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NOT ENOUGH SYNONYMS FOR AMAZING
Iceland was amazing. I wish we'd had more time and that I had better feet for hiking and better knees for climbing because that country is just MADE for hikers and climbers. Everywhere we turned there was something incredible to look at. We were completely saturated in natural beauty for 8 days straight.

1000-year old lava fields covered with pale green-gray moss like melted cheese on pizza (for MILES). Craters tall and squat and smooth. Pseudo-craters covered in short, brilliant green grass looking like a string of octopus tentacle suckers. Lava formations like some crazy-quilt rock-garden fantasy. Bright blue mineral lagoon pools. Burbled-up mounds of earth, pushed up by forces too awesome to contemplate. Bubbling mud pots in white & orange sulfur-painted gorges. Geysirs! Glaciers and snow-capped heights. Mighty rivers and tumbling streams, huge sparkling lakes. Waterfalls: big and small and tall and sneaky and bounding from one cliff to the next. Tectonic rifts! Mountains, mountains, mountains! Plus puffins!

Things I kept noticing:

Purple & white lupines EVERYWHERE. Fields upon fields of them and blooming strips along every verge and corner. They were ALL purple with white spots. No pink ones, no white ones, no yellow, red or orange ones. Just millions of purple & white spotted lupines. I wondered about them, mostly because I suspected they weren't native and it turns out I was right. They may be beautiful, but they're definitely invasive.

How EMPTY the place feels. Even in Reykjavik, it felt eerily quiet and empty. Except for the downtown center, and despite the fact that there were cars everywhere, people were conspicuously and largely absent. Not sitting on benches, not sitting on balconies. Not walking down the streets. Not in the stores or the restaurants. There are 120,000 people (not counting tourists) in the the city, but it sure didn't feel that way. All the people we DID see were invariably foreigners. We heard much more French, German and English than Icelandic. And by the end of the trip, I'm sure we'd seen more sheep & horses than people.

That I could READ a great deal of the signs (or at least figure them out), thanks to knowing Swedish, even though Icelandic is basically the equivalent of Old Norse and the written language has changed little since the 13th century. How cool!

The midnight sun—even though I was warned about it, I wasn't really prepared. The sun basically never set. It just dipped a little bit below the horizon but it was high in the sky even at 11 pm and it never really got dark. Reykjavik is only 330 km (180 miles) from the Arctic Circle and during the 2 nights we were in Akureyri, we were only 100 km (60 miles) away.

The use of corrugated tin for building roofs and siding.

***

Karin turned 12 in Akureyri. Martin thinks it's rather unfair that she keeps getting to have birthdays in exotic places and on vacation. That's what happens when your birthday is in the middle of July. It's as boggling as the Icelandic landscape to think that my youngest child is already 12. Geez louise, time flies. Shesh louesh! (haha! that's how the twins, my kids' Swedish friends, pronounced Geez Louise)

She was thrilled with her presents and got things she really wanted but then, unfortunately, had to spend most of her birthday in the car as we drove the 5+ hours back to Reykjavik. We did manage to make it to the sushi restaurant she asked for before it closed, though. Happy birthday, baby girl! I love you :)

***

I took 2 giant book-bricks with me to read during the week of vacation, thinking they would be more than enough to see me through, but unfortunately they were both so good that I zoomed through them and had to hit the bookstore in downtown Reykjavik for something to get home on. THREE excellent books in a row, one of which I didn't expect to like at all: Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts (our next bookgroup book), Fall of Giants by Ken Follett (can't wait for the next 2!) and The Help by Kathryn Stockett (finally!). Good stuff.

I've missed a pile of birthdays this month, so Belated Birthday Wishes to totte, kejn, ms_hackman, Mia, idahoswede, 88greenthumb and sandykins!
awake
mood: awake
music: Adele—Rolling in the Deep


Comments
From Megsie

Your trip does sound AMAZING. I love how you describe it...the "1000-year old lava fields covered with pale green-gray moss like melted cheese on pizza." Beautiful descriptions! It even make me (the hermit) want to go to check it out. The fact that it isn't so crowded makes it more likeable to me, and to see the midnight sun? And waterfalls? And all that scenery? Sounds divine. I am so glad you're back. I missed you. However, I am more glad that you had such a wonderful time! Another happy birthday to Karin! Sarah turns 10 on Tuesday...time DOES fly!

Re: From Megsie

Unfortunately, Anders didn't get any real good photos of the pizza lava, so I will try and hunt one up on the web later when I'm posting photos :)

Re: From Megsie

for amazing pictures of Iceland go to lonely wolf
Deviant art or his own website...

pictures, please?

