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We arrived Egilsstaðir, our destination for the night, early enough to enjoy horseback riding. Although it sounded fun I decided to stay behind to get rest while Mrs. Cassette and Mrs. Freyer went. For more on their adventure, see the next post.

While they were gone I learned some interesting information about this area. There is not much to see in Egilsstaðir besides a small airport and some industries. The most appealing aspect of this quiet town is that it sits along the bank of Lagarfljót, the third largest lake in Iceland. Sagas and tales have been told about a serpent-like creature, Lagarfljotsormurinn, that lives in the deep waters of the lake. I’m an adventurous bear whose interested in finding a hidden person; however, I decided to stay away from the lake at least until my travel mates returned for dinner.

The towns along the eastern fjord are far and few between. We made a short stop in Reyðarfjörður. From the early 20th century, Reyðarfjörður was a trading port, as well as a fishing port. However it became the second largest of the Allied bases in Iceland during World War II because of its prime location and good harbor conditions. Reyðarfjörður saw a revival in the early 2000s when an aluminum plant was built there by Alcoa. Aluminum is one of the top three industries in Iceland. Do you know the other two?

We used our time in Reyðarfjörður to explore the local supermarket, which was like a typical supermarket here in America. We also had some fun trying on Icelandic clothing and tasting local candy, which we didn’t really care for.

After viewing the Icelandic pyramid we continued along the eastern fjords making at stop for a picnic lunch in the beautiful gardens of Petra Sveinsdóttir. Petra is actually known for her mineral collection, which is one of the best private collections of rocks and minerals in the world. All through the span of her life, Petra
has amassed a beautiful collection of Icelandic minerals, in particular from East Iceland. Her home and garden in Stöðvarfjörður slowly developed into a collector´s paradise which is now visited by tens of thousands of guests annually.

Mrs. Cassette and Mrs. Freyer found the perfect picnic spot overlooking the entire garden and right beside a lovely stream. It was truly a peaceful moment in what had been a busy few days. From out of the corner of my eye I noticed some small little houses sitting along the hillside and I thought this would be my chance to find a hidden person. Do  you see any hidden people in this picture?

I didn’t have much luck in my search, but I did score a new Icelandic sweater and hat from the gift shop.
To let you see Petra’s garden and collection, we found this video:

Petra’s Garden

It was 59F and sunny when we woke up this morning. The skies were blue and clear. I couldn’t wait to jump on the bus and see where John would take us next. Here is a map of East Iceland. Some of the places we visited are not on this map but the big towns are. We followed the main ring road past swans, fjords, and even through a tunnel.

We started the day visiting Þvottá, a small town of under 1000 people. John took us to see a monument in honor of a Norwegian missionary named, Þangbrandur.  I found out that during one very cold winter in the 10th century Þangbrandur visited a farm in Þvottá. He converted the family who lived on the farm to Christianity and baptized them in the icy river. I am not sure I would like to be baptized in such a cold river. Brrrr.

After a taking a few pictures we all boarded the bus and began our travel along the coastline to Djúpivogur.  Along the way our bus passed a group of baby swans. Do you know what they call baby swans in Icelandic?

Check out this website to learn more about the swans of Iceland. http://www.iceland-nh.net/birds/data/Cygnus-cygnus/cygnus_cygnus.html

Djúpivogur is a harbor town with gorgeous views of the sea. It was very windy but thankfully I had my fur coat to keep me warm.  John told us to shop at the grocery store for our lunches. We were going to stop a very special place and have a picnic lunch.  Before we were dropped off, John told us about a yogurt-type food called skyr. It came in several flavors just like our yogurt. Mrs. Freyer really wanted a cup of coffee, so I decided to try skyr and cake. They were yummy.

After the snack we took a walk around the harbor to look more closely at the boats.

When it was time to meet back at the bus Mrs. Freyer discovered she had lost her lunch, We quickly retraced our steps and found the bag next to a statue where we had stopped to take pictures.

We ran back to the bus and made it just in time. Whew.

After only a few minutes riding on the bus we saw this interesting looking mountain. Legend says that this mountain proves that the Ancient Egyptians visited Iceland 700 years before the Vikings. I am not sure I believe this tale. What do you think?

Eastern Fjords Video Clip

After our amazing ride through the Glacier Lagoon, we boarded the bus for Hofn. Hofn is a small port town on the South Eastern coast of Iceland. After a 20 minute bus ride we arrived at Hotel Hofn which was only a short walk to the seashore.

After a yummy dinner of arctic char, salmon, and shrimp, Mrs. Cassette, Mrs. Freyer, and I took a walk along the seashore. Even though it was 10:00pm at night the sun was still shining.

We passed families taking bicycle rides and evening walks along the seaside path. We even passed someone mowing the tall grass.

While Mrs. Cassette and Mrs. Freyer were busy admiring the houses, I thought I saw the face of a hidden person outlined in the side of a cliff. Take a closer look…what do you think?

