Since I did not get a chance to cover more then half of the sites we had a chance to visit, I am going to take this chance to post a few of my favorite pictures of some of the breathtaking places in Iceland (both visually and historically).
I would like to take this very delayed opportunity to break down the course aspect of this fantastic trip for any interested individuals who DO stumble upon this blog and are interested in things other then then the trip itself. Here, I am going to give a few brief points that cover the some of what research and readings we covered in the educational component of MARS 3F50 before we packed up and flew across the ocean.
The grades were derived from a short essay, a test, a reflective journal and a post trip statement (that, luckily for myself can be taken directly from the blog that I created for this adventure).
To begin, we had professor John Menzies from the department of Earth Sciences come and give us a very detailed and interesting lecture (with samples) of the geology of Iceland and why this little island is so fascinating to geologist and historians alike.
We began to delve into Vikings: North Atlantic Saga to garner an understanding of who these people were aside from horned helmets and dragon shaped ships. From here, we jumped right into the “discovery, exploration, and settlement of Iceland” in the texts Islendingabok and Landnamabok which are essential and incredibly interesting texts that have come right from Icelandic history.
Jumping topics, we read a large portion of Sagas of the Icelanders to gain an indepth look at Egil`s Saga and the lives of the Iceland people as well as some of their myths of settlement and religion. We looked at the colonization of Greenland and the viking voyages to Vinland, the early religion and belief of the Icelanders via Snorri Sturluson as mythographer. From there, we looked at the conversion and christianization of the North Atlanic, reading J.Jochens `Late and peaceful: Iceland`s Conversion through Arbitration in 1000`.
Next, and my personal favorite, we looked at heroic and Skaldic poetry (courtesy of Prof. Somerville) as well as the prose of the Icelanders (Sagas as history and fiction). We also covered art and manuscripts which had a direct impact on our course as you can see we had an exceptional visit to the Arni Magnusson Institute to see some of the very manuscripts we discussed in class.
Finally, we concluded the course components of MARS 3F50 class and began to prep for the trip itself. I haven`t listed all of our course materials of course, or all of the books neccessary, but I feel that an idea pertaining to the actual historical work we covered is important to understanding how well rounded this class was.
I know I’ve been terrible for updating this weekend but there’s been SO much to do! the least of which is *tear* Packing. Today is Monday June 14th, which means in a few long hours I’ll be on a plane home. I CANNOT believe how fast these 10 days have gone but this has most definitely been one of the best trips ever. Really, ever! lol.
As it turns out, Friday June 11th we went on a visit to the Culture house of Iceland which had just undergone renovations and a re-location to a larger building in the downtown core of the city, and yet again we were lucky enough to have a VIP personally guided tour of the collection of manuscripts the Culture House was responsible for. The upside for us was that prior to this day, our visit to the Arni Magnusson Institute gave us the chance to see these very same manuscripts up close and personal without the glass and display cases between us! After wandering through the displays, we had a small workshop where we were allowed to practice our calligraphy skills on genuine vellum scraps with home-made ink!
Saturday June 12th:
While suffering from a mild case of sickness for a little too much and too little in a rather unfortunate combo, Erin and I undertook our major excursion of the 10 day trip. This was originally supposed to be a full day adventure for Icelandic Pony riding in the morning, and whale watching in the afternoon. Due to rather terrible weather that came out of nowhere and made sailing on the bay a less the brilliant idea, we ended up just going for our trail-packing ride in the morning. This was a ton of fun and I fully recommend it to anyone who wants to see more Iceland landscape/lava flow/Lupins/Ravens and just generally enjoy a more natural and relaxing setting. Icelandic ponies are smaller than the horses we know in North America (thus the pony) and are very beautiful. If you like riding, this is a great tour! It did rain for the last 15 mins of the tip hard enough to soak through my jeans, but all in all it was totally worth it. Tours like these can be booked through the hotel, which is great because they pick you up and drop you off at the appropriate times and places and you don’t have to worry about a thing – just be ready!
Sunday June 13th:
Although the morning started off cold and rainy, by the early afternoon the sun was shining and it was a glorious day for a scoot around the bay! Erin and I went off to complete our two-part tour and this time – whale watching! Bundled up in these giant snow-suit like contraptions that were more or less guaranteed to keep out any and ALL types of precicpation, we waddled around the boat looking at puffins on the island, harbour porpoise and minke whales. This was a really amazing chance for me since I have wanted to go whale watching for a very long time and to see such variety of ocean life was fantastic. Our tour guide was also a ton of fun and very knowledgable about the various creatures in and around the bay and Iceland. Finally, after a full 2 hour jaunt, we sailed home a little damp and looking very weathered from the sun, wind and ocean spray, we got dropped back off at hotel. This was an extremely short-lived idea, as we soon discovered the gem of our trip: The Viking Festival!
