Greetings and welcome to Dinosaur Bear!
Regarding the title, you might find yourself wondering, “What the heck is a Snæfellsnes?” – well, the answer will come in due time, as many things do on Dinosaur Bear. If you follow the blog you’ll likely have noticed that the frequency of my posting as slowed to about once or twice per month-ish. Once a month might not seem like much, but blogging – especially posts of my typical length – is time consuming (go start your own blog and you will see 🙂 ). Thus each post kind of becomes a “recap” of things since the last post. This time will be no different, though I do have a fun bit of adventure to add into the mix this time around. The last offering from Dinosaur Bear was a Greenland Adventure, which was kind of self-contained. So, the last normal check-in was for the month of February. This post unsurprisingly will cover March through the beginning of April (including Pig’s 3rd birthday!), so let’s get started!
I had mentioned in a previous post about the sheer volume of beer I had accumulated. Well, here is an aftermath photo.
If you have a keen eye you’ll notice that there’s a few unopened beers in there. Those are actually the start of the second beer wave, which has since been exhausted and I’m now on the third beer wave of 2018. Sure, the near-beers are still my staple, but I have had a pretty consistent supply of real beer since 2018 began, which is nice. In addition to beer, we also picked up a second bottle of Brennivín which we opened on St. Patrick’s Day.
St. Patrick’s Day isn’t much of a thing in Iceland, at least not from what we could tell, so beyond the required alcohol we relied on Tristen’s constant greenness and some humus to achieve our green quotas. Indeed, St. Patrick’s day is grossly overshadowed by Easter, which is a thing – a big thing – in Iceland. Heck they were rolling out Easter stuff long before Easter, including the Easter version of Malt og Appelsín.
March also brought the quintessential March Madness with it, though it’s unsurprisingly not too hot of a topic in Iceland and I didn’t even make a bracket this year. Tristen, however, would be perturbed if I didn’t also mention that he (and SB – but per Tristen, mostly just him) did make a bracket and won their pool!
As I’ve mentioned before, the construction site generally doesn’t bother us too much. Yes it can be loud, but we’ve dealt with most of it in stride. There was a recent bout of them listening to music ridiculously loud that finally led to us complaining, but outside of that it’s not been that big of a deal to live next to one. The only real downside is that they installed a bunch of floodlights several months ago which all but killed our ability to see the northern lights, but we had several really good displays before that plus we got to see them in Greenland, so I can’t complain too much. The Boys seem largely unfazed by all the construction (obviously Pigsten is fine with it) but they are pretty chill creatures anyways. The Boys have also gotten quite popular in their own social media spheres, and have even been exchanging letters and treats with other “plushies” online. It’s kind of funny, but I’m pretty sure the Boys have several-fold more friends than I do. 😛
Of course in addition to the drinking, the pen-pals, and the construction-watching there are more mundane bits of life. For instance I recently did some laundry – a task normally left to the care of SB as quite simply I may be the worst clothes-folder in existence – and had to decipher this:
Oh, and for some reason that reminds me of another (sad) thing, my tube of Vaseline Lip Therapy finally ran out. Yes, on March 27th my glorious tube-friend, who had been with me since 2008, ran out. So prolific was this tube’s existence that I even featured it in one of my “Odd Things” posts way back on July 4, 2016.
Aside from all that jazz, school has been “meh” lately. I think I’ll just skip over all the law school stuff this time and maybe do a more focused school post here in a month or so once classes are actually done. There is still a lot up in the air with my thesis (including some ongoing frustrations with the administration) and I have plenty to write about in this post aside from school, so we’ll just leave school at the periphery for now.
On a much more exciting front, we recently had our Easter Break at Háskóli Íslands. It’s basically the “Spring Break,” but it’s just focused around Easter rather than at some random point in March. Aside from the name, it’s basically a Spring Break in every other aspect. The only tricky bit as that since Easter is such a big thing in Iceland that a lot of stuff is closed on Good Friday, Easter Sunday, and Easter Monday. SB and I decided to make use of our Easter Break and took a two-day trip up to the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, which was one of the “Big Four” trips we had wanted to do in Iceland (the others being the completed Westfjords and Golden Circle, and the to-be-completed Ring Road). SB had a friend visiting who also accompanied us on the trip.
