The Golden Circle, Iceland

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The Golden Circle, Iceland

“Earth’s crammed with heaven. But only he who sees, takes off his shoes.” Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Everyone who has been to Iceland will tell you that a day trip driving the Golden Circle  is necessary, and they are 100% correct. The Golden Circle is the most popular day trip  from Reykjavik.

The first stop is Gullifoss which I have already talked about.

The next place to visit is the geysir. The English word “geyser” is actually derived from this exact geysir here in Iceland.

There are lots of bubbling pools to check out, along with the two famous geysers, Geysir and Strokkur. Strokkur is the only one still active today, which erupts every 5-8 minutes or so, sometimes even more (meaning you’ll see it shoot out it’s steaming hot water multiple times) What’s cooler than watching a hot spring spout steaming water up to 60 feet in the air without any mechanical support? That’s geology for you.

The last  stop is Iceland’s first National Park, Þingvellir. Not only is it the first national park and Iceland’s largest lake,  but it’s also the location of Iceland’s first Parliament, started back in 930 AD. Back then an assembly of 48 chieftains would gather to discuss Viking law and hold court. It’s regarded as the founding of Iceland as a nation and historically important to Icelanders. Pingvellir has recently been accepted on the UNESCO World Heritage list because of this.

And for all you Game Of Thrones fans, this is also the place where many scenes of the show have been filmed,

 It’s  considered to be  the best place on earth  to view the North Atlantic divergent ridge (where the North Atlantic and Eurasian tectonic plates collide),

The plates are slowing moving apart at around 3cm per year, ultimately meaning the continents are being brought closer together.

I was lucky enough to be able to tour Iceland in a Smithsonian group led by geologist Scott Burns. It was on my bucket list to do Iceland with someone who could explain the rugged beauty, glaciers, climate change and volcanoes. Scott was just intimidating enough for me to know that he knew his stuff, and just as easy-going to answer my questions. I learned so much and it was fun. I look forward to more trips with him. I have a lot of this earth to understand.Thanks for everything.

Fly safe,

JAZ

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Eight Other Things That I Did In Iceland

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Eight Other Things That  I DidIn Iceland

“The poetry of the earth is never dead.” John Keats

Deildartunguhver is Europe’s most powerful hot spring. Most of the water used for central heating in the towns of Borgarnes and Akranes is taken from Deildartunguhver.

The hot water pipeline to Akranes is 64 km long, the longest in Iceland and the water is about 78 – 80 degrees when it reaches Akranes. If you have taken a shower anywhere within a 65 km radius of the spring, you have already bathed in the hot water from this powerful spring.

Rising about 170 meters above the ground, Grabrok Crater belongs to the volcanic system of Ljosufjoll. It can be easily accessed via a footpath. The crater is quite steep and steps have been built on part of it to make the hike easier.

This volcanic crater is located east of Lake Hreðavatn in the fjord of Borgarfjörður in West Iceland. Spread over a distance of 90 km, it is also the largest of three craters (Stora Grabrok, Grabrokarfell and Litla Grabrok); it was formed about 3400 years ago in a fissure eruption.

.Once at the rim, I got a nice view inside. The path allows you to walk all around the crater but the strong Icelandic  wind almost blew me into the crater.

The Icelandic Horse is the only horse breed from Iceland and their ancestors were brought there in the ninth and tenth centuries by Vikings/Norwegians. It is a small breed of horse – not a pony. In the 10th century they banned importing horses into Iceland in an effort to keep the Icelandic breed pure. The ban still stands today. If an Icelandic horse leaves Iceland, they are not allowed to return.

The Icelandic  horse is fairly sleek in the summer months – though they retain a heavy mane and tail – but in the winter they grow a special, three-layer coat, which helps them survive the freezing Icelandic temperatures.Tthey are known for their sure-footedness and the ability to cross Iceland’s rough and diverse terrain, 

 Glaumbær Turf Farm was the perfect place to see these beautiful little buildings with mud roofs up close and learn more about Iceland’s history and culture. The farmstead is still inhabited. The old house is a part of the National Museum’s Historic Building Collection and houses part of the Skagafjörður Heritage Museum.  This site has been inhabited for centuries.  Glaumbær is mentioned several times in the medieval Saga literature. The age of the buildings vary considerably, the youngest dating from around 1880 and the oldest back to mid 18th century.

