Flying out in the morning. We are very excited!!!😎
Sydney to Singapore. Sitting in the beautiful Singapore airport awaiting our flight to Helsinki then onto Dubrovnik. A long long day.
The cactus garden is beautiful.
Founds some seats with a TV!
We fly into Helsinii, Finland \240coming into the dawn- simply stunning
We then had a couple of hours at the airport and the flew into Dubrovnik, Croatia and then an internal flight to the capital Zagreb. We are exhausted with 40 hrs combined flying and airport waiting and customs clearing!!!! 😩
We were exhausted when we arrived in Zagreb and found it very hard to keep our eyes open by 8pm! \240We slept until 3 am then managed to fall asleep again to 6:30 am. We felt very refreshed an enjoyed being horizontal while sleeping.
The weather was very cloudy in the morning but the weather forecast suggested the day would be rain free. How wrong they were! We had set out to do a self guided walk of the old town when the rain rolled in for most of the day. Despite the rain it was quite warm and so we continued. \240The old town was lovely with beautiful churches and buildings, lovely markets. Here are some photos.
To end the day we had a meal at an authentic Croatia restaurant with Andrea and her husband, Phillip. Andrea works as a consultant with Neville at Librate \240,however they had never met as she works in Melbourne. A picture was taken to record the historic meeting of the Liberate team in Zagreb.
A great fish platter!
Today we took an unexpected opportunity to briefly visit the stunning small country of Slovenia on the border with the Austrian alps . We travelled in a small group of five \240in all including \240a very knowledgeable and very helpful \240young guide.
We were to experience the sheer delight of the stunning Lake Bled with its beautiful mountains, castle, church, archaeological museum and exquisite water of 21C at this time of the year. In a cold winter it freezes over and people can ice skate.
Lake bled looking toward the Island with a church
Our guide, \240Dino chatting with a colleague from another tour.
Our transportation on the lake!
The Bled Castle overlooking the Lake
Closer view of the Island
The church on the Island in Lake Bled \240- the only true island in Slovenia.
Our oarsman - the job is passed down from father to son etc - a job for life
The view of the town from the castle.
What a backdrop!!!
The museum entrance
This Skelton of a 20 year old young woman from approximately 700 years ago.
The city \240of Ljubljana which is the capital of Slovenia.
The Castle at Ljubljana along with buildings exhibiting an Austrian-hungarian influence
Why it’s us
One of several magnificent churches
A children’s puppet show in full swing
The main Cathedral very ornately decorated
Fresco ceiling and domes
A choir was singing beautifully from up there
Last remnant of a Roman wall 1700 years old
We joined our Croatia delights tour group today and toured the old cities of Zagreb- the Kapitol (a Catholic Church state) and Grdj (a city open to all other religions and non religious people). A creek divided the two cities that stood on hills with one bridge joining them. They fought for centuries and the bridge was named “Blood Bridge” for obvious reasons. Eventually under the Austrian-Hungarian rule they were forced to stop quarrelling and the creek was filled in.
Now the dividing line is a street with dozens of bars and restaurants.
After 12 noon we left for the Plitvice \240National park - a world heritage site - containing 16 pale blue /turquoise lakes with hundreds of waterfalls between them. The landscape is a limestone Kaarst one with the waters streams between the lakes able to dissolve the limestone and create \240their own channels. Quite a beautiful landscape we would have walkedover 15 kms today.
Here are a some photos of our experiences today.
The Greek Catholic Church where it follows all the principles and rituals \240of Roman Catholic with exception that priest are allowed to marry.
Surreal really. Street leading down from the Kapitol to the blood bridge!
The Zagreb Opera house
A metal 3d map of the old cities
The Kapitol cathedral began life in 1100 and has had several re-builds over time. It is in a \240continuous process or replacing the limestone blocks in the towers
Sadly, There is graffiti on many beautiful buildings as a legacy from the war in the 1990’s and also more recent defacement.
Mornings tea with carrot cake at our favourite Zagreb cafe below the funicular.
\240Very quirky and unique
Multiple channels of water feeding this lake
After walking the trails of the plitvice National park we had a short bus trip to the small town of Otocic to stay at the Park Hotel. We were exhausted from the walks at the park so slept like logs. Bright and early we were off to Trogir for a look round a beautiful old port town on an island on the Dalmatian coast. An interesting Chapel and an old fort with amazing stone houses and tiny limestone tiled ‘lanes’ between them.
Then on to Split, an ancient Roman settlement on the Adriatic coast. The walled city was built by emperor Diocletian as his retirement Home. He was the only Emperor to retire!
The walled city is now essentially a monument to his life there. 100 years ago archeologists discovered a vast network of cellars that were filled with Rubbish soil wood etc over the centuries. These have excavated to revel the vast cellars they used for keeping food and processing grapes for wine and olive oil etc. The walled city was built around 305 AD. After he died the christians over ran the place and destroyed anything to do with him as he had purged Christian’s throughout his ‘reign’. The cellars and his living quarters are the best preserved Roman settlement except for Pompeii.
Park Hotel Otocic
Limestone mountains on the Dalmatian coast.
Sibenik-Knin river. Bill Gates come here most years
Medieval grafitti!found during restoration of this 15th century chapel see info below
Narrow streets of Trigor
A fort to repel the Turks
Polished limestone pavers from centuries of use
The Trigor promenade
We are so excited to be in this fascinating place!!
Our rooms at the Presidents Hotel Split-Dalmatia
Metal 3d model of Split
The walled city built by Diocletian
The excavated cellars (used in Game of thrones)
A tiled roof in the cellars
A 3000 year old Sphinx sculpture one of 10 brought to Split by Emperor Diocletian only 3 survived as the rest were destroyed by the christians
Diocletian’s rooms in the palace - roof caved in
temple created in the 15th century
Jupiter temple John the Baptist
Last full day of tour. After a wonderful day exploring Split we headed off to Dubrovnik firstly on a 130 km /hr freeway and then on a winding coastal road that took us past some amazing coastal scenery. The tall (1800 m high) limestone mountain range that we followed glistened white in the sun it looked magnificent. We stopped at a few places for breaks with amazing views over inlets or wide rivers. One interesting thing we experienced was crossing through two immigration checkpoints along a 11 km stretch of coastline. After the 1991-94 war Bosnia claimed a stretch of coast from Croatia where it wanted to develop a commercial port. So the checkpoints represented the borders of Bosnia. As well as the Bosnia checkpoints, Croatia had there checkpoint to leave and enter. Quite a time waster for all traffic.
Once we got to Dubrovnik we began a walk though the old wall city- along with thousands of others. Dubrovnik began in the 7th century when Slavs finally \240drove the Romans out of the city up the coast. Walls were \240hastily constructed to repel any threats and they were successful and the town grew over the centuries as a significant commercial port selling salt and other valuable commodities. In those days a kg of salt was worth a kg of gold! They were conquered by the Ventians in 1205 and regained control \240a 159 years later. Many peaceful centuries followed and Dubrovnik became a \240cultural centre and renaissance art and architecture flourished here.Much of this was destroyed in the1667 earthquake and Dubrovnik had to rebuild. Some buildings remain from that time. Napoleon captured Dubrovnik in 1808 and ceded it to Austria. It remained part of the Austrian- Hungarian empire to 1918. Dubrovnik was caught in the crossfire of the war that ravaged the former Yugoslavia in 1991-2 and was hit by 2000 shells. A lot of the old town was damaged but has since been restored. Photos follow.
