Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

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.

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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

Dubrovnik: The Best Day of our Trip as We Walk the Walls

You know how you build expectations? From the time I started reading about Dubrovnik, I was excited. For one thing, some scenes from Game of Thrones are filmed there, and we are great fans.  Even more, there is a great hike; Dubrovnik has restored and created a wall all around the old city which you can hike. It isn’t for the faint-hearted; it starts with about 60 stair straight up. Once up, there are more stairs, FitBit told me we did 30 sets of stairs on the wall. There were ascents and descents, some a little challenging.  A friend who had done it before told me to be sure I had shoes with a good grip because the stones could be really slick. Even on a beautiful sunny day, there were a couple slick places, so I cannot imagine what it would be like to hike it in damp or rainy conditions.

But we had perfect weather, sunny and warm, but not hot, even a little chilly in the shade. We were also the only ship in town, a rare occurrence in Dubrovnik.

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LOL, no, that is not our ship, but I loved this old looking ship. It isn’t really old, and I imagine it is an events location, a party ship, but I loved it.

 

We took the panoramic tour, but dropped off once we got to the Pile gate at the entrance to old Dubrovnik. The first entry to the walls is just inside the gate, to the left, with good signage.

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About halfway up the double sets of stairs taking people up to the wall, I stepped aside, yes, to catch my breath because there are a LOT of people struggling up these steep stairs, but also to take a documentary photo:

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When you get to the top, the views are spectacular.

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I had read that the best strategy was to head uphill, first, get the worst over with, but as we started left, we saw this sign:

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So aarrgh! We had to turn the easy way first. Never mind. Each step introduced a new and spectacular sight.

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We sighted the Dubrovnik harbor from the walls, and decided when we finished our walk that we would have lunch there, if we could find a good place.

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Once we finished our hike, we explored the back streets in Dubrovnik, zig-sagging our way to the port:

 

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November 1st is coming soon; the flower markets are doing gang-busters business as Dubrovnik citizens buy flowers to remember their dead on All Saint’s Day.

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As we enter the port, we spot a restaurant where crowds of people are sitting in the sun, the Konoba Locanda Peskarija, eating cauldrons of mussels, big huge pots of mussels steamed in a simple wine broth, just the way we love them. We find a seat; we already know what we will order. As we wait, a wedding party arrives to have their photos taken in the port.

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A beautiful Dubrovnik salad to share:

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And a heaping cauldron of mussels, so many mussels we couldn’t eat the all! It was served with a basket of wonderful crusty bread to sop up the wine broth.

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We couldn’t be happier.

As we leave, we run into our friends from the ship at the restaurant next door; they have made an art purchase they are celebrating. We always have great chats with this couple.

We wander around a little longer, avoiding, as much as possible, the beautiful wide street down the center of old Dubrovnik until the very end:

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We head to the old gate once more, and just outside the gate is a shuttle, waiting to take us back to the Viking Sea. It doesn’t get any easier.

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Tonight we have dinner in the World Cafe. We have discovered that the food is the same as in the restaurant, but here we can deal directly with the chef and servers, and have exactly what we want in the small quantities we prefer. We have found a very quiet table, no one seated in our laps, and we can have our own quiet and private conversations, dine at our own pace; this isn’t what we thought we would prefer when planning our trip, but it seems to suit us well.

November 16, 2016 Posted by | Adventure, Cultural, Eating Out, Exercise, ExPat Life, Fitness / FitBit, Food, Travel, Weather | , , , , , | 4 Comments

Jon Snow Sings “Wildling”

This just totally cracks me up. It’s hard for me to see Game of Thrones actors out of character, but they are having such a good time hamming it up that it makes me laugh.

May 31, 2015 Posted by | Entertainment, Humor | , , | 1 Comment

From DIGG: Real Life Film Locations for Game of Thrones

The 7 Kingdoms in ‘Game of Thrones’ are actually these 5 real-world places

It turns out it takes less post-production tinkering than you’d expect to turn our world into the lands of Ice and Fire.

