Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Wake of the Vikings: “We Call it ‘Geiser’

We are on our way, from Thingviller to our next location, through an area dramatic with waterfalls, lava flows and fascinating sights, when our guide explains how things are named in Iceland.

“We are simple folk,” she said, “straightforward, and plain spoken. We have wonderful Icelandic words, and we can add them together to give a name to a place.” She gave us an example, which I cannot repeat here, which means something like when the rural postman comes to a structure something something. This is to explain that the next place we are going is called “Geiser.” It is pretty much the same in English – Geyser.

There are actually hot springs everywhere in Iceland, because of that tectonic plate thing, because of all the volcanic activity, because the surface is lava, and permeable, and erupting geysers and hot springs and volcano eruptions are just an accepted part of Icelandic life. These clever, hardy people have harnessed the geothermal energy to heat their houses, provide their electricity and even, in some places to heat the roads and keep them clear of ice and snow.

It took me a while to get a good shot. Fortunately this geyser called ‘geyser’ goes off frequently. The first time, I was too close, the second, not prepared, so just got the steam, and then at the end, finally, success.

One of those glaciers I was telling you about:

From Geyser, we went to waterfall, and then to lunch. Lunch was in Gulffoss, and before you could get to lunch, you went through room after room of highly priced souvenirs. Some of them were a really nice quality; the prices were beyond high.

What do you expect when you are sitting down to lunch for 250 and everyone is getting the same lunch?

We keep our expectations low. We were in group number one, and our table was seated first. At each table of six, a huge cauldron of soup was brought, to be shared, family style. One man in the middle assumed the serving chore and – our eyes opened in surprise! This tomato soup was delicious. There are tomato soups and tomato soups, this soup had taste! If nothing else, we had a good soup for lunch!

Then came the salmon, again, on a large platter, with six huge slices of salmon, beautifully cooked. It was served with long grain white rice (I don’t really care about rice so I can’t tell you how it tasted) and lemon slices. The salmon was moist, and juicy, and perfectly cooked. We were all round eyed with surprise. Even people who don’t eat fish said they had enjoyed their meal. It was a great success.

 

 

 

 

 

We saw a lot of horses in Iceland, and sheep, oh sheep of so many varieties, all covered with thick wool out in the cold.

This is a church in the first capitol of Iceland; inland. We are told that the early Icelandic settlers were primarily farmers, working the land, not fishing, so the focus was more inland where arable land was more available. The Icelandic people know this because from the very earliest Icelandic civilizations, they have written records.

Below are two volcanos, both of which have erupted and rumbled in recent times.

In this river, at this point, glacier water, at the top, meets run-off water, at the bottom and you can see the different sources from the color and clarity.

You see steam vents everywhere. Some places they are harnessed; some are just out and exposed:

I imagine how terrifying this land must have seemed to its earliest settlers, a land that rumbled and trembled, from which scalding water might erupt with little or no warning, or a volcano might spew lava and throw hot rocks and ash for miles. What courage they had to make a living there, and to learn how to turn the apparent disadvantages to their advantage.

 

Next stop, a state of the art geothermal energy plant (with a really good gift shop with great kids books and unique items.)

Back in Reykjavik, view from La Perla; a dome covering several old water storage tanks.

Statues in front of La Perla:

The Reykjavik cultural center:

We are back on the ship just before we are due to sail, and we can see the foul weather blowing in:

Today we are at sea, the waves are high, and they have closed the spa pool, my favorite place, as it may be dangerous when floors are wet and the boat is tossing passengers around. I would be disappointed, but that would be selfish. There is a lot for people to do, lot of activities, lectures, dancing lessons – today is the waltz, there are scrabble games and trivia games and bridge games, and even still those quiet places where internet reception is better and it is quiet enough to read a book. It is Italian day in the World Cafe; AdventureMan had the Tuscan Bean soup and I had the grilled vegetables to honor Italy 🙂

Advertisements

September 15, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Character, Cultural, ExPat Life, Food, Living Conditions, Local Lore, Travel | , | Leave a comment

Wake of the Vikings: Reykjavik and Thingvellir in Iceland

We can’t believe our good luck, after the clouds and rain in Oslo, Bergen and being shut out of Lerwick, here we are in Iceland, and the weather is PERFECT. Perfect, that is, if you are an Alaska girl who loves to chill 😉 as AdventureMan debates whether or not he needs to wear his long underwear to keep warm.

The cruise director, Aaron Syfert, has told all of us, his cruise-children, to dress “like onions,” in layers, so that we can dress down if possible, and be warm enough when it is really cold. As we enter the bus, we have three or four layers; within minutes, there is a loud outcry from those aboard “Please turn down the heat!” In our full-up onion garb, it is really hot. The driver laughs and said he had wanted us to be warm enough, and turns down the heat until everyone is happy.