Glaumbær is composed of fourteen clustered houses.  Exhibits show four tradesmen’s workshops  (carpenter, blacksmith,  watchmaker and saddle maker), personal history of the local novelist Guðrún Baldvina Árnadóttir,  two storage houses, living rooms, bedrooms. the hearth kitchen and three pantries.

Iceland is known as the land of fire and ice due to its long history of volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and tongue twisting names for glaciers. The Lava Center Museum in South Iceland is worth a visit. This innovative museum opened in 2017 not far from Mt Hekla, an active volcano that was considered to be the gateway to hell in the Middle Ages. The interactive, state-of-the-art exhibit depicts millions of years of Icelandic volcanic activity, including earthquakes, eruptions, glacial floods, rift systems and the formation of Iceland’s landmass.

Siglufjörður is the northernmost town on the mainland of Iceland. This also means something quite exciting: The midnight sun shines bright all night long.

The highlight of any visit to Siglufjordur is the Herring Museum. Rather than describe the golden age of fishing from the Fifties through to the end of the Sixties, the award-winning museum recreates it, with figureheads and navigation lanterns galore. There are vintage photographs of fishermen with wind-lashed faces, ankle-deep in the day’s catch, and of the “herring girls” with bright Nordic smiles.

Akureyri is arrestingly pretty, with antique wooden houses, corrugated modern ones, tempting restaurants, bookshops, an excellent art museum and heart shaped red lights.

It is Iceland’s second largest city. and considered to be the capital of North Iceland.

Asbyrgi (Shelter of the Gods) is a remarkable horseshoe-shaped canyon. Viking/Norwegian settlers believed it to be a hoof-print formed by Sleipnir, Odin’s eight-legged flying horse from Norse mythology. Some people say that it is the capital of the Hidden People of Iceland.

Geologists believe that Asbyrgi was formed as the result of a catastrophic flood from the nearby Jokulsa glacial river. Located in Jokulsargljufur within the Vatnajokull National Park, Asbyrgi has 100 meter (330 ft) high cliffs which form a 1 kilometer (.5 mi) wide ring of protective shelter around the rich vegetation and forest.

Fly safe,

JAZ

Best Day In The Snaefellsnes Peninsula in Iceland

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Best Day In The Snaefellsnes Peninsula In Iceland

“I felt my lungs inflate with the onrush of scenery—air, mountains, trees, people. I thought, “This is what it is to be happy.”  Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

 I was more in awe during my day in the Snaefellsnes Peninsula in the west fjords of Iceland than during any other part of the country I visited.

This is saying a lot considering how much I fell in love with the glaciers, Myvatin, all hot springs and waterfalls.

It helped that it was a warm, sunny, windless day.  I still can’t say the name of it properly. 

Snæfellsnes Peninsula is often called Iceland in miniature as you can see everything the country has to offer in one area: volcanic craters, lava fields, a glacier, waterfalls, fjords, hot springs, black and golden sand beaches, lush meadows,  cute fishing villages and colorful wooden houses.

Bárður Snæfellsás was the settler of this area, half a troll and half a man,. He came to Iceland in the ninth century and gave the peninsula its name. The big stone structure of Bárður Snæfellsás at Arnarstapi was made by sculptor Ragnar Kjartansson.

Búðakirkja is a little black wooden church in the hamlet Búðir (which seems to consist of a hotel and this church) that was originally built in the 19th century.

It has an isolated location amongst the Budhahraun lava fields just above the sea. 

Snæfellsnes Peninsula is one of only a few places in Iceland where the beaches are golden. 

There are stunning views of the mountains and Snaefellsness glacier here. Many interesting stories are connected to the glacier, and it is believed to be the meeting place of extra-terrestrials.

Some people believe it to be one of the seven chakras (energy centres) in the world and you may not sleep well due to the magnetic energy.

Jules Verne wrote an interesting science fiction book called  Journey to the Center of the Earth in 1864 about a group of scientists, who ventured into the crater of Snæfellsjökull glacier. Yes parts of the 2008 movie were filmed here.  

 You can also do long walks through the lava fields.

Every bend in the road, the landscape changes.

Notice how perfectly shaped these basalt columns  are. It’s hard to imagine that nature did this. Lava flowed out, cooled and contracted. The slow speed at which the lava cooled made it crack and create these forms.

