Monday, June 14, 2010

Gone all Gone.

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So I thought I would combine my weekend entry into one, seeing as I am A) lazy and B) busy. Currently I am sitting in the Hotel Lobby and we wait for the rest to finish packing and gather downstairs then wait for the bus to drive us to the airport. It feels like a time for reflections but first a recap!

Friday

Friday was a good day, there was a small lie in, then I took a bus with a few others down to the culture house as walking was slowly killing me. And I have to say the exibit at the culture house was really, really well done. It was an exibit on all the manuscripts and various sagas. Our Tour guide was hilarious! There was a display of manuscripts, though this time it was behind glass and I couldn't help laugh a little after our close up and personal encounter with them earlier in the week. There was a greater variety this time but it wasn't nearly as exciting as the monday encounter. I think the best part though was when we went to the 'scriptortium"

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So over a year later I discover this unfinished post in which I wrapped up my time. I am sad I never finished it, I think I was going to say that we got to go and actually write on our own vellum and in runes which was tons of fun (and I still carry the results in my wallet). The rest of the weekend was spent at the viking festival I think which was awesome and we saw baby vikings that were beyond adorable!









We also tried to go whale watching but the day we went the storm was so bad we had to turn back halfway there unfortunately.



I miss this trip to Iceland, it was amazing! I made new friends, learned a heck of a lot and it left me with memories that I will cherish forever! I would just like to thank the professors again for putting together such a wonderful course and offering this oppurtunity to us! I hope this blog has inspired someone out there to visit Iceland it is well worth the trip!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Lonely Wanderer.

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I think I have a love hate relationship with buses. We were on the bus for 8 this morning and it was tooo early it seemed. And there was lots of driving. I think I fell asleep for most of it. I can't help it sometimes. Car rides make me sleepy. But eventually we got somewhere, and it was well worth it. We ened in Stong where a farm stead was uncovered. It was buried by and eruption by Hekla, and is where Njal's saga is set. Coming up to it, it is fairly unassuming. And then you park the bus, and you stare up a hill. I don't know why people thought it was a good idea to settle on a hill but, alas they did.

You enter this fairly modern looking (from the outside) building, only to be greeted by dirt. And then your eyes adjust. And personally I couldn't but let my jaw drop. We actually got to walk amoung the ruins of this farm. Now the wooden walls were a little misleading, and the actualy olden day walls would have been turf and rock, so it would have looked a lot smaller, but besides that, this place was fairly amazing. There was still the remains of a hearth in the middle, as wel as the indication of where the benches for sleeping and such along the sides would have been. There were also additions, such as a larder. Just outside of this main building were even more ruins. Now this didn't have any fancy building to cover them, but one is persumed to be a barn (you can still see the stalls) and the other I think was mentioned to be a chapel or church.




Seeing this sites really amazed me. We were out in the middle of no where (which can be said many places in Iceland) and there are just these ruins. You can almost throw yourself back into time, staring out into the timeless view of mountains and grass. It really puts into perspective what these settler's had to deal with.

This stop was then followed up by a recreated long house, which we unfortunately did not get to see the inside of, but we were able to wander around and get a real feel for how big these buildings may have been. There was actually grass growing on the roof, and I thought that was interesting to say the least. They seemed to have a dandelion problem, but I guess one could say it added colour. There was a lovely little chapel that you could walk into, but it was tiny! I postulated it was for the conversion of elves, but maybe there just weren't many people...






After a stop at lunch, where Marlo saved us all and fended off a snake....




We headed to the Saga Center, which broke down the Njal saga (once again expanding my limited ability to understand these ancient texts). It was a pretty exhibit, and had a wonderful recreated hall. I was not expecting that, but it have benches with fur and everything. There was also a sword in the stone outside, which of course everyone had a turn trying to pull out.





We stopped by the falls that we had visited earlier with our rented car, but today was a slightly miserable day (our only rainy day here so far) so I am glad we got some shots of the waterfall when the sun had been shining.

