Thursday, 24 December 2015

Kertasníkir - Icelandic Yule Lads (December 24th)

Last but not least! Kertasníkir (Candle Beggar) arrives just in time for Christmas celebrations, on December 24. Be careful: this Lad is perhaps one of the wickedest of the gang.

What Kertasníkir does is stealing candles. He does it not only because he finds their glow attractive, but also because in the past candles were obtained from animal fat thus they were very appetizing. Maybe Kertasníkir doesn’t eat candles anymore, but he still likes to steal them when he comes to town.
Kertasníkir - Icelandic Yule Lads (December 24th)

This may appear like a frivolous kind of prank to our contemporary civilized ways, but in the old days candles were in many cases the only source of lighting available. In Iceland, especially in the darkest days of the cold season, darkness was a danger and an enemy that one couldn’t underestimate. A candle could indeed make a difference in more than a few cases. Also, let’s not forget darkness is one of the classic fears of humans by instinct. Being deprived of light has always been for human beings quite a serious matter.

Icelandic

Þrettándi var Kertasníkir,
- þá var tíðin köld,
ef ekki kom hann síðastur
á aðfangadagskvöld.

Hann elti litlu börnin,
sem brostu, glöð og fín,
og trítluðu um bæinn
með tólgarkertin sín.

English

Thirteenth was Candle Beggar,
- The weather would be cold,
If he was not the last one
On the day of Yule Eve.

He followed the little children,
Who smiled, happy and gay,
And tripped around the house
With their candles.

And now… That’s all, folks! We had a good time talking about the Yule Lads, these unrepentant rascals! I am disappointed that they forgot to leave anything for us during these thirteen days.

I was honestly looking forward to receive a good amount of potatoes, the present they , since I’ve been so bad in the course of year 2010 — I was hoping I could be given enough potatoes to mash or fry them for Christmas, that is. Maybe it wasn’t enough. Next year I’ll do my worst, I promise.

Berglind, Iceland24
December 2015

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Ketkrókur - Icelandic Yule Lads (December 23rd)

Another Yule Lad, another story of gluttony. Oh boy, aren’t these dudes a little repetitive? This time is Ketkrókur’s (Meat Hook) turn. He comes down from the mountains on December 23, Saint Thorlak’s Day.

Ketkrókur is cunning and resourceful, even for the Lads’ already high standards of cunning and resourcefulness. What Ketkrókur does better than any other is “fishing” the traditional smoked lamb with a hooked pole.
Ketkrókur - Icelandic Yule Lads (December 23rd)

He's the tallest of the brothers. That cross of troll, elf and human ancestry gave him a very long and rather stiff pair of legs. Legend says he walks as though they were made of wood, and he has to use a long walking stick to be able to walk properly.

His favorite strategy consists in lowering his hook through the kitchen chimney. He can steal heaps of this Icelandic delicacy using this peculiar technique. If you have no chimney is your festive dinner safe then, you’ll ask? I don’t honestly know.

Icelandic

Ketkrókur, sá tólfti,
kunni á ýmsu lag.
-Hann þrammaði í sveitina
á Þorláksmessudag.

Hann krækti sér í tutlu,
þegar kostur var á.
En stundum reyndist stuttur
stauturinn hans þá.

English

Meat Hooker, the twelfth one,
Knew a thing or two.
-He marched into the country
On St. Thorlak's Day.

He hooked a bit of meat
Whenever he could.
But often a little short
was at times his staff.

Berglind, Iceland24
December 2015

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Gáttaþefur - Icelandic Yule Lads (December 22nd)

Gáttaþefur (Door Sniffer) is a big-nosed fellow that, instead of developing a nose complex and turning to rhinoplasty, used his protuberance to his own advantage.

Gáttaþefur ‘s nose not only is noticeable enough to make any Cirano look like a mere amateur, but it is also extremely sensitive: this dude can smell Christmas delicacies as accurately as a truffle hog. But Gáttaþefur doesn’t care much for truffles. He prefers laufabrauð (the traditional Icelandic bread that is eaten during the Christmas period), cookies and cakes. And of course when he finds something edible he likes, he doesn’t content himself with the smell…

Gáttaþefur - Icelandic Yule Lads (December 22nd)

Gáttaþefur will be around sniffing on the night of December 22. Be sure to lock all your cookies in a safe if you don’t intend to eat them all before this darling arrives.

Icelandic

Ellefti var Gáttaþefur,
- aldrei fékk sá kvef,
og hafði þó svo hlálegt
og heljarstórt nef.

Hann ilm af laufabrauði
upp á heiðar fann,
og léttur, eins og reykur,
á lyktina rann.

English

Eleventh was Doorway Sniffer
- Who never had a cold,
Even though he had a funny
And enormous nose.

The scent of Leaf Bread
He smelled in the hills,
And lightly, like the smoke,
He followed that scent.

Berglind, Iceland24
December 2015

Monday, 21 December 2015

Gluggagægir - Icelandic Yule Lads (December 21st)

Gluggagægir (Window Peeper) is the tenth Yule Lad in the list. He’s one of my faves too. Maybe he actually is the Lad I like the most.

The Window Peeper is a classic figure in literature, music and cinema. If you don’t like the classic window peeper’s approach, just think about James Stewart in Rear Window, but reversed.

There are many elements at play when this kind of characters are involved so I can safely say Gluggagægir is the Lad with more potential: with a little of invention you could have a whole series of Christmas thrillers or horrors made after him.

Gluggagægir - Icelandic Yule Lads (December 21st)

Some consider Gluggagægir just a very nosy guy, but completely harmless – although he does like to steal when something he sees arouses his fancy. Some others prefer to add a sinister aura to his curiosity, describing him as a hardcore voyeur…

Whatever the truth, you are now aware of his habit of peeping through windows at night. So, unless you’re OK with it, maybe you’ll feel more comfortable drawing your curtains on December 21.

So, this guy may be looking in your window between Dec 21 and Jan 3, so give him a friendly wave and wish him Gleðileg Jól (Happy Holidays)

Icelandic

Tíundi var Gluggagægir,
grályndur mann,
sem laumaðist á skjáinn
og leit inn um hann.

