Iceland – The Land of Fire and Ice

Snaefellsnes Peninsula

Our last full day in Iceland and we hooked up again with our guide, Villi Godi, and headed north on the west side of Iceland to the Snaefellsnes Peninsula.  The Peninsula is very Iceland, with lots of coastline, snow capped mountains, some waterfalls, and some small Icebergs.  We had the most amazing Fish Soup, an Iceland staple, at a guest house on the Peninsula that Villi took us to.  Here are some shots of what we saw today.



the crew:


and the rest:

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Around Reykjavik 

Today was a crisp blue sky day in Reykjavik with strong winds as the fight between winter and spring continued.  We saw the Voiths off today and so it is just the three of us remaining.  We spent the day strolling in the wind around the capital city before tomorrow’s adventure up the western coastline.  Here are some of the sites of Reykjavik:

you can probably figure this one out, although the Icelandic troll may throw you a bit:


Our new apartment on the harbor:


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some of the structures of Reykjavik:

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Winter and spring:


The Canadian embassy:


Scenes from the city lake, looking back, an inhabitant, and with ice on the lake that appears as broken glass:

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Icelandic Cooking Class Saturday

Sun and bursts of rain and then sun again in Reykjavik as the winter and the spring fight it out for supremacy. They say they only have 2 seasons here, but it seems like there is some spring in the air even as it is periodically cold and windy.

We have developed a tradition of finding a cooking class when we travel and learning about the food of our host.  Today, we headed off to Salt Eldhús and an Icelandic cooking class from Matti.


On the menu:  A sautéed fennel salad


with twice smoked lamb carpaccio (smoked over beechwood and sheep poop – no lie – those Vikings were a hardy and innovative bunch)


with radish sprouts


and home made mayonnaise seasoned with Arctic thyme.


The main course was pan seared salmon with more Arctic thyme,


northern cracked peppers


and lava salt (salt from the 2010 eruptions of Eyjafjallajökul along the south coast of Iceland which brought worldwide air traffic to a halt), barley risotto  (because of the long, cold winter here, they rely on barley as their grain staple, rather than rice, wheat, or corn) with a delicious Icelandic Auður cheese melted into the barley.


And for desert, an Icelandic dish called Skyrr Mouse similar to Panna Cotta but made with legendary Skyr Yogurt with fresh picked Icelandic blueberries.  Icelandic Yogurt in the Skyr tradition is made in New York by Siggi’s Dairy and can be found in many supermarkets.   The Skyr Mousse was flavored with home made vanilla extract that Matti makes by soaking vanilla bean pods in Icelandic Vodka for 6 months.  Gotta try that when we get back.


Our class was 2 Shaikens from KC, 1 Shaiken from Washington, 3 Voiths from Philadelphia, a Parisian, and a family also from Philadelphia (small world).

Here are some shots of the action:





A really amazing meal!

Golden Circle Day

It is hard to describe the scale and beauty of the sites to see on the Golden Circle to the north of Reykjavik.  The size of the natural wonders in such a small island nation is extraordinary.  Even the pictures do not explain how gigantic the waterfalls are, or just how big the volcanic crater and the geyser are.  The Golden Circle is remarkable and we were treated to a mostly sunny day.  Therefore, I will just post the pics without commentary, except for the first picture.  The left cliff is the edge of the American tectonic plate and the right cliff is the edge of the European tectonic plate.  These two continental geological plates meet in Iceland and are pulling apart at the rate of 4 cm’s per year.  The rest is self explanatory except for the scale.











Last, I made mention in a prior post that the Hallgrimskirkja Church in Reykjavik was designed to replicate cliffs on black volcanic beaches in Iceland.  Here is the church again and the cliffs.




Next Two Days

The past two days, the weather was very unpredictable.  Yesterday, it rained, we had very gray skies, and the wind whipped up to 40 mph (here, they measure their wind in meters per second, and it was a lot of meters per second).  So, we hopped around Reykjavik looking for things to see and for me, things to photograph.  We went back to the Hallgrimskirkja Church to walk up to the clock tower and see the view:


and then back down to the church for another view of it.  It is designed to reflect some of the cliffs on the southern Iceland coast that overlook the Atlantic:


We also visited the Harpa Concert Hall and Conference Center on the wharf.  It was quite a walk to get to the building with the wind whipping off of the bay.  The building is made of glass of different colors with a very unusual roof, all geometric, and it was sponsoring a chess match.4th-5thdaysiceland-459



Today, we headed out to the Blue Lagoon, about 50 kilometers from Reykjavik on the way to the international airport.  It is a geothermal spa and the water gets its hue from silica and other minerals.  It is surrounded by lava fields covered with moss.  It rained 0n us while we bathed in the spa, which was a little weird to be sitting in water over 100 degrees fahrenheit while water barely above freezing fell on us.  But, it was a fun experience and the sun broke through and treated us to a rainbow over a lava field, Iceland style.