After we got back, which was kinda late, I headed off on a adventure with Cody and Matt in order to find some infamous Icelandic Fish and Chips. And they were amazing. I had wolffish, with a basil and garlic dip and rosemary potatoes. It was awesome. Man I love the food here.




But Alas that is all for now, until next time, Hvar er klósettið?

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

871 +/- 2

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It was a light day. We didn't have to be anywhere until 2:00 which was nice I think we all needed a little of a lie in. We went to the settlement museum, where there was a site of a viking long house discovered under a hotel. They put up an exibit around it, and a pretty awesome one at that. They did their best to make it as interactive as possible, and I think they succeeded. There was panoramic views of how the area may have looked like when it was first settled with little videos intergrated into the picture to give the sense of various activities people may have done. They also had a lovely interactive table where you could push buttons and it would tell you what various parts of the long house was used for. The size of the house was a little astonishing, but then we are rememinded that atleast 10 people would have lived here, and all I can hear in my head is 'Have they never heard of personal space?'








Beyond that we just did our usual wandering down town, popping into shops and the like, lots and lots of walking. My knees are really starting to feel it. I can't wait to have access to ice, maybe the swelling will finally go down! But it is an early night, for we have an early morning. Bleh. Afsakið! Fyrirgefðu!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

On the Road Again.

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Road trip time! We rolled onto the bus this morning for 9 AM. Not the earliest start, but boy did I feel it. But the trip was by far worth it! It was a very very full day as we headed north of Rekjavik. The first stop was the Settlement Exhibition. It was a nicely set up, with an A/V representation of Egil's saga in the basement and a wonderful explaination of the settlement of Iceland in the upstairs. They integrated the use of audio guides well into the tour, and I think it helped me a lot to understand Egil's saga a lot more then before, by breaking it down and explaining the important bits. There was also a lot of really good artwork and outside there was an amazing view.





The next stop only a few minutes down the road was Skalagrim's grave (Egil's Father). It was surrounding by a lovely garden and Prof. Somerville did an amazing reading from the saga.

video

The next stop was Reykholt. It was a fairly sparce town, but it was the house of Snorri Sturluson, where he apparently built his own bath. It was a small home, I really don't understand how people lived in such small homes, but I guess people make do. This is where we also stopped in for lunch for a lovely soup buffet. (I know this is only halfway through our day.)



After this, it was time to take in some natural scenery, as we stopped by some amazing falls. The water was so blue! I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen it for myself. It was also a site of lava fields and you can see the waves in the rock formed as the lava cooled. Pretty neat. We also seemed to tranverse over the surface of the moon. Somehow the bus made it up a mountain and not only did it give some amazing pictures, I actually got to see a real glacier!!








Finally we went to Thingvellir. It is also the site where the two continental plates meet (North American Plate and the Euroasian plate). It was quite the walked down, but in a way unbelieveable. As you look over the rugged landscape with a spring running down the middle of it, it is amazing to think that a thousand years ago, every single year, people would gather and this is where they would hold government. It was the only time of the year that everyone in the entire country ever came together. The news that must have been passed there, the relationships that were started, the things traded. It is really very astounding.



And with that we headed home. I think tonight will be the day of rest, with some gathering and talking with my fellow intrepid explorers.Góða ferð!

Reading the Past.

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Today was an interesting day. We really got into the academic side of things as we took a trip to the Arni Magnusson institute. The morning was taken up by the history of the manuscripts and the history of the institute, and then after the introduction we actually got to see real manuscripts! They were there on the table, right in front of us! They pulled out various examples, some made with paper, some made out of actual calf skin. There was one, the edda oblong that was amazing, it had some wonderful pictures and illustrations. There was also a tiny prayer book to St. Margerat that is said to be a relic that was strapped to the a women's thigh when she gave birth.




