loftslag: adventures in Iceland!


Loft­slag means “cli­mate” in Ice­landic. But accord­ing to this web page on an art exhib­it (which I stum­bled upon while look­ing up the word), the lit­er­al trans­la­tion of loft­slag is “air song” :) which is a love­ly way to think about weather.

If weath­er were a song, then it was def­i­nite­ly on the rather expres­sive side while we were in Ice­land ear­li­er this month. Was it worth the ner­vous dri­ving through nar­row moun­tain pas­sages and one-lane bridges and white-out con­di­tions in snowstorms?

It would be a def­i­nite yes :) 

It’s a place with so much diver­si­ty, not only of weath­er but also land­scapes and geo­log­i­cal fea­tures. One moment there’re ice­bergs and the next moment there are bub­bling hot springs emerg­ing from the earth. Seem­ing­ly bar­ren lava rocks with lush green moss thriv­ing on them. It’s quite surreal.

Appar­ent­ly, how­ev­er, there’s not usu­al­ly blizzard/hail/50+ km/hr wind com­bo in May. So if you’re think­ing about going in spring, don’t be dis­cour­aged! Some folks we com­mis­er­at­ed with at a hos­tel (after every­one’s dri­ven through a white-out snow­storm) said they went in Feb­ru­ary last year and the roads were beau­ti­ful. But cer­tain­ly, if you go in July, there would be no chance of snow. But then it would be more cost­ly, which was why we went in ear­ly May.

But any­way, here are some pic­tures I took on film with Diana, and some faux film pho­tos with the mobile app Huji (which imi­tates 90s dis­pos­able cam­era, and appar­ent­ly all the rage, because the 90s is cool again…? Any­way, I’m quite impressed with the faux light leaks and dust effects!), and some reg­u­lar phone pho­tos too when the light­ing was­n’t good for nei­ther the real or faux film cam­eras. I fig­ure if peo­ple are inter­est­ed in going to Ice­land, they would be see­ing pho­tos of all the must-see loca­tions on tourism sites any­way, so I don’t need to show you my ver­sions of all the same sights. But I can share some of my favourite pic­tures and moments :)

We start­ed in Reyk­javik, the cap­i­tal city, as most trav­ellers do. It was a snowy, windy day, as you can see by the the water in this pic­ture, but with some sun­ny peri­ods every half hour or so, as shown in the fol­low­ing pic­ture. The city has the cutest, most colour­ful hous­es lin­ing every street.

Com­plete­ly jet-lagged, dis­ori­ent­ed and starv­ing, we ate at a cafe that boasts tra­di­tion­al Ice­landic food. It turned out to be a great choice, with our herring/egg and mashed fish on toasts, rye bread ice cream (it was­n’t doughy at all), and skyr with pan­cakes. There was also a “Brave Heart” menu option with most of the things pic­tured as well as “fer­ment­ed shark”. I was tempt­ed to get it but that was quite a lot of food which I did­n’t think I could fin­ish. I lat­er read in a muse­um brochure that fer­ment­ed shark smelled like ammo­nia. So I’m hap­py with our menu choice. The mashed fish and rye ice cream were par­tic­u­lar­ly delicious. 

This would be one of the three times that we ate out in total out of the 9 days we were there. Things are quite a bit more expen­sive than back home, and us thrifty trav­ellers relied a lot on gro­cery stores, gas sta­tions and snacks we packed from home. Not the most nutri­tious, but I fig­ure it’s 9 days out of my life, I can eat as much kale as I can bear when I get home.

Then we drove north towards Ice­land’s sec­ond largest city, Akureyri. But before that we stopped to see the Grabrok Crater, which was where the very first pic­ture of the post was tak­en. The weath­er was dete­ri­o­rat­ing as the day pro­gressed :S 

After some challenging/terrifying dri­ving we final­ly made it to Akureyri. Fel­low (Cana­di­an!) trav­ellers at the hos­tel high­ly rec­om­mend­ed vis­it­ing the Christ­mas House, so we went! And it was fantastic!

So Ice­landic folk­lore about Christ­mas does­n’t involve San­ta. Instead, there are the troll moth­er Grýla (there is a father as well but I for­get his name) and her 13 troll chil­dren called the yule lads, all with their own great names. They come into town before Christ­mas and leave small gifts in chil­dren’s shoes if the chil­dren have behaved well through­out the year, but if they had­n’t they’d get an old pota­to instead of a gift, and the giant feline pet of Grýla, the yule cat, might also eat the chil­dren :S 

Empathiz­ing (but not endors­ing the actions of) the hun­gry yule cat, we went to the Net­to (gro­cery store) in town. And look! It has yarn!!! Not one but mul­ti­ple isles of yarn!!!

It is utter­ly delight­ful and at the same time a bit bizarre to see yarn (like seri­ous, made in Ice­land, 100% nat­ur­al fibre) being sold along­side sauces, tins and bread. And with­out fail every Net­to we shopped at along the way car­ried yarn (this pic­ture was tak­en a bit lat­er in anoth­er town). I wish yarn-craft­ing is as much inter­wo­ven into the fab­ric of our Cana­di­an soci­ety as it is in Ice­land. (puns intended)

We then made it to Mý­vatn, a pop­u­lar place with much to see due to it being in an area with active vol­canic activ­i­ties. Like these bub­bling pools of blue (real­ly, robin’s egg blue) mud!

