The Sieverding's Abroad!
Hello readers! I would like to start off this post by apologizing for the delay of getting this written. It's been a busy couple of weeks (or month) getting settled with being back in the USA. I have started my internship with a wedding planner at White Ivy Events. The past couple of weekends have been busy with weddings and also working at the Coralville pool again this summer as a lifeguard. Anyways, my week and a half with my family traveling through Glasgow and Iceland was a blast and truly an unforgettable experience!
The adventure began when I met my mom, dad, and brother Lucas at the Glasgow Airport. It was awesome to be able to see my parents and brother in person since the beginning of January. We made our way back to city center of Glasgow and found the Airbnb that my family rented for the next two days. We walked around the city center, ate in an authentic tea room, saw the Glasgow Cathedral, walked around the Necropolis and visited my university and living accommodations. They were pretty tired after their flight, so we finished the night early so they could catch up on sleep. The next day, we went back to the Glasgow Cathedral to see the inside of the building, then took a tour of the home of Scotland's most famous beer, Tennents Brewery. Apparently more people in Scotland buy Tennents beer than Coca Cola, which ya know, only in Scotland I guess. After our tour, we were provided four different flavors of Tennents---surprisingly, I didn't think it was too bad! I am not a huge fan of beer, but this beer didn't have an awful aftertaste. I do like hard cider though! I found that out this past semester :) We then made our way over to the Transport Museum centered around the history of automobiles, bikes, and boats! We got to walk through an old boat parked out on the water. The rest of the day was filled with souvenir shopping and packing up my entire life from the past semester. Somehow I managed to fit everything in two big bags and a carry-on.
Now for the main location of our mini family vacation---ICELAND! We chose Iceland because someone *cough* *cough* my dad, doesn't like big crowds. What place would be better than the country that is only made up of 350,000 people. Iceland's economy thrives on tourism though, as they get over 2 million visitors a year! Anyways, after we picked up our rental and made our way to our Airbnb, we were off to go grocery shopping and eat dinner in town. We found this amazing restaurant called the Tilveran on the coast. I had the best seafood ever! I'm not usually a lobster person, but I really enjoyed it. We retired early that night to catch some sleep for an early start the next morning.
Our private tour started when our driver, Peter, picked us up at our Airbnb early in the morning. We made our way to the Gardur Lighthouse located on the coast of Iceland. Peter told us about the rough seas and the many superstitions Icelandic people have. We were told about the story about man who survived a six hour swim in below freezing water when his ship capsized. I've pasted the story below from: https://www.vikingrune.com/2009/03/true-viking-grit/
"This happened on the 11th of March, 1984. Around 11 pm, 5 km east of Stórhöfði on Heimaey (the largest of the Westmann Islands, an archipelago off the south coast of Iceland), the fishing boat Hellisey VE 503 rolled over. The emergency raft was unreleasable. Three out of five fishermen were able to climb up on the upended keel of the boat, but it sank about 45 minutes later. The air temperature was -2° C, the sea was as cold as 6° C. One of the remaining three men died almost as soon as he got into water. The two others, Guðlaugur Friðþórsson, steersman, then 22 years old, and Hjörtur R. Jónsson, captain, 25 years, swam side by side and tried to keep talking. Very soon Guðlaugur realized that he was alone. However, he remained calm and concentrated. He headed to the west, where the lights of Heimaey were visible. In water that cold he had to die in 20 or 30 minutes. It is unbelievable, but he swam about 6 hours to survive.
Guðlaugur was dressed in jeans, shirt and sweater, with nothing on his feet. He did not know that wet clothes draw heat from the body 20 times faster than dry ones. However, he knew well that low body heat leads to mental confusion, irregular heartbeat and death. The steersman talked all the time with birds around him in order to keep his wits. On the way he passed within three hundred feet off a boat without being noticed. When Guðlaugur finally reached land, his ordeal did not end: he was against a cliff and had to go back into the sea.
He swam again, this time along the cliffs. When he finally climbed out to the shore, he realized that he was on a broad lava field. Since he was barefoot, he lost a good deal of blood because of the sharp volcanic glass. In a tub full of water for sheep, he broke the inch-thick ice with his fist and drank. He had to go 2 km in wet clothes until he reached a settlement on the 12th of March at 6:55 am. Doctors were unable to find Guðlaugur’s pulse when they examined him at the hospital. His temperature was too low to be registered by the usual medical thermometer and is reported to be at least as low as the minimum 34° C. However, he survived in good health.
