Monday, August 19, 2019

The Secret Lagoon

The Secret Lagoon was one of mt favorite places in Iceland. It's actually the oldest swimming pool in Iceland - dating back to the late 1800s. Soaking in springs is a common pastime in Iceland. Almost every community has a pool and soaking area. It's where Icelanders get together to unwind and hangout - especially during the long winters.

And just in case we forgot, the Grim Reaper was there to make sure we remembered, "Iceland can kill you if you're stupid." Don't worry, there were other signs near by to remind us, just to be safe.

Remember, water boils at 100 degrees Celsius. 

The geothermal activity in the area heats the water, which then flows into the pool. What to soak in hot water? Just position yourself near where the still-almost-boiling water flows in. (My favorite spot.) Want to be a tad cooler? Move farther way until you find the perfect temperature. 

We were worried the Secret Lagoon would be overrun with tourists, but it wasn't nearly as crowded as we expected. We predicted "Mackinac in July" tourists and were pleasantly surprised with more October-like numbers. In fact, we had been told again and again that summer was Iceland's busiest season and to be ready for throngs of tourists. Thankfully, not one place, except maybe Geysir, was as busy as Mackinac Island during the high season.

I couldn't resist taking a picture of the coat-wearing life guard, or her wind-proof booth. I took these pictures with out my glasses, so it wasn't until later that I was able to read the "please don't photograph the lifeguards" sign. Oops.

I could have soaked for hours.

And yes, I did keep a close eye on the kids so they didn't get sold to trolls...

Sunday, August 18, 2019


If you're in Reykjavik, Perlan (The Pearl) is a must do.  The dome was built on top of the water tanks that store hot water for the city (seven days worth.) It's kind of a natural history museum with great displays.

My mom loved the information on Iceland's cliff-dwelling birds,

and the kids loved walking through the ice cave. It was actually made of ice - you could borrow a coat since it was freezing inside. Before you enter there is a nice multi-media presentation about Iceland's glaciers.

My dad and I really enjoyed to planetarium show. It was all about the northern lights. I didn't know both Saturn and Jupiter have northern lights, too.

After we'd wandered trough the museum, we went outside to take in the 360 degree view of Reykjavik. It was stunning.

Saturday, August 17, 2019


Did you know Iceland had a Phallological Museum? Yeah, an entire museum dedicated to penises. So, if you have no interest in looking at pictures of preserved animal penises, this may not be the blog post for you...

According to the audio tour, it all started when a high school principal was given a whale penis as a joke. Some of the teachers in the building  had summer jobs in the whaling industry so more penises arrived. Eventually, his wife insisted the growing collection move out of their living room and the Phallological Museum was born.

The collection is quite large. It includes most animal species found on and near Iceland, as well as a number of foreign species.

The founder of the museum narrates the audio tour, which was very dry. Imagine the teacher from Ferris Bueller's Day Off; now give him and Icelandic accent and a very slight slur and you've got it. Don't get me wrong, it was quite informative; it was just too much information. And anyone who knows me, knows that if I say it was too much information, it was too much information.

Probably my favorite part of the museum was the penises from Icelandic folklore. Too funny. The penis from the hidden man (elf) was invisible, just like they are. Wink wink. Plus, many of the signs throughout the museum included Esperanto. Really? Esperanto? (I know what it is, I just have yet to meet a single person who speaks it - though I did have two friends who took it for their language requirement in high school.)

The museum also has one human specimen, which was donated by a 95 year-old Icelandic man. (No, I did not take a picture.) They also have letters from four additional men who plan to donate when they die. All in all, it was an interesting stop.

On our way out I thought about using the bathroom. Luckily, I didn't have to go all that bad...

Friday, August 16, 2019

Driving in Iceland

According to my dad, who did all our driving, driving in Iceland was easy.

In Reykjavik,  it was like driving in most other big cities, except that I was unable to accurately pronounce most of the street names.

Out in the countryside, it was completely different.

Sometimes, you didn't see another car for miles,

at other times you had to wait a minute or two to get across the bridge.

All the rules of the road were well posted.

As were the warnings. I'm not sure why my camera didn't capture the lights in the sign, but it gave the wind direction, speed, temperature and wind gust speed for the road ahead. In fact, Icelanders can check road conditions, in real time, before they leave home. (Follow the link and then click on one of the little camera icons to see what the road looks like.)

