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!