Category Archives: Good Eats

Notes from the Field: 27 September 2015

Reykjavik

Today was my urban day. All told, I walked about 10 miles around Reykjavik today, checking out downtown, the docks, the Phallological Museum, public swimming pools and bars selling locally crafted brews. Things I learned today, in no particular order: Greenpeace is in Iceland. Most mammals, humans being one of few notable exceptions, have penis bones. Beer in Iceland is uniformly good, and really strong. Public pools are the community center.

Reykjavik is a totally walkable city. The population is about 200,000 and it’s fairily compact, making it easy to get around. It’s clean and has a decidedly European flair, with some interesting public buildings. It is still, for a small city, remarkably quiet like the rest of the country. Going to a public pool today was interesting. Pools are common here in communities of any real size, but I was often outside even those and so didn’t have much opportunity to visit them. Unlike the Myvatn spa where most of the patrons were obviously tourists, this pool seemed to be where local Icelanders go to hang out with friends and family: multigenerational families, fathers with their babes and small groups of college-aged kids were there, all seeming to know one another and moving frequently from the lap pool to the “hot pots” to the saunas and back again.  Instead of the English, French, German and Spanish polyglot I’ve heard for the last two days, most of conversations I heard were in Icelandic.

Dinner tonight was at Sægreifinn, a little hole in the wall on the docks. There is family style seating for perhaps 30 people, at three long and closely packed trestle tables. Customers included quite a few locals, some tourists and a Brazilian film crew eating their way around the world. The menu is simple: lobster soup, fresh bread, and skewered items of your choosing. Skewers available included cod, redfish, salmon, char, Minke whale, vegetables and potatoes. I opted for soup, bread, veggies and yes, Minke. I’ve had mixed feelings about eating puffin, pony or whale but decided my Iceland adventure wouldn’t be complete without trying at least one of those meats. And I have to say, it was pretty damn good. Not so good that I will become an ardent proponent of whaling for commercial food purposes; not so good that I’ll go,out of my way to eat it again… But it was damn tender and mighty tasty.

Notes from the Field: 26 September 2015

Reykjavik-Þingvellir-Reykjavik

Another home-style day: windy with horizontal rain, all day. Not a good day necessarily to be topside but underwater is a different story! Incredibly clear water at Silfra, at least 100 feet and probably way more than that. The water is glacial melt that has gone through miles and miles of filtration through volcanic soils – it’s drinkable straight from the lake, though I didn’t try this as I wasn’t sure how well I’d accomplish drinking a mouthful of water while still managing to breathe with my regulator. Not a whole lot to see but be able to swim in the rift between tectonic plates is just pretty damn neat.

Silfra is in Þingvellir National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site, so I spent a bit of time walking through park of the park when I got done diving –  until my feet were squishing in my shoes and the water was wicking up my socks.  I was right next to the edge of the North American plate – I could’ve (and probably should’ve, since my shoes were already soaked) waded across a creek to touch it. The Eurasian plate is a kilometer or so distant – couldn’t see it because of the weather – and the area in between the two is laced with deep cracks and ponds/lakes like Silfra. The two plates spread a bit less than an inch per year.

After a warm shower and some fresh dry clothes I headed to Matur of Drykker for dinner – fantastic meal using all locally grown/caught/collected ingredients, including an Icelandic white ale flavored with thyme, cod chips, cod liver, cod tongue and cod head. Who’d o’ thunk cod parts could taste so good?!

Notes from the Field: 24 September 2015

Giljalandi – Vik – Giljalandi

Wow! Blue sky this morning, with just a few powder puffs drifting aimlessly around. I could see what I guess must be Myrdalsjökull through the trees, and once I put binoculars on it I saw fresh snow high up on the hills. Not that I haven’t seen some beautiful views already but it’s absolutely lovely here when a bit of sunlight is added!

I went to Vik today, a village about 55 km from my little cabin in the woods. It’s small, tucked into a relatively narrow strip of flat(ish) land between Myrdalsjökull and the ocean. There are a couple of cliffs nearby and at the base of one is yet another example of columnar basalt. I didn’t expect to be following square rocks from one end of Iceland to another but that is in fact what I’ve done! I climbed the cliffs of Reynisfjall first and had a grand view of Myrdalsjökull and Sólheimajökull inland; Vik on the shore to one side and a long beach leading to Dyrhólaey lighthouse on the other.

I followed that with a visit to Reynisfjara, where the basalt columns rise from the black sand beach to form a cave of sorts. There weren’t too many people there when I arrived and most of them were polite, staying out of other people’s pictures and taking turns moving in close. And then there were the two French-speaking men who jjumped in front of several of us and took turns climbing up the rocks and posing on them. This annoyed me enough that I decided I’d needed to be in their photos and so I moved right on in, standing just next to or below the fat bearded slob on the rocks so there was no way his friend could get a picture without me in it. Rarely have I felt so satisfied. Shades of my mother, I’ll admit…

After a visit to the lighthouse at Dyrhólaey, I had a very late lunch of cured lamb, fresh bread and ice cream, all from local producers, at Halldórskaffi. The lamb here is good. Yeaterday I had some smoked lamb; today was cured… Maybe I’ll find some lamb soup tomorrow.  Anyaay, I headed “home” as late afternoon sun hit Myrdalsjökull. About five minutes after I got my gear inside… You guessed it… It began raining. The rain only lasted about 15 minutes and it looks like it might be a nice night to see the Northern Lights again!

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Notes from the Field: 17 September 2015

Aðaldalur-Egilsstaðir-Berunes

Foggy, but only for a couple hours. Cloudy. Not rainy, and windy only through bays and (mountain) passes. Still little chance of seeing the Aurora Borealis, but all in all, a definite improvement.


My drive today was relatively short and thus somewhat leisurely. For about two hours I was driving through what appeared to be a high, dry, mountainous, black sand desert crowned with jagged black peaks. It wasn’t a desert, of course – there were plenty of rivers carrying water from the glaciers and ice caps I’ve yet to see, and there were plants of the minute, low-growing sort – but it was as austere an environment as I’ve seen in a long while. I probably should have tried using  video to capture the sense of dark vastness since photos just didn’t do it justice, at least not with today’s lighting conditions. The few days that I’ve had with sunshine have brought out some brilliant colors in the rocks and plants here and I imagine this part if Iceland would have looked just magnificent with some sunlight!

In any event, I passed through this area and headed into Egilsstaðir, my first stop in East Iceland. I had a number of things to do there, chiefly buy groceries for the upcoming few days, replace a lost lens cap and eat lunch at the Gistihúsið Egilsstaðir, well-reviewed for its locally sourced, slow food menu. I wish I’d written down the dish specifics; what I remember is cream of celery root  soup with basil oil; and fish of the day with a sesame crust served over a cauliflower sauce with roe, pickled onion and dill. Both dishes were fantastic, and really not any more expensive than most other prepared meals in Iceland.

So, with a full stomach and a full gas tank I headed to Berunes via Route 939, a shortcut over a mountain pass.  The cloud cover by this time had lifted considerably so I had a largely unobstructed panoramic  view as I descended of terraced mountains laced with waterfalls and the river Berufjarðará, flowing down to the sea.

After getting settled in at the Berunes hostel (they have über-comfortable chairs here, like the Danish-designed chairs my parents have had for 30+ years), I did laundry for the first time since I ladded in-country – oh, for clean underwear and socks! –  and walked down to the beach to watch eiders and marvel at the merest traces of blue sky in the late evening light.