Wednesday, June 30, 2010

We're home! Well, almost...






We arrived in New York City yesterday which means that we are back in our home country after being away for 5 months. It was very hard to get on the airplane in Iceland knowing that our trip was coming to an end. Both Shawn and I agree that it could have been longer. My Aunt Boogie and her husband Charles were here in New York to greet us though and we have had a lovely time with them. We even had a bed full of goodies when we got to their apartment: cupcakes, M&M's, jelly beans, and cheetos...all of the things that I missed while we were away. Then we got to eat Mexican food which we haven't had since Nepal and I have been craving! We have been eating the whole time which is great because we didn't get to eat much in Iceland. Tomorrow we leave for Colorado and our honeymoon trip around the world will be offically over. It's time to start planning for the next one!

Highland Games Iceland

videoShawn and I decided to be silly on our hike to the Arctic Circle so we pretended that we were in the Iceland Highland Games tree throwing competition. That is MUCH harder than I thought it would be. When Shawn was throwing and making it look easy, I thought he was using driftwood which is a bit lighter than regular wood. I was wrong. It is the heaviest wood ever. I think that he beat me! video

66 degrees North






video66 degrees North is the coordinate of the Arctic Circle. Before now, I had never been to the Arctic Circle or the Arctic Ocean. So, Shawn and I drove as far north as we could then we hiked the rest of the way to the northern
most part of Iceland which just touches the Arctic Circle. The water was freezing (although I was disappointed that we didn't see any icebergs) but we still went out there and touched it and threw rocks into it...Shawn made his skip, mine just fell in with a big kerplunk. Afterwards, at a hotel, they gave us certificates for hiking the the Arctic Circle! And, to top it off, Shawn got me a fun necklace as a good job present. I love presents!

Whale Watching






videoIn Husavik, Iceland, the thing to do is to go whale watching. So, Shawn and I bundled up and boarded a boat to cruise the Arctic Ocean looking for whales and dolphins. The name of the bay that we were in is called Shaky Bay because earthquakes happen there everyday. This bay sits between 2 continental plates...the North American plate and the European plate and when they rub together, earthquakes happen. We saw lots of dolphins and we even saw a mother with her baby. Dolphins have to come to the surface to breathe so the mom dolphin was teaching her baby dolphin how to do that. She would nudge him when it was time to come up and breathe. We also saw minke whales which have a dorsal fin like a dolphin but are much, much bigger! We got very cold out there on the Arctic Ocean so we got to wear these nice warm suits and drink hot chocolate and eat kleiner (Icelandic donuts!)

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Glaciers










videoIceland has 3 main glaciers and then a few smaller ones. One is huge and takes up about a fourth of the island. It is called the Vatnajokull (jokull means glacier in Icelandic). Glaciers are made of ice and stay around all year long (even in the summer). We got to walk out on some of the glaciers with our regular shoes. Other glaciers require special equipment so that you do not get hurt. One of the glaciers in Western Iceland is said to have healing power and they thing it is a spot where aliens meet. What do you think? The glaciers on the south side of the island were pretty black when we were there though. This is because a volcano just erupted in Iceland a couple of months ago and there is ash everywhere. We also got to see the new lava fields and pick up some volcanic rocks that blew out!


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Friday, June 25, 2010

Icebergs










videoMy new favorite thing in Iceland is the icebergs. Parts of the galcier fall off into the lagoons in front of the mountains and they are beautiful! If you listen hard, you can hear the ice chunks breaking off and falling into the water. Some of the lagoons here flow right out into the ocean so boats beware!

Waterfalls















videoThere are waterfalls all over Iceland. These are caused by the melting of the many glaciers. If you own a TV you probably heard a lot about the volcano that went off in Iceland a couple of months ago. This has also caused lots of glaciers to melt which means we are seeing LOTS of waterfalls. While we drive we see them everwhere and since it is always light out, we can stop at whatever time we want to hike to the top of them!

