About jaynezak

"I havent been everywhere, but it is on my list." I can eat anything raw. I can go to the bathroom standing up. I am fluent in hand motions and can speak Spanish in the present tense only.. Though directionally challenged, I can find my way in any airport to the gate and the luggage terminal. I must be an airport savant. I can cram more things into a suitcase than it is supposed to hold. If I have a few drinks, I forget that I cant speak the language of the country i am in. I still carry travelers checks for an emergency thought no one will cash them anymore. I make sure to learn how to say coffee with milk and no sugar in every language. I have accidently used tap water to brush my teeth in countries that you shouldnt and I am still here to write this. I have been to the gynecologist in Greece, the dentist in the Kyushu Islands in Japan and the emergency room in Edinburgh twice ( that trip was with my kids). Heels are my walking shoe of choice. (though I always have the appropriate shoes with me in case I need them) Ive perfected speed shopping and no matter how many bracelets i buy as gifts, it is never enough. Im afraid on small planes. I always have another trip planned (even if it is just in my head) before I return from the one I am on. Those are my credentials. Fly Safe JAZ

Things That I Have Learned In Stockholm, Sweden

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Things I have Learned In Stockholm, Sweden.

“Mamma mia, here I go again.” ABBA 

Stockholm is often known as the ‘World’s Smallest Big City’ or the ‘World’s Biggest Small Town’.

 Gamla Stan (Old Town) is a small island in the center of Stockholm and was once the entire city of Stockholm. Now it is a very cool place to explore.

Since the city streets are so narrow, there is no room for cars, making this part of Stockholm “pedestrian only.” It is great for photographs and souvenirs and can be very crowded.

Fotografiska,  is a real Stockholm success story. They opened 8 years ago in a beautiful old brick building (a former tollhouse) in Stockholm harbor and have, over the years, presented some fantastic exhibitions with many of the world’s best photographers.

It is one of the largest photography museums in the world with branches scheduled to open in New York and London.

The city is sometimes referred to as ‘Venice of the North’, thanks to its beautiful buildings and exquisite architecture, abundant open water and numerous parks.

The total absence of heavy industry makes Stockholm one of the world’s  cleanest cites.

Don’t worry about tap water. I’ts delicious.

The city became the venue for the  first Nobel Prizes awards, in the year 1901. The Nobel Museum in Stockholm is a small museum on a big, noble subject.

Small displays cover Alfred Nobel, the Nobel Prize ceremony and artifacts donated by Nobel Prize winners. Current and past Nobel Prize winners are honored through display panels and touch screens.

It barely ever gets dark at night in  the summer .

At the height of its empire, Sweden built a large warship the Vasa to symbolize its power. It was so big and heavy that on its maiden voyage in 1628, it sank less than a mile out of  dock. In 1956 the ship was rediscovered and then salvaged. Now, you can see this ship in the Vasa Museum. It was weirdly very interesting.

The Swedes have a lovely afternoon tradition of taking a coffee break (often accompanied by a yummy pastry). This tradition is called fika, and you should definitely indulge, too!

The Abba museum is perfect if you are an ABBA fan. With a slogan “Walk In, Dance Out” you know that this is not going to be a boring museum visit. Learn about the history of ABBA, try on costumes, and even sing on stage.

One of the most popular candies in Sweden is salmiak, licorice flavored with ammonium chloride – a salty chemical compound resulting from the reaction between hydrochloric acid and ammonia.  Most people outside Scandinavia and Iceland hate it but I am now addicted to it.  

A hop on hop off ferry is a fun, comfortable way to experience  Stockholm. 

Moderna Museet is situated on the pretty island of Skeppsholmen and can be accessed via a ferry from Slussen or on foot from the Östermalm district. It is located in a former power station. The bright red museum attracts big names in contemporary art.

The museum is specialized in Scandinavian and International art of the twentieth and twenty first century. The changing exhibitions throughout the year are attracting visitors from all around the world. .

Sweden’s largest architecture museum, Arkdes, was founded in 1962.

It is attached to Modern Museet and worth it if you are into architecture and design.

The Lydmar Hotel is a great place to stay.  The location is fantastic, being within walking distance of Gamla Stan, Kungsträdgården station, and the Strömkajen ferry.

