Posts Tagged ‘Iceland’

Gay Pride Day

Today was Gay Pride Day in Iceland. 30,000 people flooded downtown Reykjavik. (For comparison, that’s 26% of the population of Reykjavik.) A parade went down the main street and bands played well into the night. Icelandair offered a special promotional deal from people wanting to come to Iceland for the celebration. Can you imagine a major airline in the U.S. offering a gay pride sale?

I love Iceland.

Krafla, Mývatn and Glaumbær

Krafla We left Dettifoss and rejoined the Ring Road heading back west. On the way we passed by Krafla, which Rob was very interested in for the geothermal power. None of my photos do justice to this giant science-fiction landscape. On one side of the valley, the hills are barren, on the other side, they are lush green. Steam vents everywhere, and a creek winds across the landscape with steam blowing off of it. Amid the endless pipelines, sheep wander. We headed up the mountain under an arch of pipes. Seriously, they’ve arched the pipelines over the road like a gateway.

At the top, we peeked at Víti which is a giant geothermal lake. Apparently people will make their way down the sides of the bowl to paddle, but it didn’t appeal to us. The sides are really, really steep. While I’m sure that the climb down is fine, climbing out sounded less than relaxing.

Cowshed Cafe
We went from there to Mývatn which means Midge Lake. The small midges are so thick that it honestly looks like steam swirling around. Fortunately, this is not the case at the Cowshed Cafe. It’s a delightful little cafe in a, yes, cowshed. They still use the cow-shed for milking and make ice cream on the premises. The day was sunny and hot. I was wishing I had a short-sleeved shirt with me. For lunch, I tried two of the local specialties, a smoked salmon and hverabrauð. Hverabrauð is a very dense black rye bread which is baked in an underground oven. In several places in the region, the ground is so hot that if you put dough underground it will steam and become bread. Astonishing. The salmon was also tasty, although I had to put the process by which it is made out of my mind. Because of the shortage of wood here, for the smoking they use sheep dung.

Yes. You read that right. Sheep dung.

GlaumbaerFrom there on, we had nothing remarkable until we reached Varmahlið, where we detoured about 5km off the ringroad to head up to
Glaumbær, a farm established in 1000 and in active use until 1947. Remarkably, the buildings are constructed of turf, clearly it’s not 1000 year old turf, but apparently a well-constructed turf building can last a century or more. This was the most amazing place to tour. I highly recommend it, should you find yourself in Iceland.

GlaumbaerAmong other things, the curators have not installed any artificial lighting so you get a good sense of what it was like to live there. To my surprise, it was not as dark as one would think a dirt house would be. In fact the main living area was positively sunny. As they explained in the brochure, the women slept and worked on the side of the room with the windows because their work required more light. The other thing I had not expected was that it was virtually soundproof. You would not hear marauding raiders easily if you were inside a turf house. There are more photos here.

From there, we headed back to Reykjavik. Ah, home.


HafragilsfossWe left Hóll around nine in the morning and headed down Rt. 862 on the West side of the gorge that Jökulsá runs through. For those of you keeping track, the more digits a road number has the worse it is. So… 862, was an adventure in places, but well worth it. We pulled off the road into a parking area to look at Hafragilfoss (don’t worry, I can’t say it either) and we were concerned that we would not be able to leave the parking area without four-wheel drive.

The river below HafragilsfossNow in all of these photos I’m fighting the thing that always kills me when taking pictures in Iceland. It’s really hard to get a sense of scale. For instance, in this photo, the little white streams are actually sizeable waterfalls and very, very far down.

DettifossAfter we left Hafragilfoss, without needing a four-wheel drive, we continued down the road to Dettifoss, which is Europe’s most powerful waterfall. As you walk from the parking lot you can hear Hafragilsfoss in your right ear and Dettifoss in your left. It’s rather astounding. If you look very carefully, on the right side of the waterfall you can see two little tiny specks of color. Those are people.

I’ll finish up with the rest of the photos tomorrow.

Hóll and back again

The side yard at HollOur hosts were warm and seemed amused by my attempts at Icelandic. I think it pleased them that I was making the struggle to be understood. Their front yard is charming and has lots of flowers in bloom. I tried taking a picture of the view, but you’ll have to take my word for it that there are mountains in the distance. The farm has been in their family for several generations and I understand that our host’s grandfather used to keep sheep in a cave on the property.