We ate lunch at a lovely ancient fishing village in Hellnar overlooking the water and amazing cliffs.

There were  dozens  of birds hanging out on the cliffs and rocks, staining the columns white  poop I imagine, although I definitely could be wrong.

After lunch we were off to yet another black beach (my favorite kind of beach).

There were huge lava formations.

We passed a few turquoise and green colored lakes.

This is a portion of beach with iron pieces from a British shipwreck in 1948 (which are kept here in memory of the brave fishermen who lost their lives).

 I finally reached those beautiful black pebbles.

It’s quite clear why it’s also known as Black Lava Pearl Beach, as the beach was entirely made up of small and smooth black pebbles (called Djúpalónsperlur or “Pearls of Djúpalón).

With huge monolithic rocks in the water and smooth pebbles beneath our feet, I could have walked here all day.

 Nestled deep inside a spectacular landscape of lava fields not far from the fishing village of Stykkishólmur, is the Shark Museum.  Stykkishólmur was featured in The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty. 

It was masquerading as Greenland.

I assume many of you have not been to the Bjarnarhofn Shark Museum so I will explain it.  The room is filled with an eclectic mix of fishing tools, bones, dried shark skins, as well as taxidermy relating mostly to Arctic birdlife. 

It is randomly displayed like a garage filled with stuff.  Sharks are not specifically hunted, it so happens that some might get caught in the net when other fish are being sourced.

I ate some fermented Greenland shark which is poisonous if eaten fresh. You dip it in  Icelandic schnapps (Brennivin) and it was surprisingly delicious to me. I like the Swedish salt ammonia flavored  licorice so it might not be the same for you.

We went to see some of out tour guide  Argunnar Yi‘s paintings in a nearby hotel.

Art and black sand beaches -kind of a perfect day for me. 

Fly safe,

JAZ

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Things That I Have Learned In Reykjavik, Iceland

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Things That I Have Learned In Reykjavik, Iceland

“Travel is the only thing you can buy that makes you richer” – Unknown

Reykjavík is the northernmost capital city in the world.

Reykjavík is regarded as the world’s most sustainable city. The city plans to be a carbon neutral city by 2040.

The steam rising from the area’s hot springs gave Reykjavik its name, which literally translates to “Cove of Smokes,” or more eloquently ” Smoky Bay.

Towering over the Reykjavik skyline is Hallgrimskirkja, a 240-foot tall Evangelical Lutheran church. The building which resembles volcanic basalt lava columns, opened in 1986. It is the tallest building in the city—as well as the second tallest in the entire country.

The National Museum of Iceland is the place to go when you want to learn about Icelandic life through the centuries. Everything related to this island nation from belief and religion, to seafaring, farming, culture, costume and the development of trade relationships from the beginning to the present day. The exhibits are beautifully displayed in the various sections with lots of info. Audio displays tell some fascinating stories and computers give access to a wealth of additional facts. A photography exhibition is always on show.

One of the most popular foods in Iceland is hot dogs. There’s no better hot dog stand in Iceland to get them than at Baejarins Beztu Pylsur. The kiosk has been in the Reykjavik harbor since 1937, but President Bill Clinton and Anthony Bourdain’s visit solidified its constant long line of locals and tourists waiting for the lamb-based hot dog doused in ketchup, mustard, remoulade (mayonnaise-based sauce with sweet relish), and both raw and fried onion. ”The president you have now, I wouldn’t serve a hot dog.”, said the owner.

The Saga Museum which features seventeen exhibits traces Icelandic history from the Norwegian exodus to the Black Death. It is now located  in a historic home on the Reykjavik harbor.

The Icelandic Phallological Museum is a must visit for those who are curious about penises – from whales to hamsters. It is located on the main shopping street in Reykjavik. I didn’t have time but I would I have loved to see all the tourists taking selfies. 

From mid-April until late August, the Atlantic puffins summer in Iceland! You can take a Puffin tour from Reykjavik but I saw them near Husavik.

They are cute little birds and definitely worth putting the red suits on (for warmth and flotation devices)  and taking a beautiful three hour tour. 

On October 8, 2007, John Lennon’s birthday Yoko Ono revealed an outdoor beam of light called the Inagine Peace Tower on the city’s Viðey Island in honor of her late husband. “I hope the Imagine Peace Tower will give light to the strong wishes of World Peace from all corners of the planet. And give encouragement, inspiration and a sense of solidarity in a world now filled with fear and confusion. Let us come together to realize a peaceful world,” Ono said. Now it is  lit from October 9 to December 8, December 21 to December 31, February 18, and March 20 to 27.