We did the usual thing, where we pick up the car – this time named “Baldur” – the day before so we could do some shopping (as we are normally restricted to walking everywhere) and also so we could get on the road early the next time. Naturally this plan always results in alcoholic acquisitions, and this time was no exception.
I also found some Bitafiskur, or “fish jerky” on sale for the first time. I’d be wanting to try it for awhile but it’s generally quite expensive.
Admittedly it was still expensive, but less-so. I liked it, but it was very, VERY fishy. Like, if you find the smell of fish or fishy areas, to be even slightly off-putting then I am not sure you’d like this. However, paired with some good beer it was very tasty. Pigsten also approved, and Valentino approved so much he nearly went feral (which is a common occurrence with Valentino and fish).
One thing we did slightly differently this time is that we also took a bit of a side-trip on the day before. SB’s friend wanted to do a hot spring well they were here and logistically the best one was the (in)famous Bláa lónið, or Blue Lagoon. The Blue Lagoon is located in the middle of a lava field near Grindavík, south of Reykjavík. We decided to head south a bit early in order to explore some of the area, most notably the coastline in Reykjanesbær.
We found this spot while looking for the “Giantess Cave” which we ended up finding but didn’t have enough time to walk out to. We did however find the fishing vessel “Baldur” which then served as our car’s namesake.
Now the lagoon itself is much more picturesque – though I didn’t get any photos of it because I intentionally left my phone in my locker. So here’s a photo quickly acquired from Google which is absolutely not my own, though it does give you an idea of what the lagoon itself looks like.
The Blue Lagoon is an extremely popular destination in Iceland, and based on what I’ve read may in fact be the most popular attraction in Iceland. SB and I had sort of tossed around the idea of going, but as it’s (stupidly) expensive and we’d need a car to get to it we hadn’t gone before. However SB’s friend was interested and it logistically made sense, so we went. The verdict? Totally not worth it and wildly overrated – which in fairness was precisely what Icelanders had told us to expect. First, it’s very crowded. Now, the lagoon itself is really big so once you get through the facility itself the waters are decently spacious – but the process of getting there is akin to being a sardine. Second, it’s – as mentioned – stupidly overpriced (even for Iceland). Third, it’s not even a real hot springs, it’s a man-made lagoon fed with water from a geothermal power plant (yes, seriously). Now obviously it’s completely safe, I’m not disparaging it on that third note – nor does the Blue Lagoon try to hide it’s origins – I’m just saying it’s not an actual hot spring. Fourth, it’s actually not that warm in large portions of the lagoon. In fact, there was only one area where it actually felt hot – the rest was lukewarm or outright cold.
All in all, the (actual) hot spring we visited with Meem was far warmer, far cheaper, far less crowded, and just all around far better. If you want to do the Blue Lagoon for the sake of saying you’ve done the Blue Lagoon, then by all means go for it. But it is probably the most overrated thing I’ve done in Iceland the entire time we’ve lived here. I mean was it a bad experience? No, not at all. But I can think of far better ways to spend your time and money.
However, as mentioned, that was all just a side trip. The real trip started the next day, which was when we set off for Snæfellsnes Peninsula. So, to get back to the earlier question of “What the heck is a Snæfellsnes?” – well, the answer is in the name – it’s a peninsula! Here’s a handy map with the peninsula circled for reference.
As it was part of our “Big Four” we’d been wanting to go to Snæfellsnes for awhile, and it just so happened that a 2 day trip during Easter Break was the best way to do it. So, with some unexpected (but very welcome!) sunshine we headed north out of Reykjavík towards the Hvalfjörður Tunnel on a route I’m now quite familiar with driving.
Our first dedicated stop was the Gerðuberg Basalt Columns, which were exactly what they sound like.
They were also oddly reminiscent of the rocks at Giant’s Causeway, which was cool. After checking out Gerðuberg we continued along the peninsula for a bit before stopping in Hellnar for lunch at Primus Kaffi where we had some coffee, delicious soup (mushroom for me, lamb for SB), and bread. We also enjoyed an incredibly scenic view.
After lunch we proceeded just down the coast to the Lóndrangar Basalt Cliffs, which feature a massive dual formation (75 [246′] and 61 [200′] meters tall) that looks astoundingly like a man-made castle.
