Friday, April 8, 2016

Spirit of Iceland

Facts and Figures

Mountains around Reykjavik
Here are some interesting facts that we learned about the Icelandic inhabitants and their way of life during our stay here.

Energy is one of the cheapest commodities due to the tremendous amount of geothermal activity and hydro power present everywhere.  Actually, the energy is “free” since molten magma is so close to the surface. The citizens only pay a small amount to cover the infrastructure and maintenance of equipment.

Geothermal Activity on Iceland
However, not all of Iceland is blessed with geothermal activity. The really hot magma belt runs from southwest Iceland (where Reykjavik is located), diagonally across Iceland to the northeast corner. The northwest and the southeast corners are actually considered “cold.” Yes, you can find magma fields there too, but it takes deeper drilling in those corners.

Gas at 190 ISK; this equates to $6/gal

It is somewhat surprising that gasoline is sold here at $6/gallon when all other energy is so cheap.  When the Icelanders finally eliminate fossil fuel from their list of needs, this could be a very cheap place to drive around.

Fish of Iceland

Iceland’s exports consist of 45% fish and fish products.  White fish such as cod is a chief fish product, but many others are also on the menu. Ling, haddock, trout, herring, and salmon are common too. 

Hot houses for growing plant life in Iceland

Much of Iceland's plant life is grown in hothouses on the southern coast, and the rest is imported.

Elves roam around Iceland
Power of the Huldufolk (Elves)

Icelanders are a creative and resilient people, artistic and irrepressible. They are also a bit quirky. For one thing, they believe in elves.  Folklore calls them "huldufolk", or "hidden people".  Seriously, now. Would you believe that the government of Iceland has rerouted highways to avoid damaging piles of lava rocks they call “Elves’ Castles?” Most recently, the suggestion to build a new domestic airport on lava land resulted in a heated debate. In the end, the proposal was voted down, and Iceland’s largest newspaper displayed the headline, “The Elves don't like it!" 

More evidence that elves inhabit Iceland

Miraculous Economic Recovery

During the global meltdown in 2008, Iceland was a disaster with an economy worse than Greece. Their government seated all the players, who represented every aspect of Iceland life, at a round table and forced them to make previously unthinkable cuts. The result is that they saved their country from collapse and today the whole world is amazed by Iceland’s miraculous recovery. Iceland is now one of Europe’s top performers in terms of growth. Certainly the tourism boom has helped, but maybe actually working together pays off!  

Map of Iceland

OK folks, of course there is lots more to Iceland than what we've experienced on this short 1-week foray into this island, but this is about all we have to share at this time.  Thanks for following us, and we'll see you on the road next trip!

Puffin and whale are eaten here

Lovin' those hot waters of the Blue Lagoon!

The Iceland countryside

Along the south Iceland coastline

Along the south coast of Iceland

South Iceland

Havin' fun at the Blue Lagoon

Around Reykjavik

Until next time!!

Cheers to all!!

Monday, April 4, 2016

Food and Drink

Bjór (beer)

The good beer of Iceland!
Let’s start with the drink since that is always a fun, top priority for us - ha, ha. Beer is the way to go in Iceland with an outstanding and tasty selection available. Surprisingly, Icelanders had no beer tradition of their own, and they only discovered the stuff when Brits and Americans stationed here during WWII brewed their own. (No soldier can possibly survive without a pint!)  And although the soldiers drank their own during the war, beer was illegal in Iceland until 1989 as a result of some old prohibition-era regulations. These days, local brewers are working hard to catch up, and we were happy to sample their efforts.

Icelandic Beer

Here are some examples of Icelandic beer:

Beers of Iceland

Enjoying Icelandic Beer

Those draft "Gull" beers were superb!!

Getting started with a small salad
Foodie Heaven

The food of Iceland was a delightful surprise too. Everything we ate was super fresh and so well presented that we had to take pictures of it all and hope the resulting pix did justice to the food!  This place has become a true foodie paradise. The only downside is the price, but the quality makes it worth the high cost.

Perfect scallops in spicy tomato sauce

Anne savors a delicious Icelandic "Skyr"

We especially enjoyed two Icelandic specialties: dense, dark rye bread and the very creamy yogurt-like confection called “Skyr,” which is made from sheep’s milk (and considered healthier than yogurt). 

"Ling" fish over pasta with alfredo-wine sauce

Fish, as you may have guessed, is a big staple here on this island. We especially liked a white cold-water fish called Ling that is similar to cod. All the fish was fresh from the sea and melt in the mouth.

Our "foodie" group with Dan, our food guide, in white T-shirt
One of the most fun things we did in Reykjavik was to take a Food Walking Tour. Our guide Dan has to be one of the most affable guys in Iceland. Our original 3-hr. walking tour lasted over 5 hours, and we were having so much fun none of us even noticed the time!

Lamb stew is a big staple in Iceland - and sooooo delish!

Dan led us all around Reykjavik’s old city center, hopping from one eating establishment to another. 

Icelanders eat some pretty strange things, like the Puffin Bird (how could you?) and fermented shark (ugh).  Some whaling is still done here too, so you will find certain whale meats in various restaurant kitchens.

The puffin is on the menu in Iceland !
Minke Whale chunks with a caramel sauce

We did not try anything too bizarre, but we did eat some Minke Whale (shown here) – similar to a slice of beef filet but with a slight fishy taste. As we understand it, all whaling will soon be outlawed in Iceland, and eating whale (Minke or otherwise) will be illegal.  

Smoked Salmon, with
pickled beets, capers, & potato salad

Also, we ate great Atlantic Salmon. The smoked salmon fillets were a smooth, rich, & fulfilling meal served in most restaurants here in Iceland.

Rye bread ice cream with rhubarb & caramel topping

Much to our liking though was Rye Bread ice cream! Sounds peculiar (and it was), but it was delicious! Kind of like Cookies and Cream but not as sweet.

Cheese chunks and meat slices.From left: brie and lamb;
middle: gouda &horse meat; right side: blue cheese & goose 
breast with raspberry sauce

These are just some of the new and different food things we experienced.  Here is an assortment of some of the delectable foods we enjoyed; we’ll let the pictures tell the story:

Bacon-wrapped hotdogs are grilled
everywhere here. Deeee-lish!

Best dog-gone dog in Reykjavik!

Tender medium-done ribeye and horseradish sauce

The best noodle soup at the "Noodle Station" Restaurant; your
choice: beef, chicken, or pork.  Almost like "pho" in Vietnam
Ling fish over salad and other food items

Rose-colored chocolate mousse with strawberry sorbet

Skyr was a delicious low-cal yogurt-like
fave of ours here in Iceland
Our travel friends, Amy & Ted.  Cheers, guys!!