Well, I’m back.
I made it to Iceland and back again, safely, and with very little jet lag, the five hour time difference notwithstanding. Iceland was amazing (as expected), and I had an even better time than my first trip there. It helps that I was completely healthy and not dealing with a nagging ankle injury. I was able to hike almost as much as I wanted to. The only thing that stopped me from going even farther along the hiking trails was rain and wind. I’ll be summarizing my whole trip in a day-by-day fashion, complete with photos later on once I’ve finished up the photo editing. I took 2,778 photographs while I was there, so the editing process will necessarily take some time.
But here are some photographs to start out with:
I arrived in Iceland the morning of September 11 and spent the day wandering around Reykjavik. I stopped into a couple of familiar shops– primarily Mál og Menning, my favorite bookshop, where I purchased a copy of The Elder Eddas. After a bit more wandering I had dinner at Salka Valka, then walked over to Solfar, the sculpture overlooking the bay, and finally retired to the guesthouse I stayed in the last time I was in Iceland, Heida’s Home.
The next day I drove up to the Snaefellsness Peninsula on the western edge of Iceland. I finally saw Kirkjufell (which I missed last year) and revisited Arnarstapi before heading to Búðakirkja. The weather was a little challenging with rain and wind dogging my steps and forcing me to miss the cliffs of Londrangar. But in the spots I really wanted to see, the weather held off long enough for me to take some lovely photographs of the land and otherwise just enjoy being there.
I headed toward Vik, on the southern coast the day after that. I stopped at Skógafoss, which I visited last time, but was unable to climb the stairs on the eastern side of the falls and hike the trail that follows the river upstream. This time, I climbed all 370 stairs and it was worth the effort. Skógafoss is an amazing waterfall, but there are more beautiful cascades and a winding canyon farther back. The effort to get there also means that most tourists don’t bother to go, and so it is far less crowded. After that, I drove on to the hostel I’d booked, which was not in Vik like I thought but was on the other side of Reynisdrangar, the mountain overlooking Reynisfjara beach. So I visited the beach again, though the tide was up and the waves were powerful, making it difficult to make photographs without potentially getting drenched.
The next day, I drove across volcanic plains and the sandflats toward Vatnajökull National Park, which encompasses the older Skaftafell National park and the beautiful waterfall, Svartifoss. The hiking trail to the falls is 1.8 kilometers and is uphill most of the way. Fortunately, there are lovely overlooks where you can pause to catch your breath, and another waterfall, Hundafoss, to watch along the way. Svartifoss is not Iceland’s more powerful or its tallest waterfall, but thanks to the layers of basalt columns it falls among, it is one of the prettiest. Unfortunately, those basalt columns can fall at any time, and because too many tourists have trampled the delicate native plants at the base of the falls, there is only a small viewing platform to see Svartifoss. That said, the view is still wonderful, though it can quickly get crowded.
After that, I went to Jökulsárlón, a glacial lagoon where a glacier calves icebergs into a lake, which feeds them directly into the ocean. Some of the icebergs go out to see, but many are pushed back onto the beach, creating a beautiful scene of thousands of pieces of colorful ice against a backdrop of a black sand beach. Once again, rain cut my visit short, and it followed me all the way to the little town of Höfn, where I stayed for the next couple of days, ate wonderful food, visited the mountain of Vestrahorn, and generally relaxed in the beautiful, quiet harbor town.
My last full day in Iceland was mostly spent driving across most of the country back to Reykjavik. It seemed like a much shorter drive than it was because the landscape was gorgeous all along the way. I stopped around the halfway point to stretch my legs and photograph Seljalandsfoss, a famous and beautiful waterfall about an hour west of Vik. I had wanted to photograph the third waterfall on the hiking path running below the cliffs, but there were so many tourists standing around the entrance to the falls that I simply couldn’t get the shot I wanted. Because I needed to get back to Reykjavik, I had to leave, but I took some final shots of Seljalandsfoss before I left.
So that was a quick summary of my trip to Iceland. As I said, I will have a more in-depth rundown of the locations later on, when I have completed photographs to go along with it.
What I Read During My Trip:
Most of my reading was done while waiting around at airports and during my flights. With about ten hours’ worth of flying both ways and a few hours of layover, I had plenty of time to read.
- The Poet and the Princess: Memories of Rainer Maria Rilke by Princess Maria von Thurn und Taxis
- The Gilded Wolves (The Gilded Wolves #1) by Roshani Chokshi
- The Adventure of the Peculiar Protocols: Adapted from the Journals of John H. Watson, M.D. by Nicholas Meyer, ARC provided by NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press
- Lethal Pursuit (Barker and Llewellyn #11) by Will Thomas, ARC provided by NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press
- The Twenty-Ninth Day: Surviving a Grizzly Bear Attack in the Canadian Tundra by Alex Messenger, ARC provided by NetGalley and Blackstone Publishing
The Poet and the Princess was an odd little book and didn’t follow the narrative path I had expected. It was the recollections about a brilliant but depressed poet by a German noblewoman during the last days of Germany’s noble class. It hardly mentions World War I, and you can definitely see the Princess’s enormous wealth and privilege throughout. In spite of a life spent in relative idleness, Princess Maria did enable Rilke to write some of the greatest poems of his career– the Duino Elegies.