In 2011, Reykjavik was the fifth city named a City of  Literature by UNESCO, thanks to its “invaluable heritage of ancient medieval literature” and “the central role literature plays within the modern urban landscape.”

Let’s be real. People don’t come to Iceland to shop. They come for the nature, the waterfalls, the glaciers, and all the fun stuff you can do around Iceland.. Reykjavik is one of the most expensive cities.in Europe. However, you can find  cool, locally designed outerwear in many stores for similar  prices to your country. Every time you wear it, you will remember your time in Iceland. 

Fly safe,

JAZ

36 Hours In San Francisco, California With Jet Lag

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36 Hours In San Francisco, California With Jet Lag

“It’s an odd thing, but anyone who disappears is said to be seen in San Francisco. It must be a delightful city and possess all the attractions of the next world.”
 Oscar Wilde

People from LA (me included) love SF. Its ok to call it SF. But don’t call it San Fran or Frisco – they hate that. I love that their rich people are Techies not Hollywood types. They appear. less materialistic than we are. Techies walk around in hoodies, a t-shirt with the name of one of their first failed start ups, headphones and no eye contact. It reminds me of growing up in NY. I love how geographically tiny it is. It is only seven miles and i have walked from one end to the other in a day. I love how they think their food is better than ours and it is.

I have spent a lot of time in SF so when I had to the chance to spend 36 hours between planes, I avoided all the tourist spots like Alcatraz, Fisherman’s Wharf, Pier 39 and Union Square. There are so many neighborhoods with their own cultures, appearances and even weather systems. Bring a jacket it is not LA – even in summer.

I chose Japantown. Before World War II, San Francisco had one of the largest populations of Japanese outside of Japan. However, that all changed in 1942 when President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which forced all Japanese by birth or descent, including Japanese Americans, out of the neighborhood and interned on the Pacific Coast outside of the city. After the war, many chose not to return, shrinking the neighborhood into the small size it currently is today.

9:00pm Check into Kabuki Hotel. I love anything Japanese and the Kabuki Hotel with its Japanese/ art inspired/ hipster vibe was right up my alley.

I have terrible reverse jet lag (flew in from Iceland) . My night alternated between boundless energy and crashing sleep. I knew the next day would be rough.

10:00am  I love the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. I was there when it opened and was excited to see the new renovation.

There was an Andy Warhol Exhibit, interesting photography and a wonderful San Francisco Mural by JR. The people in the JR Mural move. Don’t miss it if you are there.

11:30am Walk through the city. My cousin Linda has lived in SF most of her life and is the best person to be with in the city. She knows everything.

12:00pm  We walk to Embarcadero and have lunch at Delancey Street restaurant. It is an inspiring bistro type restaurant, book store and event space. The room is welcoming and the food is delicious. The service is great and it supports a wonderful cause. Delancey Street is a rehab program and everyone who works their is well trained and rebuilding their life.

1:30pm More walking. We walk back to Mission Street.

2:00pm. I had never been to the Contemporary Jewish Museum. The building design is clean and modern. They only had one exhibit at this time.

2:45pm  The United States’ second largest Martin Luther King Memorial, titled Revelation, was built in San Francisco in 1993. It sits behind a 50’ x 20’ foot wall of cascading water. Located in the Yerba Buena Gardens, the memorial is a lovely walkway constructed under a 120,000-gallon reflecting pool.

3:00pm  As I said my cousin knows everything. Samovar in Yerba Buena Gardens  is my new favorite tea place. There is a wonderful selection of teas from all over the world. Service is friendly and the food is unique and delicious.

4:30pm I started crashing and went back to hotel. There is traffic. Apparently Uber and Lyft are causing major congestion in the city.

530pm  I forced myself to stay up and get some  sushi at An Sushi.

It is located at the very nearby Peace Plaza Mall.

6:30pm. Shopping at Daiso. It’s like the 100 yen store in Japan but most things cost a dollar fifty.  Everything is so cute.

8:00pm Sleeeeeeeep.

10:00 am  Kabuki Hot Springs is quiet at ten AM on a weekday. They have a hot and cold pool, steam room and sauna. I opted for a shiatsu massage which definitely helped with the jet lag.

