Posted tagged ‘Puffins’

Return To Iceland

August 21, 2012

Our first pass at Iceland took us to Reykjavik, then bad weather forced us to miss our planned visit to Djupivogur. This time, on our return from the Faroe Islands, we were able to stop at Seydisfjördur and Akureyri, in the east and north.

The east of Iceland looks dramatically different. We didn’t spend any time in Seydisfjördur itself, but headed directly towards the Borgafjördur Estuary.

There we stopped at the tiny town of Bakkagerdi

which is in a stunning setting, although the town itself doesn’t have a lot to offer but scenery. We had to drive for hours to get there, and arrived rather bus-worn and grumpy.

Shel and I resorted to taking pictures of each other, something we don’t often do,

and in fact he took many of the beautifully atmospheric shots I’m going to show you.

Like the one of this cool house, the only one of its kind that we saw in Iceland, with not only a green roof but green sides as well. I wanted to move right in.

This was a more typical look, beautiful in quite a different way.

At nearby Hafnarholmi we saw puffins galore, and since this was what we had come for, we quit grumbling about the several hour trip through deserted countryside and fell in love with the little birds, as so many have before us. There’s just something about a puffin. They’re much smaller than I’d imagined, but twice as cute.

Next we sailed around to the north of Iceland, to pretty Akureyri, which is a real town. Here again we didn’t spend much time in town, but instead headed out to visit farms in the gorgeous surrounding countryside.

This was the most beautiful part of Iceland that we saw, gentle and verdant.

First we visited an amazing dairy farm, where the 100 Icelandic cows are cared for entirely by robots.  Well, one person oversees it all, but all the work is robotic.

The cows are milked four times a day, although they often ask to be milked more frequently. Every cow has a chip with all her vital information, and the robot milker will not milk her more frequently than at six hour intervals, no matter how many times she presents herself for milking. The chip also contains specifications like the size and location of each cow’s teats, her milk production, and so on. Before milking the robot cleans the teats, and the cows munch placidly all the while. There’s even a robot to clean the floors, a sort of Poop Roomba, and as you can see the cow’s feet are quite clean.

Lest you think that cows would not enjoy such a life, I have to admit that these were the calmest and most contented-seeming cows I have ever seen, despite their robo-care and the fact that they live entirely indoors.

Next we visited a little farm with an attached ice cream shop, where I got to try freshly-made skyr, and the others had a bowl of exotic ice creams made from the farmer’s milk. Flavors like sorrel, and beer, for example, that seemed very cutting edge for a little creamery out in the country, and which were pronounced to be excellent.

We also visited a very old farmstead, now being restored as a little museum to show how farmers lived in the past,

and there we were offered a delicious snack of home-smoked lamb, home made paté with rhubarb jam and dark bread, and the exquisitely creamy Icelandic blue cheese.

We were more or less ready to move right in and stay a while, but as always happens when cruising, you only get a day to see things, no matter how wonderful. I’m ready to go back to Iceland, though. It’s a fascinating country, compellingly different from anywhere else I’ve been.

Back in Akureyri, while I did a little shopping before we sailed, Shel caught these two young musicians performing on the street, proving that some things are universal, and that girls will be girls, no matter where they live.


Oh Is For Faroes

August 9, 2012

If you’re longing for serenity, stillness, and sweet solitude, the Faroe Islands might be for you.

A haven for hermits,

a place made for painters and photographers.

A place where people depend on fishing

to feed their families, as well as growing potatoes,

and growing and drying grasses to feed their animals: sheep, horses, and some cows.

A place where virtually everything else, including building materials, is imported from Denmark. There’s not even a Faroese cheese. A country that’s part of the Kingdom of Denmark, with an independence movement that’s said to include about half the population, but which lacks visible means of support in the modern world. A country that you can’t understand in a day, which is all we had there.

A gentle, empty land where your nearest neighbors are probably sheep,

or possibly puffins. We were dying to see puffins, and therefore thrilled beyond words to see these guy, even though they weren’t nearly close enough to suit us. We didn’t see pufflings, as baby puffins are called, but I think puffling is my new favorite word.

And if I ever decide to take a step out of the world, to live far from all I know, to dream, perchance to write, the Faroe Islands might be my new favorite place.