Iceland is called the “Land of Fire and Ice” because it is a country of extremes, with glaciers and volcanic springs located next to each other. Iceland is a small island country located near the Arctic Circle, between Greenland and the European mainland. It has several active volcanoes, including Eyjafjallajokull, Reykjanes and Askja.
Due to its northern location, more land in Iceland is covered by glaciers than in all of Europe. Its capital, Reykjavik, is the world’s most northern capital. The country generally experiences volcanic eruptions twice every decade, which adds more lava to the landscape. Europe’s largest waterfall, Gullfoss, is also located in Iceland.
As our chapter in our lives of running all over the world nears its end, Catherine and I decided to visit somewhere we had once been before, back in 2013. Then we ran a marathon in Reyjakavic, Iceland with Marathon Tours. This time it is a Windstar Cruise around Iceland. There is no blog entry for me to refer you to since it was prior to my blog, but I will give some highlights here.
It was this time of the year but just a tad bit warmer. The race itself was a bit nippy and I do vividly remember some sleet and light rain as we ran along the path near the harbor. All the locals from all over Iceland came out to participate in one of the many races held that day. Everything from a marathon down to a 5K and kids run.
Turns out we will miss it by a week and will be unable to meet up with one of our favorite Marathon Tour coordinator’s, Nicole. As I always say, “we can’t do it all but we sure do try.” Catherine still talks about all the burley guys giving rids on their motor cycles thru downtown.
It is truly a big deal for this Island and I got to see first hand how tall Norwegians are. I never had to look up to so many people in my life, even the woman. Here is a little known fact. They gauge each other families prosperity by the number of kids they have. The average family has 2.2 children per household. If you only have one then it is simply because you must not have the means, because this place is very expensive.
1. Iceland had the highest rate of female employment in the OECD in 2009, with more than 77% of women in employment compared to an OECD average of 59.6%.
2. The Icelandic fertility rate in 2009 was also amongst the highest at 2.22 children per women, well above the OECD average at 1.74 and above the rate that guarantees the replacement of the population.
3. In Iceland, 8.2% of children live in poverty, which is well below the OECD average of 12.7%.
4. Icelandic households are slightly smaller than the OECD average, with 2.57 persons per household, compared to an OECD average of 2.63.
5. Iceland is the top spender on families with expenditures adding to 3.7 % of GDP in 2007, compared to an OECD average at 2.2%.
In most cases you get what you pay for but in this case, it is merely a function of location, location, location. It that regard it reminds me of Switzerland and the pricing of everything. Our 30 minute cab ride from the airport was 150 bucks. Dinner was 100 bucks and this cruise is the highest per day. I guess it is because everything has to come from somewhere else and transportation cost to the Island must be expensive. This would include our airfare.
We started this 10 day adventure with a one stop flight from Atlanta thru JFK. With a 3pm local departure and a 7 am local arrival which included a 4 hour time change. The JFK to Iceland leg was 6 hours with the class of service being Premium select, so no sleep for me.
Of course the rooms were not ready and I selected a Hilton hotel close to downtown rather than an off brand Marriott which was much more expensive. Instead of sitting around waiting in a very nice lounge area or spend 30 bucks a piece for a buffet breakfast, Catherine and I hit the streets to get our steps on.
It was 95 degrees when we left Atlanta so I had to pull out the overcoats for the now 50 degrees and what seemed like gale force winds. We made our way downtown to a little coffee shop that was playing Pink Floyd on their very old record player.
We were then off to Hallgrimskirkja Church which is a magnificent structure both inside and out. You can’t miss it since it towers above all other buildings in the area. On the few occasions we revisit somewhere I always try to capture the same picture from our previous trip. I have been known to take pictures of anything on top of my head so this was on the top of my list of things to do while there.
Maybe I will do a picture book of the 300 photos with something on top of my head.
This 7-night cruise will make 5 stops on its way completely around the Island. The itinerary is as follows: Vestmannaaeyjar/ Heimaey Island, Seydisfjordur, Akureyri, Isafjordur and Grundarfjordur, Iceland. There are plenty of excursions during this cruise and you can do just about anything possible and pay up to 5K person for some of these. Not sure we will do any of them since I do not have much, in the way of shipboard credit. They did upgrade us to the Sorrento Suite, which included a bottle of Champagne and endless fruit.
Once on board we noticed a few crew members from before including our cabin attendant, ship doctor, and even the Captain. This ship, Star Breeze, will go into a 85 million dollar per ship expansion project in October. This one plus the other two power ships will be cut in half and a section will be added to take it from 200 passenger to 300 passengers.
They will also replace the engines to more full efficient and echo friendly models. This will include complete refurbishment enlarging their already spacious cabins and adding two specialty restaurants. This ship was built back in 1988 and it cost 87 million back then. It was previously owned by Seabourn and Captain Kristanovicn was the Captain on this vessel for many years before it was bought by Xanterra Parks and Resorts Inc, the owner of Windstar. Catherine and I had the distingue pleasure to dine with the owner of Xanterra and his wife back in February. You can read about cruise here.
The wind was blowing during our safety drill on the deck so could not help but share this picture of her.
We had to back into the small port in Vestmannaeyjar. That was a first for me and glad to hear we were able to make it in there, especially since they had to bypass this port last time due to high winds. This place came to international attention in 1973 with the eruption of Eldfell volcano. One fifth of the town was destroyed during the six month lava flow.