Holl from way far away The phone in the front hall at HollI will freely grant that this photo does not look as enchanting as Hóll actually is. After we arrived Saturday night, we went for a walk down the side of the road. The thing that you should note in this photo is that there is nothing else around for kilometers, and Hóll has trees. In Iceland. This makes it a prime spot for us. Even that weren’t enough to make me happy, check out the phone in the foyer. The only thing that bothered us the first night was the astounding snoring of one of the guests. Even with earplugs we could hear it.

In the morning, our hostess provided a full spread for breakfast. We met a Swiss couple and a German couple. I managed to stagger along in German for a little. While I usually maintain that German was a usless language to learn in school, because it seems that the only Germans who travel are the ones with flawless English, in this case we were fairly evenly matched in the language department. Only a little, and very, very broken. Hey, I took it twenty years ago, I’m pleased I remembered any.

Jogging sheep at HollAfter breakfast, we went for a horseback ride. While I didn’t take any photos on the trip, I can show you what we saw. Lava and sheep and moss. This was Rob’s first time riding as an adult and I don’t think he’s particuarly enamoured of it. My inner eight year old kicked in the first time I saw Icelandic horses. (Why is it that so many girls go through the horse phase?) This was only my second time riding in Iceland, but I need to do it more. The tölt which is the distinctive fifth gait, unique to the Icelandic horses, is as smooth as they say. Well…maybe not quite smooth enough to drink tea, but certainly smooth enough that one isn’t sore the next day.

We came back in and took a nap, which is a vitally important part of any vacation schedule. The snorer was gone, and the house was very, very quiet. Since we hadn’t heard him, so much as felt the snoring, I’m forced to conclude that the house is fairly soundproof and he was prodigious.

AsbyrgiDucks at AsbyrgiPost nap we headed off to Asbyrgi, which is a horseshoe shaped canyon reputed to have been formed with Oðinn’s eight legged stallion stamped the Earth. It’s certainly large enough to have belonged to a god’s horse. Besides the natural formation, Asbyrgi has thousands and thousands of trees. In the 1950s someone decided to plant non-native conifers along with Icelandic birch. As we were driving into the park we were struck by how we’ve become used to being able to see the horizon all the time. The natural amphitheater cups a shallow, but large pool which is home to lots of birds. Including ducklings! Hello, watch my iq drop at their cuteness.

Now I will just post photos of Asbyrgi and let you enjoy it without my commentary. It would largely consist of “Look. Pretty!”
Asbyrgi Asbyrgi Asbyrgi Asbyrgi Asbyrgi Rob at Asbyrgi Asbyrgi Asbyrgi Asbyrgi Asbyrgi Asbyrgi

Photo 080606 018 1After we got back from hiking around Asbyrgi, we took another nap–I said they were important–and just in time. The wind had picked up on the way back from Asbyrgi and brought rain with it. Our room was warm and cozy, but the wind snuck through the window and caught the mirror, jittering the view of the room to and fro like a raven with a new pretty. In the evening, I read in the downstairs sitting room and then our hostess cooked us a delicious dinner featuring trout from the lake on the farm. It was delicious, but necessitated an evening constitutional. We walked down to the lake through knee-high grass that was still heavy with rain. Our pants were soaked by the time we found a sheep trail that saved us from the damp. The sheep watched our every move. Spies.

Poo The lake is Iceland’s newest lake. Sadly, I didn’t quite understand which eruption caused it, but evidentally a volcano went up, and the earth here sank. The lake is home to trout and to lots of birds. Just in case you have any doubt about the number of birds, take a look at the ground. Those aren’t pebbles. Astounding, eh? On the walk home, I found a horn from one of the sheep which had the name of the farm etched into it. I picked it up as a reminder of our stay and the wind played across its open mouth with the sound of distant trumpets. Remarkable. I had always wondered who first thought it was a good idea to stick a horn in one’s mouth and blow.

Tomorrow, I’ll post the pictures of our drive home and the places were we stopped.

Hóll and Holiday

It’s a three day weekend in Iceland. Rob and I are going to Hóll and will be back on Monday. I don’t think we’ll have internet while we are gone, so I’ve left some entries to pop up and amuse you while we’re gone. I’ll report back late Monday or on Tuesday.