We drive through part of Reykjavik en route to our first stop, and the place I have wanted to see the most, Thingviller.

I have a thing about sacred spots, that it seems to me that there are some places in the world where the interface between this world and . . . the next? . . . the former? . . . .the alternate? . . . the interface is thin and perhaps not open, but permeable. Thingviller is a very very old place, a place where all those spread out in rural Iceland would gather to made decisions for the community. It was one of the most ancient forms of democracy, or democracy of a sort, of course it was mostly chieftains making the decisions, advised by their counsel, and while those decision makers were probably mostly men, they made decisions by consensus, and vote, for the greater good of the community.

Some of the decisions they reached would chill you. You will see a waterfall, below, by which there is a pond where violates of the law were drowned. Our guide tells us that most of them were women who had children out of wedlock. “What happened to the men?” one guest asked. “They were beheaded, if they could be found, if they could be identified,” she replied. She added that most of the time, the women went to their death without identifying the man who had impregnated her.

Geologically, Thingviller is fascinating. Thingviller is a huge rift between two tectonic plates, the North American Plate and the Euro/Asian Plate. I had known of “The Thing” the Viking Thing, about the decision making places, but it wasn’t until Digg, or one of the other news sourcing articles I get told me in some spectacular photos from around the world, that I knew about the rift. There were photos underwater, photos of daring young divers with one hand and foot on the North American Plate and the other on the EuroAsian Plate, truly spectacular. I wanted to visit the decision making place, and I wanted to visit the rift.

Last – and not least – Thingviller is one of the locations where Game of Thrones is shot, many of the scenes north of The Wall and of The Wall are shot here. It gives us a thrill, first Spain and the Alcazar and Alhambra, then Dubrovnik, and now Iceland, we are on a roll.

We had a great day, a truly great day, and the weather held. For me, Thingviller was worth the trip to Iceland.

September 15, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Circle of Life and Death, Community, Crime, Cultural, ExPat Life, Faith, Family Issues, Leadership, Living Conditions, Political Issues, Social Issues, Travel, Weather | , , , , | 4 Comments

Wake of the Vikings: Dawn in Reykjavik, Iceland

The omens are all good, the old Norse Gods must be happy, as we enter Reykjavik harbor:

 

 

We are up for the sunrise, we have a full day excursion on our agenda and we meet the guides almost as soon as the boat docks.

 

The day is beautiful and we can’t wait to get started.

September 15, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, sunrise series, Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

Wake of the Vikings: Glorious Sea Day to Reykjavik

It’s party time aboard the Viking Sea, with gentle seas and blue skies and a whole load of sunshine:

 

One of the fun parts of this trip is that every other day or so, we gain another hour, so we often get to sleep in an hour “extra” in the morning. Even after sleeping our extra hour, we were up bright and shiny, had our breakfast, and I suited up and hit to pool when it opened, at 0800.

Except . . . it wasn’t opened. I was still mostly emptied, and closed. The jacuzzi was open (or as the spa manager calls it, the ya-kut-zi) and I spent about ten minutes there, but for me jacuzzis aren’t that fun, I really loved how the waves rolled and roiled as the ship tosses from side to side, and fore and aft. It did, however, give me time to update the blog.

AdventureMan and I laugh; we spend money to have a nice room and we spend time reading. We could do that at home, but at home, there are so many things demanding our attention. We are willing – even eager – to have this time with no responsibilities, no cooking, no cleaning, no yard work. There is some guilt associated with the luxury of having this kind of time, especially when the hurricanes have devastated to many to the east of us, and to the west of us. It’s almost primal; if we enjoy ourselves too much are we inviting destruction?

When we get hungry, later than usual because of the time change, we discover that with everyone on board, no tours, no lunches in a local city, everyone using the same facilities, that the facilities are more crowded than usual. The World Cafe, where we take most of our meals, is packed. We head for the Pool Cafe, which we also like, but there is a loud rock band entertaining the lunchers, and people have even found our hidden favorite places near the WinterGarden.

 

Below is the World Cafe, where we tend to eat. There are other restaurants, an Italian restaurant, Manfredi’s, the Chef’s Table, where a specialty menu is paired with wines, and another called The Restaurant.

AdventureMan and I are odd. We have preferences, and our preferences are strong enough to prevent us from eating often in the other restaurants. We really like Italian food, and we have eaten at Manfredi’s, where we found the tables too close together for our comfort; we could hear every word of conversations in every directions, and we felt shy about having our own conversations which could be overheard. We also asked for small portions, and were told that the plates come as they come; they didn’t split, they couldn’t give small portions, but that we would love it so much we would want to eat it all. I hope my face didn’t show how aghast I was at that response.