Limestone Mountains often right down to the ocean.
Oyster farms here are some of the best in Europe
Fertile delta land rich in produce including figs, almonds, ,oranges and grapes.
A stall where we bought delicious almonds and figs.
Magnificent seaside vistas with gorgeous rendered homes in villages that capatilise on the tourists visiting during the summer season from May to September.
Gallieon sighting- stunning
Cruise ships offering a big boost to the economy.
St \240Saviour church
The Chancellory where we went into to see the world’s oldest \240Pharmacy continuing to operate since the 7th Century.
Another part of the monastery
Pharmacy paraphernalia dating from 1317 and founded by the monks. It has operated since the time and still does today.
Some original hand written books from those early years
Sacred Relics of Christianity contains a fragment - like a bone - from the revered saint
Our hotel is right on the Adriatic Sea and we wandered down right on sunset.
Day 2 in Dubrovnic. After breakfast at the \240Valamar Club resort we said goodbye to the tour and made our way down to the beach below the resort to be picked up by a launch to take us to the main harbour dock. There we joined a large cruiser to spend the day visiting three islands north of Dubrovnik. It was an amazing day being on the water visiting the Islands of Kolcep, Saipan and Lopud. They served a BBQ lunch with a fine Croatian wine and we spent 1 hour on each of the first two islands and 3 hours on Lopud. This enabled us to walk across the island and have a swim in the Adriatic. The water was quite warm and we really enjoyed the experience. Here are some of the photo we took.
We are on our way by launch
Moving across to Dubrovnik
The new bridge into Dubrovnik
The beach on Lopud
Quiet contemplation in Sipod
Off we go
Resting after our walk on Sipod
The launch that took us across to Dubrovnik harbour
Valamar club resort waterfront
Our last day in Dubrovnik. Weather has been hot (around 29*c) each day. We took a bus from the hotel into the old city and wandered around parts we missed the day before and during the earlier walking tour. It was a restful days walk - no schedule; stopped when we felt like a drink or just watched the boats and people going by. A highlight was taking the cable car to the mountain above the old city and where we could view the islands and coastline both \240north and south. We returned to the hotel by bus and had an early meal in a nearby cafe. A lovely day for our last day in Croatia. Here are some photos.
One of the many narrow side streets often with an array of shops or restaurants
Details of the last supper fresco
A Catholic Church in the walled city off the’Stradun’ - (Main St) all that glitters is probably gold
The Lolly shop no one could resist - including us - hazelnut and orange chocolate- to die for!!!
The view north from the Palace
Roof angles and tower
The’main’ street of the old city
The old city’s harbour
Full of tourists for a guided tour around the island.
From the old city looking up to where the cable car will take us
Dubrovnik North of the old city
A panoramic shot
The limestone mountain range to the east
View to the south
Views from the top
No need for a selfie - plenty of offers to take pictures and return the favour.
A close up of the walled city
A view of the old city
Jeannie enjoying her tea and the view
Our view from the ‘panorama’ restaurant we we took refreshments (beer and a cuppa)
We had some mixed feelings about leaving stunning Dubrovnik.
Here are a few pics from the pool near our room at the Berkeley Hotel wher we stayed for two nights. There was even the opportunity to see one of the cruise ships from our Hotel.
We arrived safely after the three hour flight to Dublin and picked up a car- the parked black AUDI We are staying very near a lovely garden, with a pretty cottage and there is also a view of the street and the outside of the little Georgian apartment where we are staying. Very quaint and within walking distance to many \240of the city’s major highlights.
First full day in Dublin and we were graced with mild weather and a high of 17*C! We initially hopped on a “Hop on hop off “ bus and had a tour around the city stopping at some beautiful gardens and along the golden mile - a stretch of Georgian terrace houses a mile long and many other stops, including our favourite, Trinity College.
It was there we spent many hours looking at the book of Kell’s exhibition - an 800 AD Century religious relic - hand written and lavishly illustrated copy of four gospels of the New Testament and the world’s oldest surviving book. It was truly amazing to see it and find out about how it was made and survived the tumultuous centuries following it’s creation. And then the thrill and awe of walking through the “Long Room’ a 65m long two story high library collection of 200,000 leather bound books dating back to the 17th century. Our last stop of the day was at the Dublin Writers Museum where we learned so much about the very many world famous Irish writers - their lives, poetry and books. It was really interesting and has prompted us to read some more of these writers. We also saw the house where Oscar Wilde spent his childhood. So Dublin for us was largely about literature! The photos of our day follow...
Old Custom house at Dublin docks
Oscar Wilde statue in the Park opposite his childhood home
A small section of the golden mile of Georgian houses.
A brass chair in the park!
Images of page of the Book of Kells
An early form of Irish language involved lines and other marks cut on stones
Some of the religious books in the collection that are you Younger than the book of Kells.
The Long Room - Trinity College
Some of the older buildings at Trinity College
A beautiful park close to the College
An Irish pub close to our accommodation
Thursday we left Dublin (thank god we had a GPS) and headed south to Wicklow a small seaside town some 30 km from Dublin. A lovely little town with a long Main Street- not very wide, with a range of separate shops selling fruit and veg, \240meat etc.. No big supermarkets! Just like it was some 30 years ago. Very friendly people too. We met an old lady with a friendly Terrier called Caesar and a parking inspector, who explained to Jeannie how not to get a parking ticket. When he passed us later, talking with the old lady, he gave us a big smile and wave and looking at the dog said “hail Caesar”.
After a much needed coffee / tea at ‘Hannah’s Cafe’, we drove down to the port and explored an old ruined castle - Black Castle. This was built in 1169 by Baron Fitzgerald when the Normans started raiding the coast. While it served that purpose for a long time, local clan chieftains continually attacked and succeeded in almost destroying it in 1301. \240It was never rebuilt. The ruins occupy a commanding view up and down the coast.
After Wicklow we headed into the mountains to a National Park centred on Glendalough, a glacial valley with two lakes where a early medieval monastery was established in the 6th century by a monk called St. Kevin. While being attacked by Vikings over 3 centuries it only fell into ruin some 1000 years after it was established. An amazing place. The whole area is renowned for its walking tracks and there were many hikers about. We left there about 3:45 pm and it took us 2.5 hours to pass over the winding and narrow roads to get get across the mountains to our destination near Waterford. Beautiful farmland all the way. Our accommodation is in an 18th century barn. Our AirBnB host Marie, a German chef and her Greek Chef husband, live with their two young children in an old farm house next to the barn some 10 kms from Waterford. The place is amazing as you will see from the photos. The place is stocked with food for us. Truely the best AirBnB ever!
Black Castle, Wicklow
Glendalough- top Lake
A map of the park
What’s up mate!
The monastery ground and Graveyard (still in use today)
The tall ‘ keep’ was used to call people to worship and was used as a defensive place against the multiple Viking raids over the centuries.
Our accommodation - an 18th century barn
Simply amazing hospitality!
A ten minute drive from our accommodation is Waterford a significant Viking settlement and port from 914. They established the Viking Triangle between the joining of two rivers- the largest being the river, Suir that has a catchment covering 1/5 of Ireland. The walled city with 16 watch towers was extended by King John in 1210. It resisted several attacks by two pretenders to the English throne in the 15th century and later Cromwell. However, \240his forces returned in 1650 and Waterford surrendered. The old Viking triangle is Home to 3 great museums covering Viking history and Anglo-Norman Medieval history and the Bishop’s Palace - a \240Georgian mansion covering Waterford’s history from 1700 to 1970.