It never gets dark here!

videoCountries that are near the Arctic Circle (the top of Iceland touches the 66th parallel which is the Arctic Circle) stay light all summer and dark all winter. Since we are here in the summertime, it never gets dark. One night, Shawn and I were hiking on a glacier at midnight! In Antarctica right now it is dark all day long. I am glad I am not there. Having 24 hours of daylight makes it easy to do lots of things...but it also means that it is hard to sleep!

Iceland















videoIceland is unlike anywhere else I have ever been. I wanted to come here ever since I saw the movie The Mighty Ducks and learned that Greenland is icy and Iceland is green. And, yes, it is very green. There are over 600 species of moss here and they cover the ground (and they are so soft that you can lie down and take a nap if you get tired of hiking!) But green doesn't mean warm. Iceland boasts that it has mild temperatures all year round and that it is warmer than New York in the winter. What they don't say is that it is that temperature all year round. Since Shawn and I are chasing the summer and have no coats or mittens, we are FREEZING! The parts of Iceland that are not green look something like I imagine the moon to look like! It is crazy. Then throw in the purpleist fields you have ever seen and that is Iceland. There are not really any towns here so the thing to do is hike and explore...and we have stumbled upon some pretty amazing things this way!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Flags

Ok, so before I post this, let me stick up for myself a bit. I have never given England's flag much thought until this point and maybe I did know this before and forgot, but now I know it forever, And I am just posting this in case any of you had also made a false conclusion like I did.




This flag (the Union Jack) is not England's flag. It is the flag of the United Kingdom (which includes England) but not of just England.

This is England's flag:

I have Scotland and the World Cup to thank for this information!

Highland Games










videoOne thing that Shawn has been talking about wanting to see for a while now is the Highland Games in Scotland. We did not think that there was going to be one one while we were there until we went to visit Euan's aunt, uncle, and grandfather in Northern Scotland. It turns out that their nephew (Euan's cousin) was going to be participating in the Highland Games in a town that was on our way! When we got there, it was amazing...their were bagpipe and dancing competitions going on non-stop. Our main goal though was to see the "heavy" stuff. That included: hammer tossing, stone throwing, and tree throwing. We met the president of the Highland Games who let us into the inner circle to watch so we got to see the giant men throw very large things. It was crazy. For the tree throwing, the had to hold the trunk of a tree, run with it, then throw it and make it flip. I have never seen such a thing! Apparently their is a Highland Games that comes to Colorado so I will check that out for sure...then I will get to wear my kilt again too!

Nessie






videoEver since I saw the movie The Waterhorse, I have been convinced that Nessie (The Loch Ness Monster) lives. Loch Ness (or Lake Ness) is outside of Inverness, Scotland which is, of course, right where I went to Nessie hunt. I thought I had found her at one point only to later realize it was only a stick. Loch Ness is the deepest lake in Scotland so there are plenty of places for her to hide. The first spotting of her though was in the 1920's whci would make her in her 80's. Unless she has kids, we better find her soon. Their is actually a guy who moved to Inverness to devote himself full time to finding Nessie. I unfortunatley cannot devote myself to this task at the moment so I will have to rely on him to find her and hopefully he will tell me when he does!

The invention of golf...






videoSo I know nothing about golf. Or should I say knew. Then I went to the oldest golf course in the world...where golf was invented. It is quite an impressive sport. To play on the old course though costs about $250 for one round. Plus you have to wear all of that golf stuff. And have clubs. And a bag. And probably a glove. And follow the rules created by the Royal and Ancient Golf Club right here in Scotland. I think I will stick to miniture golf!