We had similar problems with The Restaurant. Seats too close together, no privacy, and the service is SO SO SLOW. I can manage an hour, even an hour in a half without getting too antsy, but at some point attention deficit kicks in and all I can think is “get me out of here!” Too much eating! The Chef’s Table does a lot with foam and freezing and precious tiny portions of things I can barely taste, as well as having close seating and pretentious presentation. Actually, that is too harsh, I am a fan of presentation, it is this style that annoys me and you might like it just fine.  You might like more leisurely meals, and be fine with two to two and a half hours of sitting, but I am a restless sort, so as fine as some of the food may be, I like the World Cafe.

 

It would be awful to be married to someone whose style was different from your own. Lucky for me, AdventureMan is a lot like me. We really LIKE good food (you couldn’t guess 😉 reading this blog?) In the World Cafe, I can tell the man I would like a small portion of the risotto, and I get a small portion. Or if I want to make a dinner of mushroom soup, I can go back for more. We have found the horseradish, the tabasco sauce, the red pepper flakes, the balsamic vinegar, the things we need to enhance the blander foods. We are up and down, soup, salad, maybe a little main course – or maybe not. We like having choices, and I even like being able to get up and walk around to get what I want next. All that walking helps me justify a small bowl of ice cream, or even maybe a small fudge brownie. All the desserts are tiny, which I like a lot. They also have smaller plates and larger plates; we stick to the smaller plates.

It’s not that we are so virtuous; it must be an age group thing. The ship is full of our demographic, and most are eating healthily.

This was my lunch on the Sea-Day-En-Route-to-Reykjavik – fritto misto, green beans, and a soba noodle salad which tasted of sesame, divine combination.

 

With the glorious sunshine, there is a party atmosphere on board, a huge group playing Trivia in the Explorer’s Lounge, the bridge players all down in the Chef’s Table, lectures in the Star Theatre, movies – so much going on!

My thrill – I had just washed my hair and was dressing when I saw a spout. I know that spout! That is whale! I quickly finished dressing and went out on the balcony, where I happily spent an hour or two taking photos where the whale had just been. Finally I got the one photo showing a spout as it was just finishing. I quit taking photos and just enjoyed the sunshine and the frolicking whales; one was flicking his tail after spouting.

 

The day ends with a beautiful sunset. We are nearing Reykjavik, and can’t wait to visit this beautiful, dramatic land.

September 15, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Blogging, Community, Cultural, Eating Out, Food, Living Conditions, Quality of Life Issues, Relationships, Restaurant, sunrise series, Sunsets, Travel, Wildlife | , , | Leave a comment

Wake of the Vikings: Dawn at Sea en route to Iceland

Dawn? Well, close enough to sunrise. We are all sleeping a little late, it’s an at-sea day with no great requirements to be any where at any time. There will be lectures and activities, for those who wish them (one on Icelandic down feathers) and plenty of free time for those who love to use their free time for other things, things like keeping a blog up to date. 😉

While it is not what I would call heavy seas, the boat rolls back and forth, and horrors – the big pool in the spa is closed for maintenance. I had envisioned rolling around while I do some exercise, and settled for only the hot tub, which gets old – and hot – after about ten minutes.

 

 

 

September 13, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Exercise, ExPat Life, sunrise series, Travel | Leave a comment

Wake of the Vikings: Approximate Sunset Departing Torshavn

 

September 13, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, ExPat Life, Sunsets, Travel | | Leave a comment

Wake of the Vikings: Vikings in the Faroe Islands

We can’t say enough good things about the Viking business model, and we are critical travelers. We headed out on a tour this morning, we who are not good at touring in groups, and had to give our admiration to the facility with which Viking gets large numbers of people on the ground and going out and learning something. When you book a cruise, there are always “included” tours, included means you don’t pay extra. The included tours are usually overviews, often panoramic, i.e. you get in a bus and drive and stop now and then for a photo. Everyone who wants a tour gets a tour.

Having lived overseas most of our married life, we know that it is so much easier to stay comfortable than to go out and see something and learn something. About 10% of people will make it happen for themselves, another 80% will go if it is made easy enough, and 10% will never go. In the Embassies, that 10% will hang out at the American Club or the Marine Bar, and if military, shop almost exclusively at the PX (BX, Navy Exchange) and commissary.