1230pm  The nearby Japanese Mall sells many  authentic and not so authentic Japanese things.

I ate some yakitori and matcha tea and went to the airport.

Fly safe,
JAZ

Faith In United

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Faith In United

“Doing the right thing is more important than doing the thing right” .Peter F. Drucker

Years of pent up anger against the airlines was released when a passenger was dragged off a flight. It wasn’t pretty. Everyone is mad at the airlines about something. There are fees upon fees upon fees. Boarding is a mess.There are many airline and TSA personnel that act like they are having a bad day and taking it out on you for no reason. There are  weird overhead bin policies and very overcrowded planes. There are no handicapped bathrooms. It feels like  airline company decisions were made for profit only. No one seemed to care about their customers. They changed the rules to suit themselves and airline travel feels a lot harder than it used to be.

 I lost my iPod and expensive Bose noise cancelling headphones on my recent return flights from Iceland. I didn’t bother to be on hold for an hour to try and track it down because I didn’t know where it could be. I just assumed that someone would take it. 

 Today almost a month later, I received a phone call from Julie at United Airlines Lost and Found asking if I lost something. I hadn’t flown back on United and was about to say no but instead I said “Wait, did you find my iPod? And my headphones?”  She said “Yes.” “But I didn’t fly on United Airlines. How did you find me?” “Your name was in your iPod (not locked). We emailed you twice. (I get a lot of airline email). And you have a frequent flier number so we found your phone number.”

 I wonder how many hands this IPod passed through to get to Julie. Was it a United Airlines person that picked it up in the airport when I was changing planes? Did someone from Icelandair hand it to another person in San Francisco? I asked what I could do and she said, “Just tell people you had a good  experience with United Airlines.”

We want the airlines to be better. We want their employees to smile and be helpful. I try to live my life with the idea that karma is real. Why is it so remarkable to me that I got my iPod back from a different airline and that someone went out of their way to find the owner? I wonder how many people did the right thing here. It looks to me like both people and United Airlines are trying to be better and I should have some faith in the world and also give United another chance..  

Fly safe,

JAZ

Things That I Have Learned In Sweden

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Things I Have Learned In Sweden

“You understand Teacher, don’t you, that when you have a mother who’s an angel and a father who is a cannibal king, and when you have sailed on the ocean all your whole life, then you don’t know just how to behave in school with all the apples and ibexes.” Astrid Lindgren Pippi Longstocking

There is no shortage of fast food in Sweden. The have the highest number of Mcdonalds per capita in all of Europe.

Ice hockey and soccer are Sweden’s main sports,

With 25% as a standard VAT, the Swedish VAT is among the highest in the world. Only Bhutan, Myanmar, Hungary and Djibouti have a higher one.

Since 1979 it’s forbidden to smack your children, which means that that they were the first country in the world with a law against flogging. Thirty five countries around the world have followed their example.

Candy is a big deal in Sweden. For years the country has placed among the top consumers of sweets per capita in the world. The reason is loose candy – a concept introduced in 1984, when the Swedish National Food Agency recommended the National Board of Health and Welfare to allow sugar-craving people to compose their own candy bags by freely picking and mixing from an assortment of items.

A traditional and famous dish of Sweden is Swedish meatballs, served with gravy, boiled potatoes and lingonberry jam.

Sweden has the second lowest population per square kilometer in all of Europe.

It is low on people, but there are about three hundred to four hundred thousand moose roaming freely in the woods of Sweden. Two thirds of the country is covered by forest.

Sweden has a huge music scene that does not involve ABBA. There are a lot of Swedish artists that are internationally popular now such as Zara Larsson, Avicii (R.I.P), Swedish House Mafia, Alesso, Robyn, Måns Zelmerlöv,  Lykke Li. Roxette, Europe, Alcazar, and Ace of Base.

The first Ice Hotel of the world was built near the village of Jukkasjärvi, Sweden.

The world-famous discount furniture chain IKEA was founded in Sweden in 1943.

The Swedish passport ranks number three among the world’s best passports. They can enter 124 countries without a Visa and 33 with one.

North Korea has a 2.7 billion Swedish Kroner debt involving the purchase of Volvo cars.

Happy Hour in Sweden is called “After Work.”

Fly safe,

JAZ