Sweden is moving closer to a cash free economy. It was impossible to use cash in Stockholm – except at Seven Eleven.  

Fly safe,

JAZ

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Vikings And Sagas In Iceland

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Vikings and Sagas In Iceland

” Never break the peace which good men and true make between thee and others. Rjúf aldrei sætt þá er góðir menn gera meðal þín og annarra. ” The Saga of Njall

Vikings are a thing all over Iceland.

The hats with the horns sell in every souvenir shop. I hate to tell you people but the horns were a Hollywood invention that caught on. 

Was Iceland really even settled by Vikings? The term Viking applies to Scandinavian raiders. Now the people that settled in Iceland might have once been Vikings but when they came to Iceland there was no indigenous population to conquer, no churches and abbeys to sack for wealth and  no one to rape and pillage. They saw this beautiful country with no one to fight and they became farmers and landowners.

And then there are the Sagas- the classic literature of Iceland. They are stories written down from eleven hundred to thirteen hundred. They started off as a realistic representation of Iceland but the later ones are filled with dragons, maidens and sex.

The saga of Burned Njall is the most famous saga. It is written in the late 1300’s There are a lot of feuds and bad advice and everyone dies in the end – sounds like Shakespeare of the North. There is a cute street in Reykjavik named after it.

Everything is Iceland is Saga this or Viking that.  I’m not sure what they have to do with a hotel or a rental car.

But at least the Sagas actually existed in Iceland. They are  classic and legendary tales  and represent the history of the people of Iceland. Though trolls and ghosts are  featured, much of The Sagas remains grounded in reality.

They tell stories of farmers, families and fighters, lovers, warriors and kings, of betrayal and dilemmas, and which are, for the most part, believable and credible. Women play a strong role too. If you don’t at least read one when you visit, check out the Saga Museum in Reykjavik if for nothing else than historical accuracy.

Fly safe,

JAZ

 

Myvatn, Iceland

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 Myvatin, Iceland

“And if you follow, there may be a tomorrow. But if the offer is shun, you might as well be walkin’ on the sun” Smashmouth

Iceland straddles two tectonic plates –   the Eurasian plate and the North American plate. Lake Myvatn in Northern Iceland sits right on top of the rift between the plates.  This means lots of volcanic activity and interesting geological formations created over centuries of eruptions found near to the lake.(Dimmuborgir)

Lake Myvatn means lake of the midges which are small flies (another creative Icelandic name). There are many flies around  but the more mesmerizing the scenery became, the less I noticed the flies. (Skutustaoagigar)

One might find that this landscape is familiar if you have been to Rotorua, New Zealand (as I have) or watch Game Of Thrones (as I have not).  As you drive through this area, the lush greens and clear blues of Lake Mývatn are replaced with burnt oranges, earthy browns, and ashy beige.

The wet, rich landscape of the lake is replaced with a dry cracked earth, uninhabitable to most plant species -except lichen which must be the hardiest plant in Iceland.  

 As soon as I stepped off the bus I could smell the sulfur from the steam vents.  The strong smell  seeped into my skin, hair, and clothing. It is caused by the steam and the fumarole gas.

This gas gave me a headache and nausea after a few days in this area. I definitely tasted sulfur  in the water. They said that was normal.

With its intriguing and otherworldly landscape, a visit to Namafjall Hverir is something you must do in Myvatn. It  looks similar to Mars.

Upon closer inspection, you’ll notice vents letting off steam and bubbling gray mudpots on a green, orange, and gray speckled ground.

The volcanic vents are called  fumaroles; which belch sulphurous gases furiously into the air.

The sulphur deposits  were mined in Iceland in previous centuries to produce gunpowder. The strange yellow, orange color of this geothermal area stems from the sulphur.

The ground is very  hot and its important to always  stick to the paths in all of Iceland’s geothermal areas. Icelanders are brought up to fear the dangers in nature, but some tourists have not.  If you step on mud inside fenced off areas  your foot might sink straight into a hidden boiling hot-spring and get severely burned. It has happened.

This warm ground is also used to bake bread.

The famous geysir bread from Lake Myvatn is a rye bread made by burying wooden casks near a hot spring. This bread can  be purchased in several places in Myvatn.