Just as fas­ci­nat­ing is Dim­mubor­gir or “dark cas­tle”, a lava field with large rock for­ma­tions and caves. The pic­ture real­ly does­n’t do the place jus­tice as to how vast the lava field is and how large the rock for­ma­tions are. We took the “small cir­cle / fam­i­ly” trail because we did­n’t want to get lost. When I look at this pic­ture I always think of Mike the brave hob­bit (or elf? he’s kind of too tall for a hob­bit) walk­ing into Mor­dor. And leg­end has it that it is where the yule lads live! :D

Much of what we drove through in north Ice­land was fields upon fields cov­ered in this red veg­e­ta­tion in con­trast with the green moss, which is quite inter­est­ing for some­one who is used to see­ing grass all the time.

Now dri­ving south along the east fjords, we came upon a few old­er vil­lages, includ­ing the very pic­turesque Seyðisfjörður. We were hop­ing to vis­it the muse­um, which has a print­ing press, and some out­door art instal­la­tions, but the muse­um was closed and we could­n’t find the instal­la­tion :S The view was beau­ti­ful nonetheless!

We con­tin­ued south to Fáskrúðsfjörður, which once served as the base for French fish­er­men, so Mike was final­ly able to read some of the words in the local muse­um :D (the muse­um actu­al­ly was­n’t open for the sea­son yet, but we went in to ask about where we could find a wash­room near­by, and the kind peo­ple at the muse­um let us walk through the exhib­it to reach the washrooms).

Many of the hous­es are from the 1800s and have beau­ti­ful­ly carved name plates.

The gem of the east fjords for me was Petra’s Stone Col­lec­tion! This is just one small frac­tion of the col­lec­tion, it just goes on and on all around the gar­dens. And they’re all rocks that Petra col­lect­ed over her life time in the moun­tains of east Ice­land. She also col­lect­ed oth­er things, like ball point pens, key chains, sea shells… one could lose an entire after­noon in the small house museum.

Here Porg is at Jökulsárlón, which is a glacial lagoon in south Ice­land. I’ve nev­er seen an ice­berg before and it’s absolute­ly fas­ci­nat­ing how blue the ice is. This is the only pic­ture we took of Porg actu­al­ly, even though we took him on the trip think­ing he would look right at home… but it’s been too windy to take a reg­u­lar pho­to, let alone him sit­ting him on a rock or some­thing to take one… but I think this one’s a good one :D

While dri­ving across south Ice­land we drove through Eldhraun, a lava field cov­ered in moss. 

It looks so lush and squishy (not so in my pho­to, which was kind of far away from the side of the road, but you’d find tons of pics on the web), I total­ly under­stand the urge to roll in it, but please don’t! It takes decades for moss to grow and once tram­pled upon it may not even grow back. So hug with our eyes only. 

Equal­ly hug-able (if one could hug hous­es) are these turf hous­es, which make me think of hob­bit hous­es, at the Skog­ar muse­um, where we learned that Ice­landers are an immense­ly resource­ful peo­ple, build­ing dwellings and homes not only with very lim­it­ed resources (the earth and rocks under their feet and the drift­wood that washed up by chance), but also to with­stand very harsh weath­er. There was an entire house that was built from driftwood!

On our sec­ond last day we vis­it­ed part of what is called the “gold­en cir­cle”, which I think is the busiest tourist area in Ice­land judg­ing by the traf­fic. We saw the Geysir in the active hot spring area, and Ker­ið crater, where Bjork had a con­cert! It has dif­fer­ent colours of earth and veg­e­ta­tion at dif­fer­ent sides, with a way to talk to the bot­tom, and the lake a the bot­tom is very blue. 

We took a bit of a detour to Hveragerði, a town in an active vol­canic area with many hot springs, orig­i­nal­ly to vis­it the geot­her­mal park, but it was closed due to pub­lic hol­i­day, so we had lunch in the geot­her­mal restau­rant instead, and had the best mush­room soup and breads at the soup buf­fet (it seems many restau­rants that serve soup and bread serve them in buf­fet style, which is awesome!).

We stayed in a small cab­in with a res­i­dent cat :)

And we even found risot­to in a cup! Not bad for camp­ing food huh :) 

On the last day we had an evening flight, so we stopped by Fjölskyldu- og Húsdýragarðurinn (ani­mal park) in Reyk­javik before head­ing to the airport. 

We have seen many Ice­landic hors­es (and sheep, goats and even rein­deer) through the car win­dow while dri­ving by but nev­er this close. So here they are :D Accord­ing to the park brochure the sheep and the hors­es are sent on hol­i­day to pas­tures dur­ing the summer :)

And that was our trip! Nev­er long enough. But at the same time by the end of it I do feel I’ve had enough of the ner­vous dri­ving. Kind of miss the pub­lic tran­sit here in the city if you can believe it. We def­i­nite­ly would like to vis­it this beau­ti­ful land again one day, not soon, maybe when we retire, and prob­a­bly on a bus tour :)

Thank you always for read­ing my sto­ries! Wish­ing you great adven­tures and new inspi­ra­tions in your own far­away or local trav­els too!



11 thoughts on “loftslag: adventures in Iceland!

  1. Sounds such an amaz­ing place.
    Loved the read thank you.
    Cape Town South Africa

  2. appar­ent­ly she just dis­played the rocks non­cha­lant­ly in her gar­den with­out it being an attrac­tion and all, but then tourists start­ed com­ing to see the rocks and demand­ed that pub­lic wash­rooms be built in her yard! she refused for a long while. and i don’t think they start­ed charg­ing entrance fees until after she passed away.

  3. Quel beau voy­age! mer­ci pour cet intéressant reportage et pour ces belles photos.

  4. What a fas­ci­nat­ing look at a place I am not like­ly to ever vis­it in per­son. Thanks for shar­ing all of the great infor­ma­tion and love­ly photos!

  5. i’m sure they were quite annoy­ing to the fam­i­ly at the time! but make for a fun­ny sto­ry years after i guess :D

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