DIY – Golden Circle Tour, definitely worth it

During my stay this far I’ve came to a conclusion that everything on this island costs tons of more than anyone would like to pay, thus, when someone offers an opportunity including one of the most overpriced trips for free with a little bit of rewriting, what else could you say than “I’d love to.” Thanks to J贸n and his wonderful class, yesterday was a class trip day. That was something my host had shortly mentioned earlier, and for my very happy surprise wanted me to join the class for the day. At 8am our bus turned its bow towards our first stop of the day – Thingvellir national park.

It’s been said that Thingvellir is one of our world’s true natural wonders, hiding all kinds of evidence of how tectonic plates, volcanoes and glacial ice have molded and built Icelandic nature through the history. As you might now, also Iceland’s position influences strongly the ecosystem, which is why both North American and European species of plants and animals have been found living on the island – besides unique Icelandic ones (like puffins and arctic foxes.) These are things we heard from our guide ranger at park region and that I find quite interesting.

Even though we didn’t have the time to actually walk around all the huge park, the guide took us to explore for a bit arranging us a shortcut athwart it. At this time of the year the place is covered by white snow and slippery ice, whereas in summer the color spectrum is mind blowing, although it didn’t change the level of the park’s enjoyable beauty.

Our second stop after a while on the road was the Geyser area and with that Geyser tourist- center, where we had an hour to grab a snack and drool over gift shops. We even got to choose ourselves a godly T-shirt from the selection of the Norse mythology gods. For me it was Loki, after finally deciding between him and his brother Thor.

My absolute favorite was the place after the Geyser route, a true Golden circle gem, the amazing waterfalls at Mosfellbaer. Since a part of the place was closed because of all the snow, we only had the upper side of the path to take. I’m a little bit jealous of the tourists getting to take the rest of it in summertime. Nevertheless, the view down was magical. J贸n wanted to snap a picture or two he promised to send to me later.

Before returning to Reykjavik the bus drove us to see one of the other waterfalls on the way. After a short walk to the beach you could see that very close, even climb on top like some of us proved. Even if the info and teaching were pretty much all in Icelandic, the experience was totally one-of-a-kind, and when I even made some new friends along the way, I really can’t whine.

A school with views and tortillas for life

Nobody in the villa was up when my alarm woke me at 7am on Monday morning. Ath茅na the cat was the first to wish me a good morning on the stairs to upstairs, even though the night before J贸n implied me and Paola to get up well in advance. The man himself joined us halfway between our quick breakfast and chat about our school schedules. Paola and I didn’t seem to have any classes together, but on break time I had lunch with her and an Estonian exchange student Anastasia. In my classes again, I got to think about a project to work with through the month.

When I was done with my classes I still had time waiting J贸n’s to end, so I took a walk down the hill till. The view from my school is phenomenal – when you walk through a little neighborhood in the area you get to see the mountains without hindrance. It was windy and raining, and not wanting to get my shoes any more wet I kept my distance from the water line. Even then there was just a lonely road and a field of crass between it and me. After adoring the scenery and foot it a while I catched up with J贸n at the school to get a ride home. The weather outside got even worse during our trip back to K贸pavogur.

Nobody wanted to leave the villa for the sake of a grocery store- excursion, so we decided it was a tortilla day. I helped J贸n with the cooking, he taught me what it meant to make a taco meat sauce Icelandic style – or just a style of his own. Everybody did their part, even little Ar茅 got to slice vegetables with his big sister. In this family everything is team work and frisky.

“In this household we only drink two things – water and pepsi max”, announced the head of the house, pouring water to an ewer and giving me two pepsi bottles to take to the table. The serving was full of colors and Icelandic flavors, even when eating just familiar fast-food. Everybody ate way too much. Paola told us about her upcoming trip to Copenhagen later on the same week, and about her birthday the same day. It also came known that J贸n has a side business with horses near by and that the internet at the villa went down thanks to the stormy weather. Fortunately Paola has her GoT on blue-ray.

