Wednesday evening, August 8. Teresa and I all snug in our room on backpacker street. Outside 55° and raining. Inside about 75° and we’re drowsily in touch with you all via Google, facebook, blog, email and telepathy. We are satisfied travelers: slightly aching feet from pounding the pavement between museums, slightly too full bellies from slightly too much dinner at our favorite Icelandic-food restaurant, slightly sleepy, slightly worried about how much everything costs…all the typical travelers’ laments. Our travel buddy Bob is at his hotel probably all tucked in for this long summer’s night as well.
How to talk about Iceland. I know they had a huge ashy volcanic eruption in the recent past and not too long before that a financial melt-down. I know that it is a chill and isolated land. But there is no whining in Viking land…and Iceland IS Viking Central.
When the Norwegians, Swedes. Finlanders and Danes sailed from the Scandinavian lands of northern Europe between the 8th and 11th centuries they explored, raided and even settled in Iceland and Greenland along with their forays as far east as Russia and down into Ireland, Great Britain and France. Their captives/slaves appear to have come mostly from Ireland according to major DNA studies. Celtic blood in fact accounts for the majority of Icelandic female bloodlines while the majority of male DNA is Scandinavian. So, the story goes, these mostly Norwegian adventurers brought home their Irish and Scottish slaves/captives/brides to Iceland and lived happily ever after producing beautiful babies with just a hint of red in their blonde curls.
Probably however the biggest factor in the Viking presence in Icelandic history is that, while the rest of Scandinavia was part of the population flows of the European continent, Iceland’s isolation kept the Viking story alive and, to a large degree, the old Norse language, bloodlines and mythology pure.
So Then…the only other place in the world where you can experience this much Viking overload is in Minneapolis-St. Paul just before a big Vikings game!
To fully experience Vikingdom, we have pursued the following—which I intended to describe more fully—but there were places to go…puffins to see
Teresa with her luncheon corncob. She’ll wash up later.
Great great great Grandma and her first husband…right after he told her to go kill the troll.
Bob, thinking about what he will say in that first saga….
Monday: Our FAVORITE adventure took place—a trip to the top of Langjokull Glacier, part of which was in an “8X8 Monster Truck” (purchased from NATO where it was used to carry Polaris missiles and brought here from Poland) modified for this Ice Explorer adventure-travel. It was brilliant. Three Americans (us), three Indians and one Spaniard, bumping over this vast sheet of ice to the tune of “Take It to the Limit One More Time” So put me on a highway
And show me a sign
And take it to the limit one more time
A cold blue world.
A dark and forbidding world.
Volcanic ash still colors in some of the landscape.
To glaciers everywhere!
I do love the world and its places.
Monday’s trip included steaming springs, awesome (as in truly awesome…not just “awesome, dude”) waterfalls, farms with colorful sheep and shaggy horses and last but definitely not least—the Thingvellir where, it is claimed, parliamentary/democratic government was born. Wish we could have kept it.
Tuesday and Wednesday: Many museums. Bob has become something of an expert on early Norse/English/Viking history including reading the sagas over the past few years so Teresa and I had our own personal expert by our side. We did some serious walking in the rain all over the city, indulged in open-faced sandwiches (putting butter on sandwiches is just one of the many good things offered to the world by the Vikings) as one must in Scandinavia, and fell into bed with good Icelandic crime fiction every night.
Thursday: Bob finished the museums and Teresa and I did the Puffin Tour. AND a lunch of RAW puffin, salmon, lobster/shrimp and lamb AND the dreaded rotted shark. The latter is served separately in an elegant white bowl. We had to do it. For the honor of travelers everywhere. This Icelandic delicacy has the consistency of a bunch of rubber bands melted together and tastes like a blend of Comet Cleanser and urine.
Today/Friday: We will go to a geyser and hot springs and pack. And finish our exotic grocery store snacks of Nutella and Philadelphia Cream Cheese and van der Meulen Melba Toast! Obviously adventure ends at the door to our room.
Travel is a fine way to spend time. It is not for the faint of heart, even an easy trip like this with family and friends. I once spent an entire day in bed in Paris, reading a book about Paris and subsisting on Madeleines. But when traveling with others such sloth is not permitted—and besides when will we ever get back to Iceland.
I am thinking of trying to write a story about two places I have visited this year and how they contrast to fill the world with diversity and challenge and beauty—Nigeria and Iceland. And about getting a degree in Geography. And riding freighters across the seas. And I will never have to eat rotten shark again because I already did it.
THE SHARK FROM HELL…
Teresa…on the road…around the world.