After a wonderful university cafeteria lunch we all headed back to the institute for some workshops. I took the more "scientific" option and learned about the restoration and investigative processes that are being employed to preserve the manuscripts. There is a current investigation underway to find animal hairs still in the skins that may still have DNA, and through that they can perhaps figure out what animals were used to make the book. Basically this resulted in us looking at a really old book under a microscope... which was kinda really awesome.




And then it was time to experience some real icelandic culture... sorta. We went to a spainish restaurant and ordered ourselves some good old historic foods. We ate everything, whale, puffin, kangeroo (ya I know, we never found out what that was doing in Iceland), sea trout, monk fish, lobster tail, snails, lamb, and finally duck. All with interesting sauces of course. A shot of Brenivan (an icelandic drink that I think tastes like trees) was pawned off on me, and with that our meal was complete. It was a wonderful time out, with many interesting flavours.





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And with that the day was over. Until next time Verði þér að góðu!

Monday, June 7, 2010

An epic Adventure.

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So today, was a lazy day, or so I thought. It was our first free day, and I slept in quite late (I know tsk tsk.) But somehow, my luck turned around and by the mid afternoon, I was loaded up in a car (or the short bus as we affectionately called it) with seven other people, and we were off on an adventure. I had no idea where it would have lead us, but apparently it was somewhere amazing. We had a fun time in the car joking around and listening to random Icelandic radio stations, and then we crested this mountain and we found the most amazing views.





We coud see out to the ocean and all the little towns and farms were lit up by the never ending sun. It was a gorgeous day. It was warm and bright out. We took a pit stop to get out and stretch our legs, which happened to be right next to a horse field. We wandered over to the fence and then suddenly about five horses came running towards us! It was an amazing time to commune with nature.






We continued our journey along the road that hugged the coast giving us wonderful views and scenery. We ended up climbing behind a waterfall and exploring a puffin sanctuary and threw in a picnic lunch for good measure. Over all it was a gorgeous, exciting, adventurous day.





Sunday, June 6, 2010

Building A Nation

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This is coming a little late but yesterday was my first full day in Iceland, and boy was it a packed day. I don't think I have ever walked that much in one day in my entire life. We started off with a walk to the National museum to get a guided tour. The walk was a long one but it had some amazing views.
City Skyline
Group Shot at Modern art viking ship.
A beautiful house I found along our walk.

Once we arrived at the national museum we were given a tour by Gudmundur Olafsson, and now I must issue a warning, the following shall be chalk full of academic content. Seeing as the exibit was all about the settling of Iceland, it is interesting to compare the archaeological evdience provided by the exibits to the sagas that were read in class. On the floor of the museum there was a giant outline of a viking ship that gave the approximate size of the ship. Such evidence as this often cooraborates numbers that the sagas give, and the actuality of what these ships could carry.

Outline of a Ship

Another aspect, involves the folkart. Despite the Christianization of Iceland, much of the actual folk art was kept and incorporated into works. There are many post christian pieces feature the very distinct nordic style of loops and swirls.

Loops and Swirls

The large church built for conversion is also an interesting aspect. The traditional cross shape and architectual details such as transepts, the nave and atrium speak of a traded culture, but the fact it is made of wood and decorated drastically, keeps it to Icelandic roots.
A model of the church.

The museum was well put to gether, informative and interactive. The best part of course was the souvenir shop where I picked up a lovely necklace of a runic Z. I spent the day adventuring around Rekjavik. We shopped, walked, attempted a ghost tour but the guide didn't show up, walked, had a lovely dinner at a vaguely shady place, walked, experienced the infamous Icelandic night life and did I mention walked? There was so much walking! I swear I walked the high street way to many times for my own good!But that is all for now, and I am sure you were all waiting for this:

The Heroic Adventures of Harold.
Harold exploring and Icelandic forest.
Harold Defeating the Dragon.
Harold and the City
Harold being eaten