I couldn’t believe it was so late at night. We returned to the hotel at 11pm and the sky was still filled with light. Mrs. Cassette was able to get internet access and decided to skype with her family in Jacksonville. Her daughters, Audrey and Jessica, were very excited to hear all about our day. The only problem was the we were too loud. We forgot that even though the sun was still shining it was really late at night. We found out the next morning that we had kept our friend Diana awake until midnight with our noise. Finally, we closed the curtains and went to sleep.

With a full belly, we loaded back on the bus and headed for our next stop…the Glacier Lagoon! Driving along the side of the glacier, the views become more and more breathtaking. As we crossed a narrow bridge, the landscape became almost dreamlike. Icebergs of all different sizes and shapes came into view. Some were milky white while others looked crystal blue. It was easy to see why the lagoon is considered one of the natural wonders of Iceland!

The Glacier Lagoon

The Glacier Lagoon name in Icelandic is Jökulsárlón. Jökulsárlón is the largest glacier lagoon in Iceland. It began forming in 1948 when the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier began receding from the edge of the Atlantic Ocean. As the icebergs melt away from the glacier they are carried by the current down the short river into the ocean. Why do you think the glacier is receding?

Jokulsaron is a well-known spot for filming. Four major motion pictures have been filmed at the lagoon including the 2003 James Bond movie “Die Another Day”. Numerous commercials have been shot here as well.

Amphibious Boat

Iceberg

Ice Tasting

More Icebergs

After walking along the lagoon, we boarded an amphibious boat for a ride in the lagoon. The boat starts off as a land vehicle making it way to the water’s edge and then becomes a boat as it enters the water. Looking at the different shapes of the icebergs I started to wonder if they too were “hidden people” caught in the daylight. What do you think? After a few minutes, my attention turned to the tour guide. He was the most joyful person I’ve met so far in Iceland. He was very enthusiastic about the lagoon and was very funny too! After learning all about the lagoon, we tasted a piece of 1,000 year old ice. Can you guess what it tasted like? You guessed it…ICE!!

Watch the following video to experience the ride yourself and to learn more about the lagoon and the icebergs:

Glacier Lagoon

Here’s some questions for you:
1. How much of the iceberg is showing above the water?
2. Why are the icebergs different colors?
3. Why is the glacier receding?
4. What wildlife can be found in or around the lagoon?
5. Did you notice the boats circling around the tour boats? Why do you think they are doing that?

Skaftafelljokull

Continuing along Route 1 the lush green hills gave way to our first glimpse of a glacier. We stopped along the side to view the peaks and tongues of ice known as Skaftafelljokull. Jokull in Icelandic means “glacier”. Skatftafell is now part of a national park that visitors come to enjoy day hikes or longer. As we set out to explore the area John warned us not to attempt to walk on the ice. Getting too close to glaciers or climbing on them without the proper equipment and training would be dangerous!  

Because I’m a smart bear, I decided to explore the visitors museum after my short walk around. Here I read about the many people that went out on expeditions on the glacier, but never returned. One set of hikers left to explore in 1953. Fifty years after they set off their belongings were finally found on the glacier. It was if they just appeared one day. Legend says that eventually the glacier will give back what it has taken.

Some people say that when you get close to the face of the glacier you can hear the ice bumps and groans of the ice. Mrs. Freyer and Mrs. Cassette thought they heard it, but then realized it was just my tummy! It was time for lunch! We stopped along the side of Route 1 at a petrol station to eat. It was really hard to decide whether to eat the lamb chops or the Artic Char because they both looked delicious. Which one would you choose?

Góðan dag! (Good morning!)
After a great night’s sleep in the comfy beds at Hotel Dyrholaey, Mrs. Cassette, Mrs. Freyer, and I jumped on the bus with our friends and traveled along the Ring Road from Vik to Kirkjuhaejarklaustur.
Can you find Dyrholaey next to Vik on this map of Southern Iceland? The thick red line is the Iceland’s famous Ring Road.
Mrs. Cassette, Mrs. Freyer, and I started the morning visiting the black beach at Dyrholaey. I was glad to have my fur coat on this morning because the air was full of cold mist.  The stunning beach was made up of volcanic sand and small black stones. It didn’t look anything like our pretty white beaches here in Jacksonville.  Mrs. Cassette  gathered up some of the stones and now has them in a jar in her classroom.   Next time you see Mrs. Cassette ask her if you could look at these beautiful rocks.

When I was on the beach, our tour guide John told me the legend of the Troll Rocks. The legend states that these towering rock formations were once trolls that were frozen in the water many years ago. Trolls were a race of giants who, with their giant animals, lumbered over the rocky and snowy face of Iceland. Even though trolls were strong and mighty, they could not walk in sunlight. Trolls would turn to stone if caught by even one ray of the sun. Many strange rock formations along the shoreline of Iceland were said to be those of frozen trolls. I took pictures of some of the Troll Rocks. Do you think they look like trolls?