Viking makes it easy. The night before we reach a port, there is a Port Talk, where the local currency is explained, a few good phrases (usually like “good morning” and “thank you”) taught, and photos and videos (all very full of sunshine) are shown to give you an idea what to expect. The daily newsletter always tells you how to say “Please take me back to my ship” in the appropriate language. Buses show up on time. There are enough guides for all the passengers. The guides have the patience of Job.

Our guide for Vistas, Vikings, and Village Woodturner was very very good. I don’t really know that I learned a lot about Vikings. Really, Vikings raided a little, intermarried a little, and are just a part of the history of the Faroes, the way Angles and Picts and the Norse are a part of the English. We had a very good guide, a funny man who often broke into song, and who has probably attended to more tourists than is good for him.

 

There were sheep everywhere, including sleeping alongside the road. Drivers are all very careful, because if you hurt a sheep, you pay the owner like $500. for his loss. The sheep were every color from white to brown, and black, and spotted white and brown and black. If I lived in the Faeroe Islands I would learn to sheer and card sheep wool, and spend evenings spinning the raw wool into threads for weaving into cloth and yarns. I’ve always wanted to learn to spin. LOL, too late to be a spinster 😉


What do I think is a good guide? This man told us a lot about life on the Faroes, about choices people make. Do they want to be a part of Denmark or not? It would require an election, and people can figure about half want one thing and half want another, and no matter who won, it would be narrow and cause turmoil, so why spend all that money on an election, just leave things as they are.

 

We head to the village of Kvivik to see the Viking longboat remains, or where they once were, and then to Leynar to visit the Village Woodman.

Below are stone built salmon jumps, old technology, but with devices which keep count of each salmon who climbed the steps, new technology. Can you see how green and lovely everything is, evan as fall approaches?


Drama Drama Drama! Who could be bored when the weather changes every minute with such verve and gusto?

We are always interested in how people choose to live. Our guide explains that houses often contain three generations, the grandmother, the mother, and the daughter. Isn’t that an interesting way to describe it? We tend to think in male-ownership terms, but these houses are communal based on matrilineal lines.

I wonder where daughters-in-law fit in?

 

Look closely here, a man is up on his turf roof, trimming things down for the winter.

Viking longboat site

They teach their children three important rules. 1. Be kind. 2. Be kind. 3. When one and two fail, be kind.

He told us how houses are built, and how people help one another get their houses built. They are taught “better that many are not poor than that a few are rich.” We did not see a single dump any where in our journey took us; everything was clean and well-kept. People are fined heavily for dropping trash. There are only two policemen in the Faroes, and there is no prison, there is so little crime. “Where would you run? Where would you hide?” he asks. “Everyone would know you, so you don’t do it.”

He told us that many of the families of the Faroes were started by Norsemen who found local girls and were afraid to go home and face their wives, who were waiting for them with big sticks. He made us laugh, and laughter always helps us understand.

He took us into a beautiful little church, beautiful finished wood on the inside (see below) and he sang to us a familiar hymn, in Faraoese, Nearer My God to Thee. It was so sweet, and so beautiful, my eyes teared. He told us he waited 30 years to get married, and was the first one to wed once the Danish stopped insisting on state churches. (The church is now Lutheran.)

The Faero Islands reminds me of where I grew up, in Alaska, where neighbors held that same kind of concern for one another and for the communal life. We lived on an island full of Scandinavian immigrant families, along with the native Haida, Aleut, Tlingket, and occasional Inuit. It never mattered that we differed, when someone needed help, we helped. A neighbor didn’t go hungry, their children didn’t go unclothed. I remember the delight when our neighbor passed along her daughter’s lightly used clothing they had outgrown, and we could wear it. I remember one skirt in particular, a grey and yellow plaid Pendleton skirt which I wore for years, and maybe fifteen years later my old neighbor saw me wear it and said “I used to have a skirt just like that!” and I laughed and said “This is your skirt!” When you have a Pendleton skirt, you can wear it for the rest of your life; they wear so well. We were frugal people, and we never wanted for anything. We shared what we had.

 

I got the impression that actually the guide doesn’t much like Americans. It didn’t matter, he was kind, he was professional, and I believe he gave a great value for the money. He shared the truth of his culture as he lives it and was fair to us. That’s good enough.

I can’t give you a lot of information about the photos, only that I took what I thought would give you an idea of what life on the Faroe Islands might look like. For me, this was a great day, very little rain, even some sunshine, and I learned about a culture I really like. I like that they teach their children: Be Kind. Be Kind. Be Kind.

