Iceland. 11 Crazy Days. Heat, Cold, Ice, Water, Fire, and an Albert Einstein Train

Going to Iceland was a totally impulsive decision that I’ve made.

July 02, 2016. Start.

9 p.m.

After I came back home from Ukraine to Prague submerged in heat, and finished doing all my work at home, I was looking at the calendar: so, I had 16 days left before my planned flight to India on July 18. In a few days, Amsterdam was waiting for me to do some photography there for two or three days. But… there are 16 free days to come… I have all this time at my disposal…

And this very time the year before, Island was my dream that hadn’t come true.

Alright, the decision is made!

10 p.m.

I cancel my trip to Amsterdam and start looking for tickets with the flight in the nearest days. The flight turned out to be the next day in the evening from Munich)))

In a rush, I begin searching for any possible ways to get to Munich before 6 p.m. the next day. Those adventures are thrilling me already)))

A train? No trains that day…

A bus? No vacant seats. Well… My airline tickets have already been purchased and arrived by email.

Finally, I managed to find one vacant seat for an early morning bus.

11:30 p.m.

I am sleepy and I am packing my backpack. Right, when in Iceland, I am going to test my sleeping bag with respect to subzero temperatures, as well as all my warm things intended for ascent to heights of the Indian Himalayas.

 

July 3, 2016. The Way to Munich and Reykjavik.

Early in the morning, at the bus station in Prague my bus ticket was not confirmed. And there’s not a single free seat for other buses either. Oh no! I have a flight today, I want to Iceland, do you understand that? I need to go!!! So, I send messages to all my friends asking to give me a ride and get me to Munich by 6 p.m. today, on Sunday, which doesn’t make it easier.

But there were some good people to help me out – thank you, Olya and Olya )))

So, AirBerlin took me to the airport of Reykjavik (in the town of Keflavik) at midnight.

I went online and found a hostel nearby for one night. It looked like quite a decent hotel, by the way.

So, I am falling asleep, and I still can’t believe that in just two days I leaped over the world as a crazy squirrel, and now I am actually going to bed in long-desired and much-anticipated Iceland.

 

July 4, 2016. Golden Circle.

I still don’t have any clear plan for all the days of my trip.

In the morning, I tried to rent a car, but with my old driving license from Ukraine, and with my maiden name in it, that was unsuccessful pursuit.

All right. So, I am going to a neighboring town of Hafnarfjörður.

In summer, the bus connection over the island is nice and regular. Straeto.is  and BSI bus.

I am walking, eating ice-cream and some local food. Breathing here is easy and feels a little different. Fresh air, with a bit of ice in it, makes me cheerful and delightful!

Well, I’m done with investigating the town, and then I get back to Reykjavik by bus.

I keep noticing very weird people in the bus, and in the town as well. Many people here look a bit nuts, and they talk to themselves (or, perhaps, to the local elves, who knows) and grumble something with vivid mimicking. But they look quite calm and safe though.

By the noon, I got to Reykjavik and decided to go to the Golden Circle. The best option, considering compromise between time and money, seemed to take a tour from Day Tours for a couple of hours, and then to get back to the town by night. So, there I go.

         

The Golden Circle is a very touristic place. It is beautiful though, just like entire Iceland 🙂 I see the first geyser in my life. What a miracle of nature!

As usually, I take various booklets in tourist companies, and examine pictures and nice places. So, on my way back to the town, I already began making the plan with destination points for the nearest days))

Then I spend another night at the hostel.

 

July 5, 2016. Vestmannaeyjar.

My plan for today is to visit the south of the island. I set off to the village of Vik.

On my way there, I surf the Internet (free Wi-Fi is available in all the intercity buses), and decide to stop at some place to move to the isles of Vestmannaeyjar by a ferryboat. The ferry is not expensive at all. I highly recommend you to visit those islands!

At the ferryboat, I can hear Russian speech. As it turned out, we also checked at the same hostel with these guys. So, together we went to the volcano’s summit. What else can you do at midnight in Iceland, if not conquering volcanoes? This time of year, there are white nights here too, you know))

Standing on the top, you perceive all the power of the Earth’s nature. Here’s the ocean, there’re glaciers of Iceland, over there you can see mountains, and down there you can observe destructive power of lava, which solidified long time ago.

That’s impressive.

 

 

July 6, 2016. Looking for Puffins in Vik, and Admiring Scenic Waterfalls.

In the morning, I wondered about the town again for a while. Then I took the ferry to leave the isles.

 

Here was my plan: first, a village of Vik (to observe local puffin birds), and then to Jökulsárlón (which stands for “glacial river lagoon”), a picturesque place. I came across with the guys from the ferry again, and received the proposition: they have a rented car, and they also want to see the puffins. So, we crisscross the road to Vik, making stops at various picturesque places, and visiting waterfalls (yet another awesome miracle of nature in Iceland).

 

 

To look for puffins in Vik, I’d got a photomap which indicated the points of their habitat. And another thing I had was clear instructions from my dear guardian angel back in the Czech Republic.

Nevertheless, we had no luck in finding any puffins. For the three hours of walking and searching along mountains and valleys, not a single puffin was found.

As we had a conversation at night, we rendered a decision: puffins have migrated.)))

It was a lovely day, which ended in some kind of an ecohotel: small houses in fields near a cemetery.

 

In the morning, you just leave a key in a postbox, and leave.

 

July 7, 2016. Trekking in Skaftafell, and the Glacier Lagoon.

Skaftafell is another place I highly recommend.

 

Here, you can stay in a camp. There are different kinds of trekking trails. We walked along two of them. Sights were amazingly astonishing again.

Then we reached the Glacier lagoon. The entire lagoon and the ice-cakes are of unusual saturated blue colors.

