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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Iceland 9.3: Hella to Stykkisholmur

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  •  Geysir
  • Lindin 
  • Pingvallabar &  Pingvallakirkja 
  • Bjarnarhofn Shark Farm 
  • Baenir & Braud

We did not have anything planned for today.  I would have loved to go horse-back riding, but did not book anything in advance.  We drove by a few horse farms to inquire about horse-back riding, but some farms were closed after August and some farms needed advance reservations.

I had never met any Icelanders before this trip.  My impression of them from the experience in the few emails/phone exchanges with tour companies & hotels so far were, whether accurate or not, that they communicate with a purpose and had a dry sense of humor.

It could be difficult to pull information out of Icelanders sometimes.  I have found that I need to ask very precise questions to get precise information.  Case in point:  when H inquired about the horse-back riding information from a lady at one of the horse farms that we stopped by, the conversation went like this:

H: "Hi, I am here for the horse-back riding.  How does it work?"

Lady ((puzzled in amusement): "How does it work?  Riding a horse?" (laughing....)

H (feeling a little stupid): "Huh... I mean, what is the cost, when is the tour, and how do I book it?"

Similar encounters seemed to happened quite often.  Yesterday, when we stopped by the Skaftafell National Park to inquire information, the staff at the information desk mentioned a 5 minutes drive to the nearby glacier.  H wanted to make sure we could drive with our car since our rental car was a 2WD. 

H asked, "Can all the cars drive to the glacier?"

The staff answered, "Yes, pretty much all the cars. (pause) Maybe not F1 race car."  (in serious face).....

H walked away scratching his head; unsure if the staff was trying to be funny or snarky....

We had became used to this  kind of Icelandic responses by now and thought they were hilarious.

Since today was the kind of "go with the flow"day, we decided to check out this bakery that I read up on the Lonely Plane guidebook for breakfast.  We stopped by Hverabakari at Hveragerdi and tried the flatbraud og hangikjot (flatbread with smoked lamb), hot-spring bread, and a bunch of other pastries.  Once again, the flatbread with smoked lamb was not my thing, but H loved it. 

We went to Yellowstone in 2008 and was not particularly interested in going to the golden circle, but since it was on our way to Stykkishoimur, we decided to take a quick tour.  For the past two days, we barely saw any cars around.  This was the first day that there was noticeably more traffic on the road.  The Geyser was underwhelming, so we did not stay for long.

After the geyser, we decided to skip the Gullfoss waterfall and went to Lindin for the chocoolate mouse cake instead.  The dark chocolate mouse with raspberry puree, watermelon pieces, and milk foam.  The Lonely Plane guidebook stated that it was allegedly the best chocolate mouse in the world.  While it was great, I would not go so far as world's best.  However, it might be the world's most expensive one.  A small cup of the cake cost us about US$18!

On our way to Pingvellir national park, there were miles of wild blueberry fields.  We saw many people who parked their cars alongside the road to pick blueberries.  The landscape was much more lush than what we saw the past two days. 

Pingvellir was Iceland's most important viking historical site where the vikings established the world's first democratic parliament in AD 930.  It was situated on the north side of the largest lake in Iceland, Pingvallavatn.  It's unique natural setting was created by the drift between North American and Eurasian tectonic plates.  We took a long hike and lingered around for the beautiful scenery.

After Pingvellir, it was time to move on to West Iceland.  We headed straight to Bjarnarhofn Shark Farm.  H is a huge fan of Andrew Zimmern's show, Bizarre Foods, on the travel channel.  He was excited to visit the shark farm and finally try the infamous harkarl (fermented shark).

The shark farm was at the end of an unpaved road.  On both sides of the road, there were sweeping 4000 year old lava fields that felt like we were driving on Mars.  It was utterly surreal and fascinating that we could not take our eyes off the landscape.

Finally, we were at the end of the road.  The small shark farm was right by the ocean.  A friendly lady gave us a tour of the museum and told us stories of her husband's viking fisherman's history.  She showed us the family boat that was used over a hundred years ago for hunting sharks in the winter arctic ocean sometimes for weeks.  I could not imagine how it was possible for anyone to survive the bleak winters on the ocean, let alone hunting sharks.

In the middle of the small museum, there was a table with small cubes of fermented shark with dark bread.  H and I both took a small cube of the shark and bread.  The sweet taste of the bread somewhat masked the flavor of the shark.  It almost tasted like a very potent blue cheese with rubbery texture.  We decided to try another shark cube without the bread.  A few seconds later, the strong ammonia smell shot up our nostrils.  It took strong will to swallow that piece, but I was glad that I tried it.  Before we left, we went to the drying house in the back to see where the shark meat was hung to dry.   It was a very windy day, but the smell was still pretty bad.  This was definitely one of the most bizarre food experience for me.

We checked into our Bed & Breakfast, Baenir & Braud, in Stykkisholmur around 7 PM.  I wanted to try all kinds of lodging options on this trip and was happy to have the opportunity to peek into an Icelandic house and see how people live in this part of the world.  Our Bed & Breakfast was absolutely adorable.  It was very well kept.  Our room had a lovely view of the harbor.  There was also an outdoor jacuzzi for the guests to use, which we got to enjoy later that night.  After the hostel and cabin the past two nights, Baenir & Braud was a welcomed change.

We didn't have any dinner plans tonight and were not particularly hungry since we had been snacking the whole day.  We decided to get a hot dog at the wiener wagon and lamb steak across the street at the gas station.  The hot dog was yummy but the wagon closed before we could go back for a second serving.  In New York, I associate lamb with fine dinning; So it was an unique experience eating a lamb steak at a gas station even though the cooking was mediocre at best.  It was past 8 PM when we were sitting inside the gas station, and we saw quite a few children under 12 coming into the gas station, buying snacks or candies, and sitting at the table hanging out.  Young children out alone on a Saturday night was definitely something I would not find in New York.  

While we were eating the chewy lamb steak, we glanced over to the postcard rack next to our table and spotted this amazing waterfall postcard.  My heart skipped a beat.  "NO... this CANNOT be the Gullfoss, can it?"  We stared at the postcard shaking our heads.  Knowing that we were so close to Gullfoss earlier this morning and chose to skip it, I could not believe I made this rookie mistake! I had no words.. NONE.

PREVIOUS: Iceland 9.2: Hofn to Hella


1 comment:

  1. How does one ride a horse ? F1 Race car? :) :) LOL - that was really funny - they must think Americans are that dumb huh? :) :)