Iceland --  A Mystic Land Near the Arctic Circle
Greenland --  An Adventure In the Arctic Circle

 

 

Lila and I went to Iceland and Greenland to experience the natural beauty of both countries and to learn about their history and culture.   We often think of Iceland if not in maybe primitive terms, but as a country that does not have the facilities and technological “tools” that we have in the United States.    Nothing can be further from the truth.    It is more like America than we would think…..smart phones, laptops, iPads, Wi-Fi, etc. everywhere.   Iceland is a smaller country, with about 313,000 people and 195,000 people in the main city of Reykjavik, but surely they have a society that all of us would want to emulate.    

Greenland is everything Iceland is not……Iceland is green and Greenland has much ice and snow, Iceland is so developed and much of Greenland is quite primitive.   But both share a most exquisite pristine natural beauty.    While our time in Iceland was a tremendous learning experience, our time in Greenland was an adventure.   (Greenland discussion cont'd below)

 

 

Reykjavik is a pretty city, with lots of young people, many restaurants and coffee shops and very good roads.    But the key to Iceland's success lies with its environment and its economy.  The basis of which is the geo thermal energy that lies beneath the ground and may be visible via eruption of lava, or geyser releases.   While we did not witness an eruption, we did see geysers spewing high into the air and boiling pots of lava…or fumaroles.   But while this energy source has many positive virtues, the threat of volcanic eruption is ever present.   Well aware of that threat, Iceland monitors that possibility fervently and regularly.  

 

I will leave the research of Iceland to the reader via the extensive source of knowledge that already exists and is generally available.  Travel was quite easy…..approximately a six hour flight from the east coast, we were met by our tour director as we exited passport control.   Joining up with the rest of our tour group, we boarded our bus and were off to do some sightseeing.    Both the tour director and the group were great, the chemistry between us worked out extremely well.  

Memorial Church in Reykjavik

 

 

More Pictures of Reykjavik and Churches on the Island

 

Arriving in Iceland, we had an introduction to the country and headed for the natural wonders of this amazing country.  

 

Iceland was formed about 18 million years ago via volcanic eruptions.  The settlement of Iceland began in AD 874 when Ingólfr Arnarson became the first permanent Norse settler on the island.  Over the following centuries, Norsemen continued to settle in Iceland.    From 1262 to 1918, Iceland was part of the Norwegian and later the Danish monarchies.   

 

In 1562, a civil war began between Catholics and Lutherans and the Catholic Bishop was beheaded and everybody was required to be Lutheran or at least to pretend to be so.   In the 1750s, Reykjavik was established and wool trade had become a significant source of commerce.   The country became independent in 1918 and a republic was declared in 1944.  

Hraunfossar Falls in the Hvita River

 

 

More Pictures of Parks and Waterfalls

 

 

  

Our tour focused on the natural elements along the western region of the island, with our stay to the city of Borgarnes.    Our travels took us to the north of Iceland and we remained in the city of Akureyri for a few days.  A flight back to Reykjavik to continue our touring of the southern coast of Iceland with a stay in the city of Hella.   We visited many waterfalls, national parks, heated lagoons, volcanic sights and more where we hiked along trails that kept us close to nature and the unique facets of Iceland that make this island country so extraordinary.

 

The Icelandic alphabet has 32 letters, but they need more than we do as they use so many letters in their words and names…..I found the words and names hard to pronounce phonetically, but there is meaning associated with each syllable (you have to be born there to truly understand).    Not for me, the Icelandic people graciously learned English and so we had little problem conversing in order to do everything in this wonderful country. 

Thermal Springs in Landsvirkjiem Near Akureyri

 

 

More Pictures of The Shores and Lagoons

 

 

Spending money was not a problem…..you can use charge cards for everything…..very easy for any expense.   There are coffee shops, restaurants and shops everywhere….great coffee always.   The people are welcoming and security is never an issue.  There is no fear of anything being stolen, or being mischarged…the entire country is just a delight to visit.

 

Iceland suffered a severe recession in 2008 similar to what the United States and other countries had to cope with because of the banking crisis, but they came back fast and are now doing extremely well.   Fortunately for them, their government was singularly minded and took the necessary action to correct the economic mistakes they had made.   

 

Prices are not cheap, but the people that live here enjoy the great restaurants and coffee shops regularly, and as one young woman told me, “We only purchase what we need!”   So they do not spend excessively, but they do enjoy life.   It is a country that provides health care, education and retirement….all supported by a strong social structure, but industry is widely spread throughout the island.  

