Waterfalls, whales, caves…and yet another festival.

Well, first semester over in Sweden is now done and dusted, and the time has gone surprisingly fast! And I have been a very bad blogger, in not keeping you guys updated with everything that has been happening here, but one of the reasons it has gone so fast is that I have been astoundingly busy. The last semester has been so rich with experiences (both educational and otherwise) that I have barely had time to stop and take it all in! And has it been fun? Hells yeah! So much so that I have organised to stay here for the second semester also. This is pretty much confirmed, although I am still waiting for the official go ahead from immigration. (the wheels turn very slowly there) There is so much I want to tell you guys about, but before I get too involved in what is happening now, I have one more “catch up” post about Iceland…I actually started writing this over a month ago, so it would be a shame not to finish it!!!

In my last post, I had just finished the walk from Þorsmörk to Skógar. After my very lovely lie in the morning after I decided to spend the morning checking out the Skógar Folk Museum. This is an awesome little place, with an indoor “formal” museum with relics relevant to the cultural history of the area and an outdoor section with reconstructed traditional dwellings, including a church, a schoolhouse, and (my favourite) old farmhouses complete with grass roofs. There is also a totally awesome transport museum – they link everything together really well, so it is more like a journey through Iceland’s history than just looking at old cars.

My favourite room in the Skógar museum.

The reconstructed farmhouses – and you can go inside!

How awesome is this old-school snow mobile?

After getting a fill of some local culture, it was time to head back to Reykjavík for some music culture. The bus ride back had a commentary, which included some history of the places we were travelling through and also some snippets from Icelandic Sagas, which are a collection of historical writings/folk tales written between 1000-1500. And of course we had to stop and check out a couple more waterfalls. 🙂

On arriving back in Reykjavík I headed straight back to the local campground – I didn’t think it would be worth pushing my luck trying to find accommodation as Culture Night is even bigger than Pride, and once again I had not booked anywhere to stay. So, all set up and showered up, it was time to head into town and see what was going on.

Culture Night is predominantly a music festival, and although there are other events (displays, exhibitions) going on throughout the weekend, Saturday night is the “big event”. There were a number of stages set up around the city, and the local music venues also had stuff going on, so there was pretty much something for every taste. Russell Crowe was one of the “guest stars” this year, and one of the other Aussies in Reykjavík told me he turned up unannounced at their hostel earlier in the day for a jam! I started the night in a smaller venue where they had one of Iceland’s young metal bands playing, and then cruised around the town going between stages and venues. The atmosphere was really nice – although they allow drinking in the streets, everyone was really chilled out – aside from the people who where there to party hard, there was also a really big family atmosphere and it was nice to see people of all ages mingling together in the streets. The night culminated with an awesome fireworks display.

Starting out the night listening to some local talent.

Russell Crowe on one of the four “main stages” around the city.

Fireworks signalling the official “end” of Culture Night.

After the fireworks, I spent the rest of the night chilling out at one of the local pubs, where the music continued well into the night. The night ended well after dawn (it was midway through the afternoon when I finally made it home) after befriending a local who had a keen interest in all things scientific, particularly in physics. This man had the most amazing book collection I have ever seen, including first edition texts from many prominent scientists and scientific ethicists and philosophers. His particular interest was disproving Gödel’s incompleteness theorem by finding a theory of everything (ToE) – certainly an ambitious task! Needless to say, we had a very interesting (and argumentative night) touching on many aspects of current, past, and potential scientific knowledge and philosophy.

My last few days in Reykjavík were busy ones. I spent one day checking out the city itself, now that there was a reprieve from the rain! Part of this included a walking tour through the city. Walking tours are something I really love to do when I get to a new city as I tend to walk mostly anyway, so it helps to orient yourself to the city lay out and you get to learn a bit about the history and culture of the place also. And Iceland has a vibrant and colourful history and culture. 🙂

I was going to caption this, but I think the photo speaks for itself.

I was going to caption this, but I think the photo speaks for itself.

The colourful back streets of Reykjavík.

The colourful back streets of Reykjavík.

An elf stone. A whole family of elves live in here. Seriously. See the door?