The Mývatn Nature Baths are sometimes called the Blue Lagoon of the North.  These facilities pump water warmed by the geothermal activity into beautiful pools.   It is much more affordable than the Blue Lagoon, much less crowded and you don’t have to purchase tickets in advance. The geothermal water  is rich in minerals, silicates and geothermal microorganisms, which are believed to be beneficial for the skin.

Soaking in the pools is an excellent way to wind down after a day of visiting all the interesting sights in the Mývatn area.

I wanted to thank Argunnar Yi  from Smithsonian/Odyssey Travel. She is a warm, friendly, funny, intelligent , truly motivated guide.Touring Iceland with her was an amazing, artistic experience. She knows the best of everyone and everything in Iceland. She brings color everywhere she goes.

Fly safe,

JAZ

Traffic In Iceland

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Traffic In Iceland

“Americans will put up with anything provided it doesn’t block traffic.” Dan Rather

The Icelandic people say that the increase in tourism has changed the traffic situation in Iceland. Twenty years ago scarcely anyone living outside the city owned a car but now it is different. The roads are crowded.

The tourists make it more and more dangerous to drive. It seems to Icelanders that anyone can rent a car in Iceland. The tourist short stop in the road for a photo op is a particularly common accident.  

As an American from a busy city, the situation looks quite different.  I wasn’t driving but there were empty roads as far as the eye could see. It seemed like you could just sit back and enjoy the landscape. 

 Every now and then you will come to a point in the road where you realize, that the only reason why there are so few people in Iceland killed by car accidents is that there is so little traffic. Some of those roads look like they would be treacherous in winter. 

The trickiest part of driving seems to be the tunnels. When driving in, you feel like  you are entering a huge cave built into the rock. They can be as long as six miles. I am claustrophobic and I just had to put my faith in Rocky our driver and in the hope that it did not end somewhere in the middle of the mountain. One of them felt like it would never end.  It is quite possible that while you are in a tunnel, it suddenly narrows into one lane with periodic widening bays. Cars coming in the opposite direction pull over and wait for you. Apparently our direction had the right of way. Luckily we did not meet a truck.

I think  the biggest road problem in Iceland are the sheep. It is far more common to be cut in front of by a group of sheep than by other drivers.

There are actually way more sheep than drivers on Icelandic roads.

Drive safe,

JAZ

Glacier

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Glacier 

“Future generations are not going to ask us what political party were you in. They are going to ask what did you do about it, when you knew the glaciers were melting.” Martin Sheen

 This wasn’t supposed to be my first glacier experience.  In New Zealand, we drove for several hours  to Mount Cook. I was looking forward to taking a helicopter to the top of that glacier. I was ready. I had my crampons  which I lugged from Los Angeles. The next morning it was raining, windy, and very foggy. It was not the kind of rain that was going to clear up in an hour.  It was animals lining up in pairs rain. So we never made it to the glacier. 

Iceland lingers on the edge of the Arctic Circle so I figured that my chances of seeing a glacier up close were better this time.  We start walking down the path and  groups of kids are walking by in clampons.

There is definitely an air of excitement.

. There are many glacial walks and tours in Iceland on the different glaciers.We are at Sólheimajökull, a glacial tongue that is rugged and riddled with ice caves, ridges and sink holes.

Blue ice and black volcanic rock appeared like a painting of colors upon the glacier with a matching grey sky. 

It felt surreal. It was another can Iceland get more amazing moment.

I was enchanted by the barren beauty. It’s impressive due to the way it descends down from Mýrdalsjökull  (fourth largest ice cap in Iceland). Beneath its thick surface is one of the country’s most infamous volcanoes Katla.

Our geologist Scott Burns,  points out  the effects of climate change. People who don’t  believe in climate change say the ice melting is normal but the rate of change is speeding up since 1990 in a way that has not been seen before in history.

Sólheimajökull is shrinking rapidly. A glacier lagoon at its base reveals how quickly it is receding, the length of an Olympic swimming pool every year.

It seems like this is already an irreversible consequence of climate change, and it may be gone within decades.

The next day we go to the new Glaciers and Ice Cave Exhibition at the Perlan Museum, just outside the city centre of Reykjavik  Here you can walk through the city’s first and only ice cave—a detailed replica of the inside of a glacier. If you think ice is all fun and games, the exhibition’s other interactive, ultra-modern displays present you with the more serious side of glaciers: the dangers of the volcanoes hidden beneath the ice caps, the effects of climate change and more.