Day Two – Northern Lights

We drove through hail, sleet and snow to get to the international airport at 6:45 a.m. to pick up the Voiths who arrived on their flight from Newark.  And, now we are six.  Despite this morning’s hideous weather, it cleared, and there were solar flares today.  Clear and flares – a great combination for Northern Lights near the Arctic Circle.  So, we decided to go out tonite at 10 p.m. with our guide, Stephan, in search of the Northern Lights and we were not disappointed.  It was quite a show for a couple of hours just outside of Reykjavik.




First Full Day

Today was our first full day in Iceland.  We employed a guide – Villi – to sherpa us along the southern coast of the island.  And, here he is by a glacier he took us to:


Wed rove along Ring Road going east of Reykjavik and came upon a farm owned by a couple whose land sits at the foot of the volcano that erupted twice and caused worldwide airline interruption in 2010.  The family did not abandon the farm and their story of saving their animals and their farm is remarkable.  Here is Villi and the wife who was gracious enough to talk with us extensively about how the eruption affected her family and their lives.


We saw thatched roof dwellings, old churches (at the foot of mountains), walked to a glacier, and a huge waterfall and made friends with some horses, an Iceland breed that is friendly and beautiful as the manes blow in the wind.










Great day with Villi.  Thanks so much!  Next up – the Voiths arrive at 6:30 a.m.

Fight Over and Arrival

All told, it is about a 7.5 hour journey from Denver north to Eastern Canada, across to Greenland, and then down to Iceland and the airport at Reykjavik near the Arctic Circle.  We arrived in Reykjavik at 7:30 a.m. on Sunday and with wifi in the airport while we waited to clear customs and get bags and rental car, here is what we saw on the laptop:


Just like home.  Then, into the diesel engine manual transmission VW bus with studded tires for the frozen roads, and then the 40 minute trip to Reykjavik.


We confined ourselves to a walk around Iceland’s principal city waiting for check-in time at our apartment rental.  It was a gray, wet day in Reykjavik but the temperature was above freezing so not too bad at all.  We visited the Hallgrimskirkja Church and were treated to an organ recital.  Very cool church:




And, we took in some of the city until we ran out of steam.






A quick update and a note to check back from time to time to follow our adventure to Iceland, the land of fire and ice.  Loren and I meet Zac in Denver and then take off on Icelandic Air non-stop to Reykjavik where we occupy an apartment for 12 days, meeting up with the Voiths of Philadelphia, and traversing the island in a Volkswagen bus.  Like my blog entries of our adventure to New Zealand, I will add to this blog periodically with images of our “near-the-arctic -circle” expedition – posted in reverse chronological order so the most recent posts will always be on top.  Follow us as we seek out glaciers, volcanoes, icebergs, a blue lagoon, geysers, puffins, the people of Iceland, and everything else this northern tiny island country has to offer.  Cheers – Mark

new galleries

Just a short blog entry to advise that I have added some new galleries:

corporate and environmental shots


and aerials

Please check out the galleries and enjoy!  Thanks for visiting.  Mark

to the sea

With a trip to the mountains in a prior blog, it seemed time to head for the oceans.  Kansas City (my home town) is a nice place, but it is an awful long walk to the beach.  I am not drawn to the beach to seek the perfect tan.  It is the ocean and the tide and cycle of the day and the tides that seems to bring me back.  “Every drop in the ocean counts” (Yoko Ono).  So, here are some photographs of the ocean cycle that count to me.








The cycle begins under a watchful eye.












The sunrise >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>


and the sunset >>>>>>>>>>>>>>

The stillness after the sun disappears, for that passing moment before it all fades to black >>>>>>>>>>>>>>

And then it is dark, but for the light of the moon, and the signs of civilization (oil rigs) on the horizon >>>>>>>>

and the pre-dawn >>>>>>>>>>>>

and then, the fog >>>>>>>>>>>>

And when the fog lifts, the signs of the good life >>>>>>>

and the not so good anymore >>>>>>>>>>

and with that, another day at the beach >>>>>>>>>>>>

Thanks for stopping by my blog.  Mark


the mountains

I live in the flatlands of the Midwest.  When I can, I visit the mountains to recharge.  I have to go.  It is as if I have no choice in the matter.  Here is why:

It can be spiritual, even for a very non spiritual person.

Can there be a better place to take a camera, some filters, a tripod, and hiking boots?

When I return to Kansas City, I can feel the tug of the mountains as I squint at the horizon of the plains and imagine I see something majestic like I just saw only days ago.

I am not the first to be drawn to the mountains.  Aldous Huxley said:   “My father considered a walk among the mountains as the equivalent of churchgoing.”

“It’s not the mountain we conquer but ourselves.”  Edmund Hillary

Without a doubt:  “Great things are done when men and mountains meet.”  William Blake.

“I did not wish to take a cabin passage, but rather to go before the mast and on the deck of the world, for there I could best see the moonlight amid the mountains. I do not wish to go below now.” Henry David Thoreau

“Mountains are the beginning and the end of all natural scenery.”  John Ruskin

As we depart for the great plains, we try to remember that “The mountains will always be there, the trick is to make sure you are too.”  Hervey Voge

So far, at least, I am still here, too.  Thanks for visiting my blog.  Mark