Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Iceland, February 2016

Last week the American school our teenager attends had February break, so we opted to take a trip to Iceland. Unfortunately, the husband had to cancel since he needed to stay local for a petroleum conference in London. It was a good thing we had let our daughter invite her best friend to travel with us because they entertained each other. If you don't have teenage girls, entertain meant them listening to music and doing a lot of giggling.

We stayed at a local Reykjavik hotel in the old city centre that was very Scandinavian minimalist in decor. The rock-filled gas fireplace in the lobby was a nice touch. But I especially enjoyed the morning music selection in the breakfast room where they were spinning vinyl. We were treated to some oldies, including Elvis and Eddie Rabbitt, while we fueled up for a day of touring.

On our first night in Iceland, the same day we arrived, we took a bus out to Pingvellir National Park to look for the northern lights. After a cloudy start, the skies cleared and we were treated to a great show. Although appearing as white to the naked eye rather than the greens and pinks you often see in time-lapsed pictures, the lights slowly moved across the sky as rivers of light. The girls got tired and cold, in true teenager fashion, so I had to run them off the bus a few times to enjoy the active aurora borealis. Here is a pic of the girls upon arrival at the viewing site, before they got tired and cold and cranky. The other pic most closely resembles some of what I saw. My handy dandy camera phone just wasn't capable of capturing it in a meaningful way.

Our first full day in Iceland, we enjoyed a private walking tour of the city with a local guide. Some of the things we saw included a modern Lutheran church that took 50 yrs to build

and some wonderful vistas from side streets that led down to the harbor.

Along the way we passed a rather foul/fowl smelling place, a mostly frozen pond where the original Viking settlers of Iceland pulled their boats to keep them in fresh water when they weren't in use. Now it seems to be a winter gathering spot for swans, geese and ducks thanks to the running water that keeps it from freezing and tourists like us that bring food offerings to them.

Since our local guide was taking requests, I had him walk us through the old city cemetery. It was quiet and peaceful in there. Our guide told us that plots are bedecked with greenery, ribbons and battery operated candles around Christmas time. He also explained why the markers and old tombstones had husband and wives with different names. It seems that Icelanders at birth are given their father's first name as their last name, though they do add something on the end that means "son of" or "daughter of" to differentiate. And women don't take their husband's last name when they marry because it wouldn't make sense. So I learned that surnames don't exist in Iceland while touring a cemetery.

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