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Not much in “Game of Thrones” could be described as “true to life.” King Joffrey, for instance? IRL, actually a pretty sweet guy. And the Khaleesi definitely ain’t a natural blonde. (Oh yeah, and to the best of our knowledge she hasn’t fire-hatched any dragons, either.)

Say what you will about the vaguely insane plot and ever more inventive ways of killing off characters, though, there’s one element of the show that’s surprisingly real: the locations. It turns out it takes less post-production tinkering than you’d expect to turn our world into the lands of Ice and Fire.

Whether it’s the steep crags of Winterfell or the stone palaces of King’s Landing, the scorched slave port of Astapor or the frozen whiteness beyond the Wall, the show’s most dramatic landscapes really do exist — in five countries and on two continents.

Hold on to your dragons, it’s time for a tour.

Malta: King’s Landing (season 1), Pentos


Mdina city gate (Alex Murphy/Flickr Commons).

Malta’s stone city of Mdina, with its aptly lion-topped gate, was the original King’s Landing. San Anton Palace, the Maltese president’s residence, stood in for the Red Keep, where kings are murdered and brothers and sisters get way, way too close. Other island fortresses, notably Fort St. Angelo, Fort Ricasoli and Fort Manoel, provided the backdrop for other scenes in and around Westeros’ ruling city.


The Azure Window (Robert Pittman/Flickr Commons).

Daenerys Targaryen and her ill-fated brother Viserys, meanwhile, were supposed to be across the Narrow Sea in Pentos but in fact filmed their early scenes on another corner of the island. One of Malta’s most spectacular natural monuments, the limestone archway known as the Azure Window, loomed over Daenerys’ wedding to beefy horseman Khal Drogo. Maltese officials would later complain that the shoot damaged the protected habitat, which may have been one of the reasons why the GoT crew packed up and found a different location for the following seasons.

Croatia: King’s Landing (season 2 onward), Qarth


Dubrovnik (ELVIS BARUKCIC/AFP/Getty Images).

If King’s Landing suddenly acquired a lot more red tile roofs between seasons 1 and 2, it’s because it moved to Croatia’s walled city of Dubrovnik. Unlike Mdina, which is inland, Dubrovnik perches right on the coast — fairly important if your boy king’s deranged uncle is going to attack there by sea.


Minceta Tower (Romanceor/Wikimedia Commons).

Daenerys, by now widowed and mother to three dragons, hopped over to the idyllic island of Lokrum, opposite Dubrovnik, where the crew created much of the creepy city of Qarth. The House of The Undying, the site of the season finale, was the mainland’s real-life Minceta Tower. The palace gardens where Sansa has taken to moping in season 4, meanwhile, are the lush grounds of the Trsteno Arboretum, just up the coast from Dubrovnik.

Morocco: Yunkai, Astapor


Ait Benhaddou (Stefan de Vries/Flickr Commons).

The third season ventured to North Africa as the Khaleesi went on her travels in search of an army and those ever elusive ships. Producers selected two of Morocco’s most unique landscapes, Ait Benhaddou and Essaouira, to represent the fictional cities of Yunkai and Astapor respectively. Both are UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Ait Benhaddou for its red citadel on the foothills of the Atlas mountains, and Essaouira for its stone sea walls topped by bronze cannon. Ait Benhaddou has the added bonus of a nearby studio in the city of Ouarzazate, so popular is the area with directors (Laurence of ArabiaThe Last Temptation of ChristAlexander and Gladiator are among the many movies filmed there).


Essaouira (Mark Fischer/Flickr Commons).

It’s Essaouira’s turn as slave-trading Astapor, however, that remains most memorable to me at least, for reasons that anyone who’s seen the season 3 finale will immediately understand.

Iceland: Beyond the Wall


On the shores of Lake Mývatn (Juergen Adolph/Flickr Commons).

If Morocco’s red plains bring the fire to ‘Game of Thrones,’ Iceland brings, er, the ice. The show’s makers quite logically headed north to shoot the part of the story that unfolds at the northernmost tip of Westeros, preferring Iceland’s otherworldly landscapes to anything CGI could produce. Vatnajökull National Park and the Svínafellsjökull glacier, both in the southwest, were picked for season 2, while most of season 3’s ultra-Wall action was filmed on and around frozen Lake Mývatn further north, littered with clumps of black lava from the active volcanos that dot the region.