To be sure, this heir to Vikings did not yield to death primarily because of his extraordinary courage and determination. However, a startling fact was discovered by the researchers from the University of Iceland: Guðlaugur’s fat is almost like seal fat. It is more solid and two or three times thicker than human fat. So I can’t help but wonder whether the Icelandic folktales about selkies are actually downright truth."
Next we saw the Black Church in Hafnir, Gullbringusysla---yes a church that is literally painted black. To be honest, I'm not sure what the significance of the church was than to just show us some really old tombstones in the small graveyard. Next to the church was the anchor of the American boat, Jamestown---dated to be from the year of 1881. The ship was ran aground in Hafnir with no one on board. The timber cargo was salvaged and sold off in Iceland. We made a stop at a location gas station for an authentic Icelandic hot dog. There was mayo, a sweet mustard, and some sort of brown sauce with onions on it. AND yes, I did eat it. I ate it all, which is more than I can say for my father. I don't really consider myself a picky eater, but according to my family, I am apparently. But I did better than my dad, which I don't let him live down! Next we visited the Bridge Between Two Continents. The bridge connects America's and Europe's tectonic plates. Our tour guide says that many consider being on the American side as "being in America," when in fact, you are still in Europe on Iceland. It was still pretty awesome to be able to walk between the tectonic plates below the bridge. My brother Lucas and I got some pretty cool pics! We visited Gunnuhver, a highly active geothermal area of mud pools and steam vents. You couldn't get too close to the steam or else you'd have a pretty nasty burn. We then drove to Reykjanesviti Cliffs which had a beautiful scenery of the water hitting the cliffs and the many rocks off the island. Brimketill was our next stop as we observed the small, naturally carved pools, by marine erosion, at the lava shore edge west of the town of Grindavík. Our guide told us about the folklore that relates to a giantess named Oddný who regularly occupied the pools. Let me tell you, the waves would hit the cliffs hard---I could not image sitting in those pools during high tide---you would probably die! On our way to our last stop of the tour (the Blue Lagoon), our tour guide provided us a snack! Good 'ole fermented shark, black death, and a nice cinnabun. Lucas and my mom tried the fermented shark, but my dad and I settled for trying the black death and cinnabun---let's just say, I can live without black death. It's a black liqorice flavored vodka---everything I hate in one taste. Thankfully I could get rid of the taste by eating my delicious cinnabon. Honestly the best cinnabun I've ever had. Our last stop on our tour was the Blue Lagoon---which I would argue is what Iceland is most known for. The Blue Lagoon is a geothermal spa. It has the most beautiful blue water and acts like a hot tub! We fell in love with it right away---so much so that after we got back to our Airbnb, we purchased tickets to go back that same night. Overall our tour was very informative and it was really cool to hear all the insider information about Iceland. My favorite part of the day was going back to the Blue Lagoon to actually go into the water. If you all go to my Iceland highlight on my profile on Instagram, you can see first hand our view from the water and the many laughs shared. You could purchase alcohol to drink while in the spa, which you know we took advantage of. In conclusion, I 100% recommend visiting the Blue Lagoon if you ever find yourself in Iceland!
The next day was our glacier extrusion. Our guide took us to a couple of waterfall before we climbed the glacier. We visited the Skogafoss Waterfall, where we were able to walk behind the waterfall and proceed to become soaked from the water. After a long drive, we finally arrived at Solheimajokull Glacier. The glacier hike was pretty fun, and I especially had a good laugh when my mom did a slow motion fall. She didn't think it was funny, but I sure did. I didn't realize that it actually hurt her, so I felt a little bad when she showed me her bruised knee later that night. All in all, the hike was pretty fun with lots of photo stops. Our guide told us that the glacier will be gone in the next 80 years---that's how fast it's melting! After our hike, our tour guide took us to one of the famous black beaches Iceland is known for. We saw the Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach! There were a ton of markers telling the public NOT to EVER enter the water. The tide is really bad and will take someone out in the matter of seconds. It was a little rainy, so we didn't stay long. We then headed back to Reykjavik, the capitol of Iceland which was close to our Airbnb. We walked down a couple of streets in the downtown area of Reykjavik, then headed back home.