Iceland”s glaciers are receding at an alarming rate. They lost their first one Okjokull and they created a memorial plaque to the glacier with a warning on it.

The future looks bad right now. We have exhausted our planet’s resources and polluted it beyond its capacity to clean itself. When they tell our civilization’s story, I want it to be that we cared and we tried our best to save it.

 

Fly safe,

JAZ

Geothermic Activity in Iceland Means Hot Pools

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“If you want to find the secrets of the universe, think in terms of energy, frequency and vibration.” Nikola Tesla

Flying over Iceland, looked to me like I was  flying over the moon. Vast stretches of land are desolate and rocky due to some of the largest lava flows in history. It is as beautiful as it is bizarre.

We are traveling with geologist Scott Burns and he tells us that there is a lot more to a volcanic landscape than just a bleak lava flow. There is geothermic activity – something Iceland seems to have an unlimited supply of. They get all the heat and electricity they need from renewable sources like hydropower and geothermal power.

 We later make a tour of Hellisheioarvirkjun Power Plant, which is the largest geothermal power station in Iceland. There is an excellent Geothermal Energy exhibition at the power plant on how geothermal energy is harnessed there. https://www.geothermalexhibition.com

However when I hear ‘geothermal’, I don’t think ‘renewable energy’. Nope, the child in me screams ‘hot pools’ which is what I did as soon as I got to Iceland.

 The Blue Lagoon is one of the most visited sights in Iceland. While Iceland is a country brimming with natural hot springs (more later about that), the Blue Lagoon is not one of them.  The land is natural, as is the lava that shapes the pool, but the water is actually the result of runoff from the geothermal plant next door.The plant was built first, and it uses Iceland’s volcanic landscape to produce heat power. The runoff is filtered straight into the Blue Lagoon, which is what heats the water.That doesn’t mean it’s dangerous or toxic — far from it! It’s just not the natural phenomenon that many people believe it to be.

It is forty five minutes away from Reykjavik and closer to the airport so plan your visit accordingly. You have to shower naked for all hot springs in Iceland.  There are some private showers. They tell you to use  lots of leave in conditioner before  but if you put your hair in the water it will be destroyed for a week anyway. They have in water massages and scrubs with the natural minerals. Book the Blue Lagoon in advance because it fills up quickly. https://www.bluelagoon.com

I was looking for a non water massage after the long flight and I accidentally found myself at the Retreat Spa at the Blue Lagoon. It is expensive and unfortunately worth every penny. You experience the hot pools in a private luxurious way with a wonderful attentive staff, darkened rooms for scrubs and masks, fluffy bathrobes, private rooms for changing and showering and you can enter the public hot springs at any time. There were  people there like me who had found it accidentally and others who knew about it.  No photos are allowed. You can stay overnight or buy a day pass. If you have no budget, or can splurge, it is the way to go. https://www.bluelagoon.com/support/retreat-spa

Fly Safe,

JAZ

The Church And The Lava – Reykjahvio, Iceland

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The Church And The Lava – Reykjahvio, Iceland

“Civilization exists by geological consent, subject to change without notice.” Will Durant

On August 27, 1729 the Krafla eruption caused a lava flow through the village of Reykjahlíð, destroying farms and buildings, but amazingly the wooden church was spared when the flow parted, missing the church by only meters.

It is believed that prayer saved the church. The church was rebuilt on its original foundation in 1876, then again in 1962.

The reality is that when disasters come, everyone is affected by it. Natural disasters do not separate the believers from the atheists.

I wrestle with God so unshakable faith is hard for me to understand. I’m also a little bit jealous of people who have that kind of faith.

The church is build on ground that is a bit higher up so that could have caused the lava to split and flow down. It has been rebuilt but the houses have not. The visual image is so compelling. My hotel is right near it and I walk around every day looking for answers.

Maybe it was the fact that the church connected this community. It was the place that brought them all together. Maybe it enabled them to move beyond their own stories and unite for the common good. Maybe that is what saved the church.  What will it take to enable us to move beyond our increasing political and cultural polarities to unite around a common purpose?

Fly safe,

JAZ