Ef eitthvað var þar inni
álitlegt að sjá,
hann oftast nær seinna
í það reyndi að ná.

English

Tenth was Window Peeper
A grumpy lad,
Who sneaked to the window
And looked through it.

If anything was inside
Nice to look at,
He usually later
Tried to get that.

Berglind, Iceland24
December 2015

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Bjúgnakrækir - Icelandic Yule Lads (December 20th)

In contrast with Skyrgámur‘s habit of eating tons of healthy skyr, Bjúgnakrækir (Sausage Swiper), the Yule Lad arriving on the 20th night of December, prefers his snacks high in cholesterol. Nobody knows exactly what his preference is: rumors say he will ravenously eat all kinds of sausages, without any exception. His appetite can make him reckless sometimes.

Smoked sausages are a brilliant way to preserve meat in a place like Berk (or most of the North Atlantic Islands) where it may snow and hail and rain locusts (or whatever Hiccup dreams up in his snarkfest), but it rarely gets cold enough to freeze food. So smoking, pickling, drying, curing are all ways to keep food stashed through the winter.

Bjúgnakrækir - Icelandic Yule Lads (December 20th)

The rafters are an ideal place to store the lamb meat and fish meat sausages once they are prepared. Then the cook just snags down dinner from the ceiling and dumps it in a pot to boil. Sometimes you have to climb a bit to get dinner. At the Haddock household it´s a good thing there is a tall chieftain and a willing Night Fury to help with this. And a few cleverly designed long hooks for those days when the chief dragon tamer/chef does not want dragon drool on the sausages.

Until December 20, of course. Then Bjúgnakrækir makes his way into the farms and the village, ready to snatch some sausages. It's a good thing he's an acrobat so he can climb WAAAY up into those rafters and reach for the prize. He just, unfortunately, is a leeetle bit afraid of heights. But singing usually helps him deal with the situation, and also keeps the watch dragon fast asleep.

So, if you are planning to make sausage stuffing or simply hot dogs between Dec 20 and Jan 2, keep 'em hidden. This guy's on the prowl!

Bjúgnakrækir - Icelandic Yule Lads (December 20th)

Luckily for this chap, there’s not much need for recklessness in recent times: in Reykjavík you can find near the harbor the famous Bæjarins beztu pylsur (Best hot dog in town in English) stand, described by many satisfied customers as one of the best in the world. I’m pretty sure Bjúgnakrækir knows very well and he visits the stand regularly during his annual excursions.

Icelandic

Níundi var Bjúgnakrækir,
brögðóttur og snar.
Hann hentist upp í rjáfrin
og hnuplaði þar.

Á eldhúsbita sat hann
í sóti og reyk
og át þar hangið bjúga,
sem engan sveik.

English

Ninth was Sausage Snatcher
Artful and quick.
He hied up to the rafters
And snatched a little there.

On a kitchen beam he sat
In smoke and soot
And ate a smoked sausage,
That was very good.

Berglind, Iceland24
December 2015

Saturday, 19 December 2015

Skyrgámur - Icelandic Yule Lads (December 19th)

This is the day for Skyrgámur, the Skyr Gobbler.

Skyr (or farköst) is a type of cheese, though it more resembles a very thick yogurt. The Greek yogurt that has become so popular lately resembles it, but not exactly. Skyr tastes tangy, thick and rich, yet it actually is low fat.

Like yogurt, you need to use a "starter" culture from a previous batch of skyr. Milk with all of the cream skimmed out is mixed with buttermilk, rennet and a bit of older skyr culture and brought to a boil. It is allowed to cool down slowly so the rennet can "work its magic." A curd and whey has been created. The mixture is strained through something like cheese cloth until all the whey has dripped out. (The whey is saved as a preservative for meats). The remaining "curds" are skyr.

Skyrgámur - Icelandic Yule Lads (December 19th)

Skyrgámur is not the brightest Yule Lad in the litter, and after a full year of doing other things (he is into collecting snow in the winter and dew drops in the summer and his collection keeps getting stolen by someone mysterious), he often forgets exactly how to do his job. Eat it, play with it, throw it at someone, decorate it? His Terrible Terror friend is just as forgetful but still 100% of a prankster. Deadly combination.

They call him stupid, but apart from his lack of temperance Skyrgámur is not that stupid. For those who are wondering, skyr is a low-fat and very high in proteins dairy product, similar to strained yogurt, but much healthier. Thanks to its components, skyr’s nutritional benefits are quite remarkable.

So if you don't want to share any of your cultural experiences with Skyrgámur, hide your yogurt, skyr, buttermilk, filmjölk, kefir and sour cream from sight between Dec 19 and Jan 1.

Icelandic

Skyrgámur, sá áttundi,
var skelfilegt naut.
Hann hlemminn o'n af sánum
með hnefanum braut.

Svo hámaði hann í sig
og yfir matnum gein,
unz stóð hann á blístri
og stundi og hrein.

English

Skyr Gobbler, the eighth one,
Was a terrible bull.
The lid off the skyr tub
With his fist he smashed.

Then he gobbled up
As much as he could,
Till he was close to bursting
And moaned and grunted.

Berglind, Iceland24
December 2015

Friday, 18 December 2015

Hurðaskellir - Icelandic Yule Lads (December 18th)

Hurðaskellir (Door Slammer) is a peculiar Yule Lad and much more of a prankster than most of his brothers. He doesn’t care much for food, but he’s got the obsessive addiction of door-slamming. No door is safe when this crazy rascal is around. The louder the noise, the better – and just to be sure, better repeating the trick more than once in a row: Hurðaskellir’s ego is quite troublesome.

We all know people with the annoying tendency of being very noisy when they close doors, but the problem with Hurðaskellir is that he likes to do that at night. I suggest that you don’t forget to lock any single door in your house, especially if you’re living with somebody with severe heart conditions…
Hurðaskellir - Icelandic Yule Lads (December 18th)

What's worse is that Hurðaskellir seems to have a fan club with a lot of children in it, because they just LOVE to slam doors and say they are imitating their favorite hero.

