreme with old lava flows in the weirdest shapes. You can understand why they are often mistaken for goblins . At times the coastal strip is wide enough for farming and there are lots of sheep, horses and fodder crops.

It is slow progress with the road going up one side of a fiord and then down the other. It took half an hour to scrape the ice off the windscreen before we could start the day and then a slow trip until the ice on the road melted.

Among the many places that we visited on this leg have been Snaefellsjokull Ice cap and Snaefell Volcano which was made famous by Jules Verne as his setting for " Journey to the Centre of the Earth."  We couldn't find the secret entrance to the earth's centre but the road to the crater was closed and the entire caldera is filled with ice.

Mostly this part of the trip has been scenic coastline, beautiful fiords and narrow winding roads. Our overnight stops have been in picturesque coastal towns. We selected the ones that didn't smell of herrings.

The harbor at Stykkisholmir our Friday stopover. We climbed to the top of the island that protects the town

Sunset from our apartment that night

Sugar loaf peaks dominate the fishing town of Grundarfjordur

Turf roof on the buildings at Hellissandur. This is at the tip of the Snaefellsnes peninsula

Friday, October 18, 2013

Icelandic Adventures

Myvatn is the gem of the north east.  It is starkly beautiful and we spent the morning visiting diverse places in the vicinity of the lake.  We visited the hot springs, similar to the blue lagoon and also Grjotagia, a swimming hole in a cave under the lava - one was commercial, one was not.

We drove out to Hverfell, a symmetrical crater rising above the lava fields.  From here we went across to the jagged lava fields of Dimmuborgir and hiked through some of the fascinating shapes.  After this we went back down to the lake at Hofdi where wild flowers, birch and spruce cover a similar landscape in a coastal setting.  At Kalfastrond the shapes rise in dramatic clusters from the water.

We left the Myvatn area and drove up to the northern coast of the island where we went around the shores of a huge fiord and then through a series of small fishing towns along the coast.  This included the most northerly town in Iceland but we travelled on to Saudarkrokur where we stayed the night.  We had travelled the longer coastal route rather than over the mountain on a narrow winding road squeezed in between the mountains and the Arctic Ocean.  This route included 4 major tunnels, one of 11 km and another one lane tunnel of 3.4 km - about 20 km of tunnels in all.

A wonderful day of great variety and absolute scenic beauty.  The most stunning was driving around the fiords with the snow capped mountains above - chocolate box scenery.

Rob on a lava flow

Rob descending into Griotagi

Swimming hole under the lava at Griotagi

Gail at the Myvatn nature baths

The crater at Hverfell

Rob on a trail at Dimmuborgir. The moisture on the track is frozen

The beautiful scenery at Kalfastrond

Wild horses by Lake Myvatn. Not sur if they were tame wild horses or wild tame horses.

The falls at Godafoss. One of Icelands best known but not as high as many others

Driving around the fiords

Coasal town on the North Coast
Tunnel ahead! This one was easy it was two lanes.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Steam, Sulphur and Snow

After the wonderful day yesterday it would be easy to dismiss our travels today but in their own way they were just as spectacular.

We left Hofn with its spectacular location and drove around the side of fiords and up the East coast. The coast is beautiful in a rugged way with the road just fitting between the mountains and the sea.On the way we saw the Icelandic ponies, reindeer and lots of birds. We then traversed the mountain range crossing from the East coast to the North across the rugged mountains. It was steep, the road was poor gravel and there were sheer drops often on both sides of the road. As we continued across the high interior there was snow right up to the road but not on the road. Roadside ponds were frozen and there was constant drizzle or rain.

The change from this came in the form of steam and sulphur with bubbling ponds so hot that with one slip you would be cooked in seconds. The air was sulphurous and there was a roar of escaping steam . Goblins abounded!

Finally we were across and found refuge for the night a a beautiful hotel on the banks of the lake at Myvatn. Our only concern is that we are told a fierce water monster lives in its deep waters but we went down to the shore and are at peace with the local goblins so we will be safe for the night.
A brief roadside stop

Gail went ahead to take this photo..hope she turns up in a later shot

Steam, sulphur and Rob
Here she is. Gail at a bubbling brook

At Lake Myvatn. We saw birds but not Nessie

Rob with the Goblins. If you don't believe you won't see them

Gail at our hotel. Last night a view of four glaciers. Tonight not a view of the lake but of the carpark

A few of the locals. Can you see them?

Iceland, Land of Fire and Ice

I think I frightened the geese

These were on the menu last night!

At the waterfall

Two waterfalls

Vik Black beach, white surf and frozen goblins

Iceburgs calving

Sun still on the high peaks

Wonderful light
Now on with the story
We picked up our car at the airport and after overnight in Reykjavik, we headed out to circumnavigate the island.  Highway 1 goes all the way around the coast which we eventually managed to find.  We saw so much in that one day, the trip to Iceland is already a great success.

We stopped at the thermal geographic fields at Hyeragerdi which is also the centre of a huge glasshouse industry.  A good trivia question.  What country produces the most cut flowers for the European market?  Yes it is Iceland, not the Netherlands.

We visited 2 major ice fields and as we drove along, the glacial tongues were heading towards the coast and on the other side, the braided streams flowed through the terminal murrain.  The larger, Myrdalsjokull, is three times the size of Luxemburg and the largest outside the polar caps.

We stopped at the village of Vik for lunch but did not meet up with Vik the Viking.  We did see its black sand beach with the contrasting white of the breakers and a series of sea stacks believed to be trolls who were caught at sunlight.  Over 40% of the Icelandic population believe in elves, goblins and trolls.

The scenery was magical as we drove on changing from the earlier type lunar landscape to basalt boulders fused together with moss and sedges - just like you would imagine a green cheese lunar landscape.

At Jokulsarlon, we saw the famous glacial lake where the glaciers from Vatnajokull calve icebergs into the lake.  Eventually these float out to sea.  You have seen this is you watched James Bond's ' Die Another Day, Batman the Beginning or Lara Croft Tomb Raider.

From our hotel in Hofn, as we type this, we can see 4 glaciers descending.  It can't get any better than this.

Power to the people

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Last day in Germany

We travelled across Germany today from Berlin to Frankfurt ready for our flight to Iceland tomorrow.
We spent the afternoon walking around the old town and traversing from our hotel near the train station through the pedestrian malls down to a few of the famous landmarks. We visited the St Katherine's Church and the Cathedral along with the local markets and lots of shops. Having a quiet night ready for a new adventure
There are many more fountains and sculptures in European cities than in Australia

The wonderful organ at the Frankfurt Cathedral. Note the trumpet pipes

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Berlin East meets West

On our last day in Berlin we visited places linked to the period when the city was divided. We started at the DDR Museum that told the story of life in East Berlin. Even the German tourists found it an eye opener!

Then it was on to the Brandenburg Gate and Checkpoint Charlie. These were rather touristy but nevertheless very interesting. We also visited the Willy Brandt Museum that very much fitted into this theme

Later in the day we turned back the clock with a visit to Charlottenburg, a palace of the Prussian kings. This was part of the complex that we had visited yesterday at Potsdam. We saw the castle, the new palace and the gardens. We did manage to fit in lunch at a local Italian restaurant.

Tomorrow we go by train to Frankfurt for our flight to Iceland on Monday.
Gail at the old border between East and West

Protesters at the Brandenburg Gate

The beer fuelled HOHO bus. You drink beer and pedal

Old Berlin wall "art"

At the Charlottenburg Castle

One of the Royal rooms

Anyone for dinner? The porcelain collection

Prussian crowns in the treasury

The castle gardens