If you see the two tower formations, the legend goes that they were a married troll couple who started arguing (as couples do) in the middle of the night (remember that trolls turn to stone in daylight, so they come out at night). However, the couple got so caught up in their bickering that they stayed out too long and didn’t notice the sun rising. By the time they noticed it was too late and they turned into the stone towers you see above! The moral of the story of course is that husbands and wives shouldn’t argue so much, but that’s kind of like telling the sky not to be blue. 🙂
Not content to just look at the formation from afar, I hiked down the muddy cliff with SB in tow to get a closer look. While the above photo might not make it seem far, that’s actually a pretty good clip across that flat area.
Once we made it back to Baldur we continued a short bit down the road to the Gestastofa Visitor Center, which is the visitor “hub” for Snæfellsjökull National Park (which we were in). Which I suppose is a good time to mention the giant thaat had been looming in the background at most of our previous destinations: Snæfellsjökull.
Snæfellsjökull is a 700,000 year old, 1,446 m (4,744 ft) tall, glacier-topped volcano located near the tip of Snæfellsnes. You can see it from very, very far away. In fact we’d see it at least 3 or 4 times before, despite never having actually be on Snæfellsnes itself. Snæfellsjökull is worth mentioning not only because it’s so prominent, but also because it has a pretty cool spot in literary history. If you are a well read person with an acute memory, you may already know the significance of Snæfellsjökull – but if not, have no fear, I didn’t either and so I’ll explain.
I’m sure you’ve heard of (if not read) Jule Verne’s 1846 literary classic, Journey to the Center of the Earth, and Snæfellsjökull just so happens to be the location where the protagonists find the entrance to a passage leading to the center of the earth. So if you’re looking for a way to travel to the center of the Earth, it’s in Iceland, and it’s in a volcano. Have fun!
However, much to Tristen’s dismay we were neither equipped nor willing to make such an adventure, so rather than head for Snæfellsjökull we continued along the more placid coastline to the Malarrif Lighthouse (SB and I have a thing for lighthouses).
Once we’d romped around the lighthouse a bit we continued along the road (which, when there is only one road is not a complicated task) to the iconic Djúpalónssandur Beach and Dritvík Cove.
Djúpalónssandur or “Black Lava Pearl Beach” is home to not only a beautiful rocky beach, but also the ruins of a several fishing huts (the bay/cove was once a major a fishing hub) as well as the remnants of a 1948 shipwreck. Getting down to Djúpalónssandur is a bit of a walk over uneven/muddy ground, but nothing too strenuous.
The whole beach is quite rocky and the coastline itself is full of jagged outcroppings. Pigsten was, needless to say, quite a fan.
A wave took the water much further up the beach than it had previously been, and Pigsten was nearly consumed by the current which would have been “TKO Pigsten” for sure. Fortunately I saw it coming and rescued Pigsten, at the cost of getting my feet and lower legs soaked, which of course didn’t try for the rest of the entire day (fun stuff with Raynaud’s) – but Pigsten was obviously worth it.
After Pigsten’s near death experience we made our way back up the beach towards the car. Here’s a nice view of Snæfellsjökull towering in the background.
On the way back up we passed the “Lifting Stones.” The Lifting Stones consist of Fullsterkur (“full strength”) weighing 154 kg [340lb], Hálfsterkur (“half strength”) at 100 kg [22olb], Hálfdrættingur (“weakling”) at 54 kg [119lb] and Amlóði (“Useless”) at 23 kg [51lb]. They were traditionally used to qualify men for work on fishing boats from Dritvík, with the Hálfdrættingur being the minimum weight a man would have to lift onto a ledge at hip-height to qualify.
As I’d recently hurt my neck in some unknown way, I opted not to try to pick any of them up. As such, I’ll go down as being incapable of lifting even Amlóði (“Useless”) as I didn’t try. However, my guess is that I’d have been able to pick up Hálfdrættingur making me a bonafide “weakling” and there would have been no chance in hell of me lifting either Hálfsterkur or Fullsterkur. Pigsten however, went straight for Fullsterkur.