This festival only runs a specific week in the summer and can be reached by public transit just outside of the city. Or entire class went over the course of the day, and I think that this was one of the most fun we had as well as the most “touristy” of all the sites and places we went to. It is difficult to fully describe but the essence if the festival is that a viking village has been re-created to wander through and enjoy with various vendors for clothing, weapons, leather works, jewellery, armour and food. If you think it’s viking worthy – you can find it here. There are also various men and women dressed up in period piece clothes (Oh yes, full armour folks) and mock battles and reenactments go on throughout the afternoon. There is also a hotel there which has been decorated in feast-hall mode and a few other fabulous details. Something to check out for any medievalist!
With these adventures in mind, we finally made it back to the hotel to start and finishing packing for our sad departure monday June 14th. While these really show the basic elements of what we were able to see, do, and experience on this grande adventure, it doesn’t even begin to come close to telling you everything that we accomplished. I will post another journal entry with pictures from our other destinations that I did not get a chance to touch on – but I wouldn’t want to ruin the full mystery that is Iceland.
Unlike next time,
Signing out of Iceland.
Today we went and saw the settlement of 871 +/- 2 today, which is the foundations of a preserved viking house dating to the 9th century. the center is completely interactive and totally awesome and we got to play with 1000 year old turf! (who doesn’t love old dirt? I mean really). The settlement exhibition was also a VIP guided experience, and we were allowed free reign of the building. There are displays and artifacts that line the exhibit, but the main attraction is the house foundations that grace the middle of the exhibit. With some very detailed and high-tech simulations, they have re-created Iceland as it might have looked in the 9th century, and given us access to different aspects of life and society at the time. This is a very cool place to be!
Anyways, tomorrow is another huge day adventuring out and about the Icelandic country side. I believe we are heading out to the Althing so see the site of the first government in Iceland as well as seeing some places from Egil’s Saga. Now, a short kip and finding dinner is in order – will let you know about everything tomorrow!
Well, today was more walking (surprise surprise! These Hikers are one of the best purchases of my life!) but we cheated this morning and took the bus back up to the University of Iceland. Today was the hands on/close up afternoon with Medieval Manuscripts. I can’t even BEGIN to describe how amazing it was to have these manuscripts so close. The pictures and artwork were amazing, the people were so great, it was just mind blowing…this was my academic connection 101, and really helped to bring alive all of the reading, study and research that we did prior to coming to Iceland. After being able to oogle and sigh over a huge collection of manuscripts (in date range from the 13th and 14th centuries), we then had two workshops! One was the science of manuscripts – with MORE close ups and details and awesomeness with more manuscripts that were ranging from the 14th century to the 19th century. We had the chance to examine the works under a microscope, analyze characters, feel the paper, admire the illuminations and ask questions about restoration, history and manuscripts. It was just… FANTASTIC. I really think I may want to reconsider my career path to involve historical restoration! <3.
AFTER this crazy experience, had lunch, and I bought more postcards and an awesome tote bag from the university and took an extended hike to the Pearl. The Pearl is quite the attraction in the city and I strongly suggest that if you get a chance to get up there, you should! A restaurant on top of 5 reservoirs, on the highest point in town with a viewing deck and an awesome little viking museum, the Pearl is a must visit. Though hot, and tiring, this was an awesome choice because the photos were amazing, the company was great and I got a wicked hat from the gift shop! Although it is very hard to complain about sunshine, I have been told that we had a completely unheard of run of good luck in terms of weather, so be ready for just about anything besides sunshine if you go!
Sunday was a free day and Erin and I went to the mall – 150 stores of expensive and LOVE. It was amazing. Topshop, ralph, hugo, etc. love love. just had to say, it was absolutly fantastic. we also walked for about 6 hours. therefore, I passed out at 7:30pm and slept for 12 hours.
NOT that I’ve actually eaten anything Icelandic yet – and not sure if I even will – but so far no complaints! As I read in one various travel book or another our hotel breakfast is… less then exciting, but its filling and reasonably healthy – and free! So therefore no complaints. I’ve also eaten more Italian food here then I have in 3 months at home. Pizza, carrpatio, Panini, you name it – I’ve had it. Also, managed to have a burger, lots and lots of sandwiches. I know that a few people are going out for traditional Icelandic dinner – aka puffin, whale, shark, etc.