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12 Dec 2019

The land of fire and water – Iceland

The land of fire and water – Iceland

Stockholm airport, at 8.50 in the morning. On the runway hang around SAS and Norwegian aircrafts, and I I’m sitting with a laptop, coffee and two large backpacks waiting for a flight back to Dubai.

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Messages on my phone from the bank about the status of my account makes me realize that it was my most expensive journey in life (prices ridiculously high!), but that’s ok. Every penny, or rather every Icelandic krona, were worth it. Iceland is a country simply spectacular, unique with stunning landscapes and true wonders of nature. And believe me, I’m not bulshiting you here.

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This land is 4 times smaller than California, and despite it every corner of the country has to offer something completely different. You admire the powerful waterfalls and green cliffs around to a few tens of kilometers further find yourself in a place that resembles the moon. You bathe in the lagoons powered by geothermal sources to one and a half hours away, all cold, on the turbulent ocean, watch for whales. Dear friends, take a break at work, school, or whatever it is you’re doing now, and I’m taking you to faraway Iceland!

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Land of fire

Iceland stands astride on the boundary of two tectonic plates (within a year, averagely, move to each other at 2cm). This frontier is called the Mid-Atlantic ridge. This means not only that it has as many volcanoes, which teenager pimples, but that a few of them is still active. The activity of one of them – Eyiafjallajokull, in 2010 experienced the greater part of the northern hemisphere of the globe. Do you remember all those canceled flights? Here is the culprit:

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Many areas of the island is covered with dried lava which brings the idea how could look like the landscape of the moon.

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And how it could look like if there were a little more water and oxygen ;)

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If there are volcanoes there are geysers. A whole bunch of geysers. Small and large. On one of these larger, “surprisingly” called Geysir, we decided to go as well. Geyser itself didn’t impress us with size, because when it finally decided to spray out after about 10 minutes of waiting, then was suppressed by gusty winds (normally at 35 m). However, it was worth to go there to observe Asians posing motionless, mentioned before, 10 minutes and expecting at the climax moment to snap a photo with a geyser in the background :)

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Geothermal energy is for Icelanders not only a source of income from tourism but above all, from it is produced cheap electricity. In addition, the hot water heats almost all the buildings on the island. But this raises a dilemma with which Icelanders, especially the Icelandic Government must now contend. Keep this unspoilt, unique landscape, or use geological forces latent in it for energy generation?

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One of such electrical plant is located in the Myvatn region (the Lake of mosquitoes), where, apart from the steep enter the nearby peaks, squeezing through mazes made of lava, like a scene from Lord of the Rings, we must also face the stench of sulfur and rotten eggs ;)

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Land of water

But Myvatn is primarily a lake which is supposedly a paradise for ornithologists. However, such an ignorant in this area as myself saw there only ducks, swans and other unidentified birds. But I will share with you such a landscape decorated with golden-green hues:

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After a day of exploring the north-east corner of Iceland, where the said lake is located, we decided to relax our bodies in hot springs.

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Relaxation did not last too long, because our Slovakian traveling companion – Nikolka, managed to persevere just 15 minutes with, already mentioned, sulfur odor and eggs. Relaxation looked quite different in other hot springs – Blue Lagoon in Reykjavík, which we visited immediately after arriving on the island.

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Splashing in turquoise water, we started interesting chat about life, work, and the Middle East with two American girls from New York. To question from where am I from (in view of the representatives of which nations I have the pleasure) I patiently replied that from Poland, a country in the middle of Europe, and more specifically from Warsaw – the capital of that state. Likeable 27-year-old from the Big Apple, with a slight irony in her voice, she said she knows where is Poland, and that he also knows that Warsaw is it’s capital :) In addition, she asked to bear in mind that USA is divided by New York, California and the rest :)

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But the lagoon in Iceland is not only a swimming pool with hot water. Our next stop is the ice lagoon Jokulsarlon, that huge chunks of blue ice detached from the glacier, move towards the ocean. This place may be known to you from the last film of the series James Bond, where an agent of Her Majesty the Queen, played by Pierce Brosnan (Die Another Day). Since the lagoon is mixed fresh water from the glacier and salt water from the ocean, the water had never freezes.

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But wait a minute! How come it doesn’t freeze?! 007 showed there to communists from North Korea how to drift on ice! – you’ll say. Well, the filmmakers a week before filming scenes on the lagoon, blocked the flow of the strait and thus the flow of salt water. A week has passed and the water froze. Ot such a curiosity :)

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On the subject of water, there is no way to not share with you all the waterfalls we saw. So many I haven’t seen so far in my whole life! Let’s start from the waterfall Dettifoss, which is the most powerful in Europe. 100 meters wide, 45 meters high, with an average flow of 193 m3 per second!