Vatnshellir Cave isn’t something you can just waltz into for both safety and preservation reasons. So we had booked in advance in order to get the student rate, which turned out to be a good idea anyways since the tour was sold out. Vatnshellir Cave is an 8000 year old lava tube created by a volcanic eruption from a nearby crater in the Purkhólar field. It’s also in the shadow of Snæfellsjökull, leading to a copious amount of “Journey to the Center of the Earth” jokes, delivered in classical dry Icelandic style.
You progress down into the cave via a spiral staircase, which brings you into the dark and very wet entry corridor (the only area of the cave with moss – due to the entrance).
The only light comes from your flashlight and the guide’s much-brighter flashlight (seen above). At one point everyone is asked to shut off their lights and to not talk, that was really, really cool. It’s one of few the times in my life I’ve experienced absolute darkness. With your flashlights on you can see some semi-bio-luminescent bacteria growing on some parts of the cave ceiling – the only life in the whole place aside from the moss around the entrance.
The cave also houses a slightly more mythical resident, a troll which turned to stone (due to the flashlights?).
It’s somewhat difficult to see from just that photo, but in person there is a clearly discernible massive troll face located on the side of the cave. In fact there is quite a bit of mythology tied to the cave, which makes sense if you consider its potential effect on those who stumble across it unknowingly. But, if slightly less mythological formations are more of your thing, the cave also features loads of volcanic stalactites and stalagmites as well.
So we’ve now had the pleasure of being in both a volcanic cave and a glacial cave. So while some aspects of this life adventure (namely my program’s administration) have been woefully lackluster, other things, such as these adventures, have been totally awesome.
After returning to the surface slightly more wet than when we had descended, we then made our way to Saxhóll Crater.
Saxhóll was the second crater we’ve visited in Iceland (the first was Kerið) – and unlike Kerið Saxhóll has no lake in its center. However, what it lacks in aquatic offerings, Saxhóll more than makes up for in the fact that due to it’s location and the fact you have to hike up to the top of it, you get some incredible views.
You get both lava fields, mountains, and ocean – all in one sweeping view.
Pigsten was quick to climb up on the sundial, which is sort of a tradition for him these days.
After some time at the extremely windy top of Saxhóll we headed back down to Baldur and continued our trip around the peninsula. Our next stop was the town of Grundarfjörður where we would be staying for the night. We did make one unplanned stop along the way though, as we found a very scenic spot to take in the ocean and some mountains.
Once we’d checked into our hotel we headed to the store and got some food. March is still early in the season here so a lot of places aren’t open (many don’t open until May or even June) and the few places that were open were very expensive (read: over $30 for a single personal pan pizza or over $120 for a whole pizza) so we just opted for store food. Pigsten and I had a hamburger and like the rebels we are didn’t even heat it up. “Manries” as Tristen would say.
Grundarfjörður is definitely a fishing town, and in fact I’d say at least 80% of the people in the store and gas station looked to be fishers getting off work in advance of the holiday weekend. After we’d checked out the harbor we slightly backtracked to the Kirkjufellsfoss (waterfall) and Kirkjufell (mountain) which turned out to be just right outside of (and visible from) town.
The above shot is taken from above Kirkjufellsfoss looking toward Kirkjufell. I don’t know if its true, but I was told that Kirkjufell is the most photographed mountain in Iceland. I can see why, it has a very iconic look to it, especially with the waterfall so close by. It was also one of the many Icelandic filming locations for Game of Thrones, so if you are a GoT fan you might already recognize it from Seasons 6 and 7.
This next shot is a more straight-on shot of Kirkjufellsfoss, so Kirkjufell would be directly(ish) behind you in this photo.
After that we continued onward, this time in search of a bit of Icelandic history straight out of the Sagas. Our destination, the four-thousand year old Berserkjahraun lava fields featured in the Icelandic Eyrbyggja-Saga.