Scotland








Leaving Sweden was very hard for Shawn and I. We did not want to do it. But then we arrived in Scotland. I did not know all that much about Scotland before arriving and boy was I surprised. It was so green...and beautiful...and mountainous...and the people are so friendly! We got to stay with a friend of Shawn's and his family. We also got to take a driving tour around the whole country. We will hear about that later though, first, let's learn a little bit about Scotland. Scotland is part of the United Kingdom along with England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. These countries are usually all lumped together as England (because the UK government is in London, the capital of England) but this couldn't be farther from the truth! Scotland began as many different clans (or family groups) and with heroes such as William Wallace and Robert the Bruce, they fought hard against the English to maintain their independence (for those of you who will be in kindergarten next year...we will learn about another country who fought against the English for their independence!) They speak English in Scotland but their accent is different (carry over from when a lot of Irish people came over to Scotland) and they use some different words than we do. Some people also still speak Gaelic in Scotland which is what the people in the clansmen days spoke. Road signs are often printed in English and Gaelic. Scottish men also still wear kilts on special occasions (watch the video to hear Euan tell us about them) so Shawn and I bought our own kilts to wear around! Lots of people mistook us for locals! We got them in Edinburgh which is the capital of Scotland. We got to tour the underground vaults in Edinburgh which is where vendors used to sell goods and where bodysnatchers (men who used to dig up graves, steal the bodies, and sell them to the medical schools) used to use to sneak the bodies to the schools. We also got to see the castle in Edinburgh where the crown jewels of Kings and Queens past are stored. Scotland has a royal family, the Stewart family, but they have no political powers. They are now ruled by ministers and a cabinet (as well as the UK government).
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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Ice Bar


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My Birthday






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My 30th birthday was fantastic! For starters, I got to spend it in Sweden (land of the beautiful people). Then, I told Shawn that what I wanted was 3 meals with snacks in between and presents at each food time for my birthday! Shawn had the whole day planned. I got breakfast (with a note and a SAINTS key chain), a picnic lunch with fruits, cheese, bread, and chocolate (with a note and echidna coins from Australia), fika (with a note and a pretty Greek glass magnifying glass), dinner (with a note and a silver bell necklace from Greece and a silver train whistle charm from the Orient Express), and cake (with a note and 2 wooden Bali necklaces). We also got to stay in a super fancy hotel that had a light show in the room! It was an awesome day planned around food and presents...how can you beat that? To top it off, Shawn got his hair cut for me for my birthday AND I got lots of flowers throughout the day! I also got wonderful e-mails from my friends and family so I love being 30!

Fika



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Vikings and Vasa





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The Vikings were what the people of Scandinavia were known as a long time ago. Sweden was not like it is now at the time...many different kingdoms existed. It wasn't until much later (the 11th and 12th century) that Sweden was finally consolidated into one country. Boundaries were still in question though and the Vikings of Sweden (led by the King) were at war with different nations/kingdoms. In the early 1600's the King of Sweden was Gustavus Aldophus. King Aldophus was at war with his cousin, the King of Poland, and ordered the Viking warship Vasa to be built. Vasa was to be a magnificent ship and the king invited people from all over Sweden to Stockholm to watch Vasa set sail to Poland. With the whole kingdom watching, Vasa (filled with Viking warriors) set sail....and sank 12 minutes later right in the harbour. Unfortunately even though the Vikings were tough, most of them did not know how to swim so many of them drowned. The ship was found in the 1960's and now rests in a museum where you can see the actual boat that tried to set sail many many years ago. Vikings in general were known to be tough warmen who pillaged and plundered their way through life. The Vikings of Sweden were not this way though. They were not as mean as the rest (at least that is what they tell you when they go to Sweden!) One last note about the Vikings: most people, including the Minnesota Viking football fans, wear hats with horns to be Vikings. This is not historically accurate. Horns would have made them very easy targets in battle to grab onto and slit their throat. Instead they wore hats they made them look more like a gnome!



P.S. My brother Russell is the Viking expert of the family, so be sure to tell me if I am forgetting anything terribly important Russell.




P.P.S. I wore my SAINTS shirt when we went on the Viking tour so everyone would be clear as to where my loyalties lie.