Friday, July 31, 2009

Ummm...more days later

Today, we are in Egilstaðir, where the sun is shining, and the wind is from the south. Finally, I'm warm.

Still can't find salt and vinegar potato chips anywhere 'though. I am almost ready to give body parts in exchange.

Let me forewarn you, this is a really really long post with lots of pictures. Take a deep breath and join us.

Now, picking up our story where we left off a few days ago.... in Holmavik.

We went to the Icelandic Museum of Witchcraft and Sorcery.

Most of the witch burnings, and the practice of witchcraft itself, are a significantly different thing then what was happening in Europe in the similar time period.

In Iceland, there were only 21 burnings and almost all of them were men. It was thought that men were largely responsible for the practice of witchcraft.

Also.... the nature of the witchcraft was different. The little that I know about European witchcraft doesn't include such complex signs as the one below. There are dozens of examples of these in the museum and almost all of them are supposed to be written in blood from very specific body parts, depending on the sign in question.

We move on to the sheep museum, which was a bit....dry, in nature. The most amusing part is these bottle-fed lambs who accosted us in the parking lot, hoping to be fed.

Moved on to Blonduos for the evening, and loved the ocean. Our room had a quite entrancing ocean-side view. Managed to get a few shots of the bird-life...

In the morning we hit the Icelandic textile museum. I was disappointed in that there were no references to pre-1600 era textiles or textile tools.

This, apparently, is the very first sewing machine ever imported to Iceland.

This is Viðimyri, and it's almost a classic postcard shot. :) It dates back to approximately 1834 and consecrated in 1935 - what happened to those 101 years one might wonder? Most of the timber, and many of the artefacts inside are original but the turf needs to be replaced.

Oh yes... and there was also the Seal Museum. Yep, another museum. I'd smite him if only I could. I didn't take pictures at this one because frankly, stuffed carcasses just don't appeal to me.

Glaumbær Folk Museum - well, the most interesting part for me was meeting the archaeologists who are doing this dig. They are from U.Mass. and UCLA, and were just coming up for a washroom break when we arrived. There is .....wait for it Darrell... evidence of pre-1104 iron smelting. Neil passed on his card to the nice people.

Now, the museum itself. While I do recognize the value in preserving history.... I'm really just not that interested in 18th century anything. It's very well done as a museum, has great presentation value... but I got really grumpy photographing a million things that I just don't find that interesting.

So.... being contrary... here's the backside of the houses, and the husband. I always function better in the outdoors here. Errr.... well 'always' might be too strong a word, but more on that later.

Then we made a brief pit stop in Akureyi for two cables for my Ipod. Smart enough to bring the Ipod in the hope of plugging it into the car for music on the road, but stupid enough not to bring the cable in question, or the recharge from the computer cable. I am much much happier with music around.

It was a long drive today, with lots of stops, and I was definitely ready for arriving at the hotel, especially after getting grumpy at Glambaer. But we had yet one more stop to make.

Goðafoss (waterfall of the Gods) is so named because when Iceland officially converted to Christianity in 999 or 1000, the lawspeaker of the Alþingi, Þorgeirr Ljósvetningagoði was charged with the task of throwing his statues of the Norse gods into the waterfall.

Snorri says "oh no, not me! I'm not a god!"

Neil and I have been taking some time playing with the camera to get the more 'artsy' shots, especially around waterfalls. I really liked the way this one turned out.

We finally ended that day in the Myvatn nature preserve, at a lovely hotel called Hotel Reynihlið. We planned to stay here two nights, because the day in between, we drove up to Husavik to go whale watching.

But we had some time before the tour started so we went to the Husavik Phallological Museum. Yes, that's right, it's a museum dedicated to penises. Most of them are like these... preserved in formaldehyde. But there are a few dried and mounted, and a few that have been made into other objects like a whip or a cane. There are even three letters, from three different currently living men, who promise their penises to the museum upon their demise. One of whom is the current curator of the museum.

So, whale watching then. Cue.... the theme to Gilligan's Island. "A three hour tour... the weather started getting rough... the tiny ship was tossed.."

Here I am starting out all cheery like in a tower of the orange waterproof jackets they provide. Note the calm water of the harbour behind me.

And here I am, after the first tossing of the cookies. Yes, the first... I spent the next 3 hours vomiting. It was.... just so very much fun. And I did take the darned sea-sickness pill they gave us, just in case. It just didn't work.

Although I was too busy being ill to take much notice, apparently I wasn't alone. Neil escaped the same fate quite narrowly, and observed that about half of the people on the boat were suffering the same fate.

And just to make it worse..... no whales were spotted. They offered free vouchers for another trip, but there is no way you'd get me back on that trip for quite a long time.

Neil did manage to take a picture of this comorant 'though. Apparently it's quite unusual in this part of Iceland.

