Monday, June 22, 2015


A visit with cousins at Hotel Fron in Reykjavik.
L to R:  Thor, Gudney, Dora, Bjorg, Mary Jo, Chad Dick Hoyt, 

Evy and Kirsten.  (The young boys had already eaten and 
skedaddled to their room to play games.)

Washington Island, Wisconsin -

When thinking back on our short stay in Iceland and the variety of things we did, it's hard to pick one activity or moment over another.  But in wrapping this up, and in an attempt to avoid recreating our entire week on the internet, I find it hard not to include a number of photo highlights here.

I think we would, as a group, rate our visit with Icelandic Gudmundsen cousins as the best, and most meaningful.   We hope it won't be too long before some of us visit them again.

And I have mental images, too, (better than photos in many ways) filtered for their pleasant, special memories.  One such image was of a golfer as he walked over the hill, bag over his shoulder, and passed close by our building, which happened to be alongside a golf course as well as sheep and horse pastures.  Our location wasn't far from the Eyjafjallajokull volcano and mountains, with a glacier for a backdrop.  The surprising thing, it was 10:30 in the evening, and I was taking a peek at the golden light outdoors through curtains before turning in.   That brightness compared with our mid-day sun at home.

While we got our first hours of beauty rest, Thor and Hoyt drove our bus twenty minutes or so to a rural road that led into the mountains and then hiked a half-mile or more alongside a warm stream in order to take a dip in Iceland's first swimming pool.   (Built with the intent on teaching people how to swim.)  They reported good swimming, joining other tourists in the midnight bathwater.

Atlas, Chad and Zander posed in front of a crater after climbing down
to the bottom.  Where there are volcanoes there will be craters, and this
one, rather small, was caused by implosion of material falling into
a pocket of molten lava, rather than exploding outward.

Near our Hellisholar hotel dining room 120 Icelandic horses were pastured.  They belonged to a 60-person riding group that was on a 3 or 4 day trail ride.  They had double their number in horses in order to trade off mounts when necessary.   Those horses certainly caught Evy's attention, and so did two lambs that had found an opening in the fence and wandered off along the roadside looking for their mother.

It does make me want to hug the lambs when I see this photo.  After hanging around for a short bit, they were off.   It was not uncommon to encounter sheep and lambs outside their pastureland, alongside the road,  one danger we were warned about when we rented our vehicle.

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Joining us as a host for our visit in Eyrarbakki was Linda Asdisardottir. She also took photos for the Selfoss paper.   It was Linda who made pancakes with whipped cream for desert, and they were delicious.  Little Magnus ate four of them before we knew it!

Desert is served!  Linda Asdisardottir with Thor and Aidan.
Behind the museum, in one of three small buildings found there, were fish drying on hooks.  Evy took a photo representative of the once common activity of drying cod along the shore.  At one time, dried cod was a major export, but I believe that much of today's catch caught by modern trawlers is either shipped fresh or frozen.

While on the subject of fishing, we were determined to try whale.  Iceland is one of the few countries that still hunts whales, and it is available in stores and on certain restaurant menus.

Our opportunity came on our final night in Reykjavik, at a restaurant with menu items that ranged from lamb (a common Icelandic  dish) to escargot and minke whale.

The boys, who opted for hamburgers and a tenderloin, sampled the escargot (thumbs up from all!) and they loved the taste of whale.  Sliced into small strips and cooked medium rare, this minke whale compared with the finest beef anywhere - "The other red meat," Thordur called it.   Next time we won't wait until our final day to order whale.   Reading the news, Iceland ships much of its catch overseas to Japan (sometimes through a broker nation).  Iceland's whaling ships have been under pressure from Greenpeace, but they remain resolute as a nation to continue a practice they've long enjoyed.  However, Iceland also tracks the numbers and types of whales sighted and caught, and it is believed the balance shows an increase in the minke population.
Cod drying in museum shed in Eyrarbakki.  We noticed an
absence of insects, flies especially, one reason
why this method has worked so well for centuries.

Magnus and Aidan ponder the menu.
Among the traditional Icelandic dishes we tried was cured shark.  This delicacy we would not rate highly, and except for me, none of our family was able to get beyond the fishy stench the ripened shark gave off.  Naturally high in ammonia, the shark's meat is buried (we didn't find out for how long, but it seems it could have been buried a bit longer).  It is sliced into small cubes, and it remains about as pungent as anything I've ever eaten.  Most off-putting however, was the chewiness, a texture like super-gristle that refused to break down under my molars. 

After the fourth or fifth cube, my mouth warmed as if a nasty chemical had been released from the shark bits.  Shark would not be recommended other than to say, "I've done it!" and it requires a fair amount of chaser afterward, which is perhaps the point, after all.   

We can imagine viking ships off on long voyages, stormy weather or calm extending their days at sea, having only a sack or basket full of shark bits in reserve to keep them in good health.  That would be a last resort protein item, we should think, but a food that would last through any voyage.
Shark bits were pungent, and they had to
remain outside on the balcony before they  

wound up in the dumpster.  We didn't
find out where the nether parts of ram 

pickled in whey were sold, but that's a 
delight for another trip.


A news item we heard concerned the Russian training ship Kruzenshtern.  This large, four-masted sailing vessel arrived in port on our second day in Reykjavik.  Upon departure from the pier, before it had even cleared the innermost harbor, it rammed broadside two of Iceland's naval vessels.  Those ships were moored side-by-side at a pier not far from the municipal wharf where the Russian had ship spent the evening.  There was plenty of open water to maneuver and no undue weather to blame.   Upon its departure, whether from human error or mechanical failure, the world's largest sail training ship T-boned the naval ships, inflicting enough damage so that Iceland's navy would be declared unseaworthy until repairs were made.  Our driver on our way to the airport joked, "This has wiped out 2/3 of our navy."  The third naval ship is apparently the vessel on permanent display at Reykjavik's Maritime Museum, veteran of the famed "cod wars" against Britain's fishing fleet decades ago.

Putin will make good for repairs, we should hope, to soften this aggressive action!  (You can see the ships on impact by trolling through the web media titled, "Reykjavik Grapevine.")

-  Dick Purinton

After 70 years, now would be a good time to stop 
boastingand build bridges instead.   The 376-ft. bark Kruzenshtern 
was built by Germany in 1926, and it was seized in war 
reparations by the Russians in 1945.   

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