In particular, we were looking for “Berserkjagata” which requires a small bit of story time:
According to the saga [Eyrbyggja-Saga] a farmer brought two berserkers from Sweden. He later gave the berserkers to his brother, Víga-Styr, who lived on the other side of the lava field. One of the Swedes fell in love with Víga-Styr’s daughter and asked for her hand in marriage. Víga-Styr made a deal with the berserker, he could have his daughter’s hand if the two Swedes could clear a path through the lava field, connecting Víga-Styr’s farm to his brother’s. A feat which was considered impossible – but the berserkers managed to complete the path quite quickly. Instead of keeping his promise, Víga-Styr had the two Swedes killed and buried them near the path. [Taco’s Note: What an asshole]
Four landmarks from the saga can be found in Berserkjahraun. Those are Berserkjagata, the path itself, Berserkjadys, where the two Berserkers are supposed to be buried, landamerkjagarður, a boundary fence and fjárrétt, a sheep den.
We were looking for Berserkjagata so we could hike the path made by the two bersekers, however we couldn’t end up finding it (I blame SB as she was the navigator 😛 ) though we did end up in the general area of Berserkjahraun, which was confirmed when SB went into the Shark Museum located in the super small town of Bjarnarhöfn and asked the owner. The end result was that we didn’t find either the path or the burial site (Berserkjadys – which is the cairn along said path), and I don’t think we even knew about the significance of the boundary fence or sheep den so we might have seen those and not even realized it. I was, to be honest, a bit bummed. On one hand I wanted to do the hike as we’d done a lot of driving and driving is hard on my shins (though comically if I don’t drive I almost always get carsick, fun choice that). So the thought of moving around sounded good. There was also the history-loving side of me that was also disappointed. However I don’t really have anyone but myself to blame, as I should have checked SB’s itinerary a little bit in order to make sure we actually knew where the path was (FYI: do not rely solely on Google to get you there, it will take you waaaay off route).
However, in typical Iceland fashion, there was certainly scenery to make up for our lack of ability to find Berserkjagata – most notably the small Bjarnarhöfn Church.
The church grounds enjoy sweeping views of the bay, lava fields, and distant mountains. I also captured a picture of Baldur that is so good I think I might need to try to sell it to Hyundai for advertising purposes. 😛
After some time there we got back on the road and we continued on to Stykkishólmur, with the first stop being the cliffs of Súgandisey Island. Súgandisey was previously completely detached from Stykkishólmur and the mainland and was used for sheep grazing. However the island was eventually attached to the mainland in order to expand and improve Stykkishólmur’s harbor – and was then converted over to a nature area. Now you can drive out to the base of the cliffs and then hike up to were the little lighthouse is for some really good views. The Boys were of course rebels and ignored the “DANGER Do not Climb the Cliffs” signs.
We then headed back out of town as we made our way to our next stop, the “wishing” or “holy” Helgafell Mountain (which, speaking of the sagas, also appears in one). The base of the mountain is pretty grassy (and thus muddy) but as you make your way towards the top it becomes very rocky.
It’s not really a difficult climb, but with the mud and the rocks there are lots of places to slip and or get the ole’ ankle roll. Once at the top there are some ruins and a sundial, and well you know how Pigsten loves his sundials.
After we headed down from Helgafell we hit the road again. Our next spot was supposed to be the Landbrotalaug Hot Pots (which are an actual natural hot spring) but we ended up not stopping, which was also a bummer since I was looking forward to sticking my legs in there (assuming they weren’t full, the Landbrotalaug Hot Pots are also quite small). So we ended up making our way back to Reykjavik instead. It was a fun road trip with Baldur, and even if it was relatively “short” for us I still clocked in around 560 km [348 miles] of driving.
After that it was mostly just normal life for me, though SB and her friend spent some time out and about in Reykjavik. The next exciting thing was Easter Sunday. Now, unlike Christmas, I didn’t do much research into Icelandic Easter traditions, but one tradition is almost impossible to miss if you frequent, well, pretty much any grocery store in the entire country for the whole month preceding Easter. What is this tradition you might ask? Well, it’s the Icelandic Chocolate Easter Egg!
These chocolate eggs are essentially ubiquitous with Easter time in Iceland, and SB and I first noticed them starting to appear by the pallet-full over a month ago in Bónus. I’ve been told that the smaller eggs tend to show up first, with the larger and larger eggs appearing as Easter nears. I don’t know if that’s true (and I honestly wasn’t tracking chocolate egg size) but it’s kind of cool if so.
