Thursday, June 16, 2016- Snæfellsnes Peninsula, Day 2

Snorrastadir Farm offers horseback riding sessions for guests for an extra price, and most of the other students went.  I decided to take the time for myself.  It was very nice to have the place to myself for awhile except for our cook, Bjork.

I caught up on email and social media, then went into the hot tub. After half an hour I forced myself out, but then Emily and Yash arrived to tell us that they hadn’t started the horseback riding trip yet becaue the guide had an emergency with a sheep giving birth.  So I got back into the hot tub for another half hour and was truly able to relax. By the time I got out, showered, dressed and packed, the ride was over and everyone was back. We ate some lunch and set out for the day.

A view of Stykkishólmur from the island lighthouse.

A view of Stykkishólmur from the island lighthouse.

The first stop was the Snæfellsnes town of Stykkishólmur. We climbed to the top of a lighthouse on the shore to get a 360 degree view of the town and the nearby islands. The lighthouse was on a tall island that had been artificially attached to the town by a blacktop parking lot. The view was quite impressive.

Here’s a view of Breiðafjörður, the fjord just north of Stykkishólmur, from the lighthouse:

Memorial to a ship that sunk in 1924 Tobba's grandfather was the captain.

Memorial to a ship that sunk in 1924 Tobba’s grandfather was the captain.

After climbing down from the lighthouse island, I ran across a sculpture in the center of town.  Tobba was there and told us it was a memorial to a ship that had gone down at sea which her grandfather had captained.  His name, Sigvaldi Valentinusson, was listed at the top of the plaque.

After that we were free to explore town for an hour.  I ended up at a small restaurant where I had a bowl of seafood stew with bread and hot tea at and called my husband, Paul. Everyone then met at the tourist center, where I bought a long scarlet and gray Icelandic scarf — the perfect warm scarf to replace the one I lost last year. It was pricey at $54, but it may turn out to be the best scarf I’ve ever had.

The next stop was  the Bjarnarhöfn shark museum. To get there we passed through Berserkjahraun, a 3400-year-old lava field around which revolves another violent Icelandic story.

Berserkjahraun, or madman's lava field, is where a farmer murdered and buried two beserks.

Berserkjahraun, or madman’s lava field, is where a farmer murdered and buried two beserks.

According to the Eyrbyggja Saga, two Norse warriors called beserks were brought to Iceland as slaves to farm.  One beserk fell in love with farmer’s daughter, putting the farmer in an awkward position.  The farmer consulted with a priest, who told him he could promise the daughter to the beserk if the slaves did an impossible task: digging a road across the lava field.  The beserks did it in 30 days. So the farmer told the beserk he could have the daughter if he cleaned himself up.  The farmer made a bath, added boiling water and cows’ skins, which weakened the beserks, then he clubbed them to death.  They were buried in a depression in the road where the horizon can’t be seen. The remains of two large men were found in an archaeological site in the area, so there may be some truth to the story.

Shark jaws at Bjarnarhöfn shark museum.

Shark jaws at Bjarnarhöfn shark museum.

The Bjarnarhöfn shark museum was an interesting if somewhat disturbing stop.  The museum processes 60 Greenland sharks per year, the second-largest shark species in world, native to waters off Greenland and Iceland.  The sharks are not hunted specifically but caught as bycatch from large fishing trawlers.  When we got there, one shark had just arrived.  We got to touch it – the skin felt like sand paper.

The meat is toxic at first and must go through months of treatment to become edible.  First they cut it into pieces and let it ferment for six weeks.  Then they hang it up to dry for three to four months. Even then you can’t eat too much of the meat at once because it is so high in protein and vitamins.  The museum had samples for people to try.  I didn’t try it, but some in our group did.  They did not care for it.

Somehow the shark museum kitty doesn't like shark meat.

Somehow the shark museum kitty doesn’t like shark meat.

I liked the museum’s friendly black and white cat – who apparently doesn’t care for shark.  And I was glad the museum didn’t hunt sharks for the purpose of attracting tourists.  But it saddens me that the huge fishing trawlers we use in the oceans catch creatures as large as these sharks.  A lot of our seafood supply is not fished sustainably, and we are  overfishing the oceans so much fish stocks may crash before mid-century.  Yet little of this is visible to ordinary people who live on land.  It is a huge problem that needs much more attention than it is getting.

After the shark museum, we headed back to Agricultural University in Hvanneryi. Our first week of the trip concentrating on the area north of Reykjavik was complete, and tomorrow we would be packing up and heading to the southwest.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016- Snæfellsnes Peninsula, Day 1

Snæfellsnes map
Today was a huge day, the first of two on the Snæfellsnes peninsula in western Iceland.  This has long been considered one of the most scenic areas of Iceland, a must-see if you visit the country.

After an excellent breakfast at Seljaland, we set out on Highway 54.  The Snæfellsnes peninsula juts 100 km into the Atlantic, and the road follows the coastline all the way out and back. Along the way we made numerous stops at beaches, waterfalls, and hiking areas.

The Snæfellsjökull glacier dominates Snæfellsnes .

The Snæfellsjökull glacier dominates the Snæfellsnes peninsula.

Dominating the landscape throughout our journey was the Snæfellsjökull glacier, a volcanic glacier set near the end of the peninsula.  The volcano is famous as the entrance underground in Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth. Although Snæfellsjökull is one of Iceland’s smaller glaciers, it seemed enormous.  As we traveled Hwy. 54, we saw this glacier from every possible angle, with cloud cover and without.

In order, here are the places we saw:

The islands of Hvammsfjord are said to have been put there by trolls.

The islands of Hvammsfjord are said to have been put there by trolls.

Mountain avens, Iceland's national flower

Mountain avens, Iceland’s national flower

Skogarstrond, overlooking Hvammsfjord.  True to its name, which means “forest beach,” this is the coastal area at the entry to the north side of Snæfellsnes. Although the area used to be agricultural, it is now the location for a lot of summer homes.  In Hvammsfjord are countless numbers of islands.  Farmers put sheep on those islands to graze all summer, then collect them in the winter.  Legend has it that the islands were created by trolls trying to dig into the West Fjords peninsula in northwest Iceland to separate it from the mainland.  They took the excess dirt and dumped it in Hvammsfjord to create the islands – but they lost track of time and turned to stone when the sun came up.

We made a photo stop at Skogarstrond.  I got photos of moss campion, a moss cluster with a tiny pink flower, and mountain avens, Iceland’s national flower that looks like a small daisy. We also saw an example of solifluction, a wave pattern created in the sand when the cycle of freezing and thawing separates big rocks from small rocks and dirt. We also got a view of the town of Stykkisholmur, which we will visit tomorrow.

Álftafjörður, or "swan fjord," in Iceland.

Álftafjörður, or “swan fjord,” in Iceland.

Álftafjörður, or fjord of the swans.  It was easy to see where this fjord got its name – dozens of swans were swimming there as we drove by. We got some beautiful photos of mountains reflected in water.

The bridge under which orcas swim at Kolgrafafjord. Alas we didn't see any.

The bridge under which orcas swim at Kolgrafafjord. Alas we didn’t see any.

Kolgrafafjordur. This fjord is frequented by orcas who follow huge schools of herring in search of something to eat.  We stopped near a bridge under which orcas swim into the fjord. Twice in recent years the area has experienced huge herring kills caused by low oxygen.  No one knows exactly why this happened, but it involved 25,000 and 30,000 tons of fish worth millions of dollars.

The imposing Kirkjufell, or "church mountain."

The imposing Kirkjufell, or “church mountain.”

Kirkjufell and Kirkjufellsfoss.  Kirkjufell, or “church mountain,” and its accompanying waterfall are two of the most photographed landmarks in Iceland.  The mountain is 463 m (1519 ft) high. The waterfall has trails all around that people can climb to see it from different angles. We spent about 45 minutes there climbing and taking photos, along with several busses full of tourists.

Near Kirkjufell is Kvíabryggja, the prison where Iceland’s bankers are serving time.  Iceland is the only country to send the bankers who caused the 2008 financial crash to jail.  The prison is a working farm where bankers are expected to do chores. It is minimum security, bound mainly by the frigid river that sets it off from the mainland. Much to the frustration of Icelanders, the bankers were given refurbished cells and catered meals and allowed to ride bicycles around prison grounds. Last year two prisoners escaped.

Fishing and tourist boats in Olavsvik.

Fishing and tourist boats in Olavsvik.

Olafsvik, or “Olaf’s Bay,” a small fishing and tourist town of about 1,100 people.  Dominating the skyline is a modern church designed to look like a Viking ship.  We walked around on the shoreline and saw where fishing and pleasure boats were docked.

Yash sits atop a lava stone house once used to dry fish in Gufuskalar.

Yash sits atop a lava stone house once used to dry fish in Gufuskalar.

Gufuskalar, a coastal area that contains both modern structures, with a 412 m (1351 ft) radio tower, the tallest manmade structure in Europe, and ancient structures in a series of houses built out of lava rocks from the Snæfellsnes volcano dating back to the 14th century.  The houses were used to store and dry fish for international trade during the Middle Ages.  134 houses were constructed, 12 of which are still standing.  We ate lunch in this area and were able to explore the ruins and houses still intact.

The black pebble beach of Djupalonssandur.

The black pebble beach of Djupalonssandur.

Djupalonssandur, a black pebble beach near the old fishing town of Dritvik on the end of the Snæfellsnes peninsula.  The beach is made entirely of pebbles, which makes walking somewhat challenging as your feet sink into the pebbles with each step.  Four huge stones mark the entrance to the beach.  These are what men would have to lift to qualify to work on a fishing boat.  We were allowed to collect two rocks each from the beach.  We were also quite close to Snæfellsjökull, so I took the opportunity to get more photos.

Gatklettur, the natural arch rock on the 2.5 km hike from Arnarstapi to Hellnar.

Gatklettur, the natural arch rock on the 2.5 km hike from Arnarstapi to Hellnar.

Hellnar to Arnarstapi. Between these two towns is an amazing hiking trail along the coast. Although it’s only 2.5 km (1.5 mi) long, it winds up and down cragged cliffs and gives you such spectacular views of rocky islands, sea caves and stone arches that it will take a couple of hours to get through.

Sea cave on the hike from Arnarstapi to Hellnar.

Sea cave on the hike from Arnarstapi to Hellnar.

Thomas and I hiked the trail carrying on a conversation about agriculture around the world in between snapping photos.  Sea birds are everywhere, and we found a lot of eggs that looked as if they had been broken and the contents eaten by foxes.  We also found a few bird legs and wings.  Among the most notable landmarks are the Badstofa sea caves, known for their unique light refraction and colorful interior, and the Gatklettur sea arch. This was one of the highlights of my trip.

Big black lava rocks on the beach at Budir.

Big black lava rocks on the beach at Budir.

Budir, a white sand beach dotted with large black rocks made of hardened lava. This beach is white sand from the sea shells that have washed ashore and broken up over the millennia.  Because the huge lava rocks are still intact, the beach does not have black sand. A notable landmark is the black church.

Ytri-Tunga, known for its colony of seals. We saw one seal playing in the water about 100 feet offshore, with several other seals resting on the rocks behind him.  We also saw two families of eider ducks and an oyster catcher dipping into the water for food near shore. Signs had a discussion of the seal hunt in Iceland, which is not commercial, though I did see sealskin items for sale in various places.

Finally after such a long day of sightseeing, we got to our evening destination, the cottages at Snorrastadir Farm near the Eldborg crater.  I was more than happy to roll out my sleeping bag in the back bedroom rooming with Emily for the night.

Here is a huge gallery of more photos from the day. Click any photo to enlarge it.

Monday, June 13 – Hvalfjörður

hvalfjordur map4

We started early today at 7:30 a.m.  It was hard to get up.  I’ve been having migraines every morning, and this morning was no exception, but it was a little better than yesterday.  I felt somewhat better after breakfast.

Sea tale

Today was spent at Hvalfjörður, or “whale fjord,” which I did my report on (pdf).  On the way, we stopped at a gas station that had information about whaling in Iceland (pdf), which is centered in Hvalfjörð.  While there, our guide Tobba told us about her role in rehabilitating Keiko, the captive orca star of Free Willy.  Keiko was in bad health from being held for years at a substandard amusement park in Mexico, and probably would have died had he been captive another year.  After seeing Free Willy, children found out the actual orca was in captivity and put together a campaign to free him. A foundation funded by the movie studio provided money to rehabilitate Keiko, and he was flown on a military plane to Iceland because that’s where he had been captured years ago.

Tobba works with Keiko in this still from Keiko: The Untold Story.

Tobba works with Keiko in this still from Keiko: The Untold Story.

Tobba worked with Keiko for a few years, and her work was covered in the documentary Keiko: The Untold Story.  She saw to it he got exercise, got in better shape, and encouraged him to join the groups of wild killer whales.  She said that the first year he was scared and hid behind the boat, but the second year he got a little closer, and the third year he followed them. We know he interacted with them because he came back with bite marks on his side.  At one point Keiko was found swimming with children off the coast of Norway, with parents encouraging the kids.  The foundation had to take out a protective order to stop people from letting their kids swim with Keiko.

Keiko lived six years after being freed, which Tobba considers a great success.  She also talked about what a sea pen would look like — a sanctuary for whales freed from captivity. Hvalfjörður would be perfect — just seal off some of the fjord with a net.  In my opinion this needs to happen, so that parks around the world that have these animals in captivity have an option for how to retire them.  Without an option, places like SeaWorld will keep the whales in captivity even if they are no longer using them in shows.

On a sad note, Tobba also talked about Tillikum, the killer whale who killed his trainer and two others.  SeaWorld has been keeping him in a tiny tank, and he is very sick. Tobba said they are keeping him for his sperm. I hope sometime soon we can make the sea pen for orcas happen, and wonder what that would take: How much money, what kind of negotiations with the government of Iceland, how to get the theme parks to send whales there, how much it would cost to take care of them, how to get accreditation for an ocean based sanctuary, etc.

Whale processing station operated by Hvalur HF, in Hvalfjörður, Iceland. Photo: Arnaldur Halldorsson/Bloomberg

Whale processing station operated by Hvalur H/F, in Hvalfjörður, Iceland. Photo: Arnaldur Halldorsson/Bloomberg

I have visited a number of accredited animal sanctuaries across the United States, and every one had a strong founder who had a vision and made it happen. A sea pen is a little more complicated than a land-based sanctuary, but it is the next logical step for dolphins and whales. The whaling station at Hvalfjörð could be turned into a center for caring for whales retired from captivity, rather than killing whales.  Someone would have to buy it from Kristjan Loftsson, owner of Hvalfur H/F whaling company, and he might be reluctant to sell, but if whaling in Iceland continues to lose money, he might come around. I don’t know who would be the right person or people to lead the charge on making this happen, but this is what I would love to see for the future of Hvalfjörður.

After the talk from Tobba, we drove past the Hvalfur whaling station.  Last year students saw a whale being processed, but this year there was no activity.  I was really glad about that. It happened because Loftsson called off the whale hunt this year, and I hope he doesn’t go back. The whale hunt has become unprofitable. Icelanders don’t eat whale meat, so Hvalur has to sell it to Japan which has an oversupply. Many countries do not allow Icelandic ships carrying whale meat to dock, making it hard to transport. It is apparent that the rest of the world does not want Iceland to continue killing an endangered species just to have the meat wind up in dog food.



Glymur. Photo: World of Waterfalls

We then went to Glymur, the second-tallest waterfall in Iceland at 649 feet.  Glymur had long been considered the tallest waterfall until retreat of the Vatnajökull glacier in eastern Iceland revealed a slightly taller waterfall in 2011.  Glymur, whose name means “rumble” or “clash,” was a popular destination before the Hvalfjörður tunnel was built, as the road around the fjord runs nearby. Although fewer people visit the waterfall now, it is considered one of the most beautiful areas of Iceland.

Glymur is situated just inland from the end of Hvalfjörður. The waterfall is part of the river Botnsá, which originates from Hvalvatn lake to the east. Hvalvatn is a 4 km (2.5 mi) lake surrounded by four volcanic mountains. The river Botnsá flows out west before falling down Hvalfell mountain into a steep canyon, though which it travels before flowing into the fjord.

Crossing the river Botnsá to hike to Glymur. Photo: World of Waterfalls

Crossing the river Botnsá. Photo: World of Waterfalls

The two-hour hike to the top of Glymur waterfall is steep and strenuous but incredibly beautiful. The trail requires hikers to climb rocky hillsides with only a rope for balance, walk narrow pathways with terrifying dropoffs, crawl through caves, and use a narrow log to cross a raging river. But the reward is stunning beauty with a view of the entire waterfall and the canyon below.

I was not able to climb all they way to Glymur though the photos looked gorgeous.  If I had brought hiking poles I might have been able to do it, but the steep steps and trails were more than I could handle.  I did get to the point where I could look over the river and see people going across the log crossing and up the other side.  Tobba and Susie were very kind in walking with me before heading down the steps to the river.

I lay down on that plateau for awhile, had a snack, then headed back.  I had to get to a bathroom, so our bus driver Sigthor took me back to the gas station.  By then it was open, so I used the facilities and got a snack.  When we got back to Glymur, the four guys were done with the hike, and everyone else was not far behind.

Sheep farm

Yash makes some new friends at Bjarteyjarsandur farm.

Yash makes some new friends at Bjarteyjarsandur sheep farm.

We then headed to the Bjarteyjarsandur sheep farm, a popular destination for agrotourism. Bjarteyjarsandur is a working farm run by three families with sheep, horses, free-range hens, cats, dogs, and wool rabbits. Visitors can book a cottage or camp overnight while learning about the farm and participating in activities. Thousands of school children and tourists visit the farm each year.

The experience at Bjarteyjarsandur emphasizes environment and sustainability. The farm’s main product is lamb meat raised organically, but it also sells artisanal handicrafts. Reforestation and soil reclamation are practiced to minimize erosion. Waste is minimized through conservation, reuse and recycling.



We got to hold baby rabbits and bottle feed orphan lambs.  I talked to a Canadian girl who was staying at the farm for three weeks in exchange for helping with daily chores. I also bought a wool scarf to replace a favorite scarf I lost last year.

We then headed to a swimming pool that turned out to be closed, and ended up walking on a black sand beach.  We got a geology and fossil lesson from Dr. Slater and got the company of an area dog.  At one point the students found a live starfish on the beach.  We took a few photos, and then I was really happy to see the students put the starfish back into the water.  There was an incident earlier this year when tourists found a sick baby dolphin on the beach.  They passed him around so much for photos that he died. I didn’t want that to happen in our case, and it didn’t.

Finally we got to a swimming pool in Borgarnes.  Since I hadn’t gotten in a full hike earlier in the day, I went right for lap swimming.  I got in 30 laps before it was time to go, and felt much better afterwards.

Here are a few more photos from the day. Click on any image to enlarge it:


Sunday, June 12 – Hot spring, Snorrastofa, waterfalls, lava cave, goat farm

Today started with a visit to the Deildartunguhver thermal spring.  On the way Tobba pointed out a house growing strawberries in a greenhouse heated with geothermal.  This is a way Icelanders can get access to fresh fruits and vegetables that they wouldn’t have otherwise.  Pairing geothermal energy with the long summer days seems like the perfect way to grow fresh food here, though I am not sure how it could be done in winter months.