The highlights included the modern Medieval museum building that encorporates several old medieval buildings and part of the Viking wall defences in its basement; an extraordinary set of 15th Century cloth of gold church vestments made from silk woven in Florence and embroidered in Bruges around 1460. Hidden beneath Christ Church Cathedral from invading troops and forgotten for 123 years they are one of the great treasures of medieval history. There was an original Great parchment Book of Waterford that records in detail medieval life. There are several maces and ceremonial swords gifted to the city by England’s Edward IV for their loyalty. Of course, Waterford is famous for its crystal factory started in 1793 by a Quaker family. We saw the oldest surviving Waterford piece \240- a decanter from 1789 in the Bishops’ Palace.
Off to Killarney via Cashel Rock and Tipperary \240tomorrow. We have just \240loved our stay in the 18 the Century barn.
One of the street in the Viking Triangle
Part of the Viking city wall one of the few remains towers from Viking and later fortifications
Our tour guide on the walking tour. We were the only ones on the tour so we got a very personal tour.
A model of the current Viking triangle with some early buildings and multiple churches - some in ruins and later Georgian buildings.
One of the vestments in display
The parchment book of Waterford that chronicles medieval life
A Bonnet along with a ceremonial sword given to Waterford by Henry VIII.
A cannon dredged from the river that flows \240past the Fortified walls
A mace from Edward the IV
The first ‘PowerPoint presentation’ by the business leaders of Waterford to one of the English kings
Early Viking domed room of wine cellar
The bishops Palace
Early Norman wine cellar
A chapel for the priests.
The new Medieval Museum
The ruined Friary
What a wonderful stay in Waterford. But on my (Neville’s) birthday today, we got on the road again and headed for the ‘Rock of Cashel’, a collection of medieval ecclesiastical buildings set on a hilltop above the fertile plains of the River Suir (the one that runs to the sea at Waterford). \240 Its origins date back to the 4th or 5th centuries as a centre of control for a dynasty of Cashel Kings up to the 12 century. They built a tall round tower as a mark of their power. St Patrick baptised one of these kings. The last of the Kings gave the ‘Rock’ to the RC Church around 1101 the Comac chapel was built at that one and is one of the earliest churches built in the Romanesque style. It was built from andstone and in the photograph below appears as an orange colour contrasting with the later Gothic style Cathedral built from limestone around 1110. \240These buildings \240underwent many phases of restoration to around 1406-40. Cashel’s churches were sacked by the English in Cromwell’s time but were still used up until 1749 when the site was abandoned and they fell into ruin.
Very interesting site and a great tour provide by the locals. Cashel the town is a quaint place with a long curving Main Street. We had a lovely lunch there before heading of the “Tipperary”, which wasn’t a “long way’ at all from Cashel!
From there a 2 hour drive to Killarney where we are staying in a new, beautifully appointed annex at the side of a new house overlooking Lough Leane and Muckross Lakes ( see map). Unfortunate it has started raining so a photo will have to wait until tomorrow!
Jeannie at the foot of the ‘rock’
A general map of the complex. The Round hous bultbfirst, the Comac Chapel second , and the larger Cathedral last
The ruins at the Rock of Cashel
The earliest building - built by the Kings - the round tower
Note the sandstone Romanesque style Comac Chapel in the middle of the complex. Built in 1119 by the King of Desmond it was consecrated in 1134. The present Cathedral was started in 1234 and completed later that century.
Part of the Nave of the Cathedral with the Bishop’s residence to the left.
The characteristic gothic windows in the north transept.
The early Comac Chapel in Romanesque style is badly effected by the weather and has required recent major renovations to stop the weather in and to preserve the interior
Tipperary - we found a suitable sign to photograph to prove we visited there 🙂
The blue spot marks our location in Killarney. There are beautiful mountains and coastal scenery to explore tomorrow (the Beare peninsula).
After a severe wind and rain storm overnight the new day dawned with sunshine and a cooling breeze. \240Today we headed out of Killarney to circumnavigate the Beara Peninsula. First stop was within 10 minutes of leaving - a beautiful waterfall 100 m off the road in a cool rainforest that reminded us of Tassie. Our next hour took us over a mountain saddle via some narrow roads so common in Ireland. There were some great views over lakes formed by glaciers and amazingly green fields. . Near the town of Kenmare we found a nature park that contained Stone, Bronze and Iron Age archeological sites, including a Ring Fort and stone circle. Then off to start the road trip around the Beara Peninsula. The peninsula has a back bone of majestic mountains with exposed beds of slate and sandstone exhibiting folded and tilted strata (not covered by trees). In many places along the coast road these mountain slopes touch the sea making the roads very windy and narrow. You really have to concentrate and your speed rarely goes above 60 km/hr. The funny thing is that all of these roads have a speed limit of 80 or 100 km/hr. I consider these speeds are aspirational! Although the locals give it a good try.
We saw many beautiful landscapes hopefully captured in some of the photos.
The west side of the peninsula was the most majestic with respect to the coastal interface with the roads equally rugged!
The road around the peninsula was about 200kms long so at the slow pace of driving (safely) it was a long day. Hope you enjoy the photos.
View from the mountain saddle between Killarney and Kenmare
The Torc waterfall just out of Killarney
The Banane Ring Fort
Banane stone circle
Some of the landscapes on the Beara Peninsula
Jeannie at our ice cream stop
The west coast of the peninsula
Unfortunately today I awoke to the news that a friend and former colleague, Jimi Bostock, died yesterday in Canberra on his birthday. He was 55 and this has been a shock to everyone who knew him. He had posted birthday wishes on my Facebook page the day before and I was to reciprocate the day after when I discovered a message from his best mate, Martin. Very sad start to the day.
Today we left Killarney in light rain heading for the town of Adare, from all accounts one of the prettiest \240towns in Ireland. It was indeed very attractive with castles, some in ruins, some not, and many old houses with thatched roofs. An old Abbey dominates the main St and is now a Church. After a spot of tea/ coffee we set our GPS for the Cliffs of Moher in Co. Clare.
These Cliffs rise vertically some 230m from the Atlantic. The Cliffs are comprised of a series \240of horizontal layers of sandstone and slates. Very striking with stacks in the sea off the Cliffs just like the “apostles” along the great ocean road in VIC. There were 100’s of sightseers at the Cliffs when we arrived despite being at the end of the tourist season. Because of nearby presence of the tail of a hurricane a fierce gale was blowing, but thankfully no rain. .
Some 5 k up the road we found a cosy restaurant in a small stone cottage for lunch - it could only just be classified as lunch as it was 3 pm by this stage! Jeannie found a great vegetarian lasagna and I opted for Beef an Guinness Stew! We also succumbed to dessert thereby turning it into an evening meal!
It was getting late and we had a 2:50 hour drive to get to our next stop - Clifden in Co Galway. We passed through the city of Galway where we were held up in traffic and we only just made our accommodation- small stone cottage - by nightfall. It was raining nearly all the way on that drive, and with narrow roads, very tiring.