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A little less powerful and the wide of 100 meters Gullfoss waterfall (gold) from which water rolls Hvita river (White River):

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Next presenting to you Seljalandsfoss, falling from a height of 60 m, which I could admire each side, and by which neatly got wet :)

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Right behind him beautiful Skogafoss, lying at the foot of the volcano, whose eruption in 2010, I mentioned earlier. Falling out with a bang with a height of 60 m:

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Another beauty is Selfoss, although low compared to companions, because only 11 m, thanks to its amphitheatric arrangement, consisting of a single 40-50 planes:

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Time for a beautiful and powerful Godafoss (Waterfall of the Gods). Why the name? In year 1000. When the Icelandic parliament Althingi (the first parliament in the world) has approved the transition from pagan to the Christian faith, the chairman of parliament who lived near the waterfall, in a sign of getting rid of their old faith threw all the wooden statues and amulets to this particular waterfall:

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And yet another waterfall located at the site also marked by history – Oxararfoss. It’s located in Thingvellir National Park, where in year 933 was constituted Icelandic parliament Althingi:

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Representatives of the people gathered here once a year to enact new laws and to judge disputes. Every citizen had the right to attend the proceedings and ask the deputies to settle his lawsuit. At the Althing were gathering an average of 5,000 people. The voice belonged to a decisive 48 deputes. The judgments were enforced immediately. For example, women who have committed adultery were sentenced to death by throwing them into the river currents of rapid Oxara, which feeds the waterfall above…

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Land of previously undiscovered creatures

The most common way to visit Iceland is its complete tour around on the famous road No. 1. We did the same as well. And so we go in our camper, somewhere in the south-eastern part of the country. Through the windows flashing unforgettable landscapes…

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…all of a sudden driving the car Roman slamms the breaks on and screams: reindeers! For the first time in my life I saw these loveable animals, which every December for Christmas pulls sleighs of lovely fat man with a long, gray beard, dressed in red robes. Exited with the situation, already before leaving the car, we start talking to each other in whispers to, God forbid, not frighten animals.

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Even one soul around, no cars, even disruptive throughout the day winds mercifully ceased to fukać (as the Slovaks say). Complete silence. We’re coming closer and closer. Despite even that separates us from them minnows and small river, they already sense our presence and move a few meters away to eat grass.

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For a good few minutes we’re watching these beautiful animals. Satisfied with such a great culmination of the day, we drive a few kilometers in search of a good place to sleep. The sun had set. For dinner on the table lands tuna from a can, and we clarify plans for the next days…

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…days go by, we discover another swathes of the country, until we find ourselves in Husavik, a large town, for Icelandic standards (2500 inhabitants), in the northern fjords. Why we came to this fishing village? To admire the largest mammals on Earth – whales! Wake up early morning next day and I was relieved to affirm that it’s not raining. We put on a warm suits, gloves and goggles.

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We get on the motorboat, jumping on the tormented ocean by waves. 30 minutes pass, the captain circulates around the bay in search of giants. Another 15 passes and nothing. Little worried, I explain myself that if I won’t see them, what to do, in the end it’s not the Zoo, but nature.

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Suddenly, the captain abruptly turns. In the heart hope: he spotted whales! And there it is! “At nine o’clock”, than we see a sudden spurts of water, a second later emerges humpback whale! In all its glory! I join the chorus on the boat issuing the sounds of delight hyyyyy oohhhh łaaaaał!

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We’re admiring, photographing, recording :)

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Amazing feeling. I was happy like a kid. What can I say more? I just love nature! :)

People

Although most of this post regard to the flora and fauna of Iceland, paradoxically also people live there ;) And they’re just as original as the land they inhabit. In addition to raw land (suitable at best for grazing sheep, which there are more than men), dark winters, severe climatic conditions, factor shaping the life of Icelanders is their small number – 320,000. With as many as 3/5 of a population leaving in Reykjavik.

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You can get the impression that everyone knows everyone, or at least are related by friends or family. One Icelander, I talked to laughed that it’s even hard to hide from the world a romance.

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I must admit that due to the nature that totally engulfed me, I haven’t talked to many local people. However, with these few conversations that I was able to perform, I can say that it’s a nation helpful and eager to chat with foreigners, but self-restrained. It seemed to me that for stuff like politics or ecology, you’d need bottle of vodka on the table, preferably after sunset, to somewhat develop these issues.

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Back to reality

While I share with you the memories still fresh in my head suddenly I hear a voice from the speakers at Arlanda Airport in Stockholm: passengers traveling to Dubai flight EK 158 kindly ask to come to the gate no 62. So, got to go! :)

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And follows more photos on Instagram: flying_polack

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And here you can see amazing video from the trip :D

3 thoughts on “The land of fire and water – Iceland

  1. Jose Garcia September 29, 2015 / 11:53 pm

    This is Probably the place you have been to that I am the most jealous about but as you noticed from your bank account… THAT has been one of the reasons why it has taken me forever to visit specially because once in that side of the world I would really love to add Greenland to it specially the Liluljsat (or something like that) Ice Fjord.

    Did you have fun pronouncing their things and talking to the people who all know each other? :-P BTW thanks for your post card, it arrived yesterday! :-D

  2. Rathish Selva February 27, 2017 / 2:48 am

    Wow, what a wonderful trip this must have been Daniel! Being with nature and seeing the beauty of the country :) Travelling on the road must have been so much fun!! It’s an experience I would love to have. The pictures are great :) It’s so cool how you got to see a whale!

    Wonderful post as always. It feels like a part of me went to Iceland while reading your post :)

    • FlyingPolack! February 28, 2017 / 11:18 am

      Thank you Ratish! Yes, whole travel was just exceptional. Hard to compare with anything I’ve seen so far.

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