The next day, we were on a big group tour of the Golden Circle. This was probably my least favorite day, but it was still enjoyable! I just didn't like that we weren't on an in-depth guided tour. They talked about where we were going during the bus ride (which I was mostly asleep on), then we were left to walk around the actual site by ourselves. Our first stop was a building that showcased the North American and European tectonic plates. This building also had a café where we bought more cinnabons! They weren't as good as our first tour guide gave us, but they were still better than anything here in the U.S! Our next stop was Kerid, a giant volcanic crater lake that over 3,000 years old! It one of several crater lakes in the area, known as Iceland's Western Volcanic Zone. We ventured down to the bottom to take some photos as well! We saw a couple more waterfalls and visited Geysir, Arnessysla. We got to see a geyser erupt! I even got a pretty cool photo of Lucas with the geyser eruption in the background. Next was Pingvellir National Park which many might recognize as the great wall in the Game of Thrones (at least that's what I think it's called). I've personally never seen Game of Thrones, but the scenery did seem a little familiar from promos and whatnot! After we got back to Reykjavik, we did a little more souvineer shopping downtown. We went to a recommended restaurant by our tour guide too! I don't remember what it's called, but the fish was very fresh and a hit among the family.
The next day we had a two-hour walking tour of Reykjavik, so we could understand the history behind the city. We saw a 133 year old tree, learned the meaning behind the city name, and toured some of the hot spots of the city (including the Harpa Concert Hall. The street poles were also in the shapes of tulips! No one noticed that except for me. The city was founded in 847, but wasn't the capital until Iceland declared independence from Denmark in 1918. Iceland's founders had a tradition of how to find new land to make home. To decide where they would settle, they threw high seat pillars, the symbols of his chieftainship, into the sea, and scoured the coast to see where they would land. The location they found them was littered with many steaming hot springs, and Ari Þorgilsson, named their new home after them; the direct translation of Reykjavík is ‘Smoky Bay’. Iceland went through a huge reformation of religion---trading their pagan beliefs for Christianity, specifically Lutheran. Now there is only one Catholic church on the island located in Reykjavik. We did visit the church on our last day in Iceland. Another fun fact---there are TONS of churches in Iceland because they wanted everyone to be able to go. There are churches literally out in the middle of nowhere specifically for the farmers. After our tour, we ate a quick lunch then headed to the airport to drop Lucas off. His flight was a day earlier than ours, so we said our goodbyes at the airport. My dad, mom and I made our way to the Lava Centre, about an hour and a half drive from the airport. We got to see replays of the major volcanic eruptions Iceland has experienced and even got to learn about the different kinds of eruptions. It was a fun, interactive experience!
The next day we packed up our suitcases and checked out of our Airbnb in the morning. Our flight wasn't until the afternoon, but we decided to spend some more time in Reykjavik to explore some museums. We first visited Whales of Iceland, a museum devoted to the marine life of Iceland. It was interesting to see full scale replicas of whales and dolphins! Next we visited the Saga Museum, telling the stories of the first settlers of Iceland and the tales of Vikings. One of the more interesting stories about Vikings includes the story of Freydis Eirikson, a woman who scared away Native Americans when they landed in the Americas. As her men were retreating, she couldn't keep up since she was pregnant. She picked up a sword from one of the dead men around her, tore off her breast plate (so she was bare chested) and her the sword up to her chest. This frightened the Indians due to them thinking she was an evil creature. They ran the other way and victory was Freydis'. After the museum, we left for the airport. We ate a quick lunch in a town right next to the airport. We should have eaten faster though because it took us forever to find a gas pump that actually worked. My credit card wouldn't work, neither would my parents or even my debit card! We had to drive to a nearby town to find a pump that worked. After that stressful process, we got our boarding passes and proceeded to wait for our plane.
Overall, it was one of the best vacation I've ever been on with my family. It was great to see my older brother again and to see my parents in person again after three months! It was really nice not having to spend my own money (thank you mom and dad!). I'm glad to be back in the United States! I've missed American-Mexican food and being able to drive. OH MY GOSH how I've missed driving! I'm excited to head back to Ames this fall and be able to live in my own apartment with my close friends! I've got a couple of photography gigs lined up and am excited to attend many weddings coming this fall and the upcoming year! Thank you to everyone who has followed my journey abroad and have patiently waited for this final post. Attached below are some photos of our trip!