Sunday, November 9, 2008

The Vatnsnes peninsula

Vatnsnes is a small peninsula a few hours away from Reykjavík, on the way to Akureyri. It only takes an hour or so to drive around it, yet I can't seem to find many people who've been there, even Icelanders! Rather weird.

The peninsula has a few attractions. The first one is Borgarvirki, an old abandoned citadel. It's very small and located on top of a hill. There aren't many records of it in the sagas apparently... Yet it's there. The rock has been dug out in the center to give it that cozy citadelly feel. 

Another attraction is the very weird looking Hvítserkur rock, which looks like some sort of mythical creature formed by the constant wind and water erosion. It's about 15 meters tall. Finally, there are seals on the West side of the peninsula, though they're not right by the coast so you need good binoculars.

A rather weird mountain along route 1. Kinda looks like a sleeping person with a very sharp nose.


The rocks look pretty cool... Kinda Kjarvalesque

The fortress has a nice view of the mountains

And it also has a good view of the areas beneath it

Jó inside the fortress. It was very windy up there.

The mighty Hvítserkur. Possible the coolest looking rock in Iceland.

Shells by the shore

This is at a farm that's trying to get some seal-viewing business. It's a 10 minute walk from that point to get to the seals.

Jó imitating the baby seal :)

So those whitish spots over there are the seals. Yeah, we could've used some binoculars.

Caution: flying seals!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Snæfellsnes and Hótel Búðir

For our two-year wedding anniversary, we took a trip to the Snæfellsnes peninsula. This is where the Snæfellsjökull glacier is located, on perhaps Iceland's most famous mountain.

We had already been to that peninsula twice (and I blogged it once), but it's such a beautiful area that we just had to go there again :). We also stayed for one night in Hótel Búðir, and had great food at their restaurant.

Along the way, we stopped on a 'secret' natural hot pot (it's not marked and difficult to get to if you haven't been show the way by somebody else). It's basically a hole fed by hot water to a perfect hot temperature, and we've never seen anybody else there. It does belong to somebody, but we just use it when we're going North :).

We also peeked inside a very narrow ravine named Rauðfeldsgjá, and followed the stream that flows through it until it got too risky :).

Finally we wandered around the very cool formations next to Arnarstapi. Lava had cooled pretty quickly from the water, and took the form of lovely basaltic columns. 

A snow-topped mountain along the way

The way to the secret hot pot... Slightly tricky

The hot pot and its surroundings

Clothes on the side

A cool looking mountain

The view from Búðir

The ravine Rauðfeldsgjá


Inside the ravine

The mighty Snæfellsjökull

Looks like chocolate cake with powdered sugar to me

Rhyolite mountains

Bent basaltic columns

Jó in her seal/dog hat

I managed to climb into that hole

And on the way back from it. It was tricky since the seaweed is slippery, and the water is several feet deep in spots.

A nice frame

Tiny snails in the rock

Kirkjufell, Grundafjörður's distinctive mountain

Sunday, October 26, 2008


(This post is not recommended for squeamish people, vegetarians, and especially squeamish vegetarians)

Iceland is a lovely country with a uniquely beautiful landscape, of course, but there's more to Icelandic exceptionalism than nature... There's food too! :).

As you may recall from this post, traditional food is lamb-based. Well, here's some more lamb-based traditional food! :).

Today's menu is Slátur (which sounds like "slaughter" for good reason). It consists of sewed sheep stomachs filled with a mix, and boiled. Pretty close to Haggis, overall.

There are two mixes: Lifrapylsa, mostly consisting of ground liver and chunks of solid fat; and blóðmör, consisting of sheep blood and fat (yes, you just buy a bottle of sheep blood). In both those mixes there are ingredients such as flour, etc.

So, at Jó's aunt's, we sat down, sewed some stomachs, filled them up, boiled them and ate them! The food tasted fine, although it was a bit of a strong taste (especially the blood sausage) so I didn't feel like eating too much of it.

Anyway, here are the pictures.

The stomachs


Nice little pouches...

Filled with liver and whatnot

And now, the blood-fat mix

Sewing the blóðmör



Dinner is served!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

You know things are bad...

... when instead of people in Iceland asking you about the situation in Lebanon, it's your family in Lebanon asking about the situation in Iceland.

So yeah, Iceland is in deep trouble. The banks had grown so much in the last few years, borrowing money left and right, expanding into foreign markets, and whatnot. And with the credit crunch... It all fell to pieces. The main 3 banks in the country are pretty much failing, and the state is taking over. However the liabilities of the banks amount to 9 times the country's GDP (!!) so that's not reassuring at all.

Everybody knows that the party's over in Iceland, and that hard times are coming. But no one knows how bad things will be, yet.

The ISK (Icelandic Króna) was trading at 60-something to the dollar a year ago. It reached 120/$ the other day. The government has tried pegging the currency but it has failed to do so... Today's displayed rates have varied between 90 and 140, and apparently real market rates have been much worse. So... hello inflation!

Otherwise, not much is new, except that the weather has been getting colder. But there's still light on my way to and from work, so the onset of SAD will not happen for another couple of weeks...

Tuesday, September 30, 2008


Alright, now that we're not out of the city on every weekend, it's time to catch up and post some pictures! There are plenty of pictures from the summer, so there will be more blog posts to come..

Anyway, this post is about a Berjamór. That's a berry picking trip. Though Iceland may be mostly treeless and not very hospitable to agriculture in general, large swaths of it are covered in berries by the end of the summer. The most common is the humble crowberry. It's not too tasty on its own, but mixed with skyr (the Icelandic better-than-yogurt dairy item) and a bit of sugar, it's great in the morning.

But you can also find blueberries. This particular trip was all about blueberry picking since we had a decent stock of crowberries already. We went to Þingvellir national park, found a spot, and started picking! :)

Later, we went to a nearby hot river for a dip. Technically it's water pumped up from the depths of the earth to produce power in the Nesjavellir power plant. Part of that water goes to Reykjavík, and part flows next to the station... So you get inside that flow and swim in the very warm water! Highly recommended. Be careful though, the current is quite fast...

Lake Þingvallavatn

Ropy lava at the edge of the lake

In fact there were lots of mossy areas... You could walk on them and feel a bounce

The blueberry plants were turning red


And crowberries


No berry is too elusive

Jo picking

We saw some mushrooms too

Posing with the catch

The hot river