 

 

 

 

 

 

The huge sea arch in the picture below is actually big enough for a ship to pass through. Small airplanes have been known to fly through as well. Would you be brave enough to fly through that arch? I know I wouldn’t. The other picture is of a cave that the legend says the trolls were trying to get to when they were frozen by the first morning rays of the sun.

 

After leaving the cold misty shoreline of Dyrholaey, we traveled by bus to Vik and visited a sweater-making factory. We were able to see Icelanders weaving dyed wool into sweaters. I think they thought we were a little strange because we were taking so many pictures of them.  Mrs. Freyer thought the brown lamb’s wool in the picture below looked like my fur. What do you think? In the gift shop of the factory I found several great books about trolls. I gave them to Mrs. St. Cyr to put in our media center. Just ask her about them the next time you visit the library.

 

Next we got to walk through an amazing lava field. Here you can listen to the sound our feet made as we walked along the path.

I was really excited about walking through the lava field because I had heard I would find many places a hidden person could sleep during the day. Several times I thought I saw a hidden person, but then was disappointed when I found out it was just a rock with lichen on top.  John told me that lichen is a moss-like plant that grows on top of rocks in Iceland. Lichen is very important in Iceland because it is food the reindeer can eat and even people can eat it. I don’t think I would like to eat it though. What do you think?  The lichen was mushy to walk on and was grey and green in color.

Mrs. Cassette took a great video of the lava field. Doesn’t it look eerie?

Lava Field

Next we stopped at a very pretty place called Kirkjugolf.

John and Jose

We walked through a meadow of beautiful flowers until we came upon a very interesting rock formation. It looked just like the floor of a church yet it was not man-made. I was very excited when I learned that it was a great example of  basalt rock formations which make up 90% of Iceland’s bedrock. John told me that basalt is an igneous rock that is formed by the cooling of lava. Its shape or rock formation is determined by how and where  a volcano erupts. Lava cooled underwater forms pillow-shaped basalt rocks. (I don’t think I would like to sleep on those even if they are shaped like pillows.) 

Fast flowing lava creates jagged rocks known as Aa basalt. Glassy rope-like sculptures, called Pahoehoe basalt, are formed when lava flows beneath a rock surface. This church floor was formed when thick lava flows were cooled quickly by air. The lava then shrank, cracked, and formed columns. Basalt columns, also known as columnar basalt, are usually six sided but they can really have any number of sides. At some point in history the tops of these columns were sheered off and this church floor looking formation was left.    What is the name of the shape of the rocks in my picture?

 

Next our bus took us to a farm to see a collection of old turf buildings. The farm, called Núpsstaður, is near the vast Skeiðarársandur sands (also know as the land of the shifting sands) and is south of the huge Vatnajskull glacier. In the picture below you can see the majestic cliff of Lómagnúpur behind the buildings. Aren’t these Icelandic names fun to try to pronounce?

When we got off the bus at Núpsstaður, I saw a row of turf and stone farmhouses. They were just like those found throughout the 19th century in the southern parts of Iceland. The grass on top of the buildings was bright green and tall so that the buildings were very hard to see. Each building had only one room and each had a special purpose. One building held farm tools. Another building was a shelter for animals, and another was a black smith’s workroom.

The most interesting building was called Baenahus which was a beautiful turf covered church among the old farm buildings. One of the people on our tour played the old organ that was still in the church. Listen to the sounds of the old organ here as you watch the video. Doesn’t it sound strange yet beautiful?

Organ Music

 

 

This church was very special because it was the last place Icelanders would go before crossing the shifting sands. They would pray for a safe crossing. Before the Ring Road was built, the land of the shifting sands was very dangerous to cross because wagons, animals, and people could get stuck in the unstable sand. It would take Icelanders two or three days to cross the sands before the road was built.

Shifting Sands of Skeiðarársandur

After visiting Geysir and the surrounding bubbling pits we traveled along Route 1 to Dyrholaey.  Along the road we saw Icelandic horses, grazing sheep, and beautiful scenery. Volcanic eruptions effect every part of life in southern Iceland. The last eruption showered many feet of ash onto the surrounding countryside.

In the 1970’s a giganitic eruption caused flooding of farms and roads all along the south and even washed out a bridge that had just been completed. In the picture below you can see how a farmer has built his barn right into the cliffs in an attempt to protect it from future lava flows. The sod house in front of the barn is an example of how Icelanders lived for 100’s of years.

 

 

Our hotel was on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean and had views of the beautiful black beach. When we got to our room we realized that our view was of cows rather than the beautiful shoreline. Mrs. Cassette and Mrs. Freyer decided to take a walk after dinner to see the countryside so I tagged along. I realized that I would not find any “hidden people” today. I will have to really use my patience because I think this is going to be more difficult than I imagined.

 

 

 

 

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