An elf stone. A whole family of elves live in here. Seriously. See the door?

Bikes and flowers. Two of my favourite things.

Bikes and flowers. Two of my favourite things. In the same place. Together. Cool.

The Radhus (city hall). If you look closely there are portholes in the mossy wall, representing the city's seafaring history.

The Radhus (city hall). There are portholes in the wall, representing the city’s seafaring history.

This dude really wanted his photo taken and spent quite some time posing for all us tourists.

This dude really wanted his photo taken and spent quite some time posing for all us tourists.

Looking up the hill to Halgrímskirkja.

Looking up the hill to Halgrímskirkja.

Look - blue sky! A lovely Icelandic summer afternoon.

Blue sky! A lovely summer afternoon.

Looking out over the city from the top of Halgrímskirkja.

Looking out over the city from the top of Halgrímskirkja.

An example of some of the graffiti that decorates this already colourful city.

Some of the graffiti that decorates this already colourful city.

Harpa - the performing arts centre.

Harpa – the performing arts centre by day.

And Harpa in her full glory at night.

And Harpa in her full glory at night. (it looks much better in person)

Any trip to Iceland would not be complete without a whale watching tour, so I spent an afternoon out on the water catching up with some Minke whales. The whale tourism industry is in opposition to the whale hunting industry, and the tour operators asked us all to please avoid whale eating – the other whale oriented tourist activity in Iceland. (most locals are not that keen on eating whale – < 5% actually do) As I wasn’t overly keen on chomping down on some whale carcass anyway this was not too hard to agree to.

The afternoon out on the water was lovely, and we were even lucky enough to see the last of the puffins, albeit from a distance. (it was the end of the season, so they were leaving the harbour, not the planet!)

A Minke whale - for a big creature they are *very* hard to photograph.

A Minke whale – for a big creature they are *very* hard to photograph.

View of the mountains around the harbour - and a gull!

View of the mountains around the harbour – and a gull!

A sparkly, sparkly ocean - such a beautiful place to spend an evening. :))

A sparkly, sparkly ocean – such a beautiful place to spend an evening.

Then it was time for some more outdoor adventures. So I headed out to Þingvellir National Park for some snorkelling. Now even though it is summer, snorkelling in Þingvellir is not such a simple thing. We were to snorkel across the Silfra rift, the spot at which the American and Eurasian tectonic plates are (slowly) separating. And we were snorkelling in a glacial lake, to the water temperature was, oh, say 2 or 3°C. So all dressed up in thermals, puffy heat suits, and dry suits we were set to go. Being glacial water, it was incredibly clear and clean, but even with only a small part of our faces uncovered it was incredibly cold!

After lunch we headed down into the caves, which was a pretty cool way to spend an afternoon. And the surrounding National Park was absolutely gorgeous. 😀

The beautiful Þingvellir National Park.

The beautiful Þingvellir National Park.

Ready to head down into the cave...

All ready to head down into the cave…

This rock. It looks like fire. I *love* this rock. :))

This rock looks like fire. I *love* this rock.

And that was it. My time in Iceland was over. I could write so much more about this wonderful, diverse little country, but I think it may be time to tell you a little bit about the country I am actually living in – Sweden.

So I am going to leave you with a photo of where I spent my last day in Iceland – sometimes there is something nice about having a late afternoon flight. 😀

The Blue Lagoon. Tourist central, overpriced, but a totally unmissable experience.

The Blue Lagoon. Tourist central, overpriced, but a totally unmissable experience.

About carryingstraw
I am an Australian who is currently spending ten months living and studying in Örebro, Sweden. Back home, I am a mature aged student who studies via distance, so living and studying at an actual university should be an experience in itself, let alone living in another country! My handle, carryingstraw, comes from a Swedish proverb - dra ditt strå till stacken - which loosely translates to "carry your straw to the hill". It is in reference to a common type of ant in Sweden that build their anthills out of straw, and my favourite interpretation is "do your part in the creation of something magnificent". For me, this is a reminder of a couple of things: that big things are achieved one step at a time, that to achieve something you have to play your part as well, and that for truly great things to be done there are always many people involved. So join me in carrying straw. :)

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