September 12, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Alaska, Arts & Handicrafts, Character, Civility, Community, Crime, Cultural, ExPat Life, Faith, Family Issues, Living Conditions, Local Lore, Quality of Life Issues, Travel, Values | , , , | Leave a comment

Wake of the Vikings: My Favorite Places Aboard the Viking Sky

I have a dear friend I met on a previous Viking Trip. We met outside a museum of Archaeology in Zadar, and we were astounded, watching the Viking Tours go by and not one mention of this really good museum for the bargain price of 4 Euro.

Every time we saw one another, we had very quick but high quality conversations. It might be we’d pass at a restaurant in Dubrovnik, and they would tell us about a purchase and we would tell them about a cauldron of mussels. It might be in a quiet corner outside the WinterGarden. Even aboard ship, we led very different lives, but have developed a lively friendship via correspondence, greatly about books and politics and efforts to create a better world.

We laugh at how different we are. I told her about yesterday, the rolling waves and going to the spa and laughing as we rolled around in the hot pool, the waves sloshing back and forth and front to back. She wrote back that not only does she not believe she will ever see her husband in a spa, but that he would also be “knee-walking sick” in those “rollicking” waves. She makes me laugh, and I make her laugh, and part of our friendship is respecting our differences.

So my favorite parts of the ship may not be your favorite parts of the Viking Sky. I am an introvert. I would rather pay more for a room, and spend time there, than in most of the public spaces, no matter how lovely they are, and the Viking Sky truly has many lovely and serene spaces.

Here are mine: the room

 

The spa:

Below is the snow room; there really is snow underfoot and snow falling, you go there after the wonderful hot pool

 

 

The wonderful hot pool, above

Where you rest before you go back to real life again 😉

A quiet corner just outside the Winter Garden

 

I would have also taken a couple photos in the Explorer’s Lounge, but . . . it was full of people! On our last cruise, it was rarely full, not even close, only some people would come, for Mamsen’s, for the view, for the quiet and privacy. When the bar is open, it is more crowded and noisier. You can see photos of the Explorer’s Lounge from our last trip, on the Viking Sea.

September 12, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Community, Cultural, ExPat Life, Living Conditions, Quality of Life Issues, Relationships, Travel | , , | Leave a comment

The Wake of the Vikings: Dawn in Torshavn, Faroe Islands

Our wake up call comes at 0730, and we have slept through the night! We celebrate even minor blessings 🙂 another of which is that despite the heavy clouds, it is not raining, and rain is not expected until late afternoon. We’ll take that 🙂

September 12, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Living Conditions, sunrise series, Travel, Weather | , , | Leave a comment

In the Wake of the Vikings: Unexpected At Sea Day Instead of Lerwick

Today was actually a bonus for me. We were supposed to land in Lerwick, Scotland, and AdventureMan had been really pumped. He’s watched a mystery series set in the Shetlands, and has read up on some of the things we were going to see. The plan for the day was to be OK’d by British immigration to visit at 0700, all of us lining up through the Chef’s Kitchen, and then our trip would leave to visit ancient civilizations of the Shetlands.

As we stood in line, a rumor spread that the days outings were cancelled. Within a few minutes the captain made an announcement that with the angry seas, he and the pilot had decided it was too dangerous to take us into port and we would have an extra sea day en route to our next stop, the Faroe Islands and Torshavn.

Even AdventureMan was glad. It was really rainy and windy, and he needs another day of sauna and sleep to help him get rid of his terrible cough.

The photos I took ARE in color! The day was just a black and white day!

So we hit the spa at nine, when it opened, and with the pitching and yawing and rolling of the ship, the waters of the pool bubbled and rolled and swished, and it was very hot and great fun. We stayed there about an hour, visiting the snow room and the steam room and the sauna between romps in the pool. Around ten, more people started coming, so we vacated the area. I had a lecture on Viking history in the Shetlands I wanted to attend, and AdventureMan started sleeping.

For me, it was a chance to catch up with the blog. On the busy days, it’s so easy NOT to blog, so this day was a gift, a day I could upload my photos, choose some photos, put them in the blog, and write up the days, as best I could remember them.

AdventureMan went to a lecture on German wolf packs interrupting trade in WWII, and then came back and slept some more.

In the hallways are some very green and very unsteady people, who are more affected by the motion of the water than I am. I have been seasick, but only once, when it was hot and I felt like I needed fresh air. Once I got into the fresh air, I was OK. Mostly, motions sickness doesn’t affect me. One woman at the foot of a stairway was standing stock-still, looking petrified. I am guessing she was afraid she was going to throw up and didn’t want to be embarrassed. We’ve all been in similar situations, and the ship was full of similar situations today.

Our waiter told us a lot of the new crew are sick, and in bed resting; those who are not affected are taking on extra chores. Love that teamwork.

September 11, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment