Iceland: Single White Chair In the Middle of a Black Lava Flow

Single White Chair – An Unexpected Treasure in the Middle of Nowhere
Photography Prints

Take a seat and relax, you are in the middle of nowhere in Iceland!

Every great adventure brings unexpected discoveries.  Our 11 day trek around Iceland via the Ring Road in a motor-home was just one such epic adventure full of unexpected discoveries like this single white wooden chair with hearts carved in it in the middle of a vast valley of black lava.

This day began as one of the most hellish days we experienced in Iceland.  We knew it was going to be our longest day of driving but we didn’t expect the fog and driving rain was going to wipe out just about all of our planned scenic stops and coastal views.  Or the scary drive over a mountain top, in the pouring rain and fog with a motor-home on a section gravel road over said mountain that pretends to be the main highway of a modern European country.

The one way bridges and one way tunnels and scarce guard rails we could handle but a pot hole, muddy road over a mountain pass with a motor home was a bit much.

Thankfully near the end of the long day of driving we came upon this amazing valley of mountains and black lava fields.  Some one was kind enough to provide this wonderful single white wooden chair as foreground subject.

One can only image hiking across this vast landscape of nothing but sharp, unstable, black lava rock without a tree as far as the eye can see and coming across this bit of humanity.  A single white chair providing a spot to rest.

Photography Prints

Icelandic artist Aðalheiður S. Eysteinsdóttir
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You can see more fine art prints from my journey around Iceland and the Ring Road here: https://edward-fielding.pixels.com/collections/places+iceland

Also available as t-shirts, greeting cards, prints, canvas, photogaphs, metal, acrylic, framed art and more. – www.edwardfielding.com

Iceland: Turf Sod Roofed Homes and Barns

The Turf Houses of Iceland
Art Prints

Traditional Icelandic Sod or Turf Houses, Barns and Buildings: If you look hard enough in the country side of Iceland, you might just spot some of the traditional sod roofed barns, farm houses and storage buildings hidden in the hills.

Icelandic turf houses (Icelandic: torfbæir) were the product of a difficult climate, offering superior insulation compared to buildings solely made of wood or stone, and the relative difficulty in obtaining other construction materials in sufficient quantities.

Lack of good timber lead the Norwegian settlers in Iceland to turn to turf house construction using local birch as support beams.

The common Icelandic turf house would have a large foundation made of flat stones; upon this was built a wooden frame which would hold the load of the turf. The turf would then be fitted around the frame in blocks often with a second layer, or in the more fashionable herringbone style. The only external wood would be the doorway which would often be decorative.

Iceland: Visiting a Plane Wreck on the Beach

Plane Wreck : Becoming one of Iceland’s most popular attractions, especially among photographers and selfie snappers is the wreck of a DC-3 airplane on a remote black sand lava beach in Southern Iceland.

DC 3 Plane Crash in Iceland
DC 3 Plane Crash in Iceland by Edward M. Fielding – https://edward-fielding.pixels.com/featured/plane-crash-iceland-edward-fielding.html

On Saturday Nov 24, 1973, a United States Navy Douglas Super DC-3 airplane was forced to land on Sólheimasandur’s black sand beach due to running out of fuel (others say it was after experiencing some severe icing).  Luckily all survived the rough landing on the south coast of Iceland.

 

Today, 44 years later only the main fuselage and part of the wings remain on the beach.  Other parts were hauled away years ago but the skeleton of the plane was left to slowly rot on the volcanic beach.

Years ago you could drive to the wreckage site via a “farm” road through the black ash but increased usage ticked off the land owner because of people constantly getting stuck, lead to the closure of the road.  For a while the land owner was charging people to park in a small parking lot and walk to the wreck.

After researching the location, I was prepared to have to skip this place thinking we would not be able to park our motor home.  But I visited in 2017 and am happy to report that the is a new spacious parking lot complete with room for large vehicles and campers as well as a bike rental place for faster travel to the site.

We visited in July.  The site itself is a long, dull walk down the relatively flat, straight road of crushed lava gravel.  It takes about 40 minutes to an hour of walking to get to the site so be prepared to spend some time.  Forty minutes to, 30 minutes waiting for your change at a shot and 40 minutes back, so bring some water, good shoes and an extra layer in case the weather turns.  The distance is approximately 4 km to the crash site.

Turnoff GPS Coordinates

63.4912391,-19.3632810

Airplane GPS Coordinates

63.459523,-19.364618

Be prepared for lots of people at the site depending on the time of day and time of year.  If you are patient, people come in waves.  If you are lucky to get there when there are only a few people, work fast and play with angles to get shots without people.  If there are a ton of people, relax and wait them out.  While we were there a ATV tour group showed up with orange jumpsuits.  They climbed all over the wreck and even stomped on it.  Makes me wonder if the days of the crashed plane are numbered with this abuse.

Many will say that the site is not worth the walk and one should spend time looking at natural sites.  As a photographer I can tell you it was certainly worthwhile visiting this unique site, I could careless about the effort need to get there.  If anything my eyes were numb with the natural beauty of the country, a bit of mysterious, man-made structure was a breath of fresh air.

Photography Prints

See more Iceland fine art photographs by Edward M. Fielding here – https://edward-fielding.pixels.com/collections/places+iceland

Extra Credit:

Did you know Justin Bieber skateboarded on top of this plane carcass?

Justin Bieber skateboarding a plane in Iceland.
Justin Bieber skateboarding a plane in Iceland.

Bieber’s music video for his surprise track “I’ll Show You” features Iceland and Bieber doing all kinds of dangerous stuff like swimming with icebergs, rolling around in moss, sitting on cliffs and jumping around wet and slippery waterfalls.

Iceland: Fine Art Photographs

Iceland Photographs

Photographs of Iceland by fine art photographer, Edward M. Fielding

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This black church sits alone among a field of lava rock. On the south coast of Iceland’s Snæfellsnes peninsula, the tiny black church Búðir sits within the Búðahraun lava field.

Photography Prints

An old vintage tractor along the Ring Road in Iceland.

Art Prints

The Skógafoss is one of the biggest waterfalls in the country with a width of 15 metres (49 feet) and a drop of 60 m (200 ft). Due to the amount of spray the waterfall consistently produces, a single or double rainbow is normally visible on sunny days. According to legend, the first Viking settler in the area, Þrasi Þórólfsson, buried a treasure in a cave behind the waterfall. The legend continues that locals found the chest years later, but were only able to grasp the ring on the side of the chest before it disappeared again. The ring was allegedly given to the local church. The old church door ring is now in a museum, though whether it gives any credence to the folklore is debatable.

Photography Prints

Kirkjufell (Icelandic: Church mountain) is a 463m[1] high mountain on the north coast of Iceland’s Snæfellsnes peninsula, near the town of Grundarfjörður.

Art Prints

A cliff side cafe on the Snæfellsnes peninsula in Iceland.

Art Prints

A rocky beach on the Snæfellsnes peninsula of Iceland with an emergency lifeguard hut and glacier in the background.

Photography Prints

Early morning light on a church in a remote area of Iceland on the Snæfellsnes peninsula.

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Kerið (occasionally Anglicized as Kerith or Kerid) is a volcanic crater lake located in the Grímsnes area in south Iceland, on the popular tourist route known as the Golden Circle. It is one of several crater lakes in the area, known as Iceland’s Western Volcanic Zone, which includes the Reykjanes peninsula and the Langjökull Glacier, created as the land moved over a localized hotspot, but it is the one that has the most visually recognizable caldera still intact. The caldera, like the other volcanic rock in the area, is composed of a red (rather than black) volcanic rock. The caldera itself is approximately 55 m (180 ft) deep, 170 m (560 ft) wide, and 270 m (890 ft) across. Kerið’s caldera is one of the three most recognizable volcanic craters because at approximately 3,000 years old, it is only half the age of most of the surrounding volcanic features. The other two are Seyðishólar and Kerhóll.

Photography Prints

See more at:  https://edward-fielding.pixels.com/collections/places+iceland

Iceland: Tips for the budget traveler

With $20 for a fast food meal, $37 for a pizza and $10 for a real bear ($3 for a fake one at the gas stations) – traveling to Iceland can be very expensive.  Here are some tips for saving money while in Iceland.

  1. Save your water bottle from the plane and refill it from the tap.  They hand you a bottle of Iceland water as you board Icelandic Air.  The water all over Iceland is basically fresh from the glacier so drink it rather than buying other drinks. (In most first world countries tap water is completely drinkable and was done so before the whole “bottled” water trend where bottlers convinced us we had to buy water in a bottle).
  2. Shop at the grocery stores such as Bonus or Netto.  The prices in the grocery stores aren’t too bad.  Avoid eating out as much as possible.  I suspect the meal prices include tips, taxes and a high minimum wage as well as high food costs for importing food to the remote Island nation.
  3. If you must eat out, grab a hot dog – the national snack food of Iceland.  They are about $5 or less and come with crunch onions and a grill press bun.
  4. Try camping instead of hotels.  We camped all around the Ring Road in a rental camper.  It wasn’t cheap but we save on having to buy meals.  Seems like the locals were all camping.
  5. Skip tourist traps such as The Blue Lagoon and seek out local pools.  Instead of $60+ for a swim at The Blue Lagoon, a local pool will be less than $10.
  6. Skip the expensive tours and “experiences”.  The scenery, national parks, waterfalls, trails and beaches are all free.  The only natural attraction we paid for was a crater that charged $4.  Take in the natural scenery for free and skip the boat rides, glacier walks and caves.
  7. Take public transportation rather than renting a car.  If you have the will and time, figure out the public bus system that reaches all parts of the country.
  8. Share meals.  Some of the portions are huge in Iceland so if you are a light eater you can share an order of fish and chips with a friend.
  9. We saw a lot of hitch hikers.  Hitchhiking is not uncommon in Iceland, but you might be waiting for a long time and it can ruin your plans.
  10. Don’t tip.  Locals don’t tip. But feel free to do so if you feel like it.

Iceland: The Blue Lagoon is a tourist trap

When admission to a swimming pool rises to the level of a ticket to Disney’s Magic Kingdom, you know its more than your body that is getting soaked.  Your wallet is too.

A ticket to Disney’s Magic Kingdom is Orlando, Florida costs about $130.  That includes a full day of shows, rides and attractions.  In contrast a ticket to Iceland’s Blue Lagoon, basically run off water from a geothermal power plant, can cost anywhere from $61 to $530 depending on how many extras you tack on.

And how long can you really soak in a hot tub?  After an hour your skin gets so wrinkly you’ll swear the water aged you. See those senior citizens over there?  They are really only 20 year old college kids who stayed in too long.

The Blue Lagoon gets away with its highway robbery prices because of its location near the airport.  With stop overs and long waiting times between connecting flights, many travelers choose to take a dip the the hot, soothing, Mother Earth heated waters rather then try to take a nap on the airport concrete floor.

For those with the money to burn the experience is fantastic.  Hot water, mineral mud to plaster on ones face and great selfies.

But for those in the know, Iceland has fantastic pools in every town and local pools typically cost less then $10 for a soak.  Some even sport slides.

We traveled around the Ring Road camping and sampled several pools as a break from hiking and to take advantage of the included showers to wash up and get refreshed.

The Hofsos pool is located on a hillside by the fjord of Skagafjordur. It gives a great view over the fjord and its islands, notably Drangey, Malmey, as well as the Thordarhofdi peninsula and the mountains on the other side of the fjord, all adding up to a stunning scenery.

The local pools were all different but each typically featured a large lap pool and several smaller hot tub pools.  We even tried out a hot spring fed set of little round tubs at the end of a farmer’s field for $5.

Town pools are often located next to schools in the center of town and can feature fun things like slides and hot soaking tubs.

The most expensive pool experience we had was $37 at the “Green Lagoon” in Myvatn which was kind of like The Blue Lagoon Lite.   The Myvatn Nature Baths featured a large natural pool with sand and stones on the bottom and a smaller hot pool.  They had Blue Lagoon like experiences such as being able to drink a beer or wine in the pool and a couple of waterfalls.  Just like the Blue Lagoon, Myvatn Nature Baths is located near an geothermal energy plant and the water comes from the plant.

If you stay in Iceland for more than a stop over you’ll find that swimming is serious business in Iceland. It’s so serious that learning to swim is even a mandatory part of the Icelandic education. Nearly every town has a public swimming pool. It’s a place to socialize, to work out and even to bathe.  Going to the pool for a soak in the hot tub is even a typical second date activity in Iceland.  Think about it.  In the winter when sunlight is precious and you want to soak up some rays, the only real way is to go swimming.  Plus the country has an abundance of naturally hot water bubbling out of the ground.

The Blue Lagoon is a big operation that is heavily promoted.  So much so that people feel the need to go and then tell everyone how expensive it was – the exorbitant price becomes a badge of honor to some travelers.  But if you have more time, seek and explore more of the swimming experiences Iceland has to offer.   Find a local pool and hang out with the locals, you might not get to rub mud on your face or drink a beer poolside but you might find a fun slide and save a bit of money.

Myntan Nature Baths provides a similar experience to the over hyped and priced Blue Lagoon.

Myvatn Nature Baths

https://www.myvatnnaturebaths.is/

Icelandic Food – what the heck is this Skyr stuff?

Skyr is a popular dairy product in Iceland

Is it yogurt?  Is it cream cheese?  It is a dip?  Just what is this Skyr stuff you see all over the dairy case in Iceland?

Believe it or not Skyr is a whey product that is similar to yogurt but thicker and has a lot of protein.  The Vikings knew how to make it but the recipe died out in the Scandinavia countries, but in Iceland it lived on and is now branching out with flavored varieties and being exported around the world.  You might see it showing up in the yogurt isles in U.S. supermarkets.

Skyr is delish but be prepared for a more filling version of yogurt.  It’s thick and packs a punch of protein.  Icelander’s traditionally add some milk to it to thin it and add sugar to the plain variety.

Skyr (Icelandic pronunciation: ​[ˈscɪːr̥], English: /ˈskɪər/SKEER) is an Icelandic cultured dairy product. It has the consistency of strained yogurt but a much milder flavor. It has been a part of Icelandic cuisine for over a thousand years.  It is traditionally served cold with milk and a topping of sugar.

Skyr makes for a great start to a busy day of hiking on glaciers, fjords and driving over mountain passes without guard rails and sheep obstacles.

Where can I dump my crap in Iceland?

If you are new to motor-homing, you’ll soon discover the not so much fun jobs such as dumping the grey water tanks, dumping the black water, filling up the water tank and maybe getting more propane.

Some campgrounds have all of these facilities, others have some  but not others.  The easiest thing to find is water hoses for filling the fresh water drinking tank and a gas exchange.  Most gas stations have gas canister exchanges.  Many have washing station with brushes attached to hoses for cleaning off the dirt on your car or camper.  Water is typically available at campsites or gas stations.

Grey water which is the water from the sink or shower is typically mild stuff but it does contain grease and laundry detergent (i.e. phosphorous) so it can be dump just anywhere.  I ran into one campground that had a black water dump but not a grey water.  But a lot of the gas stations have drains appropiate for dumping gray water.  Sometimes you can even park over a drain while filling up.

Black water is another matter.  We used the toilet in the camper sparingly.  Primarily for pee and used the campground toliets or swimming pool facilities for more substantial usage.  As a result, our 17 liter little black water tank only needed to be dumped three times in 11 days and even then it was never rally full.  (Three adults, using facilities outside the camper as much as possible).

As a result we were not too concerned about finding black water dumping places.  We used them when we found a convenient one.  It wasn’t until we had to drop off the camper that we had to search around for place to dump our crap.  After searching the gas stations around the drop off point in vain, we stumbled on a great website that lists all of the dumping stations on the island:

http://www.ust.is/library/Skrar/Kort/kort-seyrulosun.html

Some of these location will be at campgrounds, some at gas stations and some like the one we found near the airport and the camper return was a stand along one down near some boat docks.