Most of these "Closed" gates were topped with lights. During the summer they are kept covered with tarps, so I was thrilled to see this one near Gullfoss waterfall. It was right where the paved road changed to gravel. (Sorry for the poor picture - I was shooting right into the sun.)

We didn't have a car like this one, so we stuck to the main roads.

Most of the time, I just sat in the car and was amazed by the beauty of Iceland. Something like this was around every turn...

Thursday, August 15, 2019


Sólheimajökull means "home of the sun glacier" in Icelandic. They do that here - name things by stringing words together.

Sólheimajökull is an outlet glacier of a larger icecap called Mýrdalsjökull in southern Iceland.

Just in case you forgot, Iceland can kill you. And it will if you're stupid enough to climb up on to a glacier, without an experienced guide and appropriate gear. (Which we did see a couple of guys try to do.)

 Luckily, we're not stupid.

Hiking up the side of a glacier has to be one of the most amazing things I've ever done. In my entire life.

Maria, our guide with Arctic Adventures, was amazing. She got us up and down again - safely. 

Plus, while we were there we learned a lot about Iceland's glaciers. She showed the kids how to use their ice axes to chop into the ice looking for rainbows. And she explained why parts of the glacier are black. It's ash from the 2010 eruption of Eyjafjallajökull. (Don't ask me how to pronounce that one, all I know is that it literally translates to "island mountain glacier.") It was the volcano that spewed out so much ash it halted almost all European air travel for six days.

It saddens me to know that scientists predict all of Iceland's glaciers will be gone in 150 years.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Hellisheiðarvirkjun Geothermal Power Plant

Iceland just continues to impress me. Every time you turn around, there is something interesting to see and do.

Like the  Hellisheiðarvirkjun Geothermal Power Plant. It's open to the public - they give tours.

The science behind what they do is really interesting. In a nutshell, they dig down 2 kilometers (about a mile and a quarter), and use steam from the intensely hot fluid to turn the turbines. Then the same steam is used to heat fresh ground water to 86 degrees C (about 187 degrees F), which is then piped to Reykjavik. Next, they remove some of the carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide from the steam and reinject it back into the ground. Over the next two years it crystallizes into calcite and iron pyrite within the basalt bedrock - decreasing the greenhouse gasses released into the atmosphere.

The displays at the plant were impressive and the guided tour was excellent.

It is hard to imagine that the water heading to Reykjavik in these pipes only loses 2 degrees C (about 3.5 degrees F) on its eight hour trip to Reykjavik. 90% of the homes in Iceland use geothermally heated water to heat their homes and for hot water. When you turn on the hot water tap in Iceland, the water is HOT.

About 27% of Iceland's power comes from geothermal plants, and another about another 70% comes from hydropower. Less than 1% of their electricity comes from diesel-powered station, and none from burning coal.

Icelandic Horses

Any time we left Reykjavik and ventured out into the countryside, we saw lots of Icelandic horses. They're everywhere. Most of the time there were out in fields, but occasionally we found them close to the road. So, of course, I asked my dad to pull over so I could get pictures.

Icelandic horses are small and they are the only breed on the Island.

No new horses have come to Iceland since 982, when a law was passed banning their import (to protect the stock.) 982!

Not only is it illegal to being horses into Iceland, but any horses that leave the country are never allowed to return. 

The ones we got close to seemed sweet and gentle.

A couple of times, when we saw them laying down, and K got worried that something was wrong. We watched this horse just stop and lay down for a little snooze, and then get back up again no worse for wear.

We also saw horses in a different place. Now would be a good time for my horse-loving friends to scroll back up and look at the horses happily lounging in the field...

In Iceland, you can buy horse meat at the grocery store.

We saw both "horsemeat" and "foalmeat" for sale. I wasn't 100% sure it was horse, so I asked a lady shopping near me. She explained that horse wasn't nearly as popular as it was when she was a kid.

"When I was small, my mother would boil it and also make mashed potatoes and carrots. But I don't cook it for myself." 

Now days lamb and chicken are much more popular, but horse use to be a staple of the Icelandic diet. In fact, when they converted to Christianity in 1000, being able to continue to eat horse was one of the conditions.