As we pulled up to the hot spring, we could see steam coming out of the earth. We toured a spa facility called Krauma, or “boiling,” still under construction.  The owner told us his grandmother owned the hot spring, and that their house had been heated since 1930.  That was well before most homes in Iceland got their own heat, which occurred in the 50s.

All the walls of the spa were made of concrete, I am guessing to stand up to the winds of Iceland and hold in the heat. There was a series of large hot tubs under construction, each to be a slightly different temperature.  The owner told us that people will be able to lie in the hot tub and watch the northern lights.  There will also be a restaurant for 60 people.  This area of Iceland gets 200,000 tourists a year and growing. I asked the owner if he plans to build a hotel, and he laughed.  The spa and restaurant seem like enough.  He said he plans to open in July, but it looked like they still had a long way to go.


Snorrastofa in Reykholt, Iceland

Snorrastofa in Reykholt, Iceland

The next stop was Reykholt to see Snorrastofa, home of Snorri Sturluson, the 13th century poet and politician who wrote the Prose Edda and likely Egil’s Saga.  These are definitive works of mythology and Icelandic national identity.  The church and museum had a detailed display of Snorri’s life and several original editions of his books.

Geir Waage, a Lutheran priest in residence at Snorrastofa, told us the entire story of Snorri’s life, stopping periodically to snuff tobacco.  I didn’t get all of it, but did learn that Snorri married his first wife for money, dumped her but kept the money and had several mistresses. They had several children but only one survived. He traveled to Norway where his best friend was Earl Skuli Baardsson, who thought himself the most beautiful man on earth. An engraving of the earl depicts his long curly hair. The Norwegian King had the earl killed, so Snorri criticized the king in poetry, not directly but by portraying a previous Norwegian king badly.

A page from Snorri's "Egil's Saga"

A page from Snorri’s “Egil’s Saga”

Back in Iceland, Snorri fell in love with a noble woman named Hallveig Ormsdottir and had several children with her, but none survived. She died young and he was heartbroken.  Snorri also served as speaker of the Icelandic parliament for many years.  He held political discussions in his pool, which is still there today behind the house. He was assassinated in the closet near the pool on orders of the Norwegian king.  Waage said Snorri said “Do not strike” three times, quoting the 5th commandment “Thou shalt not kill,” but they killed him anyway.

Checking out Snorri's pool

Checking out Snorri’s pool

I am not sure whether Waage was playing a role or if he really thinks a lot of what he said, but his talk was like listening to someone who stepped out of a past era.  It was clear he idolizes Snorri, which is understandable.  But he made several fairly blatantly sexist statements. For example, it was fine for Snorri to marry for money, keep mistresses, dump the wife, and keep her money.  But it was not fine for women to have money of their own.  Waage made a couple of references to “women and money,” as if everyone knows that women can’t handle money and will spend it all on stupid things.

The other thing odd about the talk was the constant violence.  Everyone was killing everyone.  It sounded as if someone would kill someone as easily as look at them.  There were stories about running into someone on the road and slaying them on the spot.  Perhaps these sorts of encounters are what got memorialized in the sagas more than mundane activities, but it came across like a giant game of Dungeons and Dragons. I get the idea that Iceland of the old ages was extremely violent, and that women had no control over their lives.

Lava Falls and Children’s Falls

On the way to the next stop, we passed by a dairy farm that Tobba said is one of the largest in Iceland.  It has 150 cows which they milk robotically.  I wonder what they would think of an average dairy farm in the United States with hundreds of cows.

The next stop was an area of natural waterfalls — Lava Falls or Hraunfossar and Children’s Falls or Barnafoss. They are fed through the river Hvita, formed from glacial melt.  There’s another sad story associated with Barnafoss.  The falls were said to have once held a stone bridge, but the bridge was removed after a woman’s two children left the house while she was at Mass, slipped on the bridge, fell into the river and drowned.

We spent an hour at this site climbing around the lava rocks above Barnafoss and Hraunfossar.  There were also some good foot bridges and boardwalks to go across.  Lava Falls was amazing.  I have seen streams in Ohio that people have reconstructed to look natural, but no human could possibly construct something that looks like Lava Falls with the water coming out of the rocks and falling across a flat plate.