On the lawn

Today was such a beautiful day. During a break at work, I sat outside with my computer for a while until I had to go in because I was too hot. Can you imagine? In Iceland? True summer weather only happens a couple of days out of the year so everyone tries to take advantage of it. Businesses will shut their doors and send their employees outside to enjoy the weather. At work, they open the big garage doors and everyone goes outside between takes.

After we left work, a group of us gathered on the lawn at our place for cocktails and canapes. It was so lovely to sit on the grass and talk without needing a fleece to be comfortable.

Shimmer Summer issue on sale


Summer 06 cover

The Summer 2006 issue of Shimmer: Available August 1.

Heat makes the air shimmer. It’s too damn hot to write marketing text. Buy a copy of the Summer 2006 Shimmer. Read it.

Why? 8 new stories, art, and an interview with writing team Kevin J. Anderson and Rebecca Moesta.

Angela Slatter, Tom Pendergrass, Paul Abbamondi, and Marina T. Stern return with stories of books, bureaucracy, blood, and heartbreak. Amal El-Mohtar and Stephen Moss make their fiction debuts. Beverly Jackson tells a fish tale, and Michael Livingston talks about gnomes. (Check out our Featured Author page to hear Michael read the story.)

Bonus: after reading, the print version works as a fan! Our pdf readers are on their own.

Okay, so the heat wave hasn’t hit Iceland, but for the rest of you this all holds true. Go buy the magazine. Better yet, subscribe.

Summer 2006 issue of Shimmer is now on sale

All hands on deck

The last two days have been a lot of fun. We’ve had a lot of scenes which required using all of the puppeteers at once. And it’s an elevated set, so there’s no pain. Or at least not much.

Steve headed home today. I sent him to the Blue Lagoon to have a facial and soak in the healing waters before hopping on the airplane. I’ll let you know what he says when I hear from him.

After work, Emily and I went to dinner at Indian Mango, which is a new Indian restaurant. This was easily one of the best meals I’ve had in Iceland. Very satisfying, well-balanced and good presentation. We were both very happy campers.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (2006)

After a very long and very satisfying day at work, we all went out to see Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest. Steve wanted to experience the wonder that is intermission in Iceland and to gloat over his daughter that he had gone to opening night. Granted, it’s a week later than in the States, but it’s opening night nonetheless.

The movie is fun, but not good if you know what I mean. It’s dynamic, the villain is great, the plot is wandering and it’s frenetic. In this particular case, the intermission happened in the ghost scene. In the middle of the scene. Sometimes the projectionist will time the intermission so it makes sense with the film, other times it is random. Tonight was random. Steve said it was the most memorable part of the film. Sadly, I’ve gotten used to having an intermission and will have trouble when we go back to the States.

Not a journal.

Found this on Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, Not a journal.

13 – In 20 Epics there is some rain. We sold all the copies we had at Readercon. It was an epic job of salespersonship by interns, friends, us, others. Finding the epically designed books was a long sordid tale of hidden icons, misdirection, and dead letter offices which was only concluded when Mary “I live in Iceland” Robinette “Shimmer” Kowal tracked them down far into the Labyrinth past the Steaming Kitchens of Despair. The books sold grandly, richly, with bread and cheese and some ale. They found spots by the fire in inns, they were purchased by plucky, heartfelt, surprisingly good looking kids who in a certain light looked like writers. The books were prizes, ill-gotten gains, kept in saddlebags, used as hats, ripped in two and kept by distance-separated lovers. There are at least twenty epics in the book but you only have to buy one. Lulu. Powells.

Draugasetri̡ РThe Ghost Centre

SteveToday I took my brother, Emily and Jonathan to Draugasetrið – The Ghost Centre. This is the Rock City version of ghosts. It’s in a tiny, tiny town right by the ocean. The museum itself is housed in this old fish cannery, which still retains ghost odors of fish. In the waiting area, we had a beer and watched people emerge, shrieking from the tour.

I mean, full-fledged screams. From grownups.

I’d been there once before, but hadn’t sat in the waiting area watching the emergence. It was pretty impressive to watch people run out. I had told them what to expect before we went in. The exhibits look like the sort of things an artistically inclined community would put together for the Halloween haunted house. Lots of black plastic and burlap seperating the exhibits. Which are really nothing more than static dioramas of events from the stories. Sometimes, they don’t consist of anything more than a picture.

