Thursday, July 19, 2012

Sweden and Iceland 2012

Sweden and Iceland 2012 After sad goodbyes, we flew to Sweden (via Germany) and caught the train to Uppsala to meet our friends Helena and Erik and their 2 children, Gabrielle and Elise. We stayed 4 nights at their house, tucked away in a small suburb outside of Uppsala. We enjoyed a short bus trip to Uppsala seeing the beautiful church, castle and university buildings.
One day we went to Stockholm with Erik as our guide. It was quite overcast and rainy at times, so we made the best of the day, seeing a recovered shipwrecked boat from the 16th century, wandering through the old town, catching the train and tram, visiting Skansen - seeing traditional Swedish buildings and trying swedish bread and meatballs, and avoiding the funpark and the teenage concert on that day! Last on our list was going to an Ice Hockey World Championship game - Norway vs Italy. It was an afternoon game, so not many people there - but it was fantastic! The kids were screaming and cheering for Norway - who won! We made our own way back home on two trains and a bus and had a quick dinner before heading to bed exhausted!
Helena took us on some lovely walks around the rivers near their house and we managed to find our way to the shops to buy supplies to cook dinner (bobotie and sticky date pudding!) as a farewell gift. It was nice to relax at their house and for the kids to play.
From Sweden we flew Iceland Air to Reykjavik, Iceland, for two nights staying at Inga’s Guesthouse. Thank goodness it was a self contained flat as food is so expensive to buy! 2 minute noodles and frozen vegies left in the freezer were our first meal - it was still light but well past our bedtime, so we crashed anyway! Not far from our house was a lovely bakery and a corner store to buy supplies ($8 for box of cereal!). We braved the cold, overcast and sometimes wet day on a day bus tour of the Golden Circle seeing so much (but no puffins!): - gulfoss waterfall (Hvítá tumbles and plunges into a crevice some 32 m deep), - Strokkur hot springs with the amazing geyser that shoots up to 30 m high. - beautiful church at Skalholt (plaques show ministers dating back to the 900’s), - Þingvellir National Park, where the American and Eurasian tectonic plates are pulling apart at a rate of a few centimetres per year and where Icelandic people have met for important meetings for a thousand years.
Evidence of the ongoing ground movements are everywhere - tourist tracks that stop abruptly, rifts, gaping holes in the ground, volcanic rock and then the snow-capped mountains. Our tour guide firstly spoke in English, then translated into German and of course also spoke Icelandic. She sang several Icelandic songs as we travelled around Iceland. It was very enjoyable, but the kids were disappointed that we didn’t actually touch any snow (just saw it along the road in patches).
Our second and last full day we took a tour to the Blue Lagoon enjoying the hot spring baths, trying the mineral masks and then getting ready to fly out that evening. Connor didn’t like the lagoon - too hot! We had beautiful sunny weather, even though it was a little windy and chilly outside - the hot baths kept us warm! It was a very extravagant place with spa treatments and towels and robes you could hire (after paying lots to get in!) and a bar in the pool area. The colour of the water was iridescent blue - almost white, against the grey rocks and brilliant blue sky.

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