The eggs come in a load of varieties, ranging from the traditional Icelandic milk chocolate, to dark chocolate, to licorice (yes, seriously, see here), to caramel, to sea salt, to crisp/crunch. The eggs also range in size from “2” to a whopping “10” – with higher numbers meaning a larger egg. The eggs also prominently feature a happy little Easter bird on top, as well as possible candy decorations, and then a non-edible flower. The real fun though, is that the eggs also contain goodies inside them, and obviously the larger the egg, the more goodies one will find. The goodies generally include all sorts of candy and an Icelandic proverb. My proverb, poorly translated via Google, was something about sharks and stomach ulcers – but after employing the help of an Icelander we found out that it meant I was as strong as a shark, or resilient, or something like that – nothing to do with stomach ulcers.
We ended up getting 3 eggs. One came as a gift from SB’s employer, we also got a crisp/crunch one, and then one with a dinosaur candy on it (for obvious reasons). The sizes were 4, 4, and 2 respectively.
The above photo should give you an idea of just how big the size “10” eggs are, as those size “4” eggs are pretty big in and of themselves and they are less than half the size of a “10.” As you dig in, if you don’t want to just outright smash your egg, they also feature chocolate “plugs” on the back that allow you access to the goodies within, a design which was exploited by Pigsten and Broli.
That there is an Easter beer shouldn’t be surprising given the seasonal prevalence of Christmas beer, and I am always willing to try new kinds of beer! For the most part the Easter beers I’ve had have been pretty good, and who doesn’t love a good beer to go with your giant chocolate egg?
All in all it was a pretty good Easter, especially since Iceland was being surprisingly kind insofar as the weather is concerned. I even got in a nice walk up the coast near where we live over Easter weekend, something I’d been meaning to do for awhile.
However, in fairness I have to admit that the actually snowfall only lasted about 2 days and now we are back to better weather (if not colder, as the snow is still around on the ground) and we’ve even enjoyed a few subsequent days of blue skies.
Other than that, things got back to normal fairly quickly. SB’s friend went home, and while SB and I had a couple days together before the break ended, classes started back up before we knew it and things quickly returned to a routine. We’re actually really near the end of classes (but not the semester – oh no, that is going to drag on for over another month due to exams, and don’t even get me started on my impossible thesis timeline). However, one really fun thing that did happen in spite of classes resuming was Pig’s 3rd Birthday! 😀
Yes, 3 years ago Pig came to live with us on Easter Day, and since Easter changes each year Pig’s birthday has never fallen on Easter since – but that’s still the day he was adopted, and thus Pig’s birthday generally falls shortly after Easter! In the past we’ve always let Pig indulge in some dirt pudding. However this year we had to change up the ingredients a little bit due to availability, but we ended up with something pretty yummy despite the recipe change. Since Pig loves him some veggies (and grubs and worms, but still very much veggies) we also got him some vegetarian mozzarella burgers, some chili beans, some bean chips, and some hummus! I combined the burgers and beans for some veggie “chili burgers” and then we had the bean chips and hummus as a side. It turned out really well.
The perfect follow up to our burgers was some modified dirt pudding, which, while not exactly dirt pudding was equally as good in everyone’s opinion!
Since we couldn’t find gummy worms, we substituted some other smaller gummies in as “grubs” which are pretty much Pig’s major food staple. Pig also picked out a beer to share with me, which was also significant in that it was my 500th variety of beer on Untappd (not beer, variety of beer)!
My actual beer variety count is much higher, but I’ve never imported my beer list into Untappd (and the beer list was itself never comprehensive), but it’s still an exciting number as it’s the point that you transition from “Master” to “Legend.” That said, the badges go all the way up to 10,000 varieties… so uh, yeah.
The next day we used more of the chili beans and paired them with some beet-dogs, which are pretty much exactly what they sound like!
Anyways, that’s all for now. This post nicely covered all of March and up until Pig’s birthday in April. I already sort of have the next two posts conceptualized in my mind. I’m not sure when they’ll drop, but probably not until sometime in May. The next one will likely have more of a school focus as after May 8th I’ll be done with classes and be well… somewhere… with my thesis. So if me complaining about school floats your boat, then you’ll probably end up liking next post! If not, then have no fear as the post after that should – with any luck – be another adventure (literally).
So, as a parting gift, enjoy this photo of a construction worker on a concrete hovercraft.