Hurðaskellir is going to harass your doors on 18 December.

Icelandic

Sjöundi var Hurðaskellir,
- sá var nokkuð klúr,
ef fólkið vildi í rökkrinu
fá sér væran dúr.

Hann var ekki sérlega
hnugginn yfir því,
þó harkalega marraði
hjörunum í.

English

Seventh was Door Slammer,
- He was a little brash.
When people in the dark
Wanted to nap.

He was not one bit
Sorry for that,
If loud, creaking noises
Came from the hinges.

Berglind, Iceland24
December 2015

Thursday, 17 December 2015

Askasleikir - Icelandic Yule Lads (December 17th)

Askasleikir (Bowl Licker) is the 6th in the Yule Lads gang to visit during the Christmas period. He arrives on the 17th of December. I don’t want to make it sound like I am partial - because in fact I am not - but I think Askasleikir is very sly. At least, more than the majority of his brothers.

In the old times, especially in farmhouses, Icelanders used to eat from lidded bowls sitting on their beds. The lidded bowls prevented the food from getting cold and were usually placed on the floor or under the bed in between bites.
Askasleikir - Icelandic Yule Lads (December 17th)
Askasleikir specialized in hiding under furniture waiting for these moments and refined his art over the years. When something edible is placed on the floor, he stretches his arms and steals it.

I suspect it may be this gentleman’s fault that children are so afraid of monsters hiding under the bed at night.

Icelandic

Sá sjötti, Askasleikir,
var alveg dæmalaus.
-Hann fram undan rúmunum
rak sinn ljóta haus.

Þegar fólkið setti askana
fyrir kött og hund,
hann slunginn var að ná þeim
og sleikja á ýmsa lund.

English

The sixth, Bowl Licker,
Was without a peer.
-From under the beds, he
Pushed his ugly head.

When the bowls were placed
In front of cat and dog,
He cunningly snatched them
And licked till he was full.

Berglind, Iceland24
December 2015

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Pottaskefill - Icelandic Yule Lads (December 16th)

It's Pottaskefill, the pot licker. Most of us, admit it, are not fond of leftovers (spam hash, anybody?). This Yule Lad lives for them! He patiently waits until households are finished with their cooking. Then he sneaks in and demolishes the leftovers in the pot with lightning speed.

His job is easy to do with the normal Viking household, but the Vikings on Berk are quite well grown, and the chances of leftovers are not great.

Pottaskefill - Icelandic Yule Lads (December 16th)

But Pottaskefill has picked up a few tricks over the years to guarantee he gets leftovers. Vikings had a notorious love of seasoning, gaining new tastes as they traveled on trading missions and their raid- oops, I mean, acquiring new possessions without paying for them. A wealthier household might have spices such as cumin, pepper, saffron, ginger, cardamom, cloves, nutmeg, mace, cinnamon, anise-seed, and bay leaves. In fact, Scandinavia is one of the few regions outside of South Asia that uses cardamom as a staple spice.

Anyway, like a Viking trader, Pottaskefill has collected his own formidable armada of seasonings from his visits. He has strung them onto a bandolier like vest that he wears when he visits Berk. And he uses them liberally and inappropriately (lots of salt in the deserts, honey and cinnamon in the meat soup, etc.). And lots and lots and lots of hot peppers.

Top it off with a few extra logs to insure the fire will burn the food, and Pottaskefill has guaranteed leftovers! It's a good thing he has developed a cast iron stomach over the years. Some of the other Yule Lads and Grýla have noticed, actually, that he no longer can eat food if it tastes good.

Icelandic

Sá fimmti, Pottaskefill,
var skrítið kuldastrá.
- Þegar börnin fengu skófir
hann barð dyrnar á.

Þau ruku' upp, til að gá að
hvort gestur væri á ferð.
Þá flýtti 'ann sér að pottinum
og fékk sér góðan verð.

English

The fifth, Pot Licker,
Was a weird cool lad.
As the children received scrapings,
He knocked at the door.

They rushed off to see
If a guest was dropping in.
Then he hurried to the pot,
And had a filling meal.

Berglind, Iceland24
December 2015

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Þvörusleikir - Icelandic Yule Lads (December 15th)

Þvörusleikir, it loosely means "Spoon Licker," but it really means "Pot Scraper Licker."

Modern depictions of this Yule Lad show him as a very skinny guy licking a wooden spoon, but actually the spoon was not a spoon. It was a Viking age (and later) kitchen tool called a "Pot Scraper." This was a very long and skinny kitchen tool with a tip that was more like a very small, flat and narrow spatula rather than a spoon. It was a "þvera", pot scraper.

This goes back to the days when you did not waste food. So when you made soups and stews and porridge in Viking Days, you always needed to have them warm and ready to serve. This was specially so in the Mead Hall when you needed to have some warming food always on hand for people who needed it, whether it was a rescue crew going out on a mission or a traveler who stumbled into town and needed some hot, good food to warm up after a long journey. Hospitality to strangers was a point of pride for Vikings, so that kettle of hot, freshened soup or stew or gruel was vital.
Þvörusleikir - Icelandic Yule Lads (December 15th)

Þvörusleikir loves to steal the Þvera pot scraper from the Mead Hall and all the various households each night. He sticks each household Þvera in his mouth and licks it, pulling out the flavors of the stew or porridge.

It's not that efficient, and the other Yule Lads point this out often to Þvörusleikir. There just is not that much nutrition you can get out of licking a pot scraper or spoon or ladle. You'd do better to just pony up and buy a tasty, nutritious bowl of soup or stew.

But Þvörusleikir has his pride. He feels the wood of the þvera and the ingredients soaking into it somehow give it a real gourmet status. When you lick the þvera you bring out all the hidden flavors and have a true Michelin 4 star experience in gourmet spoon licking.

So, there's no use for it. Þvörusleikir lives on licking each household´s scraper and he is one skinny dude since there really is not a whole of nutrition coating the average Þvera or spoon or ladle.

Well, that's what happens on between Dec. 15 and Dec 28. Hang onto your ladles and wooden kitchen spoons because they are a hot commodity when Þvörusleikir is on the prowl!

Icelandic

Sá fjórði, Þvörusleikir,
var svakalega mjór.
Og ósköp varð hann glaður,
þegar eldabuskan fór.

Þá þaut hann eins og elding
og þvöruna greip,
og hélt með báðum höndum,
því hún var stundum sleip.

English

The fourth, Pot-Scraper Licker,
Was a very skinny lad.
And he was very happy,
When the cook went away.

He ran like lightning
And grabbed the pot-scraper,
Held it fast with both hands,
As it was sometimes slippery.

Berglind, Iceland24
December 2015

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Stúfur - Icelandic Yule Lads (December 14th)

This is the favorite Yule Lad of most Icelanders.. Stúfur! The name means Shorty in Icelandic.

Stúfur is the Hiccup of the Yule Lads, the acknowledged runt of the litter. He is the smallest and stubbiest of the Yule Lads in form. However, his troll and elf ancestry have also made him very strong. He may be small and not too powerful in appearance but, in reality, he can really beat up anyone he chooses. He can even knock out a Monstrous Nightmare better than Stoick can. In his sleep while chewing gum.

Stúfur - Icelandic Yule Lads (December 14th)

But the great irony is that the miniature warrior... that tiny Beowulf of a Yule Lad... is on a great quest to steal... uh... grease spattered frying pans.

It certainly is a weird hobby. Stúfur has a harder journey than the other Yule Lads. His little legs have to work harder. He often is covered by snow as he journeys to the villages and has to use a telescope poked up through the snow so he knows where is going. And he has to beat up all the dragons and Vikings he meets along the way.

And the reason Stúfur beats the odds and steals those frying pans? Well, it is because he likes to lick off the grease and drippings that are left in the frying pan. It's rather humbling when you think about it... all that tough journeying and fighting to lick off a bit of bacon fat?

There is a parable in there for sure. But it's kind of a weird one. Anyway, if you fry up anything on Dec. 14 and through Dec. 27, just don't be surprised if your frying pan disappears moments after you set it aside. It's Stúfur style recycling!

Icelandic

Stúfur hét sá þriðji,
stubburinn sá.
Hann krækti sér í pönnu,
þegar kostur var á.

Hann hljóp með hana í
burtuog hirti agnirnar,
sem stundum brunnu fastar
við barminn hér og þar.

English

Itty Bitty was the third,
That short fellow.
He borrowed a pan,
When he could do so.

He ran away with it
And picked and ate the food-bits
That sometimes stick
To a pan here and there.

Berglind, Iceland24
December 2015

Giljagaur - Icelandic Yule Lads (December 13th)

Giljagaur arrives on Dec 13. His name means "Gully Oaf." He is usually portrayed with gray hair and wearing very plain colored clothes. As his name implies, he hides in the gullies and ditches and canyons near farmsteads. Then, after the cows have been milked, he sneaks into the barn and skims the rich cream from the top of the milk buckets. He hides again and, after morning milking, sneaks back for another creamy snack.

Sometimes his job is very easy to do, especially if you have young dairymaids and handsome warriors and lots of Viking hormones on hand. Giljagaur waits till the flirting gets started, the young people get distracted, and then he runs in and steals the cream.
Giljagaur - Icelandic Yule Lads (December 13th)
He also has a fondness for cows, too, and he speaks bovinese, so he and Búkolla here are swapping some stories. Icelandic cows are a special breed, unchanged since the Vikings brought them to the island. They are quite small and can live in mountainous areas, but they are sweet natured and provide a lot of good quality milk. They also come in an amazing variety of colors, and some even have brindle stripes!

Vikings rarely drank milk. They used it for baking and to make other products that kept well in storage, like cheese, sour milk (tastes like buttermilk) and a thick low-fat curd called "skyr." They also used the whey from cheesemaking as a way to preserve meat products, a tradition that continues to this day in Iceland. The resulting "pickled" meats were an unpleasant grey in color, but they kept well, tasted quite all right, and were nutritious. The whey itself actually has a taste similar to white wine.

The people of Berk managed to always keep a few cows on hand, but they had to hide them in caves and canyons and then make a difficult trek twice a day to milk them. Now, the dragons know to leave cows alone (a few dragons even like cheese as a treat), so once again Giljagaur can raid the stables.

So, keep your fresh cream locked away and make sure that the dairy personnel who work between Dec 13 and 26 are not the kind to be easily impressed by a well turned out pair of biceps.

Icelandic

Giljagaur var annar,
með gráa hausinn sinn.
- Hann skreið ofan úr gili
og skaust í fjósið inn.

Hann faldi sig í básunum
og froðunni stal,
meðan fjósakonan átti
við fjósamanninn tal.

English

Gully Imp was the second,
With his grey old head.
He crept down from the mountain,
and into the cow shed.

He hid in the stables
- And stole the froth,
While the milkmaid chatted
Up the stable boy.

Berglind, Iceland24
December 2015

Saturday, 28 November 2015

Eight of the world's best road trips

Get behind the wheel and embark on a world famous road trip for an experience of a lifetime you will never forget. If it's mountain scenery, sea views, historic castles, wildlife or a journey into the past you are after, try one of these eight routes for a taste of the open road.

Iceland Ring Road

Iceland's 800 mile Ring Route is the perfect way to experience this magical land's impressive scenery. From the picturesque two-lane highway you can see waterfalls, mountains, lakes and glaciers, on your way to some of the country's most stunning attractions. Not to be missed are Jökulsárlón Iceberg Lagoon, 200 feet high Seljalandsfoss waterfall, Sólheimajökull Glacier, the crystal ice caves under Vatnajökull glacier, and Myvatn Geothermal Area. Although you can circle the island in around 16 hours it is recommended you take 10-14 days to take in all the sights, especially between April and August when the Northern Lights will illuminate the sky.

Iceland Ring Road

Scotland North Coast 500

Dubbed 'Scotland's answer to Route 66' the country's newest driving route, North Coast 500, showcases the fairy tale castles, wild beaches and high mountain passes of the north. The route starts in Inverness, weaves along the west coast to Applecross and then northwards towards the bustling towns of Torridon and Ullapool. From there, you'll venture to some of the most northerly coastal points in Scotland. On route visit the famous Urquart Castle on the banks of Loch Ness, enjoy fantastic views of the Highland mountains, walk along the pristine white sands at Balnakeil Beach near Durness and warm yourself up with a trip to one of the famous whisky distilleries.

Scotland North Coast 500

And now for the original Route 66!

Maybe the world’s most famous road number, Route 66 was one of the first highways in the USA and the main connection between Chicago and Santa Monica, California where a sign still signals the end of the road. This is the classic road trip through small town America, covering a total of 2,448 miles. Once a major path for immigrants heading west, the original Route 66 doesn’t exist any more, but you can still follow parts of it on portions marked 'Historic Route 66'. Rent a convertible, eat in old-school diners, and fill up at desert gas stations for the iconic American road trip.

the original Route 66!

The Cabot Trail, Canada

The Cabot Trail is one of Canada’s most famous road trips. It is a 186 mile loop around a large chunk of northern Nova Scotia. Passing through Cape Breton Highlands National Park, this drive has amazing ocean views and it’s not uncommon to see moose, a variety of birds and other wildlife along the way. The natural beauty of the highlands provides the perfect backdrop for outdoor activities such as golfing, kayaking, hiking, cycling, and whale watching. Three to five days is recommended to fully enjoy the experience, with great local seafood available to sample, and lots of arts and crafts as well as the scenery and sports. If you complete the Cabot Trail you can rest assured you have visited one of the world's most scenic destinations!

The Cabot Trail, Canada


Portugal's Perfect Road Trip

Portugal is as fascinating as it is diverse, with towering mountains, a beautiful rocky coastline, deep valleys and ancient cities. The perfect way to discover the country is the flexibility of a road trip. You can either do it by car (compare car hire deals on Voiture Portugal) or by campervan, depending on your budget and your appetite for adventure. Starting in Porto in the north, spend two weeks weaving your way down to Faro in the southern Algarve. On the way experience the country's magnificent Atlantic coastline, take a diversion inland to the spectacular world heritage town of Sintra then stay for a couple of days in the capital of Lisbon, with its quaint cobbled streets and painted houses. Finish the tour driving through impressive Algarve scenery stopping off in the charming town of Lago.

Portugal's Perfect Road Trip

Wild Atlantic Way

Opt for one of the most spectacular coastal routes in the world and take a drive along Ireland's Wild Atlantic Way. At 1600 miles (2600 km) in length, it is one of the longest defined coastal routes in the world. It winds its way all along the Irish west coast from the Inishowen Peninsula in the north to the picturesque town of Kinsale, County Cork, in the south. As its name suggests, the route unfolds over wild and rugged terrain, with towering cliffs and magical bays and beaches. Coastal villages and ancient monuments are dotted around offering a glimpse into Ireland's mystical past and traditional lifestyles. The route is divided into 14 stages for easier travelling, pick one to get started or attempt the entire marathon!

Australia’s Great Ocean Road

If you're thinking of going 'down under' take a drive on what is arguably Australia’s best coastal road trip, the Great Ocean Road. Starting in the state of Victoria at Torquay it passes along 157 miles of near-deserted beaches, lighthouses, rainforest, and pretty villages before reaching its finish in Warrnambool. Encounter exotic animals like anteaters, kangaroos, penguins, koalas and parrots, or have a swim or surf at the countless beaches. The most sensational stretch is the appropriately named 'Shipwreck Coast', home to the Twelve Apostles (now reduced to eight by natural erosion), a formation of rock pillars up to 200 feet high.

Grossglockner Hochalpenstrasse, Austria

If you are looking for a challenge why not tackle one of the most famous road trips of them all, the 36 hairpin bends and 48 kilometres between Heiligenblut and Bruck over Austria’s highest peak, the Grossglockner? Described by BBC's Top Gear program as a route for “thrill-seekers” the High Alpine Road is a big attraction for sports car enthusiasts who relish those hairpin bends. As the road climbs to more than 8,000ft there are stunning views over 37 mountains while taking in an ever- changing landscape of pine-clad hills, rocky cliff faces, lakes, meadows and glaciers. Stop-offs include the Building of the Road exhibition next to the Fuscher Lacke, charting the severe challenges faced by labourers who, in 1935, built what’s often called the “most beautiful road in the world”.

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

A journey into the Heart of Iceland’s music festivals

Every year Iceland hosts dozens of music festivals, both in summer and in winter. Below is a concise list of music festivals in Iceland, showing you exactly where to go to discover the gems of International and Icelandic music.


Sónar Reykjavík offers you the best concerts/DJs in electronic music combined with audiovisual productions from Iceland, and from around the globe. For 3 nights, on 5 stages and with over 70 artists and bands, the prestigious Harpa Venue transforms into a massive nightclub where creative expression through dance is a certainty.          

Reykjavík Blues Festival takes place at the end of March. The festival opens with blues concerts in downtown Reykjavík on the first day, which is then followed by blues festivities and concerts at the Hilton Nordica Hotel.


Aldrei fór ég suður (I never went south), was set up in  2004 by Mugison, an Icelandic musician.  The festival takes place in Isafjörður, in the Westfjords,  where Mugison lives, and welcomes the best of Icelandic music. One year Sigur Rós showed up in cowboy hats and performed hillbilly versions of all their old tunes. All concerts are free of charge!

Secret Solstice festival first took place in June 2014. With Massive Attack performing last year, and Wu-Tang Clan this year 2015, the festival immediately became a major popular event. The Secret Solstice is situated in the Laugardalur valley in Reykjavík; it’s been nicknamed Festival of the Midnight Sun, because it takes place over the summer solstice weekend... 72 hours of music,  and the sun that doesn’t set... quite a program!


Við Djúpið also happens around the time of the summer solstice,  in Isafjörður in the Westfjords. This festival is organised in co-operation with the Iceland Academy of Arts. Traditional music and classical music are on the program, and the festival offers lessons and workshops by renowned musicians.

Eistnaflug is a metal music festival running since 2005 at Neskaupstaður and hosts the most popular unsigned metal bands (most of them Icelandic).With more than thirty groups on the agenda, this festival doubles the population of this small town in the Eastfjords.

Siglufjörður (folk music festival) begins on the first Wednesday of July and offers concerts, conferences and workshops to promote traditional Icelandic music and Icelandic instruments. Steindór Andersen and Sigur Rós made a noticeable appearance there in 2009.


The British festival ATP (All Tomorrow’s Parties), were invited in 2013, to the old military base of Ásbrú, close to Keflavík, and return every year for a few days at the beginning of July. Good quality International bands (Belle & Sebastian, Public Enemy, Portishead, Mogwai, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds) performed at ATP,  as well as upcoming local bands. Amazing concerts, cinema, DJs and other activities have made ATP successful for three years in a row.

Iceland Airwaves is without a doubt the most well-known and most popular festival in Iceland. With more than 100 groups and musicians on the program, this festival attracts travellers from all over the world. For five days in November,  downtown Reykjavík vibrates to the sound waves of the festival and music can be heard everywhere!


Joanne, Iceland24
November 2015

Friday, 2 October 2015

Top 20 Things to Do in Lake Mývatn - Trip to Mývatn

Mývatn offers a unique natural environment. With large contrasts and small distances you can experience the most and the best that Iceland has to offer. Large open spaces with roads and walkways lead travellers to interesting locations, were volcanic eruptions have played a crucial role in the formation of the landscape.

Top 20 Things to Do in Lake Mývatn - Trip to Mývatn

Whether the plan is to enjoy the landscape, examine unique natural phenomena or take a closer look at the plant and bird life, Mývatn has it all. Furthermore the area offers a variety of services in accommodation, food and entertainment, based on years of experience and knowledge. A large number of travellers visit Mývatn in the summer, but many believe the lake and its surroundings to be no less impressive in the wintertime.

The lake was created by a large basaltic lava eruption 2300 years ago, and the surrounding landscape is dominated by volcanic landforms, including lava pillars and rootless vents (pseudocraters). The effluent river Laxá is known for its rich fishing for Brown Trout and Atlantic Salmon. The name of the lake (Icelandic mý ("midge") and vatn ("lake"); the lake of midges) comes from the huge numbers of flies (midges) to be found there in the summer.

Top 20 Things to Do in Lake Mývatn - Trip to Mývatn

Must do

-Drive or cycle around Lake Mývatn, one of the largest lakes in Iceland, 37km2. Varied bird life, unique nature with landscape being formed by intense volcanic activity. Possible to rent a bike.

-Climb up to the crater Hverfjall. Walk the whole circle around the rim of this beautiful tephra ring which is one of the largest in the world.

Top 20 Things to Do in Lake Mývatn - Trip to Mývatn

-Taste the traditional “Hverabrauð” with smoked trout. This is dark bread that the locals bake underground in the geothermal heat. Available at most cafe’s and restaurants.

-Take a relaxing bath in the Mývatn Naturebaths and don ́t forget to try out the natural steam bath as well, but steam bathing is an old tradition in the area. The spa is open all year round. Spoil yourself!

Summertime (1. June - 31. August): 09:00 – 24:00
Entry no later than 23:30.
Wintertime (1. September - 31. May):  12:00 – 22:00
Entry no later than 21:30.

More information: http://www.jardbodin.is/en/

Top 20 Things to Do in Lake Mývatn - Trip to Mývatn

-Go birdwatching around the lake and visit Sigurgeir ́s Bird Museum for an interesting showcase and great information on icelandic birds and their habits.

-Take a sightseeing flight from the local airport in Reykjahlíð village. It sure looks different from above, great views over the region.

-Rent a bike and cycle to the Höfði Peninsula. Great view to the lake, rich birdlife, trees and vegetation.There is a hiking path around the peninsula and great view from the top of the hill.

-Get lost in Dimmuborgir lava formations. Great place for hiking, with marked trails that take you around these beautiful natural formations. Beware of the trolls and elves around.

Top 20 Things to Do in Lake Mývatn - Trip to Mývatn

The Dimmuborgir area consist of a massive, collapsed lava tube formed by a lava lake flowing in from a large eruption in the Þrengslaborgir and Lúdentsborgir crater row to the East, about 2300 years ago.

At Dimmuborgir, the lava pooled over a small lake. As the lava flowed across the wet sod, the water of the marsh started to boil, the vapour rising through the lava forming lava pillars from drainpipe size up to several meters in diameter. As the lava continued flowing towards lower ground in the Mývatn area, the top crust collapsed, but the hollow pillars of solidified lava remained. The lava lake must have been at least 10 meters deep, as estimated by the tallest structures still standing.

The lava flow surface remains partly intact around the Dimmuborgir area, so that the Dimmuborgir itself sits below the surrounding surface area. The area is characterised by large hollow cell- or chamber-like structures formed around bubbles of vapour, and some dramatically standing lava pillars. Several of the chambers and pillar bases are large enough to house humans, giving rise to the term "castles" (borgir).

-Explore the pseudocraters at Skútustaðir, interesting crater formations formed in steam explosions when molten lava flowed over wetland.

-Visit the geothermal area Hverir by Námaskarð. High temperature area where you find steaming fumaroles and bubbling mudpools. Watch out it ́s boiling hot!

Top 20 Things to Do in Lake Mývatn - Trip to Mývatn

-Get to know the icelandic horse and it ́s good temper by taking a riding tour through the beautiful district of Lake Myvatn. No riding experience needed.

-Visit the Krafla area, one of Iceland ́s most active volcanic area. Marked hiking trail to Leirhnjúkur, where the lava is still steaming hot since last eruption in 1984.

Top 20 Things to Do in Lake Mývatn - Trip to Mývatn

-Hike the marked trail to the top of Mt. Vindbelgur. Amazing view over the lake, pseudocraters and the Mývatn region from the top.

-Take a day tour to the Askja Caldera and the nature reserve Herðubreiðarlindir. Scenes of unforgettable Icelandic nature and geology. Only accessible by 4x4.

Top 20 Things to Do in Lake Mývatn - Trip to Mývatn

-Experience the Aurora Borealis - Northern lights, during winter time. You can also go on a snowmobile tour or nordic skiing tour on the frozen Lake Mývatn.

-Meet the Icelandic Yule Lads in Dimmuborgir during the month of December. These are the 13 “santa clauses” of Iceland, funny and interesting fellows.

-Dettifoss is a waterfall in Vatnajökull National Park in Northeast Iceland, and is reputed to be the most powerful waterfall in Europe. It is situated on the Jökulsá á Fjöllum river, which flows from the Vatnajökull glacier and collects water from a large area in Northeast Iceland. The falls are 100 metres (330 ft) wide and have a drop of 45 metres (150 ft) down to the Jökulsárgljúfur canyon. It is the largest waterfall in Europe in terms of volume discharge, having an average water flow of 193 m3/s.

Top 20 Things to Do in Lake Mývatn - Trip to Mývatn

-Buy a traditional Icelandic woolen sweater, as a souvenir to take home. Knitted by the local ladies.

-Participate in the Myvatn Marathon held in May every year. One of the best views one can get while running a marathon. The track goes around the lake.

-Explore the beautiful cave Lofthellir, a weird world of ice and darkness. Amazing ice sculptures inside the lava cave. Only accessible on a guided tour and 4x4.

Top 20 Things to Do in Lake Mývatn - Trip to Mývatn

LINKS

Mývatn panoramic virtual tour
http://www.icelandvirtualtour.com/myvatn-skutustadir-pseudocraters.html

HIKING FROM DETTIFOSS TO MÝVATN

Many hikers go from Dettifoss to Mývatn (Krafla). This route is not marked and not within Vatnajökull National Park. However, for the many hikers that go this route, here are some points to consider.
Distances:


Dettifoss – Lake Eilífsvötn (west side) 12-14 km 

Eilífsvötn - Krafla ~12 km 

Krafla - Reykjahlíð ~13 km



Navigation  

The route from Dettifoss to Krafla is not marked and there is no clear path to follow. The hike from Krafla to Reykjahlíð is a marked trail and starts at the car park at Leirhnjúkur. Therefore, during most of the Dettifoss-Mývatn route, hikers need to have good navigation skills. 

Hikers need to know how to use a GPS instrument and/or a compass and have a good understanding of maps. There are hills and mountains in the landscape that are helpful for navigation, eg. the mountain Eilífur, which can be easily seen from nearby Dettifoss on a clear day. However, on a foggy day the forms of the landscape cannot be seen and it is easy to lose direction. Those who do not have good navigational skills are recommended not to go this route. 

Route landscape  

There are no special dangers on the route. The route from Dettifoss to Lake Eilífsvötn goes over a gravel plain, moor and tussocks and is quite easy to pass. From Lake Eilífsvötn, the conditions of the hiking route depends on which direction is chosen. The more west hikers go the more lava and ravines they pass, where special care has to be taken. 


Top 20 Things to Do in Lake Mývatn - Trip to Mývatn

Drinking water  

Hikers need to carry all beverages for each day of the hike, as there are only three places where there is access to drinking water:  

-On the campsite at Dettifoss there is drinking water in containers. Rangers from Vatnajökull National Park fill the containers with fresh water every day. Please use this water as spaerly as possible. 
-At Lake Eilífsvötn, both on the west side and east side, are springs and brooks which are safe to drink from. 
-At the toilet house at Krafla/Leirhnjúku
Berglind Rós, Iceland24
© 2014 Iceland24, December 2014

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Volunteering in Iceland

If you’ve ever wanted a meaningful holiday without breaking the bank, then volunteering is the solution. You not only get to know the locals well but you’ll also be contributing something of value to the country of your visit. Iceland is no exception as goedele vermeeren recounts how her first volunteering experience in iceland went…


There are many ways to experience iceland. you could go there as a tourist, or make a short stopover on the way to or from europe but if you really want to get to know the country, there is an interesting alternative: volunteering because volunteering is not only a great way to save money while traveling, but you also get to meet lots of people, and immerse yourself in the local culture in a way a ‘normal’ tourist wouldn’t be able to. Plus, you get to learn a lot; both about the work you do and about yourself.


The easiest way to volunteer somewhere is to contact someone via the internet. there are great websites to help you with this, like www.wwoof.org, www.helpx.netwww.seeds.is or www.workaway.info. Once you log on, you’ll be surprised to find these sites offering a long list of possible local hosts, even for a small country like iceland.

Goedele's experience

It all began when i contacted several families through the workaway-website weeks and months in advance of my trip. this is because the families on the site are overwhelmed daily with requests from volunteers everywhere. So when i found a family that was still looking for someone, i was unbelievable happy.


I did, however, feel a bit insecure, not knowing what the family would be like, and if i would like the work itself. i had never worked on a farm before by the way so i did have some doubts but these proved unnecessary, since everything turned out for the best afterwards.


I originally planned to stay with them for 6 weeks, as they had requested but in the end, i stayed for almost 3 months (september to december), and even then i was reluctant to leave. During that time, i was treated like a member of their family and together with another volunteer, they took us to family parties, dinners and outings; everything we, as volunteers, could wish for. It was really a pleasant experience, living under their roof, eating and working together. It also helped that the work we had to do on the farm was equally pleasant too. we started (and ended) most of our days with milking and feeding the cows, cleaning their shed, and feeding the sheep.


At other times, we worked out on the farm, shaving sheep or reining in cows that had broken loose and the best part of the gig was having free time sandwiched in between the milking, where we could do whatever we wanted.