The cd has an icelandic narrator, speaking in english, who speaks slower than a snail on ice. He has this deep, mournful voice and no awareness of when the narrative is funny. “After sailors die at sea, they return. Sometimes angry, sometimes sad, but always wet.”

So why the screaming?

One of the ghost stories is about Rusty, a ghost of a young boy who haunts travellers. He is called this because of the color of his ragged clothes. They have hired a couple of teenage boys to jump out at the people going through the museum, and they are really good at it.

We screamed. And then we laughed. A lot. It was fun, although by the end I was starting to cut loose some of my stage screams. Which is fun in a different way.

Icelandic Indian food.

Today was one of our very rare working Saturdays. I don’t know how they manage, but somehow the working Saturdays only happen when I have guests in from out of town. Like, say, my brother. It’s actually not as annoying as it sounds, because it means that I get Monday off, which is in many ways better. Everyone heads out of town on the weekends, so it would have been fairly crowded. Monday on the other hand, we’ll have things to ourselves. Plus, it was a great day on the floor. Lots and lots of live hand stuff to do with Julie, which is always fun.

After work, Steve took us out to dinner at Austur India, which Harrison Ford said had the best Indian food he’d ever had. I can’t agree with that assessment, but it was good. There was no heat to the dishes, even the ones that said “spicy.” I suppose that it is possible that spicy means “seasoning other than salt,” but I don’t know for certain.

We ordered the Tandoori Jhinga, Murgh Tikka Makhni, the Banarasi Saag and an assortment of naan breads. The Tandoori Jhinga was the only dish with a hint of heat, and probably the best balanced of the three. The Saag was disappointingly bland and runnier than I’m used to saag dishes being. Not unpleasant, mind you, just not outstanding. All of the naan breads were very good, but oilier than I would have liked. I wish I knew what dishes Mr. Ford ordered when he came.


We went to Footloose, which was quite the experience. The set design was inventive, the choreography was fun but the voices were weak. I think there were four good singers in the cast, and everyone else was flat.

I really enjoyed the evening, but did have to adjust the lens that I viewed it with. If I think of it as a show at the city theater of the capital of a nation, then it was weak. If I think of it as community theater in a town of 150,000 then it was very impressive. Steve said that he had a great time, but felt like he was in high school. I know what he means. The production values were very high, but since it is a musical, the singing really pulled it down. Still, the acting was strong enough that even though it was all in Icelandic, I was engaged throughout.


Today was another gorgeous day in Iceland. After work, we all went to Emily’s house for a barbecue. She made hamburgers, hot dogs, vegetable skewers and deviled eggs. I made potato salad and a corn salad. Both recipes are winners, so I thought I’d share, since the summer picnic season is here.

Danish Potato Salad from

3 pounds medium Yukon Gold potatoes (each about 3 inches in diameter)
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh chives or green onion tops
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons drained capers
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon caper liquid from jar
1 teaspoon coarse-grained Dijon mustard
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Cook potatoes in large pot of boiling salted water until tender, about 15 minutes. Drain potatoes; cool 30 minutes. Peel potatoes, if desired; cut into 1/3-inch-thick slices. Place potatoes in large bowl. Add chives, parsley, and capers. Combine vinegar, caper liquid, and mustard in small bowl. Whisk in oil. Season dressing to taste with salt and pepper. Pour dressing over potatoes; toss gently. Season salad with salt and pepper. (Can be made 2 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.)

Corn, Pepper, and Scallion Salad

4 ears fresh corn, shucked (I’m in Iceland, I used two cans of corn)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 lb red bell peppers, chopped
1/2 cup coarsely chopped scallion or leek greens

Cut corn kernels from ears, discarding cobs. Heat oil in a large heavy skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then sauté corn with salt and pepper to taste, stirring, until tender, about 4 minutes.

Add garlic and sauté, stirring, 1 minute. Add vinegar and cook, stirring, until most is evaporated, about 1 minute. Add peppers and cook, gently stirring, 1 minute.

Remove skillet from heat and stir in scallions.

Transfer vegetables to a large plate to cool and season with salt and pepper.