The cake of the year – more frigid than Iceland? Railroads, in turn, not my piece of cake.

My first morning in J贸n’s jovial villa was full of optimistic life attitude, cheerful people and cats. In the start of our Sunday there was a convivial, good-humored hour at breakfast table with the family and furry friends – one of which tried to eat my morning cheerios with a will. While making tea for myself and the lady of the house I received some interesting and funny facts about Iceland from J贸n. For example, did you know that back in the Viking era Icelanders used to have a different month system depending on weather and crops, Iceland once had the biggest banana plantation in whole Europe or that people in Iceland always call each other by their first name, even when talking to the president?

After our first breakfast of the day Guffa the hostess wanted to take me to a tour through the neighborhood and the area near by with her younger son. We discovered the hot water swimming pools near the house, found odd chips from the grocery store and took time to admire the architecture of K贸pavogur, Reykjavik. One of our stops along the way was a very pretty and sweet-scented little bakery Guffa said she liked a lot. By request of her son she bought us a cake to enjoy at home, alongside of croissants and fresh bread. The cake of the year, told the baker – summery colored, citrus flavored and made mostly of meringue.

About the second breakfast of the day – Icelandic traditions, exploring Europe and ice to break a knife into. We set a table at the living room, where Ar茅 the little guy already had spread out a board game set of Tickets to ride Europe. He wanted all the family to play against him and asked me to join as well, even though I had no smallest clue of what the rules in the game were. Turned out it was tick-tack-toe with little train figures, and that Ar茅 rocked at it. While trying to beat the master we feasted with croissants, bread, strawberries… And a deep frosted cake.

When bought – I swear – the cake was not meant to be an Ice cream- or frozen sweetmeat, even if Icelanders love themselves a good ice cream every now and then. Instead of deep-freeze it was in a showcase like any other fresh baked one. Nevertheless, after almost two hours of building railway tracks it still was frozen like Vatnaj枚kull when we decided to try a knife on it.

In the afternoon I took a little walk around the area by myself. The streets of my host-home square look misleadingly the same, what made it a little troublesome to find my way back at first, before I noticed how convenient of a landmark the geyser- pool park was. Maybe the place could’ve thawed the cake as well. The rest of the day rolled past on even more railroads, and when Ar茅 finally got fed up of winning against us I spent a couple next hours watching Game of Thrones – an Icelandic fave – with J贸n’s daughter Paola and one of the cats, Ath茅na. I’m sure Ath茅na loves Jon Snow even more than me and Paola do.

To be a homeless beaver or not to be?

They say you should always be grateful for everything that’s okay in life at the very moment. This morning left me with nothing but a phone number of a trusted person and too heavy baggage, standing at a lounge of my hostel middle of an unfamiliar island. Just an half hour before the agreed meeting time my host mailed to announce she couldn’t take me in anymore. In that moment, after the night in a dorm and her previous messages, that was one of the last things I wanted to hear. Again forced to think about a plan B what came to my staying, I sat down to have a free morning tea that the hostel reception included, and called to Kristveig the tutor, hoping for help.

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After her coming by, a bit of creative thinking and cooperation we threw my baggage into her Jeep, and decided my visit at downtown was something to leave behind. She took me to a brand new area of the beautiful city, suggesting a joint Icelandic style dinner at her place. I helped her cook, made friends with the household’s cat Rosmarin, and got to meet her amazing all artistic family – the husband and her son. Good food and interesting topics of conversation led us to find our spirit animals. The cards made me a beaver!

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Finally, later in the evening one of the teachers from the participating school of mine, apparently a good friend of Kristveig’s, answered her call and was – according to her – more than happy to offer me a place to stay. That was where we headed right after an episode of Doctor Who, a new common favorite.

Jon’s place for me is a dream. A private room with a back door, Netflix, a working WiFi and a design carried out with an artistic eye, what else could you really ask for. What’s more, I never wished to have a bathroom just for myself during the trip.

