My Trip To Europe. Day 23. Sunday, October 26. Iceland

Dolphins to see me off to home.

Coins of the Day:  Leif Ericson (Leifur Eiriksson) commemoratives.

Coins of the Day:  Eiricksson Commemoratives

In 2000 the United States and Iceland did something that (so far as I know) the US had never done before:  they cooperated on a commemorative coin set to celebrate the 1000th anniversary of Leif Ericson’s journey to the New World.  He was the first European to set foot here.

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Icelandic 1000 kronur coin

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And the matching US Dollar.

Since today I will be making a very similar journey, Iceland to North America, this seemed like a good choice.


I had a bit of a problem.  There were a number of tours I wanted to go on, but (strangely enough) no matter how long or short they were, they ended at 4 or 5 PM, about the time I was supposed to be on a plane headed west.

Most places tend to start all their tours at the same time, 8 or 9 AM, regardless of length, and it’s a small challenge to find an afternoon tour.  Iceland, apparently, ends them all at the same time, and it’s not just challenging but nearly impossible to find a tour that both starts and ends in the morning.

I wanted to see Þingvellir during the daytime, and maybe visit a geyser.  The only way to do this was to rent a car.  But I was warned:  be at the airport three hours before departure.

That killed that idea.  Not enough time!

There was one tour I could do…whale watching.  Walk a few blocks to Reykjavik harbor and hop on a boat, go out and hope the whales cooperate.

Well, it’s something, and could be very interesting if whales show up.

Leaving Reykjavik

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It was cold enough they offered us big red oversuits and it’s a good thing I took them, being on deck when the boat was moving was an exercise in windchill.  The seas were rough.  I took the offer of a free seasick pill, it worked.  Unfortunately at least one lady got so seasick she had to be helped off the boat afterwards.

We found a flock of birds congregating out somewhere on the water.  A good sign.  But no whales.  So we continued on.

Finally a group of three dolphins was spotted, and we stopped and hung around for a while.  Now the trick:  be aiming the camera at the right place, just as they leapt out of the water.  And manage not to fall over as the boat turned repeatedly (making the heaving motion worse) to keep the dolphins nearby.

One of the people working for the tour boat would call out “triple jump at 11 o’clock” and more often than not I’d not even see it if I happened to be looking at 11 o’clock.

Personally I think the dolphins were tormenting us.

I took over 200 photographs, and only a dozen or so show something that’s definitely a dolphin in them.  Usually I shrink the photographs and maybe crop them.  This time I will simply crop them down to display size without shrinking.  And you’ll have to agree that none of this is BBC Earth material.

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We then returned to Reykjavik, probably to everyone’s relief.

After a lunch at a place right on the harbor, it was time to head for the airport.  The same bus company took me back.

Apparently I was WAY too early.  Three hours?  Really?

I got to Passport Control, and was confronted with a line of six or seven booths, three with people in them.  Two were marked “UK and Canada” and were open.  The third was marked “US” but also was “closed” even though someone was in the booth.  I stopped well back from the booths; finally one of the women in the UK/Canada booths asked where I was going, and I told her; she told me to go to the US booth.

“It’s closed.”

She told me to go there anyway.

I walked up to the booth and the man inside chewed me out for walking up to his booth when it was closed.

“They told me to come here.  What should I do?”

“Do you act like this in America?”

Iceland was full of friendly people.  I guess they keep their jerks at the airport.

He finally let me through, I went through another check after that (because I was going to the US and TSA wants that done) and then I got to wait almost two hours for the plane.

I was picked out for a random inspection.  The lady who had done the second check had to walk all the way to the gate, pick me up, take me all the way back to where she had looked at my passport, then I got my luggage checked over by hand.  Then I got to board the plane.

Icelandair names its planes after volcanoes–Iceland has a lot of them.  This one is world famous though, because it messed up air travel for several weeks back in 2010, and because no one outside of Iceland can figure out how to pronounce it.

26-021The Js throw people off I think.  Also, “ll” is pronounced “tl” which is counter-intuitive.  I could get halfway through it based on memory, and Icelanders would tell me I did better than almost anyone else, even though I quit halfway through.

“Eh-ah-fyat-la-yer-koot-uhl” would probably be recognizable.  I will not be held responsible, though, if you use that in front of an Icelander and he or she dies laughing.

Now this flight is interesting.  It took off at 4:30 PM, right about sunset.

And the sun didn’t actually set on board the plane for almost six hours.  It was far enough north that it could outrun the sun!  It cut across Greenland, northern Quebec, then down through Hudson Bay and down across Ontario, paralleling the diagonal NW border of that province.  (Some days it goes further north, missing Quebec and crossing over Iqaluit, the capital of Nunavut, on Baffin Island.)

I managed to get some pictures of Greenland.
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And here’s a link to google maps of this area.

(Switch to picture view and the peninsula in the first picture is quite recognizable.)

For whatever reason the seat cushion was very hard, more so than on the flight to Europe.

I landed at Denver shortly after 7PM and had no difficulty with US Customs.

And that’s the end of the trip.  I’ve crossed a ton of items off the bucket list, Athens, Iceland, Pompeii and Herculaneum, the Pantheon, the Hagia Sophia…and none of it would have happened if my dad’s 80th birthday party hadn’t given me the kick in the butt to just do it.

Thanks, Dad.

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