As it always seems, day two of the vacation is when you are mentally rested enough to start to relax and enjoy vacation. The food poisoning was gone, we had both slept well, and we awoke to a new day in Iceland…. at 10:30! The only reason we woke up was the person who was to clean our room entered and shut the door with enough volume that we were roused out of slumber.
Today marked the first day of wedding activities. Our friends had arranged for a picnic at one of the waterfalls nearby. The Seljalandsfoss Waterfall was about 30 minutes down the “1” to the East from Hella. As the soon-to-be groom had mentioned, you really can’t miss it from the road. The weather was brisk but dry as we walked up to, in back of and around the falls. There is a great walking trail that links the main falls that you can see from the road to another secret falls that you can hike into a very short distance. The terrain had marks of previous visitors hikes both up the mountain and through the mud. The site is definitely something to be seen – especially the secret area just around the corner from the main falls area.
With the help of our friends, we mastered the art of the picnic on this trip. We dined on brown bread, cheese, apples, chocolate, wine and an assortment of sandwiches as we took in the beauty of the surroundings. Hella has a great grocery store and bakery or “Bakari” just across from Hotel Stracta that became our “go-to” place for snacks and car trip meals. The waterfall had a warm coffee stand along with a cute handmade goods shop where we had our one and only interaction with puffins on the trip – the ones that were a pattern on a new blanket.
The people and culture of Iceland are fantastically straight forward and assume a level of common sense that doesn’t seem to be assumed in our own country. For example, many of the sites that we visit don’t have signs indicating that harm with come upon the person who decides to cross the rope on the edge of a cliff. This feature of the Icelandic culture seems to instill a sense of self awareness and a certain “don’t be an idiot” mystique to which I am drawn. The same goes with many interactions with the people of Iceland. They were all very kind, attentive to tourists or patrons in their stores and very polite. However, there does not seem to be a notion of pandering to the entitlement of people who expected the sun to set in a different direction. When someone complained about something trivial to the experience, they were quick to point out that it was, in fact, trivial and offered a positive replacement statement. “I am sorry that the Northern Lights have not come out for you yet, however it is a weather pattern and should be treated as such. However, can we interest you in something you can schedule such as a lovely dinner from our restaurant?” It was wonderful to hear people say, in a respectful way, that they could not control the weather no matter how far someone had traveled, so take your whiny butt to the bar and get some food!
After a lovely picnic, we took off further down the road and headed out for an adventure toward Vik. The incredible strata in the land was visible from the road, but more prominent as we neared the beach. On the way, we stopped at some very picturesque places including Syrholaey, a beautiful Atlantic Ocean arch, a great old lighthouse and, a little further down the road, a road that had a sign for the “Black Beach Restaurant” where we enjoyed a beautiful misty day at the beach. The most striking points of these areas were, the volcanic black sand beaches that contrasted the white foamy waves, the beautiful basalt pillar formations and caves along the beaches, and the lack of a fish smell. We spent a few hours and much of our camera batteries capturing these scenes, and stopped at the black beach restaurant for a quick snack before we headed into Vik.
Sightseeing seems to bring on a bottomless stomach. All of the new foods and taste combinations beckoned once we arrived in the town. There is a beautiful church on the hill and a series of smaller neighborhoods along the sea. It was an interesting change to see the houses with small yards next to each other in comparison to the vast farmlands we had been used to for the trip so far. We stopped at Strondin Bistro and Bar which was beautifully appointed with windows that faced the cliffs and the sea. As we sat down to study the menu, we were surprised to witness four pilots launch their paragliders from the cliffs! So THAT is where they fly! We took a mental note to consider bringing out gear on the next trip.
We enjoyed traditional Icelandic meat stew – which was amazing lamb stew with lots of root veggies and a rich broth – and, for a change of pace, a pepperoni, ham and bacon pizza. Note the pizza had full strips of bacon all over it. It was amazing. I discovered that I really enjoyed the Icelandic Einstok beer with most of my meals, even if our local bartender referred to it as “fruity piss beer”.
After a brief stop to pick up some gifts, we obeyed the dusk and started the 90 minute journey back to Hella. Between waterfalls, picnics, black sandy beaches and bacon pizza, we were satisfied with the adventure and celebrated by making use of the sauna and hottub back at the hotel. After I cleaned up and had the best of intentions to write down some thoughts about the day back in the bar, we met up with the wedding party just returning from their rehearsal dinner and in full party mode in the bar. Shots were taken. Beers were had. The computer sat closed as we happily celebrated the soon to be married couple.