Dessert at the Cliffs of Moher
A watch tower on the top of the cliffs
The cliffs looking south
Jeannie holding on for dear life in the gale
More of the cliffs
Adare thatched cottages
The current church in the old abbey
The “ Black Abbey”
Clifden - blowing a gale this morning with some rain so no walking in the National Park, but lots to do at the Clifden Arts Festival that is on this week. It seems a big deal with events all over the town and international artist, poets and performers. After a walk around the Main Street and the centre of town (lots of pubs and lots of galleries and exhibitions) we drove around a scenic drive north of town called the Sky Road. Fantastic views over the bays and islands just off the coast and the ubiquitous narrow roads. Mostly tourists like us on the road, equally scared and ultra cautious! In the afternoon we attended a poetry reading with three poets, two local and one from the USA. They also had a classical / jazz guitarist playing between the readings. We both enjoyed it very much. The US poet was exceptional.
We are writing this sitting in the front seat of the Town Hall waiting to see a sold out one- man play - starring Seamus O’Rouke - the play is called “ Padraig Pott’s Guide to walking”. A coming of age piece. We were lucky to get tickets as it was sold out \240but there were two tickets cancelled so we grabbed them! 😊😊
The town of Clifden
The area around this loop of the Sky Road of the Wild Atlantic Way is especially known for the amazing cloud formations inspiraing many poets.
We woke to hurricane force winds today at Clifden. The old stone cottage didn’t flinch a bit during the night so we got a reasonable sleep after going to a marvellous play last night. It was very funny and an incisive commentary on the complexities of a boy growing up in a small Irish village in the 70’s. it touched on many aspects of culture, religion and sexuality. It really topped off a top day!
We got away a little later as the winds were forecast to abate enough for travel around noon. We heard that a woman had been killed in Clifden when the caravan / trailer she rented was blown over a cliff. \240It had been tied down as well. Very tragic!! We decided to avoid the winds on the coast and travelled back to Galway and headed north to Sligo and then Dunkeely. While there were still gusty winds, we were on better roads than the coastal route we had planned and arrived safely at our next AirBnB. What a fantastic apartment- the Artist’s cottage in the grounds of Killargtee House as you will see from the photos.
Bed and snug
Commercial kitchen as it used to be an art gallery and a Cafe
A welcome cuppa on arrival
Lucky again. The weather blew away overnight and it was cloudy with some sunlight this morning! After a lovely breakfast overlooking St Johns Point - a thin peninsula sticking out into Donegal Bay (resplendent with a 15th century Castle ruin) - we headed west as all good explorers do. The southwestern end of Donegal cranks the scenic-o-metre to the high end of the scale. An endless series of bays with headlands rising 100s of metres above the sea.
Passing through Killybegs we saw dozens of big trawlers tied up at the wharf in what we were told was the largest fishing port in Ireland, but we were heading for the small towns of Killcar and Teelin. Both of these picturesque towns sit at the heads of bays and are the gateway to breathtaking coastlines. The Cliffs of Moher are dwarfed by the cliffs of Slieve League -600 m high and spanning some 10 km of coast. With the high winds of the last few days the seas were crashing spectacularly on the rocks at the foot of the cliffs. We had a 2 km walk to get to the best viewing area but well worth the effort.. Jeannie and I also visited a weaving factory in Kilcar and Jeannie fell in love with a beautiful cap.
After some coffee in Teelin we pushed on further west to the village of Glencolumbkille that has stunning small sandy beaches in a number of coves. The main attraction there is Father McDyer’s Folk Village - a Museum consisting of small houses built in the traditional way and tracing the 18th and 19th century living conditions and lives of the local inhabitants. It was obviously tough living as most men died in the forties. There was also an earlier history of habitation in the area and a wild history of piracy, lawlessness and smuggling through the Middle Ages.
By now it was late in the day and on the way back to our base in Dunkineely we booked a restaurant near Killybegs - Kitty Kelly’s - a fine dining establishment with a French chef. We had a beautiful meal there to cap off a wonderful day exploring the SW of Donegal County.
Halibut with asparagus
Wild Mushroom risotto with \240pesto, tomato, spinach leaves.
The restaurant that belies the fine dining within.
Vegetables with our main course
Beaches and headlands at Glencolumbcille
One of the cottages at the museum
Jeannie’s new cap!
Headlands at Glencolumbcille
The cliffs of Glencolumbcille
A striking exterior of a pub in Teelin
The cliffs of Slieve League
Jeannie being shown how to weave at the weaving factory
We left Dunkineely in the rain and strong winds and headed towards Donegal then north to Northern Ireland (UK). On the way to our accommodation in Ballycastle, \240we drove to the western end of the famous \240the Causeway Coast -simply \240beautiful cliffs along the length of our drive. Our first stop was at the Giant’s Causeway- a UNESCO world heritage site. It is \240a simply \240amazing site with multiple layered basalt volcanic flows, several 100 m high - some with laterite soils between them indicating a time gap between flows, (when the top of the lower flow was weathered). The striking feature is the amazing columnar jointing - much like the organ pipes of Mt Wellington in Hobart - but on a grander scale. Warmed a geologist’s heart it did!
After our visit to the Giant’s Causeway, \240we continued eastward and saw many castle ruins like Dunluce Castle, the fabulous White Rock beach (white because of the Chalk exposed in the cliff faces) and Carrick-a-rede Rope Bridge. We ‘limped’ into our apartment in Ballycastle around dusk. We will let the photos do the talking.
Causeway \240coast - Dunluce Castle
Causeway coast - Dunluce Castle
Causeway coast - chalk cliffs
Causeway coast- Giants Causeway
Causeway coast- Giants Causeway
Causeway coast- Giants Causeway
Causeway coast- Giants Causeway
Causeway coast- Giants Causeway
Causeway coast- Giant’s Shoe
Causeway coast chalk
Causeway coast- White Rock beach
Causeway coast- White Rock beach
Causeway coast- a gorgeous rainbow leading us on the track to the famous Carrick-a-Rede Rope bridge created originally for the salmon fishermen
Causeway coast- Carrick-a-Rede role bridge
Causeway coast- a gorgeous rainbow leading us on the track to the famous Carrick-a-Rede Rope bridge created originally for the salmon fishermen
Today’s weather was ideal for sightseeing- the winds had died and the sky was blue! That can be rare in Ireland at this time of year. \240We decided to explore the Antrim coast from Larne, 30 Km north of Belfast to Ballycastle. Our first stop was at the “Dark Hedge” a long row of beech trees first planted in the 17th century and made famous in the Game of Thrones. The tree are massive some with a base up to 2 m. The Dark Hedge is about 10 km south of Ballycastle. We then head south across country (tiny roads) to meet up with a motorway to head to Larne in \240the south. From there we followed the coast road north, taking us into some beautiful bays with picture postcard villages. Many of these bays were formed in the ice ages 3000 years ago by glaciers and had steep-sided valleys now called the Glens. Nine Glens in all along the coast.
These were beautiful lush valleys with a patchwork \240of paddocks/field from the valley floor to below the cliffs. We had lunch at Ballygally castle (Bally means ‘place of ...) a castle that has been occupied continuously for 400 years. The current occupants are \240Lord and Lady Dunluce, the name of a ruined Castle we saw yesterday further up the coast.
After lunch we headed up the coast again and ventured of the ‘main’ road onto a coastal scenic ‘road’ that turned into a one lane road! It was a spectacular ride up and down steep hills for some 20 km - squeezing passed cars coming the other way. It wasn’t for the faint-hearted. However, we arrived at Torr Head, a large hill \240on the \240coast that had been used \240over the years as a signal station.
The clinb up the hill was steep but the views up and down the coast were fantastic.
After that, \240we drove up a very steep hill to return to the main road and a short ride back to Ballycastle. Off for fish and chips at a cafe nearby. The best in Ballycastle by all accounts. Postscript the fish and chip shop was closed due to a power failure. $&@$68$ We had to go to a pub for a meal, again!