Deildartunguhver Thermal Springs Pumping 180 Liters of Water per Second for Central Heating.

 

 

More Pictures of Geysers, Fumaroles and Glaciers

 

 

Greenland (cont'd)--

For me the Greenland adventure began when our flight from Reykjavik touched down in Kulusuk, Greenland on a dirt runway.   Not much in Kulusuk, maybe a couple of hundred people, a small hotel and a pad for the helicopter that flew us to Tasiilaq, about fifteen minutes away.   Tasiilaq is bigger with a community of just under two thousand people…..most all are Inuit’s, Greenland’s native population.  

 

There are no roads between the Greenland’s communities that are located on the coastline surrounding the island….either air or ship transport is the only way people get around.   In Tasiilaq the town leads up the surrounding mountains from the harbor.  

 

Dirt roads and simple structures define the settlement.  There is a church, a supermarket, post office, a few hotels, some other service stores and an operating harbor that receives all the supplies that are required and necessary for the year in just the two or three months that the harbor can be navigated.  

Tasiilaq, Greenland

 

 

More Pictures of Greenland

I have included pictures that I have created digitally from the pictures that I took on this trip for the appreciation of the reader and as an artistic focus for me during my travels.    I hope you enjoy them as much as I have in creating them.  

Family Church on a Farm

 

 

 

More Digitally Enhanced Pictures

 

Iceland efficiently uses their natural resources by exploiting geothermal energy to heat homes and water supplies.    The air is clean and the tap water is definitely good to drink…..and they grow produce in hot houses using the water heated by means of the volcanic energy.  They have more sheep than people (or so it seems) so they export wool, fish products and technical expertise.   Tourism is increasingly becoming a major industry in Iceland.

 

Iceland lies in the Northern Atlantic Ocean mid way between North America and Europe.   In fact, Iceland is located right on top of a volcano the separates the tectonic plates for North America and Eurasia…..two plates that are constantly separating at the rate of two centimeters every year.  As these plates separate, volcanic action results in lava eruptions and geysers and fumaroles, the latter being an opening in the earth’s crust near volcanoes and which emits steam and gases.

 

I will leave the research to the reader…….while our guide was extremely knowledgeable and dedicated I could not begin to recite back all I learned from this wise man and the knowledgeable people on our tour group who added to the conversation.   They all contributed much to my visit to Iceland.  

 

My impression is that I could certainly live in Iceland…at least for the summer when we had twenty-four hours of daylight.    Winter, with its cooler temperatures, long hours of darkness and wind are another matter.   The population seems to be rather young…..the median age being thirty-six years.    This is a country with a bright future.....

Greenland (cont'd) -- 

Our hotel in Tasiilaq was surprising pleasant, comfortable and the food was excellent.    We had outstanding views below as we were perched high on the hill overlooking the town and the harbor.  One evening, we watched in amazement as men butchered a seal on an ice flow in the harbor.   The scenery of ice and snow was absolutely so amazing and the setting so primitive, it made what we had just witnessed so unique…..   It was like we were watching a movie.  

 

We hiked with our group in the Valley of the Flowers…..on a trail covered by snow and across some streams…..not many flowers, but again, remarkable scenery.   We did pass a cemetery where the graves were decorated with artificial flowers….maybe those were the “flowers” to commemorate the trail.  

 

Later, we also walked through the town visiting the supermarket, the church, the post office and a museum.   At the museum we visited a replica of a one room house built into the hill that was used by natives as their winter home in an earlier time.    The harbor activity was just getting started as it had only recently opened from the ice that blocked shipments that were now arriving on a regular basis.  

 

When it came to time to depart, the helicopter that we had arrived on had suffered a failure.   There was no backup and yet we needed to reach Kulusuk once more to connect with our flight back to Iceland.    We were dispatched on a small boat….about fifteen people….to reach Kulusuk by traveling through ice flows.

  

It was an adventurous journey taking almost three hours as the captain carefully maneuvered through the ice to a dock in Kulusuk.  A couple of times our boat hit the ice….we observed the bang, rocked back and forth and continued on our quest.   The captain of the boat dispatched his crew topside to check out the best route forward.    Finally, we reached the dock at Kulusuk and had to climb a ladder to get on the roof of the boat and were then swiftly lifted to the dock and shuttled to the airport in pickup trucks…..yes, that was an adventure.  

 

My time in Greenland was absolutely perfect…I did not know what to expect, but what I experienced was truly of “bucket list” quality.