Now... I didn't feel like dinner that night, but we did get to the Myvatn Nature Springs. A long hot soak in one of Iceland's hot springs can cure many ills.

Snorri thinks it's much nicer then that waterfall we threatened him with as well.


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Day 2, 3, 4, 5 - Leaving Reykjavik, Sytikkisholmur, a ferry, Ísafjörður, and finally Holmavik (sort of)

No internet access tonight in the Hotel Laugarhöll, so I'm writing this offline and hope to post it tomorrow on our way through Holmavik. (Turns out there was a very weak signal - posted tonight.)

The good news is that we have plenty of time here, so I can get caught up in offline mode.

Let's see now.... we left you in Reykjavik. On saturday, we arrived at the Mac store an hour after it closed and discovered that it isn't open on Sundays. I brought my Ipod to play music in the car for the drive, you see, but orgot to bring a "connect to the car" cord, or a "recharge from the computer" cord. Darn.

We had dinner at the Tapas Barinn in Reykjavik. Wonderful! Delightful! Sangria! I love tapas as a style more and more as I try it in various places and in Iceland, with its variety of products from the sea, it's even more delighful. Puffin and whale were on the menu! You can try a wide variety of things from the menu because the portions are so tiny, the arrangements on the plate are visually exciting, you can stop when you're full and not feel like you're wasting anything, and you can stretch the meal as long or as short as you wish into the evening as a result.

Day 3, also known as Sunday, sees us driving to Sytikkisholmur via Eirikstaðir. Eirikstaðir is a small museum on the site of what is thought to be Eirik the Red's first married homestead. It was occupied for only 10-20 years before he had to move on "due to some killings". The museum itself has a small staff shack, a set of washrooms, a half dozen full sized poster boards with the site history in four languages (Icelandic, English, German, and one of the scandinavian languages). Just slightly uphill from the signs is the actual remains - covered over again but with the wall outline shown as at L'anse Aux Meadows.

Neil tries to give us some perspective on just how small the house is - 4m by 12m.

A few yards off to one side is the reconstructed house where you find the re-enactors.

Their presentation is entirely in third person story telling. They talk through the story of Eirik and Leifr - birth, exile, new lands, all of it. The hall is fairly nice, and like the houses at L'anse Aux Meadows it cuts out the outside wind-noise perfectly. Neil thinks they have too much stuff 'though - multiple spears, a sword, multiple axes, many shields, sheepskins everywhere, bric a brac tucked in every corner, lots of clothes on the walls.

This nice lady (who's name we failed to get) humoured the crazy Canuck and held Snorri still against the wind so I could take his picture.

In Sytikkisholmur, we stayed at the Hotel Sytikkisholmur, which had sticky internet service that was nowhere near a power outlet (as mentioned in the previous post). Dinner was lovely 'though but I've already forgotten what I had. I emailed it to Vandy as she requested and it promptly left my brain. I'd check my sentmail, but gosh, I'm writing offline.

On Day 4, also known as Monday, we got up early enough to get some gas and to be at the ferry at 8:20am. I was up even earlier then I'd hoped because the bed was too hard, and sunrise happens here at 4 bloody am. I have yet to meet any form of accomodation here that understands the concept of blackout cloth or blinds or those of us afflicted with light activated brains.

Neil answered a directional question from another tourist just before we hit the ferry - in French!

The ferry ride was fun, if a bit.... windy. The wind, by the way, is all out of the north so far, so it effectively drops the temperature. Don't get me wrong - in Iceland, outdoors is almost always better then indoors, but it can take some getting acclimated. Neil tried to take some bird pictures while Karen hid from the wind just around the corner.

When we landed at Brjanslækur, we turned right and drove 6km to Flokalunda for lunch.

And then the fun began.

Where 'fun' becomes synomonous with words like 'terrifying' and phrases like 'oh my freaking god' and 'Oh god, oh god, we're all going to die!' Serenity fans should know that last one. Neil tried "I am a leaf on the wind" just once and I had to remind him that the character did die right after that line!

Let's just say the drive to Ísafjörður was.... a tad.... interesting. Lots of blind curves, blind hills, sharp drops from large cliffs too close to the road for comfort, steep inclines (up and down) - and did I mention narrow and roughly unpaved?

We took a brief break from the driving terror to visit, and climb several terraces up, around Dynjandi. This group of waterfalls is 186m tall in total and is comprised of many different smaller waterfalls on the way down, each of which is indvidually named. At the main fall off the cliff, the top spread is 30m, widening to 60m at it's base.

Just to give you some perspective on that height - see that road just in front of the fjord? And the little brown circle (aka the parking lot)? You can't really see the cars from this close to the top....