The Dark Hedge
Paddy was a pigeon than won a medal in the WWII
Torr Head from which you can easily see Scotland looking south from Torr Head
A sad day of sorts as we prepare to say farewell to Ireland and Northern Ireland. It was very interesting at the borders of these countries as they have just a line on the map separating them. If and when Brexit winds it’s way to a conclusion, there will have to be a hard border. There are lots of of issues implementing that across 150 kms of their border including hundreds of major and minor roads crossing it. It is hard to know which country you are in - the UK or Ireland and we \240had to keep £’s in one pocket and Euros in the other.
We left lovely Ballycastle town and headed towards Belfast - thankfully largely on motorways. After Belfast we headed for Ballynahinch to visit Jeannies ancestral home on her maternal side. We discovered it had a very interesting history. In 1683 King Charles II granted the town permission to hold a regular weekly market day and 2 fairs per year) to enable the rich harvest from farming and corn and flax crops grown in the area to be sold. It was a very famous market with buyers coming from Scotland and other places in Ireland. The good civic leaders at the time created a market square and built an imposing building on one side that still stands today. Markets are held every Thursday.
Jeannie was very thrilled to have visited the old stomping ground of the the Doak / Patterson families who were farmers and leased property in the area. .
Ballynahinch was also the scene of many famous battles, the most notorious being The Battle of Ballynahinch in 1798 when the British troops attacked a rebel army ( Irish independence), \240overwhelmingly defeated them and trashed the town. It took a long time for the town and the area to recover.
Now in Dublin again packing to go to Norway tomorrow morning.
The town square and civic building
We arrived back \240in Dublin after driving \2402, 168 kilometres around \240Ireland. So incredibly rewarding if a “little” tiring!
Our experience of the airb&b ‘s \240was outstanding overall - \240except for the one \240last night closer to the airport before we flew out to Oslo this morning. It was a real “shocker” by any account! Notheless, we survived and are delighted to have had a very short wander for our first late afternoon/ evening in Oslo
The street near Ellingsens \240Pensjonat where we are staying for a couple of nights.
What a day-. An all time record - 19km of walking!. The weather was kind but a chilly 0*C start leading to a 14*C day. We had purchased an Oslo Day Pass that allowed access to all public transport, tram, bus, train, ferry and ‘free’ access to 30 museums. We walked \240into the city centre, passed the Royal Palace and then \240to the waterfront where we caught a ferry across the harbour to the first of 3 museums. The first was the Folk Museum - covering Norway’s cultural history. This museum had phenomenal displays of \240costumes, furniture, domestic and farming tools of the rich /nobles, church and everyday people housed in 16th- 17th century buildings.
Our next stop was the Viking museum that displays \2403 Viking ships discovered and dug out of rivers and harbours. These ships and the artifacts they contained were simply \240amazing.
Our third Museum was the Fram Museum that brought together information, artifacts and A/V displays of Norway’s north and south polar exploration and explorers. Of special interest was the race of Norway’s Amundsen and Scott’s to be the first to reach the South Pole. It was unfortunately a fatal trek by Scott and his team and they did not reach the pole before Amundsen and died on the return trip. \240Amundsen used a ship called the Fram built in 1892 to withstand the polar ice. His journey began in 1910 and \240initially he sailed to the North Pole but found out that Robert Peary had beaten him, so he turned the ship around and headed for the South Pole. And the rest is history! \240The amazing thing was that his ship was housed in the building and you could explore it. And the A/V provided a quasi 3D 270 degree view of the journey on the ship through storms and ice. You sat on seats that rocked from side to side as you would on a boat.
We returned to the town centre to take a two hour \240guided tour of the city - we were lucky it was only us and the guide (Jessica) so we got a very personal experience of the city, its history and famous buildings.
The last Museum we visited \240was the Nobel Peace Centre that provided information on the Nobel prize for Peace and its recipients. After that we moved our weary bodies to the Hard Rock Cafe for a meal before waking back to our accommodation. We lay on the bed for a while until we could get enough strength to make a cuppa.
The beautiful grounds leading up to the Palace.
Oslo from the water
The Folk Museum and its many gifts.
Recovered Viking boats from 5th to 12th century buried in mud before being painstakingly restored to their full glory
A Viking Princess’ shoes
A real cart from this time
Fram representation of the expeditions
In the Virtual experience
Jessica and jeannie
Oslo street building
The Oslo Opera House taken by our walking guide, Jessica. It \240represents an Iceberg
The interior of the Opera House has Italian marble floors with the walls of wood representing the oak from the plantation forests.
17th century cafe - Meeting place \240for contemporaries \240Henrik \240 Ibsen ( cultural icon and playwright) , Edvard \240Munch (tortured painter and poet) and Gustav Vigeland (sculptor whose work adorns Oslo’s public spaces)
A friendly Troll? Early inhabitants of Norway
Some of the beautiful flower displays that celebrate this stunning place
The ceremonial Guard at the military college.
The “Tiger” who represents ibsen’s sense of the city versus the calmness of his rural upbringing
The amazing street housing the Parliament leading right up to the Palace
The Nobel Peace Centre
Today we were up early to catch a train from Oslo to Stavanger in the SW of Norway. The Norwegian train system is very modern and runs efficiently. We were off on the dot of 9:30 am for this day long trip. We were in the Komfort carriage with great seats, a table and free coffee and tea throughout trip. Very Komfort(able). Not many passengers in our carriage as the season for tourists seems to be waning. \240. Additionally, the air flights in Norway are as cheap as the train fares so if you are not eyeballing the scenery you might fly instead. Anyway we were taking the longer route as we were captivated by the scenery. The track did not follow the coast as we had expected but cut across valleys and through tunnels as it wound its way to Stavanger.
The scenery was terrific- forests, meadows, massive rock outcrops and farmlets and small towns dotted across the landscape. Some of the Birch trees (white bark) were getting their autum leaves so gold, reds and yellow colours provided further vibrancy to the landscape.
The forests were magnificent with white barked Birch, Norway spruce and Scots Pine in plantations.
Some pictures taken \240through the carriage window follow. Gllass flares evident sorry.
At about 3:30 we got off the train and onto a bus for the final 1:50 hours. This afforded \240a closer look at the mountains in the \240landscape. This was dominated by massive granite mountains with magnificent waterfalls cascading down from many points along a ridge. Oslo is built on very old rocks call Gneiss- highly metamorphosed sediments and volcanics that were almost converted to igneous rocks. Near Stavanger the rocks were granites of around 400 miilion in age.
Our accommodation in Stavanger is wonderful- a renovated loft apartment in downtown Stavanger.
Jeannie contemplating the beauty
Neville contemplating whether he should get another coffee from the machine!
Free coffee- heaven!
The kitchen toward the bedroom
view From the loft’s window just before it got dark
Today was rainy so we enjoyed a very slow start before going out after lunch to walk around some of this beautiful city. In particular, the port and the section of old houses was great to wander through.
It was cold today and we had to rug up well. We have experienced a remarkable range of temperatures since we started in Croatia (30-32*C) to here (0-8*C) with the wind chill making it feel colder. Hoping for a clearer day tomorrow when we get a ferry to Bergen. It leaves at 7 am and we need catch a bus out to the terminal. An alpine start for sure.
Some local wall art
The old Guard House in the form of the green tower calked Valberget
The delightful old town
Another “handsome” troll - not the tall one!!
