Saturday, January 30, 2010

Letters from Iceland: Days 5-6

On the morning of our final full day in Iceland, Jennifer and I went on a half-day horseback riding tour through Eldhester Farm, which is located in Ölfus. The Icelandic horse is apparently a very special breed of horse because it has five gaits, instead of the usual three. The two additional ones are the tölt (somewhere between a walk and a trot) and the flugskeið (flying pace), and we were able to try the tölt for about half of our riding time. I was glad to try it, but I'm pretty terrible at riding, and we were on English saddles, so my legs were pretty sore from trying to stay on with all the bouncing around. The horses are fairly short, so I suppose falling off wouldn't have been quite as terrifying as falling off the other horses I've been on, but still, I have a pretty major fear of paralysis. Thanks, Christopher Reeves. The terrain the horses can cover was pretty amazing (we went through those epic lava fields covered in moss, along with some more typical things like mud and streams), and it was nice to be able to experience riding one after hearing so much about them.

After that, we stopped into the Sægrefinn for the most amazing lobster soup I've had in a long, long time. The restaurant is an adorable little nautical nook, and the soup is similar to a bisque, but not quite as creamy. I would absolutely recommend stopping in there if you make it Reykjavik. When we returned to the room, we decided to split up for the afternoon to finish up some shopping and any last minute things we wanted to see. I bought some more yarn (of course) and that nativity set, and headed back to the room early to shower because I'd worn one of their suits and it reeked of horse. We had dinner at Prikið, a two-level coffeehouse with meals. I finally got my lamb, which was much cheaper than we'd found anywhere else, and pretty good. The service was incredibly bad, but that wasn't the worst thing in the world, and we headed to Kofi Tómasar Frænda again for dessert, because it's just the greatest place ever.

Our final day in Iceland consisted mainly of heading to the National Gallery and getting coffee before taking the last bus to the airport for our flight. The National Gallery wasn't anything like what I'd expected, but it was fun nonetheless. I'd been told there would be lots of interesting landscapes and scenes from folklore, but there really wasn't a single thing along those lines. Instead, there was a good amount of modern art from Icelandic artists. None of it spoke to me on a particularly deep level, but there were a few intriguing pieces. In particularly, I liked a work that was the product of a performance art piece which involved the artist spitting and splattering black paint over white lava rocks and the walls, and a room that was knitted into patterns on the inside, which you could see from a small hole in the side.

The ride to the airport was mostly uneventful, and we talked to a nice Australian who was traveling around the world during a 10-week paid leave for the ride over. There was extra security at the airport, which was a bit of a hassle, but I'm all for not being killed midflight, so even that didn't really bother me. A few movies later (Public Enemies and A Life Less Ordinary) and we'd landed in New York. The trip had ended.

Overall, I'm glad I went to Iceland. It was a quiet trip, mostly, and I liked that. It gave me a lot of time for contemplation, and it really solidified the fact that I can go somewhere and sit and absorb and be happy that way. It also helped me to realize that some things need to be experienced for themselves. Before we left, I'd been told I was crazy for going in the winter when it was dark and cold, and it turns out it wasn't either of those things, really. We also came to realize that printed material and websites were often wrong about a variety of things there, from the price of items to the opening hours of different sights, and without a watch, I felt free of preconceptions there. Additionally, the landscape is truly beautiful and truly different from anything I'd seen anywhere else. It was humbling to be so far away from everything, and I loved it. It was really more than I'd hoped for, and a perfect example of the reason I travel.

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