Thingvellir (Andreas Tille/Wikimedia Commons).

Season 4 moved on to Thingvellir National Park, a protected area of exceptional natural beauty and another UNESCO World Heritage site. Aptly enough for the Wildlings and their proto-democracy (sort of), Thingvellir’s plains are where Iceland’s parliament was first founded and continued to assemble, under the open sky, for almost nine centuries.

Northern Ireland, UK: Winterfell, Vaes Dothrak, Kings Road, Storm’s End, Castle Black, the Iron Islands…


The Dark Hedges of Armoy (horslips5/Flickr Commons).

Northern Ireland is to ‘Game of Thrones’ what New Zealand was to ‘Lord of the Rings.’ No other country has provided so many locations for the show, from the towers of Winterfell (Castle Ward) to the shore of the Iron Islands (Ballintoy Harbour), the rocky beach where the sorceress Melisandre gives birth (Cushendun Caves) to the interlacing beech trees of Kings Road (the Dark Hedges of Armoy). If you’re watching a scene set anywhere near woods, chances are it was filmed in Tollymore Forest. Entering or exiting Castle Black? That’ll be the vast outdoor set constructed in the disused limestone quarry of Magheramorne. And the number of interiors shot at the Paint Hall studio in Belfast — where the shipyard that built the Titanic has been turned into one of the biggest studio complexes in Europe — are too many to mention.


County Antrim coastline (Paolo Trabattoni/Flickr Commons).

So keen are the regional authorities to keep the crew filming there, in fact, that Northern Ireland’s national screen agency, economic development body and the European Regional Development Fund have between them stumped up the equivalent of $15.5 million in grantsto the show’s makers. In return, the Northern Irish government estimates that the productions has boosted the region’s struggling economy by some $109 million — not least by attracting globetrotting GoT fans to themed tours of filming locations and nerd-fest exhibitions of official memorabilia. Don’t tell anyone, but we sort of want to go.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/culture-lifestyle/entertainment/140429/seven-kingdoms-game-of-thrones-filming-locations

 

April 30, 2014 Posted by | Entertainment | | Leave a comment

Season Finales Downton Abbey and Suits

How can it be? How can “seasons” be so short?? Last Sunday, we had an unexpected thrill as Downton Abbey went TWO hours instead of one, and then we had the unexpected downer of hearing that this week, tomorrow, will be the season finale.

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Downton Abbey just started it’s new season! What is a season? Eight hours? Ten hours? No! No! We want more!

We watched Suits Thursday night, only to learn that this coming week is the finale episode of Season 3. Aarrgh! It seems like it’s only been on three weeks, but the website says 16 episodes . . . that cannot be!

AdventureMan asked me why some shows and not others? Why do we clear our schedules for Downton Abbey? Our recent houseguests were overjoyed to know we follow DA – as they do – and we happily tucked in Sunday night to watch the review of the last week’s episode along with this week’s two hours of Downton Abbey, oh, we were in heaven. 🙂 Downton Abbey is the big topic at aqua aerobics; Downton Abbey is the big topic at the women’s church circles . . . how does Downton Abbey create so many fans?

We have consolation to the loss of Suits and Downton Abbey; Survivor just started up again and we enjoy that on Wednesday nights, Southland just started up again on TNT and . . . “winter is coming.” We are holding our breath for the new Game of Thrones March 31st. 🙂

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I’m guessing that the common thread that ties all these shows together is that 1) they succeed IMMEDIATELY in grabbing and holding our attention 2) they are filled with unpredictability; the unexpected happens all the time and 3) the main characters are flawed, and their flaws leave them vulnerable to the kinds of unpredictabilities that hold us enthralled.

What are your favorite shows – and why?

February 17, 2013 Posted by | Character, Circle of Life and Death, Cultural, Entertainment | , , , , | 2 Comments