Coming soon!

I second that motion! (Lupines are high on my list of favorites and that picture is, ummm, AMAZING.)

Unfortunately, it's not ours. I'm not sure my photographer got any shots of the lupines!

Even beside the runway at the airport, I was struck by all the lupines. They did seem sort of short and stunted that from the airplane window I wondered if that was what they really were so thanks for the confirmation. And where are all the people? It is weird, I agree.

We used to go up to Maine (when we lived in NY) for the month of July. My oldest sister's birthday is July 31st and she recently complained to me about how she had spent every birthday for a good chunk of her childhood, sitting smushed in a hot car for 8 hours. So maybe Martin should reconsider the benefits of having a birthday spent at home. ;-)

I actually wasn't sure they were lupines on the bus ride from the airport into town, because the leaves didn't look quite right and they were stunted/bushy.

The comment about your sister made me laugh. My birthday was in the summer too though I don't remember specifically if I spent any in the car. It probably happened!

Thanks for the birthday wishes and now you've made me want to go to Iceland even more.

Iceland is on my bucket list. (Jealous)

And 12????? HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Karin!

Wait until your kids are old enough to enjoy hiking and then GO!

Puffins, oooo. Photos?

Woah. I saw those lupins by the side of the road all up and down the coast hiway in May, with my sister, and I was delighted. I didn't see fields of them like that though. Cool.

That midnight sun thing is a trip, isn't it? We had to have blackout shades when we lived in Alaska (1981) because of it.

Why was it so empty of inhabitants, I wonder?

Happy Birthday to Karin, and birth anniversary to the Mama.

My housemate read Shantaram a few years back, when it was a possible upcoming Johnny Depp movie. That's rather an epic. Keep me posted what you think of it.

Sadly, no puffin photos :( ...and even though we saw them flying around near the little island where they supposedly breed, the one good shot Anders got of the cliffside only showed kittiwakes and no puffins at all! :(

Also: a possible upcoming Johnny Depp movie of Shantaram? They would need to make it a miniseries. SO much happens in that book, it's unreal. I was sure I wouldn't like it, given the subject matter but it grabs you and drags you along quite quickly. Apart from some of the philosophizing, it's very good :) (though it's only PARTIALLY based on real events)


Well, it got canceled, but you can read about the film adaptation on wiki:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shantaram_(novel)

Much gorgeousness. Fascinatng about the lupines. And funny how, despite being exotic, tyey are so genetically homogenous (or maybe that's part of why). Somehow this homogenity suits my image of Iceland.

I started readng your journal, I believe, when Karin was 6. How quickly time goes.

Seems like we've been LJ friends much longer that! Was Karin that young when we visited you?

Thanks much for the birthday greetings! My granddaughter and I share a birthday, so we had a fun, all-age birthday picnic at the park on July 9...Karin is July born too, yayy! Happy 10th birthday Karin!

Welcome back from your beyond-amazing-trip! Can't wait to see your photos!



Edited at 2011-07-17 06:53 pm (UTC)

All the photos were actually taken by my husband...I'll be posting them in a couple of sets soon!

(Anonymous)

Funny how you said it felt empty, I remember feeling the exact same thing. We went in the summer also, so you'd think everyone would be out doing things. I remember going into a bar and asking if they were actually open, it felt so dead. I also remember a guy telling me he liked it when the temperature got below minus 20, because the wind stopped. Man, if it's that cold there, maybe everyone just stays at home!

-Russell

How funny! We had absolutely gorgeous weather: clear and cool. We only had wind one day up north and only drizzle for a bit the day before we left.

It surely sounds magical! I'm looking forward to your picture posts!

They sure won't be anything like as amazing as kejn's photos!

(Anonymous)

You make me even more determined to fulfill my dream to visit Iceland!
So envious. :)

Thank you for the birthday wish! The dreaded 4-0.... Oh well, it's done.

I had a wonderful time on a boat trip out on Sztoc kholm archipelago with my Irish friend who was visiting. Photos willb e up on my blog tomorrow at the latest. If I don't get them up already tonight. :)

Great to have you back safely with lovely memories to share with us!

Hugs
Mia

http://mias.blogg.se

The big 4-0! EEK! I hated that damn birthday. Sounds like yours was nice though. And you must make time to go to Iceland. It wasn't even that expensive (more than here, I mean)...though that could change, we heard prices were going up.

You could be riggt about it being longer. If I remember correctly, Karin was 7 when you visited.

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