We were able to climb the 700 feet to the top where we could get a great view of its 5000 year older brother, Helgafell next door. The Eldheimer Museum was built around one of the mostly destroyed dwellings and gave a great history lesson about Eldfell and the eruption that created Surtsey Island back in 1963.
On our way back to the ship we stopped by the Aquarium where we could get up close and personal with puffins wobbling and swimming around. They also had a video presentation on the relocation of the two buga whales from China to Iceland. Catherine and I really enjoyed this port of call and look forward to other stops on our way back to Reyjakavic.
We had a partial sea day for our afternoon arrival at Seydisfjordur. The seas were a bit rough so we stayed in our suite almost the whole time, while at sea. We were able to get out and taste their local beer, El Grillo, when we arrived. That evening we enjoyed the local singers that came on board. They gave us a very entertaining history lesson about the region. The next day we got in a very nice, chilly, 5 mile run plus a hike to a nearby waterfall.
Overnight we transversed the Arctic Circle and we now have certificates to prove it. I actually did not know it was a thing to do. I was still awake during that portion of the cruise and it was a, hold on, type of ride. Catherine, on the other
After that we visited the Museum, very avengard and the more traditional, Folk Museum located in Old Town. Along the way we stopped to watch a young adult training session being held alongside their outdoor pool facility.
Isafjordur was our next to the last stop and it was time for us to go for another run. Next month we have a half marathon in Patagonia, with Marathon Tours, so since it was chilly here I got to try out what we probably will be running in then. So we got all bundled up and put in a slow solid 6 mile run along the harbor and around the city.
My right knee is once again giving me problems so Ice twice a day is now the standard. It is kind of funny since it starts out hurting but gets better as the miles go by. That only works for awhile but then as the miles pile on, 10 or more, the knee starts complaining. I refuse to be one of those folks, that say to me that they use to run but had to give it up because of their knees.
We were not sure what we were going to do in Grundarfjorour. It is a tiny port situated between a mountain range and the sea. The nearby mountain, Kirkjufell, forms a small peninsula. There is a national forest but it is 35 miles away. There is also a lava field called Berserkjaheaun but that is also 25 miles down the road towards Stykkishólmur. Many on board went for an
It turns out the ship had a town map that showed a gravel walking path that paralleled the mountain range. It was just what we needed to help digest breakfast and get us ready for lunch. As you entered the town from both ends there were great aerial maps of the town. It was in great detail. Catherine and I had a fun leisurely walk and even went off-roading to get a real good picture of the nearby waterfall.
The ship has a future cruise coordinator on board and I have my eye on a cruise after the stretch that goes around New Zealand. It is not until January 2021 so I guess I will put 200 bucks a piece down for this 15 night cruise. Maybe we can pair this up with a trip to Fiji which still on my life list.
Tomorrow it is back to Reyjakavic and our flight back to ATL is the day after. This is been a very nice quick cruise. We usually do at least 10 day cruises with the norm being two weeks. It turned out better than I expected and it was nice to get out of the oppressive summer heat and humidity. The fresh air was also very refreshing.
For the first time I wrote this entire blog entry with out a title in mind. For most of it I thought I was going to name it, You get what you pay for, and I actually used that phrase several times while writing this but for some reason it just does not do this trip justice. As I reread and edit it along with adding the pictures maybe something more fitting will come to mind.
Another title that came to mind is, travel is an investment not an expense. Turns out there are already 3 blog posts with that title and I like to be an original. I must admit I am going to miss sharing our running all over the world travels with all of you. It definitely has been a labor of love. We still have one more trip starting September 1, lasting 45 days.
Once back in Reyjakavic we once again dropped our bags and went for a walk around the part of town we have not visited before. They have biking and walking paths everywhere so it was really easy to get around the city. This time we found our way st the Perlan Museum where they had some great displays, an ice cave, a planetarium, and outdoor 360-degree viewing area.
From there we made our way by the Hateigskirkja Church and Fjoltaekniskoli University. Overall we really enjoyed our 10 day trip and our flights back to ATL through MSP was uneventful. Since the Island is so expensive everyone takes credit cards and was told if they don’t you probably don’t want to use their services.
I decided on the title, The land of fire and ice since it is Iceland’s tag line. Turns out they are now down one glacier. Iceland unveiled a plaque to its Okjokull ice sheet, the first of the country’s hundreds of glaciers to melt away due to climate change.
Scientists see the shrinking of glaciers as one of many warning signs that the earth’s climate is lurching toward dangerous tipping points. A ceremony to unveil the plaque was attended by scientists and locals at the glacier in west-central Iceland, which is no longer fulfilled the criteria to be classified as a glacier after melting throughout the 20th century.
The inscription on the plaque written by Icelandic author Andri Snaer Magnason, says: “Ok (Okjokull) is the first Icelandic glacier to lose its status as a glacier.
In the next 200 years all our glaciers are expected to follow the same path.”
“We know what is happening and what needs to be done. Only you know if we did it,” said the inscription, directed towards future generations.
According to satellite images from the NASA Earth Observatory, the glacier appeared as a solid-white patch in 1986, but in an image from August 1 this year, only small dashes of white ice remained.
For his part, Minik Rosing, professor at the University of Copenhagen, said: “There is no longer any doubt that the climate in the Arctic is changing markedly and rapidly. All of the Nordic countries comprise Arctic territories, where climate change has gone from theoretical predictions of the future to everyday reality.”
Sorry to end on and downer but it is what it is.