Lava cave

Entering the cave

Entering the cave

After lunch we then went to Víðgelmir, the largest lava tube cave in Iceland.  This is a cave formed by lava under a volcano.  This cave dates to 930 to 970 AD. Remains of an outlaw who lived there in the early 1000s were found, along with the fire pit where he had his last meal.

There was a large set of wooden steps going downtown a boardwalk that led 700 meters back into the cave.  Once we got our helmets and lights on, we set off. The light on my helmet turned out to be very dim, but the guides were excellent and helped me out at one point where the boardwalk stopped and I couldn’t see where to put my feet.  They guided me through and gave me some extra lights to hold.

Stalagmites in the cave

Stalagmites in the cave

We saw stalagmites and stalactites (which Icelanders had given some naughty names), and all kinds of different rock formations.  The cave had some lighting in most areas, but at the end we stopped in an area where the guides had everyone turn off their lamps, and we experienced total and complete blackness.  This was where they told a story about Icelandic zombies, which is the first I’ve heard of zombies in Iceland, but they are pretty much everywhere nowadays.

Going back up the steps to get out and get back to the visitors center was arduous, but I made it, and people were still waiting to use the bathroom when I got back to the visitors center, so my slowness didn’t hold anyone up.

Goat farm

Tobba's daughter holds a baby goat.

Tobba’s daughter holds a baby goat.

After the cave we headed to a much livelier destination at Háafell Goat Farm. The farm’s owner, Jóhanna Bergmann Þorvaldsdóttir, is on a mission to save the Icelandic goat, considered a rare breed, from extinction.  At one point there were less than 300 of these goats in existence, so Þorvaldsdóttir gave up a career in Reykjavik to start the farm where she breeds them.  We got to visit with some of the goats to pet and hold the babies. The farm’s shop sells cheese made from goat milk and other products.  We relaxed with some coffee, tea, and crackers before heading back to Hvanneyri for dinner.

Here are some more photos from the day. Click on any photo to enlarge it.



Saturday, June 11 – Arrival in Iceland

0611AUI tour

First tour of Agricultural University of Iceland

We arrived this morning after a five hour overnight plane ride. I got no sleep on the plane and was too tired to do much besides get my luggage.

We got our first look at scenery in Iceland driving from the airport to Agricultural University in Hvanneryi. On the way we went through the Hvalfjord tunnel.  I recognized it from writing about Hvalfjörður. It took about five minutes to get through, just as in the videos I watched.

At the university we met our guide Tobba and got our rooms.  I got much needed shower and much needed lunch – I had had no food since 10 p.m. the night before, and it was almost 1 p.m., so I was starving.

0611 AUI horses

The horses were curious

After lunch we walked around the small campus of Agricultural University to see flowers and birds. Like most agricultural colleges, AUI had horses and cows who seemed very curious about us. Dandelions seem to be ubiquitous worldwide, but we also also saw a purple flower called lupine. It’s considered an invasive species in Iceland but I like it.

We ended up at wool shop and Agriculture Museum. I was too tired to take in much at the museum.  The hand-knitted scarves at the wool store were gorgeous, but prohibitively expensive, especially considering I have a habit of losing scarves.

0611 lupine

Lupine is everywhere in Iceland

We then had a snack, and heard about how the yarn is created with botanical dye. The dye is all plant based and works through basic chemistry.  Some of the results are pretty cool and unexpected. Insects are used to make the red dye, not just for yarn but also food.  Do vegans know this is in so much food?

We also saw a small hydropower plant that runs from a small waterfall.  The waterfall was gorgeous and not spoiled from being used for the power plant.  I liked that the power plant is small, distributing power in a local area. A few huge power plants can do more environmental harm, and monopolies of power make a few people rich.

We had been scheduled to swim on campus that afternoon, but the campus pool was closed, so we went to an art exhibition in the woods.  The photography was amazing and displayed entirely outdoors.

0611 forest art

An art exhibition in the forest