The views from the window of our apartment
We did succeed in getting onto the ship near Stravanger \240at 7.00 am \240after a walk of \24015 mins and \240a bus ride of 20mins to a different port to where we had landed. Fortunately, Neville had \240picked up this issue yesterday \240and we were able make suitable arrangements and not inadvertently have our connections and plans turned upside down. Phew!!!
The day spent on the ship was relaxing and comfortable and we saw some interesting villages, cities and isolated houses on the ride along the coast all the way to Bergen. \240Below is a small sample
Making our way towards our arrival in Bergen through the coastal Fiord
Beautiful buildings to see after our arrival in Bergen, which is \240also home to many students living in less salubrious surrounds.
The old natural history \240museum that has been under renovation since 2013
Looking a” little weary” and “out of sorts” \240after the very early start and nearly 4 weeks of non-stop travelling
Our second \240day in Bergen started with a sleep in. No reason to get up early as it was raining fairly heavily outside. There was 50 mm predicted today so we needed to find some inside activities. During \240a break in the rain, we managed to walk down to the main harbour and, \240after checking the location of \240our ferry departure tomorrow, we bought tickets to the Hanseatics museum and it’s \240‘assembly ‘ room and the Norwegian Fisheries Museum. The Hanseatic museum is in one of the oldest buildings in Bergen and retains it original interiors. The Hanseatic League, a German business ‘group of Merchants dominated the trading business from Bergen from 1350 to 1750. This building was one of the merchant’s trading houses for dried cod. Equipment used in those days was \240on display and there was an \240 explanation of the history of the Hanseatic dominance. Rooms were as they were in 1704 when the harbour frontage was burned down and then rebuilt in that year. There was no lighting or heating allowed in these Merchant trading houses so as to avoid another conflagration. Workers had to use cooking facilities in a stone ‘assembly’ house (the second museum Schotstuene’) and were allowed to socialise there. There were strict rules there for behaviour and workers were not allowed to marry locals. However, these rules were not always followed \240The locals fished and dried the cod for sale to the merchants.
The third museum, accessed by shuttle bus from the Hanseatic museums, was also interesting with lots of information on the history and current state of the fishing industry. \240Plenty of photos can be seen below.
Statue of the famous Norwegian composer, Edvard Grieg
The coloured 18th century house rebuilt after the fire of 1702.
The Hanseatic Museum is the 2nd building from the right - the original 1704 building. The more substantial building on the right is the museum reception cafe and shop
Inside the Museum
The Schotstuene museum where Hanseatic workers were allowed to eat and get warm!
The Nirwegian Fisheries Museum
Playful immersion in the sea life experience
Oops - It ate neville
The main harbour early 19th century buildings - now shops and restaurants.
The “Johanneskirken” or St John’s Church in the background. \240
On our last night in Bergen we experienced heavy rain and some hail. We had another early start needing to be at the wharf by 7:30 am! - and dressed for the cold.
Our ferry was very comfortable with great seats and views of the coast as we slowly ventured out into the Bergen fjiord and on into other northerly striking fjiords. The ferry eventually struck out into the North Sea for a while (where it was rougher) then back into other northern striking fjiords where it was calmer waters. We secured a table up front and shared this with two US couples (originally from India) - a vascular surgeon and his wife and their retired friends. They were great fun and we had lots of interesting conversations on a wide range of subjects and lots of laughs. The wife of the surgeon was particularly hilarious.
We saw many magnificent cliffs and waterfalls in the first few hours and very pretty \240small villages. . The rain cleared up from time to time and we even saw the sun.
Around halfway we turned east into the largest, deepest, \240longest (not enough words to describe it!) \240fjiord of the Sognefjorden that leads to Flåm at the head of one arm. Three glaciers must have merged to create the main fjiord channel now flooded of course by the sea. Here the sides were high, 200-400m. And the mountains behind have snow on them. We understand this area was the inspiration for the “Frozen’ movie! (Ella will be pleased to know).
We passed by many more beautiful waterfalls and little villages occupying scree slopes below towering cliffs.
We arrived at Flåm around 1:40 pm and managed to get a taxi to where we were staying in Aurland some 9 kms back down the Fjiord. We also paid the taxi \240driver to take us to a famous \240lookout site called Stegastein on the top of the cliff with a large look out deck that sticks out \240above Aurland for a birdseye look of the fjiord. A great experience even with a little \240rain and some moving cloud.
After accessing our room in a little hotel with views of the Fjiord we had a leisurely walk around the town, and later had a meal in a little cafe nearby. It was of course Sunday and very quiet.
Bergen at 7:30 am.
The happy wanderers day
Bergen as we were leaving
This spectacular waterfalL we named “Ned Kelly “
The Frozen mountain where Princess Elsa built her ice castle.
So much water everywhere in such sharp contrast to our drought
View from the lookout ‘Stegastein” in Aurland
View from the lookout ‘Stegastein” in Aurland
Heaven for little Jeannie
Another “ selfie” \240in paradise!
Old church and s very old grave 1576!
Beautiful flowering pots!!
Up again early to catch the famous Flåm to Oslo train at 8:30 am. The first leg involves a 20 km stretch of line from Flåm at sea level (in the Fjiord) to Myrdal at around 1000 m above sea level. This trip takes an hour and grades are 1:18m in some sections. The train is run on electricity. The lines wind around steep sided gorges in and out of tunnels and provides breathtaking views of \240rivers waterfalls and mountains. There were a few snow flurries on the way up and it was obvious that snow had fallen during the night. The Flåm train stops at Myrdal and we meet the faster NSB train from Bergen to Oslo (4 hours). This train took us through wonderful highland vistas - the highest areas were blanketed in snow and as we \240progressed towards Oslo the snow disappeared but the autum colours and the highland villages were just beautiful to look at. The following photos capture in part the many striking scenes we saw.
A river valley on route from Flåm to Myrdal
on route from Flåm to Myrdal
Some of the many waterfalls
on route from Flåm to Myrdal
A massive waterfall - they stopped the train to allow us all to photograph it
Part of a hydro electric power station associated near the waterfall
The mighty Flåm train
Onwards to snow covered vistas
Dropping in altitudes and the snow line is visible
Approaching Oslo - autumn colours
Again up bright and early to catch a flight to Reykjavík. Very sad to say goodbye to Norway- it was a great experience seeing the Fjiords and riding the Flåm railway \240through the mountains and across Norway’s highlands. We have included some shots of our final view of the Fjiords (Skaftarheppur) from the plane follow and after that some photos from the air of our first glimpse of snowclad mountains in Iceland. After a 3.5 hr flight we landed at Keflavik the international airport some 47 kms from Reykjavík. Again a less than “‘thrilling’ experience of collecting the hire car and negotiating all of the insurance issues. , current dents and scratches (all photographed). The freedom that a car affords when you are travelling overseas is a gift and then there are these less than delightful challenges!!!
After that, we finally managed to find our Airbnb despite the GPS refusing to access \240the address because we couldn’t type the letter ‘O’ with an accent. Hopefullywe will solve that issue \240tomorrow.The place we are staying is right on the ocean with beautiful light and cloud contrasts in the sky. The space is warm, spacious, clean and comfortable and afforded the chance to catch up in some washing
.It is so \240much colder here than even Norway - only two degrees when we arrived at midday- and so the thermals are a real blessing. We will go and explore sone of the highlights of Reykjavík tomorrow in a very “rugged up” manner!!!!
