Aldeyjarfoss (North Iceland II)

Within two hours driving from Húsavik, there are plenty more or less easy to reach places of interest. One of them is the Goðafoss waterfall, which is visible right from the ring road. Nearby, but not quite so easy to reach is the Aldeyjarfoss.

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To get there, one follows 842 south (a dirt road, better than 844, which is an alternative). This turns after a few bumpy kilometers into F26. Most people drive their two wheel drive cars up to the parking lot.

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The waterfall itself is quite impressive, but its real beauty is due to the large basalt formations surrounding it.

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Next to it are some more contemplative smaller falls,

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and a short hike takes you to another large fall, the Hrafnabjargafoss.

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On the way, the rock formations on the river banks have the appearance of ancient friezes, telling stories about civilizations long forgotten.

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The complexity of this place made of rock and water is quite overwhelming.

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Húsavik (North Iceland I)

The next few weeks, I will write about this year’s vacation in Iceland’s north. For comparison, here are the links to the blog posts about Iceland’s south from two years ago:

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This year we stayed in Húsavik, a small and peaceful town a few degrees south of the polar circle.

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It lies on the east shore of Skjálfandi bay, which allows for nice sunsets (unless it is too cloudy (often) or not cloudy enough (rarely).

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Dramatic clouds are abundant and make driving dangerous.

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A highlight was the full moon backlit with a setting sun at midnight.

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Water in Motion (Iceland XIV)

The law of gravity is still intact.

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Whenever in doubt, contemplating a healthy waterfall is certain remedy.

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The imposed free fall gives direction, determination and diverts the attention from situations where indecision has become a permanent state.

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So, is that it? Do we have to either submit to a higher power, or be tossed around by pure chance?

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Sometimes, for a few seconds, this koan has an answer.

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Vegetation (Iceland XIII)

This post is about ignorance. While I like plants, I know next to nothing about them, with the possible exception of cacti.
Moreover, I wan not prepared to encounter any interesting plants in Iceland at all. If I get the chance for a second visit, I’ll pack a macro lens. Let’s begin with Pinguicula vulgaris, the common butterwort. This is the second carnivorous plant appearing on this blog.

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The next one is the minuartia arctica, or the arctic sandwort. The german derivative of the old english wyrte is -wurz, which also appears and connotes with Gewürz, meaning spice. I haven’t tasted any of these.

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The previous ignorances could be covered up thanks to Google image search. The next one, which I find particularly pretty, I am clueless about. The blossoms were not more then 3-5mm in diameter. Help!
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Things get more complicated. Of course, it is not the actual plant is a soulful being that interests me, but rather its idea as a shape forming entity. Like so:

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These grow on the stunning black sand beaches. Because of the harshness of the environment, I suppose, the plants in Iceland are more exposed. While in lusher zones, the abundance of growth (and decay) is also camouflage, here, where there is nowhere to hide, everything becomes subject.

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Clouds (Iceland XII)

Most places have their own very distinctive appearance of clouds. Landscape painters know this and therefore prefer to live close to the ocean or the mountains. Needless to say, clouds in the midwest are either dull or very dangerous.

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Iceland has both ocean and mountains so that one can expect the best of the best.

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When I was little they told us in school that life forms can be distinguished from lifeless matter by a few criteria: Ability to move, react to the environment, and reproduce. Clouds can do all that.

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So I started thinking that being a cloud might be an interesting way to live.

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Unfortunately, the only cloud based life forms in the near future will most likely be rather virtual.

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Music for the Eyes (Iceland XI)

Waves are endlessly fascinating. Iceland, being surrounded by water, has plenty of them. The image below might appear quite ordinary, but for the rather irregular ripples at the bottom right. They were caused by the high frequency vibrations of the motor on the boat from which I took the photo.

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Thanks to a large amount of inland water, you can find more waves virtually anywhere, like here at Geyser, with colorful deposits.

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Just a few feet away, the landscape at your feet changes dramatically, but still offers waves.

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And even without water, you will see waves. After staring at rocky sand

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and lava beds in the large

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or more up close,

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when you finally have enough and look up at the sky…

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There is no escape.

Djúpalónssandur (Iceland IX)

Djúpalónssandur is a rocky beach in the southwestern corner of the Snæfellsjökull National Park.

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Besides its historical significance of an old fishing port (of which only the remains of a few huts are visible), it features bizarre lava rock formations.

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The grassy slopes of the Snæfellsjökull seem to just break off into the sea, as if the landscape builder left his work unfinished.

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If fire could solidify, it would look like this.

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Hell (Iceland VIII)

After Plato had the brilliant idea to use a hypothetical reward system in an equally hypothetical afterlife as the ethical foundation of a functioning society, it didn’t take long until picturesque ideas about how the rewards might look like started to spread.

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Unsurprisingly, the focus was not so much on positive rewards like eternal bliss, but rather on the peculiarities of punishments.

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The Seltún Geothermal Area near Reykjavik provides at least the mandatory ambience of heat and stench.

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There are even indications of horned minions ready to pull you under. Clearly, the ground is treacherous here.

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Why is it that we take delight in all this unpleasantness?

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Hraunfossar (Iceland VII)

Iceland has a lot of water falls. It is so bad that you shrug off the ones that would be worth a day trip at home, (almost) no matter where you live.

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Of the few that we saw this summer (in 2015), my favorite was not among the big ones.
We had just pulled into a parking lot by chance, and 3 minutes away from the road, I couldn’t but smile.

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This was not a single waterfall, but literally hundreds of little ones on the far side of the Hvítá river.
The falls originate from many separate springs in the lava field in the back.
It felt like the elves had been practicing here before they started to work on the big ones.

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Each single fall is a masterpiece that dances among companions.

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Black, Green, and White (Iceland VI)

Googling for Black, Green, and White leads to some interesting things. There is black, green, and white tea, of course (to my delight). There are black, green, and white wires that puzzle some hobby electricians. Then there are some countries that have these colors in their flags. Iceland should be one of them, but isn’t.

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Green is not only the color of the moss that covers the older lava fields. You have it with the algae

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and the shrubs,

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always contrasted by water, sky, and earth. The simplicity of the color pattern is contrasted by an astounding complexity and diversity of the landscape.

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Much of earth must have looked like that before man, and maybe will look like that again.

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