I read The Gilded Wolves because I received an ARC from NetGalley of the next book in the trilogy, The Silvered Serpents. What most surprised me about this book was how much I ended up enjoying it. I’d read Chokshi’s earlier novel, The Star-Touched Queen, and was a little underwhelmed by it, and had read mixed reviews of The Gilded Wolves. But I ended up liking most of the characters, though there were some plot points and narrative issues that worked against it.
The Adventure of the Peculiar Protocols is a Sherlock Holmes pastiche wherein Meyer sets up a framing story that an anonymous buyer paid an enormous sum for what seems to have been one of John Watson’s lost journals, which documents a strange case that Holmes and Watson investigated in 1905. I’ve read Meyer’s other Sherlock pastiche novels, and this one lives up to those. It feels just like one of the original stories and sucked me right back into the story every time I returned to it.
I am a member of a Facebook fan group for Will Thomas’s Barker and Llewellyn novels, which is a series about a pair of private enquiry agents in late Victorian London. Thomas himself founded the Facebook group and regularly posts, and when he announced that he had submitted the final draft for his latest book, Lethal Pursuit, I started checking NetGalley. It finally appeared on my second-to-last day in Iceland as a ‘Read Now’ selection, so I immediately downloaded it and devoured it during my flight home. It was better than I had hoped for, developed the characters’ lives in a way that felt true to their personalities and the time period, and the ending was unpredictable and fantastic.
The Twenty-Ninth Day is about a group of young men on a canoe trip in the wilderness of Nunavut in extreme northern Canada, hundreds of miles from the nearest town. Messenger and five other men were making a parallel trip to six of their female friends across forty-two days. On the twenty-ninth day of the trip, Messenger was mauled by a Grizzly bear. Suddenly, their adventure turned into a life or death situation. This book is part-wilderness travelogue and part-survival story, and though Messenger’s writing is not the most eloquent and has a few odd point of view shifts, it tells a remarkable story about the wilderness, our place within it, and our connections to the people who have been there before us. There are graphic moments during and after the Grizzy bear’s attack, so be advised if you decide to read this one.
What I’m Currently Reading:
- Jade City (The Green Bone Saga #1) by Fonda Lee (158/495)
- Ancestral Night by Elizabeth Bear, audiobook narrated by Nneka Okoye(40%)
- Burial Rites by Hannah Kent (136/355)
I have made no progress in Jade City on account of lingering jet lag. It is the book that lives near my nightstand (not on it, because the kitten likes to chew on the corners of books) and that I read before bed. Jet lag has made it so that I fall asleep as soon as I lay down, so no nighttime reading is being done right now
I had to check out Ancestral Night via Overdrive for the second time, as I did not end up listening to any audiobooks while I was in Iceland. I’m not quite halfway through the book, but the story is getting more complex as it goes along, and I really want to find out what is happening to Haimey, and how it will affect Singer and Connla.
I had intended to read Burial Rites while in Iceland. I read a couple of books in the evenings during my last trip there, but I hadn’t anticipated how much hiking I would end up doing, and how much it would wear me out. I only read about seventy-five pages while I was there, and the progress I’ve made since then was thanks to a trip to the cafe after work, where I had a chance to sit down with no interruptions and read for a while. This is a captivating book about the last person, Agnes Magnusdottir, the last person publicly beheaded for murder in Iceland. A family in northern Iceland is forced to take her in for the months before her execution, and a priest arrives to try to council Agnes before her death. As the weeks progress, the family and the priest discover that Agnes is nothing like they thought she would be, and the truth is not the black and white story they thought it was.
I’d purchased the American edition of Burial Rites from Barnes and Noble some time ago, but on my last night in Iceland, I found myself in a bookshop with some extra Icelandic cash to spare. As I didn’t find any Tolkien books in Icelandic, I finally decided to purchase a different edition of Burial Rites, which has a gorgeously designed cover that I greatly prefer to the blurry photographic style of the American version. Sorry, American edition. You’ll go to the used bookstore where someone will find you and love you.
What I Plan to Start Reading This Week:
Given what I’m already in the middle of, this is an optimistic list. We’ll see how it goes.
- A Memory Called Empire (Teixcalaan #1) by Arkady Martine
- Ancillary Justice (Imperial Radch #1) by Ann Leckie
- Children of Dune (Chronicles of Dune #3) by Frank Herbert
These three and Ancestral Night are my choices for Space Opera September, a month-long readathon hosted by Thomas @ SFF180. The basic goal is to read four space operas during the month. There are more challenges you can do, but given where I am in the grand scheme of the readathon, I’m not going to go for those extra things.
What I Plan to Start Watching This Week:
The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance– Starring: Neil Sterrenberg, Nathalie Emmanuel, Beccy Henderson. One season, streaming on Netflix.
I didn’t watch The Dark Crystal as a child, so I don’t have a lot of nostalgia backing me up with this show, but I have heard great things about the show and the notion of puppetry blending with CGI sounds amazing.
Vikings, season four, part two. Starring: Gustaf Skarsgard, Katheryn Winnick, Travis Fimmel. History Channel. DVDs from my local library.
I used to watch this show and then lost track of it after a while. With my Iceland trip still fresh in my head and having read about the Norse people who settled on the island, I’m suddenly interested in this show again.