Peaks of the northern Fjiords, Norway
Early views of Iceland
Views from where we are staying near the sea in Reykjavik
The sun and clouds from the foreshore
Chilly start with some winds today. We decided to check out the south west corner of Iceland. This is an area dominated by the international airport at Keflavik and many \240new housing developments. However the landscape is nothing like we have ever seen before. As far as the eye can see the land is covered with volcanic ejecta, ash, bombs, and lava flows, with cinder cones and ancient volcanoes - partially weathered and eroded. It is also dominated by boulders of cooled lava through which the \240spool of advancing lava flows. It is now partially covered by vivid green moss and other small plants. At the very tip of the SW peninsula we found a nice looking lighthouse and a large fishing boat (parked / moored) by a House! - see the photo.
Further east we drove through 10’s of kilometres of lava fields and visited the blue Lagoon, a famous hot pool and spa. We looked online to book but it is booked out a week ahead or more. A few times available at 8 or 9 pm - they close at 10 pm. We were allowed into the cafe and had an opportunity to observe the masses in the pool - some with silica masks (treatments) on their faces and nearly all had a drink in their hands. Quite a party - surreal, fascinating, bizarre and markedly hedonistic all at the same time! . We joked that \240it looked like the prelude to Dante’s Inferno! Many had selfie sticks in the pool as well. The temperature was around 45 *c and the water was a beautiful light blue with a suspension of Silica. The black volcanic rocks surrounding the pool were stained with silica deposits at the water’s edge.a large geothermal power station, which \240was the backdrop to the pool with its billowing steam clouds. This \240added to the sense of what it might be like in “hell”.
Following lunch and our observations of the pool party, \240we ventured further east and north looking for other volcanic phenomena. By this stage snow was falling - well it looked horizontal given the gale that was blowing. In all of this amazing weather and volcanic scenery, we passed even more interesting thick \240deposits of ash with lavas flows overlying them. These huge beds were truncated by the erosive activity of the sea providing spectacular headlands and bays and black sands). \240It was getting more like a blizzard but we had one stop to see boiling mud pools and fumaroles (gas / steam vents) with the volcanic rocks around them turned to clays by the acid fluids circulating and venting there. Lots of earthy brown, yellow and white colours in the clays.
Driving very slowly in the snow storm we made our way across hills and valleys of the volcanic fields to reach the main highway back to Reykjavík. The journey provided us with an amazing exploration of a significant volcanic terrain. At the Blue Lagoon we discovered that the age of the volcanism there was around 1250 AD - the last of the Vikings would have seen it!
The lighthouse and heaps of kelp on the beach
Sorry mum I was in a hurry for your roast dinner. I will park it properly later
The lava fields covered with moss
Lava field and cinder cone.
The lava profile. Broken chunks of rapidly cooled top surface and advancing front of lava flow.
We were there!
Prelude to Dante’s inferno???
Geothermal power station in the background
The lava profile and multiple flows shown up the side of the volcano
Very, very bracing indeed. Zoom in to see the horizontal snow.
In increasing snow storm - a photo of the ash deposits being eroded by the sea. Plenty of working quarries along this section of coast - just shovelling it up in to trucks, then grade for size. Simples!
Profile of ash deposits
From a moving vehicle - snow settling on black beach sands
Fumaroles and mud pots
Fumaroles and the bleached - chemically altered rocks. \240
Today we are off to our next base in Borgarnes, the site of the first settlement in Iceland and the gateway to the Snaefellsness peninsula, and another active volcanic rift area. It appears to be an offshoot of the two Rift Valleys that represent the mid Atlantic rift - the boundary between the two plates that are being pushed apart as new magma is intrude into the rift zone. While the main rift zones are basaltic, the Snaefellsness zone is rhyolitic an more prone to explosive volcanic activity. Let’s hope this does not happen on the foreseeable future and certainly not while we are here!
We first explored Reykjavík in the morning and a few hours into the afternoon. We visited the Northern light centre that explained how and why the NL appears in a ring around the North Pole. It had many interactive exhibits including a NL photography simulator where you could practice setting up your camera for night photography of the NLs. Other places include an hour of video on major volcanic eruptions at the Volcanic House, the old town and old harbour and the outstanding Halgrim’s \240Church.
After some delicious fish and chips for lunch we took off to Borgarnes, a journey that took us through a 6 km road tunnel under the sea!
Today was, well, magnificent! Pretty much cloud free most of the day and so views of the mountains were unimpeded. \240Our goal today was to explore the scenic beauty of the Snaefellsness peninsula of SW Iceland.
It is so different to anything we have seen before - such as the US Rockies, the Swiss Alps etc. it has such energy and is reflective of Iceland’s young, dynamic ongoing creation. It is like a 3D book of Iceland’s fiery \240history. A unique place in this world.
Snaefellsness is not a wide peninsula but has a backbone of high mountains of older volcanoes overprinted by some younger volcanoes, largely cinder cones and small linear ruptures with a string of fissures. This is infant \240terrain and the products of volcanic eruptions are every where to be seen. Lava fields, although covered in part by moss, are just the same as when they spewed over the existing terrain 600 years ago. Makes a geologist’s 👀 pop!
The coastal scenery was jaw dropping - amazing cliffs and striking rock formations with a backdrop of snow covered older volcanoes looking like a layered cake with icing dissected by a giant knife.
Postscript. It was a clear night here with KP index for Northern Lights low, but we decided to go at 10 pm to the edge of town and see if anything was happening. We arrived at our location to find the NL in full swing! Beautiful and thrilling to see it! Photos below. The red colours are rare and from a higher level in the atmosphere.
600 year old cinder cone
Jeannie and a cliffof basalt with columnar jointing
This mountain has a glacier covering the volcano 🌋
Sun was in a bad spot for this shot
Today had a theme. All about water - \240in many states - LIQUID, GASEOUS, FROZEN, BOILING, and RISING and FALLING.
We were woken by a call from Australia at 5:30 am after getting to bed after midnight because of our Northern Lights encounter. It was a pollster- not the best thing to start the day. So we were up early and packed up and headed for the golden circle - a 150 km tourist drive taking in many famous landmarks of the north eastern part of \240SW Iceland. It had been very cold last night and as we drove \240in rain LIQUID) from Borganes to our first site on the golden circle (Pingvillir - a UNESCO world heritage park), we saw the unusual sight of FROZEN waterfalls. These were the small volume ones but it was a common sight to see ice \240down a cliff face where water had flowed before. Our road trip took us into snow covered mountains over some very potholed roads. Challenging driving but beautiful views of mountains, lakes, rivers and \240waterfalls. This was the FROZEN part of the theme but it got more intense- \240snow started falling as we approached the National park. This area is a rift valley (part of the mid Atlantic rise) with the Eurasian plate on one side and the NTH American plate on the other side. Beautiful geology - Neville took many photographs of volcanic and rift features. The Pingviller Park was also the site of the World’s first parliament established by the Vikings in 946 AD. We drove in snow to Laugarvatn, a lake with geothermal energy generation around it and more hot spring health spas. Warm but not BOILING. We found BOILING water at our next stop - Geysir. As the name suggests, \240we found BOILING water at the Strokkur Geysir - this blows its top to a height of 30 m every 5 minutes. This also qualifies for water RISING and GASEOUS in our theme.
Next was the famous waterfall at Gulfuss \240which was simply magical - massive river thundering down a steep sided Rift Valley tumbling \240over three or four steps of rock ledges at different angles. Truly one of the best waterfalls we have ever seen. FALLING water theme again. On the same river but downstream we saw another waterfall - Faxi - \240quite lovely in its own right.
