Monday, August 3, 2015

Arrived in Sweden!

At last we left Iceland on a 7:40am flight which meant we all had to wake up at 4am or so. It wasn't too bad but we were starting to get adjusted to Iceland time. The flight was less than 3 hours and we arrived at Arlanda around 12:30pm.

However, I just don't seem to have luck with rental cars here in Sweden. When we arrived the rental place was packed and the ticket machine was broken so we had to stand and wait for 30 mins or so for someone to replace the paper and then people were just rude and didn't take a ticket in the order they arrived. I am just glad we were relatively rested and such so I figured we could wait a bit if people were so impatient.

Oh and of course, I forgot to tell our banks about our travels so every card that I tried set off the fraud alert and blocked the transaction. One of Fredrik's cards worked (the Swedish one) and then we got our car. The nice thing about the rental was I could pick out the exact car that I wanted and it turned out to be a very good choice for us. Much better than last year! :)

Our Volvo V70 stick shift. I love it but it is painful to be in the car with Fredrik driving. It doesn't come natural to him!

Iceland Apartment

Here I am with about one week left of our vacation and no hope of ever catching up on my blog posts. I am still posting about Iceland!

I forgot to take photos of our apartment before we unpacked so we quickly took some photos as we were leaving. It was a decent place to stay for under $200/night and I would rent another apartment in Iceland again. Next time, I might pick an apartment that was one of the stops on the FlyBus so we don't have to walk 2 blocks with all our luggage and being super tired.

Our apartment was on the second floor and right at the landing where the column is.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Þingvellir National Park

Our third and final stop on the tour was something I found rather fascinating. I had no idea about the history and uniqueness of this area before coming here. Our tour guide gave a short speech about this area but I missed the first part because we all had to go to the bathroom when we arrived. However, I read the signs and loved learning about Þingvellir or Thingvellir if you don't know how to pronounce the Icelandic letter "Þ".

This was the site of Iceland's first Parliament in 930 AD and marks the beginning of Iceland as a nation. Iceland was settled some 50 years earlier by mostly Norse and Celtic people and soon there was a need for settling disputes and establishing laws. This is the place that they selected due to a number of reasons. It was a central location for many settlements and it had plenty of firewood, grazing for the livestock and fresh drinking water.

I thought one of the funniest comments from our group was, "Why are there no buildings?" I guess maybe it was a fair question because when someone tells you this is a "Parliament" you think of a grand building like many other countries. Well, I guess in 930 AD things were rather rustic (duh) and they never bothered to build anything as nature did a good job of providing for them. I loved our tour guide's answer of, "Well, the Icelandic people are rather hearty and they can handle the harsh environment."

The other really neat part of this area was being able to stand on top of the Eurasian plate and look down on the North American plate. As the tectonic plates move away from each other, the land in between falls away and creates these straight cliffs and flat valleys. Plus, the view was simply amazing.
One of the things we saw on our way to Þingvellir was one site where they filmed The Wall in Game of Thrones. I believe the structure at the bottom is the remains from the filming of the gate into The Wall. Much of The Wall was CGI (like the massive height) but I can see why the show makers picked this site. 

Geysir Geothermal Area

The 2nd stop on our tour was at the Geysir geothermal area and I found it to be like a mini Yellowstone which we visited a few years ago. It had the familiar smell of sulphur and pools of hot water. It even had it's own version of Old Faithful called Strokkur which is not as big but you also don't have to wait as long to see it erupt again. Strokkur erupts every 8 minutes or so and you can get a good splash of water on you too if you stand close enough.

I thought it was interesting that the word "geyser" originates from the Icelandic word "geysir" which is the name of a single Geysir in this area. It is a little confusing because "geyser" is such a generic word for us but for Icelandic people, it means a particular geysir named Geysir!

After going through the geysir area, we stopped at the little cafe and souvenir shop to eat a small snack and did some window shopping. The kids got some drinks and candy while I had mushroom soup which was actually quite good considering it was in a pot in the buffet. We didn't have much time to do more than glance at a few items in the shop. The most common items were made of wool which I am allergic/sensitive to so it didn't really interest me anyway.
The top photo is the beginning of our walk through the geothermal area. Off to the right is Geysir and the bottom is Geysir up close. It wasn't active and hard to take photos with all the steam. 

Gullfoss Waterfall

Our first stop on our bus tour was the Gullfoss waterfall and it was pretty impressive! It was also very cold even in the middle (end?) of summer here. Most of the days were in the low 50F or around 10C but at the falls it seemed quite a bit colder. There was a small walk down to the falls and you could walk up right next to the impressive 105 foot or 32 meters drop. There was another path that went to a viewpoint above the falls but we didn't have time for that path.

When you first approach the falls it looks like it is falling into the middle of the earth! We tried to capture the beauty of the falls by camera but it was hard due to the mist generated by the falls. I uploaded a video that might be a better representation of the majesty of Gullfoss.
The top photo is the path walking to Gullfoss and you can see where the falls are by the cloud of mist directly ahead of us. The bottom photo is the path down to the falls where another road is.