The man has his lovely family living upstairs above my little floor. His two sons already treat me like a sister, and his daughter, as well as his wife, were very willing to show the area around us for me tomorrow, propounding for example an outside swimming pool near by for us to check out together. Younger of he boys even made me a bookmark shaped of a cat, which I’ve met a bunch today.

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Jon – what comes to that – mentioned he’s okay with driving me to school in mornings and taking me back home at once as going to work himself and leaving from there. He might not be the original Jon Snow, but totally enough to melt my heart all the same.

Welcome aboard to Reykjavik – or Westeros?

My second morning of the trip started with a cup of English tea and a distressing mail from my Airbnb host when she made known that for personal reasons she wasn’t able to accommodate me the first night of my stay. Trying to figure out the problem with her and my mobility program tutor I hopped out of the train in early morning at Pasila station, pretty easily reaching a bus to the Helsinki-Vantaa airport with good amount of time in my hands. After the drive it was still a long while of waiting the check in to begin with my fat ‘n heavy baggage.

Before my flight I managed to stop for snacks at Upper crust- airport cafe, as well as check the Moomin shop near my gate. Then even more waiting ’till the plane finally set off to the Scandinavian skies a little after 2pm Finnish time.

The atmosphere in that plane was fantasy-like fantastic! Icelandair treated me well – from the traditional Icelandic salt chocolate to the amazing Game of Thrones- themed security instruction- and tourist guide videos, like I was going nowhere else than Westeros itself. Could I please meet the Khaleesi? Even though my playlist of music wasn’t long enough and the captain’s English was a bit poor, the hours aboard flew by.

I met my tutor Kristveig after landing in Keflavik airport and taking a bus to downtown Reykjavik bus terminal – where she was waiting to meet me with an answer to all of my questions that far. She had even solved the problem with my accommodation by renting a hostel room for the night. We cruised a little sightseeing tour through the downtown part of the city in the process of her dropping me to Reykjavik city hostel, which seemed not to be that bad of a staying option at all. That led me to spend the rest of the day in a same room with an interrail- traveler from Michigan.

Hungry after all the traveling my next mission was to find the first place to grab something eat on the island. Faithful to previous experiences I picked an Asian diner Wok Dragon just a couple hundred meters away from the hostel. Have to say – when opening the door of a restaurant and immediately hearing Abba playing loud, I felt cozy and homelike enough to note my choice right even though I’m more than thrilled to try some traditional Icelandic peculiarities as well. I still have all the month to get there.

Ready, set, go! Destination set 鈫 Iceland

After a frustrating wait, huge hopes and a little bit of stressing I find myself sitting in a night train to Helsinki. My month long adventure in an icy paradise is finally about to begin. I’m not really tired and at the moment – to fill in time – I let chill music play in my headphones, creating a soundtrack to this new exiting chapter of life’s wonders. It’s dark outside but my mind is full of joy (and energy from the super sour fruit sweets i’m constantly chewing..)

As I remembered from the times before, it’s not about cheap prices in trains’ dining cars, but for a moment I still spent drinking an evening tea at one of the tables. An older lady came to very kindly wish me a good early night and stopped to chat for a minute or two. She was almost as excited about my exotic destination than I am and made my day even a little bit better than it already has been, so here’s a shout out that she definitely deserves.

Tomorrow is still mainly traveling. To be honest I’m a little nervous about the practicalities, taking off abroad alone sure keeps your hands full. There’s still a bunch of things to get through before simmering down and diving into one of the world famous geysers in Reykjavik.

At the following weekend I hope to explore the city for a start, before my classes at a local school starts on Monday. If you ask me, there couldn’t be much more interesting place for a visual person to visit than this magical, fabled glacier. I’m thrilled to see what the next 30 days will bring and extremely happy with my choice to take part of this project in the first place!