And here's one of us in front of the main fall, courtesy of fellow tourists returning the favour.

so..... this was Monday, and we lived to arrive in Ísafjörður. But I was so tired that even though we had great internet and a wonderful meal ... I went to bed quite early, and even slept through sunrise at 4 bloody am, right until a rather decent 8ish am.

Day 5, otherwise known as Tuesday, sees our inteprid couple driving in zig zags around these annoying obstacles called fjords - no straight lines here!

Also, a few amusing obstacles, known as sheep....

No special stops along the way here but the road was much much better then the day before and there was lots of interesting scenery.

Tomorrow, we'll be stopping at the Museum of Witchcraft and Sorcery in Holmavik and the sheep farming museum about 12 km just outside of Holmavik on our way to Blondous.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Day 2 - Botanical gardens and Vikingaheimar

Again, blogging a day behind the pictures. I'd hoped to catch up tonight but the only place the signal is connecting is nowhere near a power outlet so I'm limited by battery power. There's supposed to be signal in every room, but alas, it appears to be not quite the reality.

Yesterday then, we went to the botanical gardens in Reykjavik and found a few things to photgraph. A pretty rock garden....

A humble bumble bee doing it's thing...

Lots and lots of pretty flowers....

This bird ....

......splashing around in this lovely water garden.

There were also children aplently pulling the leaves and sometimes the plants out of the water feature in the botanical garden cafe (not pictured to protect their destructive little identities) and dropping their plastic cars in the pond.

Snorri made it to the Vikingaheimer with us to see the Islandingur, a replica Viking ship. More on the museum and the ship on the DARC blog when Neil gets around to blogging.

And of course.... in Reykjavik, there are cats everywhere. Ragnarr the cat visited us again briefly this morning before we checked out of the Erikr Rauði. This kitty was found in a wool shop in downtown Reykjavik.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Day 1 in Iceland - getting here and jet lag

So.... we're in Iceland. :) I'm writing on Day 2 actually but the pictures are from Day 1. I was way way too tired to write up the blog on Day 1. Jet lag is a real drag.

Snorri Steveson is a shared resource, carved by Steve from DARC. He's come to Iceland with us, and later he's going again, and to Denmark and England with Marcus and Jo.

First.... Snorri had to say goodbye to my .... err, our garden.

Here's Snorri at the airport while we waited for the plane. He's visiting the DARC website.

Snorri visited the Blue Lagoon with us when we landed.

The Blue Lagoon is a great way to .... attempt at least.... to recover from jetlag. It worked decently well last year...well, that and a nap... but not quite as well this year. There was a strong enough northerly wind while we were soaking to create cold currents in the water. And maybe I'm just not as hardy as I was last year. Jet lag had me bouncing up and down all day long - lost appetite, grumpiness, chills.... it's no fun. Good thing a good night's sleep will do wonders.

We did manage to wander down to the shore in Reykjavik for another look at the sun sculpture, Solfar. I was disappointed with last year's pictures because the day was overcast. This year.... lovely bright sunlight really loves this sculpture!!

That is almost the classic postcard shot.

Another shot... more whimsically artistic...

And one from The Man of the intrepid photographer doing her thing.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Trillium War, making beads, garden

So... we're on the eve of taking off for two weeks in Iceland, and I'm trying not freak out about not being packed properly or leaving a clean enough house for the house/dog sitter. I've decided to blog about the past few weeks instead. Just to take my mind off of it for a bit.

By the by, I'll be blogging from Iceland whenever the spirit moves me, and we have internet access.

Back at the beginning of July, we went to an SCA event called the War of the Trilliums. As is becoming usual for this event, Neil made a bead furnace and invited anyone who wandered by to try their hand at making beads.

This is the furnace.....

And these are some of the beads that people made.....

We got 1/3rd breakage rate - 12.5 beads broke, and 25 survived. That's a definite improvement over the years, but it's still pretty high. And those that do survive are often pockmarked with ash in the process. I don't think we have the hang of Norse bead making yet, but it's fun trying. :)

Our friend Steve gave us this fellow to take to Iceland with us - Snorri is the suggested name. I've called him Snorri Steveson in the Icelandic fashion. At Trillium War, he was guarding our camp.

Coming home to the garden, we have some lovely astilbes in bloom - they are shade plants.

The cosmos and the clematis are still in full bloom.

We had so much fun with working beads at Trillium War and managed to take the furnace home intact that we decided to do it again a week later with a smaller crowd so that we could test a few things - reheating an already existing furnace, and videotaping the tesserae method.

This is a still from the tesserae method of making beads. Rob is just lifting one of the tesserae pieces from a piece of flat new charcoal and starting to wind it around the mandrel. There's more information on the bead making process on DARC's bead pages and on DARC's blog.

This is a delightfully composed and poorly shot (it's not in focus!) picture of the beads that I made. One survived whole and one didn't - it's in the background in two pieces.