 

Iceland: Potato Spice

Icelandic potato spice in nondiscript packages labeled
Icelandic potato spice in nondiscript packages labeled “Ekran Kartoflukrydd”

In Iceland if you grab some fast food at the airport or elsewhere you might take your plate of French Fries or Chips over to the condiment station where you’ll find ketchup, salt, pepper and perhaps some strange looking non-descript clear baggies with barely any labeling.

The power in side might be confused for a dime bag of hashish or maybe some Adobo seasoning.  Looks like pink salt  or salt mixed with paprika.

Look closely and you’ll see words Ekran Kartoflukrydd and a series of cryptic numbers.  Probably the batch number.

This tasty spice package is the famous Icelandic potato spice and is the Icelandic spice universally used for french fries.

The ingredients are:

Innihaldslýsing:

Salt, grænmeti (laukflögur, tómatduft), þurrkað glúkósasíróp, þrúgusykur, bragðaukandi efni (E621), hrísgrjónamjöl, SINNEPSFRÆ, sólblómaolía.

Ofnæmisvaldar:

Sinnep

 

Iceland: Icelandic Beer, Near-Beer and Malt Drinks

Is it real beer?

Icelandic beer – Where can you get a decent real beer in Iceland?  I don’t know.  I never saw one.  Of course we were camping and avoided Reykjavik entirely and didn’t eat out.  Our beer choices were determined by what ever the Bonus or Netto supermarkets had or the N1 gas station convenience stores.

Note: Netto sold a pint of beer for 95kr.  N1 typically would be around $3kr so stock up at the big supermarkets.

Icelandic brewed beers.
Icelandic brewed beers.

In the N1 stations and out of the way supermarkets your choices are slim.  Mostly Gull, Thule, Viking, Egilis Pilsner, Tuborg from Denmark or Carlsberg.

If you like Budweiser or “popular beers” like Natural Light, Coors or similar pale, near-water type pilsner beer then you are heaven.  If you are into craft brews and beer with actual flavor, then you are in hell.

The good news is the beers are typically sold in large 50cl packages.  Bad news is the highest alcohol content seems to be 2.25% – in other words half the alcohol content of a typical American standard beer and way less than some craft brews.  Think of it like the watered beer you’d get at a baseball game in the USA.

Not only that but there are also .5% beers so you have to really read the labels to know what you are getting.  To get any relaxing buzz you’d have to drink a lot of these tall boys and probably be peeing all night.   So as a refreshing alternative to water, these beers are alright.  Just don’t think you’ll be sipping anything special.

“In Iceland alcoholic beer is only sold in the stores of the state alcohol monopoly ÁTVR and at licensed restaurants and bars. Any drink sold at grocery stores must therefore have lower alcohol content than 2.25%. This means that the cans which look like beer cans, labelled Pilsner are not beer: They contain a virtually non-alcoholic beverage which might look and taste like a very light beer, but its consumption will certainly not have the same effect as proper beer!”

Malt beverages that don’t have any alcohol are usually stocked right next to the beer and are an entirely different taste experience.  They even have a malt + orange soda flavor combo called Malt & Appelsín in orange cans.

“No Icelandic Christmas would be complete without it. A carbonated, non-alcoholic blend of orange soda and “Malt Extrakt,” a drink some have compared to sweet, unfermented Guinness. Now available pre-mixed from Egil’s beverage company.”

Try it, it is actually rather good and can be enjoyed year round.

Iceland’s Beer Restrictions, Prohibition and Post-Prohibition

  • In a 1908 referendum, 60.1% of voters approved a complete ban on alcohol set to take effect on January 1, 1915.
  • Public support for the complete ban eventually began to fade and, in a 1933 referendum, 57.7% of voters approved lifting the ban.
  • In May 1988, the Althing passed legislation legalizing beer above 2.25% ABV. The restrictions were lifted on March 1, 1989.
  • The lifting of restrictions on beer is celebrated as Beer Day on March 1.
  • Real beer can only be sold at state liquor stores!