It was also during this time that we went shopping in akureyri, indulged in some winter skiing, read some books or tried to learn some icelandic, which was really fun. to top it all off, the farm was located in a beautiful valley. We just had to step outside to witness the most amazing views and sights we had ever seen and fill our days with long scenic walks that would satisfy our souls.


So there you have it! my farmstay experience in iceland. If ever you reached a point where you don’t know what to do with your life, just take some months off and do some volunteering –in iceland, of course. Coming here as a volunteer was the wisest choice i ever made, since the experience was unlike any other. The time that i spent on the farm could probably be the best time i’ve ever had in my life and i will always remember the kind and generous people i’ve met there.


No doubt, i will probably visit them again when i return to iceland and i hope that it will be sooner rather than later.

bless, bless…
Goedele

Jóhanna
Iceland24
Julio 2014

Saturday, 15 August 2015

Iceland and the Viking Settlement

The term Viking is a word generally used to refer to the inhabitants of Nordic countries like Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Iceland during the Middle Ages (800-1100 AD) who led the Scandinavian Expansion.


Better known as the Viking Age (or Viking Age AD), this period has long been popularly associated with the bold explorations of the Viking people, but is also synonymous with looting, rampant piracy, pillaging and burning everything that stood in the Vikings’ way throughout civilized Europe.

However, these facts are now coming to be recognized as gross over-simplifications and generalizations. Today, new emphasis is being put on the achievements of the Viking Age in terms of Scandinavian art, craftsmanship, technology, marine exploration and trade development.

Viking expansion in the world

The origin of the word "Viking" is somewhat uncertain. It may be from Old Norse “vik” (a bay or cove) or the Old English "wic" (a trade agreement). Not all Scandinavians were Vikings or professional warriors and not all Vikings were pirates.


The causes of the Viking Age expansion are complex. Land scarcity in Scandinavia, improvement of the production of iron and the need for new markets were probably the principal reasons.

The first recorded Viking raid was an assault by sea in 793 AD by Norwegian Vikings on the holy island of Lindisfarne, off the northeast coast of England. The evidence indicates, however, that there was considerable migration of Vikings west across the North Sea and east across the Baltic long before that.


Swedish traders penetrated the interior of Russia, starting new trade routes through the Volga-Dnepr, founding cities like Kiev and Novgorod and opening the way to Constantinople and the exotic markets of Arabia and the Far East. In Constantinople, the Vikings formed the elite guard of the Byzantine emperors, the feared and famous Varangian Guard. Danish warriors fought in the cities of the Carolingian Empire in cities like Hamburg, Dorestad, Rouen, Paris, Nantes and Bordeaux, until in 911, one army arrived in northern France (now known as Normandy, "Land of the Northmen ") and settled there.

During the Viking Age, these brave men went through half the world in their open boats, greatly expanding their horizons. But having achieved much and reaching even remote locations, Vikings did not have staying power. With no reserves of wealth or political experience, they failed to achieve cohesion in Europe, or to effectively dominate the oldest, richest and most stable of those they attempted to invade.

Viking settlement in Iceland

Iceland was settled between 874 and 930 AD by the Norse settlers in search of new farmland. At that time, the weather in Iceland was warmer than it is now and the settlers and their animals thought they had found paradise, they began to be divided between them.


The first Viking to sight Iceland was Gardar Svavarsson, who had changed course while sailing from Norway to the Faroe Islands due to harsh weather conditions. His reports led to the first attempts to settle on the island. The Norwegian chief, Ingólfur Arnarson, is usually considered the first settler who formed a permanent settlement on the island. He settled with his family around the year 874, at a place called Reykjavik (the present capital of the country).


Following Ingólfur, another group of Norwegians set sail on the North Atlantic in 874 with their families, livestock, slaves and possessions in an effort to escape the domination of the first Norwegian king, Harald I. They traveled about 1,000 km. in their drakkars to the island of Iceland.


According to the Icelandic sagas, these people were mainly of Norwegian origin, and to a lesser extent, of Irish and Scottish decent, namely Irish servants and slaves of Norwegian/Scottish chiefs. The Icelandic Age of Settlement (Icelandic: Landnámsöld) is believed to have lasted from 874-930, at which point the "Althing", the world's oldest parliamentary body, was founded.

The first settlers took huge territories were subdivided during the sixty years of "landnám" (settlement period). Some of the settlers with good social skills made smart partnerships and were made leaders. They represented groups of farmers in the "Althing" (Alzing).


Much of the knowledge about this time comes from the Icelandic sagas, a set of writings that not only document the settlement of Iceland but also the exploration of Greenland and the region of North America now called Newfoundland.

These sagas also tell us details about the daily life of the settlers and their descendants. Especially representative of the colonization of Greenland and America are the "Sagas of the Greenlanders" written in 1200 and the "Saga of Erik the Red" written in 1260.


Iceland is a key example of settlers moving to an uninhabited land and designing a new society. Written sources are useful, but do not tell us everything we need to know about the distribution of land, animals and trade to truly understand the inner workings of this unusual society.

The center of Viking settlement in Iceland - "Landnámssetur"

For lovers of Icelandic history and especially those interested in the history of the Viking settlement in this country, there is a place just an hour from Reykjavik, in Borgarnes on Highway 1 north, called "Landnámssetur Íslands" where two outstanding exhibitions can be found:

- The exhibition of Viking settlement.
- The first exhibition of the Viking and Icelandic poet, Egill Skallagrimsson.


After the visit to this place, travelers will be much more prepared for an informed and knowledgeable trip around Iceland.

It also has audio guides in 12 different languages, including English. The complete route for each exhibition will last about 30 minutes, after which you may understand many things and answer many questions that arise during your tour around Iceland.


This location also boasts a one of a kind restaurant with a unique stone-walled dining area.

Location and Information:

Brákarbraut 13-15310 Borgarnes
Tel: +354 437 1600 and +354 895 5460
Open all year from 10:00 to 21:00 except December 24, 25, 26, 31 and January 1.

Jóhanna
© 2015 by Iceland24