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

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The Hidden People (Huldefolk) Of Iceland

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The Hidden People (Huldefolk) Of Iceland

“All writers have this vague hope that the elves will come in the night and finish any stories.” Neil Gaiman

 Iceland is a country that believes in elves and the hidden people. The stories are part of a shared history and cultural memory.  (Snæfellsjökull)

“The first story finds Adam and Eve at home in their beautiful garden. One day, God comes to visit and asks to meet all the couple’s children. However, Eve had only finished bathing a few of her children, and was embarrassed to show her Creator the dirty ones. So she introduced the clean children and hid the others.

“Are there any children I haven’t met yet?” God asked. Eve said no.

Of course, being omniscient, God knew that he was being tricked and declared, “Those who you hide from me shall also be hidden from men.”

And so, the hidden children became invisible, taking to the hills and moors and rocks. It is from these children that the Hidden People are descended, while humankind is descended from the children whom Eve showed to God.” (Djupalonssandur)

 Hidden People can only be seen by human eyes if they want to be. Humans and hidden people started as relative contemporaries. In the common view today, they live in turf houses, ride horses, and wear nineteenth-century national dress. (Glaumbaer Turf House Museum)

They are beautiful and have more comfortable lives, but they have never gotten cell phones, cars and internet. They represent the rural world with its connection to nature. There are many stories of people who have seen them.(Dimmuborgir)

In 2013, a group protested a road that was scheduled to cut through the homes of a huldufólk community located in a lava field. It’s generally believed that elves and huldufólk make their homes inside large rocks found mainly on beaches and lava fields.(Snæfellsjökull)

The construction was halted while the government worked to find an amicable solution.

 Outside of Reykjavik, my taxi driver Stefan takes me to his old neighborhood where they coexisted with an elf neighborhood.(Hafnarfjordur)

His grandfather had an elf seer come and see if there were elves on his property before he built his house. She signed a paper saying that she had seen them and he built the house around the rocks.(Hafnarfjordur)

Undisturbed lava rocks dot the yards of many of the houses. I wasn’t looking for the elves but more for a reason people believed in them. (Hafnarfjordur)

 Iceland is a country controlled by nature, – earthquakes, volcanoes and moving glaciers.They have significance for the people who live near them. I think the elves help them coexist with and protect the harsh landscape.(Dimmuborgir)

When rocks and volcanic action form twisted and scary shapes, it is better to imagine an elf community living  in them.  (Dimmuborgir)

Icelanders love and protect their environment.  The landscape is so powerful that you know you are insignificant and that the world has things in it that you can’t understand.(Vesturdalur)

It is easy to believe in magic when you are young and Iceland is a magical place.(Dimmuborgir)

I know that I spoke more softly, walked more carefully and experienced more deeply the areas where I was told there were elves. I guess the elves are doing their job. (Dimmuborgir)

Fly safe,

JAZ