Still in rain we travelled to Selfoss to our next AirBnB.
The mountain pass \240 - frozen
Another nice waterfall we saw as we drove over the mountain pass
A waterfall cascading into the Rift Valley
The Pingvillir rift zone. American plate to the left. Eurasian plate to the right
Meet the Strukker Geysir
Boiling water in the geothermal area at \240Geysir
Today we ventured up the southern coast from Selfoss to Vik. We left quite late in the morning as we got up at 3 am to go looking again for the Northern Lights. It tuned out- to be of \240no avail this time as it started to rain.
Today was a day of contrasts. From high mountains to flat (cultivated) flood plains formed by ancient rivers that eroded the volcanoes. The interface was often stark or sharp and split by small to large waterfalls. The ocean was wild with massive waves pounding the shoreline and creating black sand beaches by grinding the basaltic rocks into tiny grains and polishing small pebbles to round and flat forms.
Other parts of Iceland we visited generally had the mountains intersecting with the sea and farms that were confined to steep slopes or old glacial valleys. The southern coast had a very wide coastal plain and had large and prosperous looking farms. Most of the waterfalls were inland rather than on the coast - and they were still spectacular as you will see in the photos. Near VIK we visited a beach which had black sands and massive waves pounding the shore. There \240were some amazing columnar basalts, some the best Neville had ever seen. Of course not to forget, there were high, snow covered peaks inland and a glacier, Their whiteness acts as a counterpoint to the dark basalts and black sandy beaches.
All places in Iceland that we have visited exuded high energy and youthfulness - and like young people demand attention, The experience was both exhilarating and exhausting in equal kind. It is a landscape that continues to rejuvenate and does not lose its energy to weathering and other forms of nature that mellow the landscape over time.
It’s energy really touches our soul \240and can \240reminds us all to continue to grow and rejuvenate.
Mountains and flood plains
Brooding volcanics remind you of the energy in which they formed
Seljalandfoss, \240a waterfall you could walk behind, and the sequence of shots below show our journey around it.
Skogafoss, a very large waterfall with a drop of 60m and has a 25m wide curtain. It sometimes has a rainbow associated with it and this appear after this photo was taken. It has a deafening roar!
The columnar jointing in the basalt near Vikn
Black sands and coastal pillars fighting the energy of the sea
Lunch at the black sand beach
Some pillars against the setting sun.
A church in a prominent position overlooking Vik.
After finishing yesterday’s blog we ventured out of Selfoss to see if we could experience the Northern lights again. We were in luck. This experience was not as dynamic as the Borgarnes encounter and yet still \240very beautiful and unique. \240We left Selfoss around 10 am this morning and it was snowing! Even at sea level the snow was settling on the ground. Exquisite!! . Our first stop on our trip back to Reykjavík was at a volcanic crater that we had been \240unable to visit on our way to Selfoss two days ago because of strong rain. It certainly was an fascinating sight even for a non - geologist (Jeannie’s quote). Jeannie could understand the mighty force required to create this feature. The crater was only 270 m long x 170 m wide and 55 m deep but there were a string of them visible north and south of this one. For a geologist who has not seen a young crater like this it was cool to see some of the volcanic features of a lava splatter cone.
We returned to highway 1 and headed off to Reykjavík. It is s good road and passes over a high ridge that was covered in gentle snow so the countryside looked stunning. . From time to time, we could see steam rising from small geothermal bores used for heating or energy reminding us of the geothermal force that lies beneath this scenic terrain.
In Reykjavík we found a cafe in the old town for a late lunch and then went to the Settlement exhibition that displays a archeological excavation of a Viking long House discovered in what is now the basement of a large building. It also displays an array of household, personal and day to day tools that the Vikings used. The house dates from around 871 AD and it is the oldest and likely the first Viking house in Reykjavik. They offered a very interesting multimedia exhibition.
We decided to join a city walk to get to know Reykjavik more. The walk and conversation provide by the tour guide really gave us an insight into the history of Iceland and its culture and language. Owned by Denmark \240after the Viking era it was geographically and culturally \240isolated \240from Europe for centuries and only gained independence in 1944 when Denmark was invaded by the Nazis. Since then, it has struggled economically and has established a social democratic society with free education and community access to geothermal heating etc. The language is the same as \240“old Norse” and has been like that since the Vikings inhabited the Island. While other Scandanavian countries started with the same old Norse language they have undergone significant change with the influence of other European cultures and are now entirely different languages. Icelanders learn their native language from 6 to 10 years and \240then English is introduced. All Icelanders spoke good English so we had no trouble with communications during our travels in Iceland.
After the tour we found a Cafe (Cafe Haiti) that served the best hot chocolate Jeannie \240has ever tasted \240and the coffee was good for Neville, \240too!
We drove 40 km out of Reykjavik to an AirBnB near the airport. \240We \240might even \240get yet \240another look at the Northern Lights. However, \240the cloud cover is thick tonight \240and showers are about. We are so grateful for the wonders we have had the privilege to see and yet we are both so captivated we would love to see more.
A group of photos of our second encounter with the Northern Lights can be seen below.
Snow beginning to fall in Selfoss
The high pass with fresh snow
The Kerid crator
Items displayed at the Viking settlement exhibition
Basalt pillars and hydrothermal heating pipes in the town square
Reykjavik Harbour and mountains across the bay
We started our last full day in Iceland with a sleep in and a state of relaxed reflection. This has been an amaxing 6 weeks exploring four different countries, living mainly in Air B&B’s that have been outstanding, overall and connecting with the differences and similarities between ourselves and the many delightful people we have met along the way.
We are currently staying in a gorgeous tiny \240little apartment that is immpecably presented with every creature comfort you could desire. We are enjoying \240this last \240evening in Iceland \240before flying home to Canberra (via Helenski, Singapore and Sydney) very early in the morning.
We are located quite close to the main airport and so today we took the time to clean the rental car, fill up on petrol and spend \240a couple of hours at “Viking World”, which is within walking distance of our current digs.
We watched a hour long documentary about Viking history including raids, slavery, trade, intermarriage, winter refuges and settlement. This was instructive including the connection with the Scandanavian countries, the British Isles and Newfoundland off Canada’s east coast where Neville completed his PhD in geology and we visited with our youngest, our son, Josh, in 2008.
We have included photographs of a replica of an actual Viking boat that \240re-traced some of the haunts of the Vikings and was created as an educational tool for Iceland’s children and the rest of the \240world. There are various items from archaeological excavations in this museum along with further historical and cultural contextualisation.
We have seen some wonderful things on our travels though the four countries we have visited. Each has provided wonderful impressions and memories for us. Croatia and its \240long history and amazing old towns (especially Dubrovnik). Ireland with its rolling green, green, green fields and majestic coastlines; Norway with it’s magical Fjiords and highly evolved social democracy with equality of opportunity as a cornerstone; and simply stunning Iceland with its dynamic volcanism, snow clad mountain ranges and Northern Lights!!! \240We are humbled and grateful for seeing and experiencing such beautiful places. We are so \240looking forward to returning home to our adult family, our gorgeous wee grandchildren, dear friends, Ollie (our little \240dog), warmer temperatures, spring flowers, our separate meaningful and rewarding work and recreational lives and packing away the suitcases (for at least a while).
That’s y/our “blooming lot!”
The Viking ship museum