It was the first time I saw glaciers from such a close distance.

 

There’s something I haven’t done, but I need to do, and so do you, if you happen to be there: walking deep into the coast – you can see seals right at the coast (unless they have also migrated somewhere).

The day ended in a hotel located in a wonderful place: away from the road, near a glacier, and natural thermal springs just about 500 meters next to the hotel. Fancy this: after a long day of trekking in Iceland, you are relaxing in a bath out in the open, there’s a glacier over there, and mountains on another side with beautiful local horses at their bottom. It’s quiet… Your body is relishing from the warm water and sweet languor, and your soul is delighted with the pure nature and sights around!

July 8 through 12, 2016

In the morning of the 8th of July, we visited the wrecked airplane at the coast. A nearly hour of walking is not worth it: I am always sorry and sad to see such things.

On the way back to the car, I experienced Icelandic sand storm.

Then I said Big Thanks and good-bye to the guys.

I rented a car with my friend from Canada (thanks Al for your help, it was surprising to met you here)))))

And for the rest of the days till the 13th of July, I was crisscrossing along western and northern parts of Iceland: 

Borgarnes – Hellnar – Olafsvik-Hellisandur-Grundarfjörður-Stykkishólmur-Blönduós-Myvath-Reykjahlíð-Akureyri-Skagaströnd-Sauðárkrókur-Húsafell.

Great trip!

All those days, I enjoyed my bachelorhood conditions: spending nights in a sleeping-bag inside a car, taking a shower in camps along the road, getting food in local Bonus stores))))

 

 

In Akureyri, I wanted to see whales, but it wasn’t a great success: a couple of times a whale did come to the surface, but with no particular vaulting or jumping, actually)))

In general, all those days it was very cold, very beautiful (volcanoes, glaciers, waterfalls, seals, horses, moss, an ocean…) and filled with feral and wild vibes.

 

Then I had a burning desire to return to the southern part of the island: Hveragerði-Selfoss.

 

 July 13, 2016. Landmannalaugar.

So, my trip to this mystical place. Landmannalaugar…

This place must be necessarily included into your itinerary, if you plan travelling to Iceland. Getting there is not always possible, due to weather conditions and no roads (on the so-called roads you may encounter rocks or water, but not actually proper roads). You need a 4×4 SUV. Or, alternatively, you may use your small car to get to the nearest possible point, and then hitchhike for someone else’s SUV.

During the touristic season, renting a SUV is as expensive, as a rocket (well, nearly), especially when you are going in a small group of people. So, hitchhiking was my option. A vehicle stopped nearly at once, with a nice family couple of two women. On our way, we also turned to see a couple of picturesque places, so I managed to see other beauties due to them.

 

Those were unreal colors… A combination of ice, ground, and greenery… And colors of water in the mountain lake. You look at this and keep wondering – is this for real?

 

The ladies took us to the camp and suggested to drive us back to our car in a couple of hours. I had to refuse, since I didn’t know how much time I was gonna spend there.

The trekking here is noteworthy. Due to glaciers descend, however, some tracks were closed. I wondered along two tracks and returned to the camp, and then I realized that – oops, nearly all the cars went away. Those who remained were going to spend a night here.

But I wanted to get to my car. It’s getting darker and colder. Oops again. And suddenly my lucky moment came – an ambulance. Saying “We are here to help, so we are going to help you out”, the ambulance guys took us to our car.

What a lovely day.

July 14, 2016. Finish

The road to Reykjavik, then to the airport.

This time, enriched with my previous experience, I decided right away to buy a ticket for a Munich-Prague train online. “No more adventures and improvisation’, I was thinking as I made my payment for the first-class seat reservation in a train.

But…

July 15, 2016. An Unforgettable Albert Einstein Train, Icelandic Chocolate, and Halva from Druzhkovka.

I cannot help describing this adventure)

It is morning in Munich. I’m at the railway station, boarding into my carriage. In the compartment, I am helping an American young woman to lift her suitcase. We are having a conversation. She is surprised there’s no Wi-Fi in a business class wagon. I notice a book of “Master and Margarita” by Bulgakov in her hands – mmm, good taste.

She has a ticket, but no seat reservation. So, when people arrive who have reserved seats in this compartment, she moves to another one.

The train starts and I am happy to anticipate taking hot bath at home in Prague, my quite home, and my bed (finally, after so many nights in a sleeping bag in a car, and a night spent in the airplane). And here a train hostess enters, such a Fuhrer-lady. She is stern and indisputable: your tickets, please!

So, I show her my seat reservation which I have paid for, and – surprise – it turns out that it was merely a seat reservation, not for a ticket. I need to pay for the ticket, and the lady invites me to follow her.

We are going to the next carriage, and in the compartment for the staff, she tells me the amount, and I reach out for my card. “No cards accepted! Cash only!” sounds the harsh reply.

Oh, no! I only have 5 euros with me, and I need 22 euros more.

“I’ve got only 5 euros cash”, I say. “Then you must get out on the next stop, or pay cash”, was the answer.

Really, how is that possible? I can see forests and fields in the window. No way, I don’t want to get off here, I am tired and I want home!

“I’m gonna make something out”, I tell her, and my mind starts generating various ideas about how to get 22 euros cash right now in the train.

I remember there were guys in the train with Internet in their smartphones and a wallet with banknotes. What if I send them this amount via online-banking, and ask them for cash in return. Cash-out in a train. No, this seems kind of complicated.

Then… my new American friend Dalia, she heads to Prague. I may ask her for some cash and return the money at the train station after I get it from the ATM. That’s right!

So, here I am, standing in her compartment and smiling, and explaining my situation. She says, she has only 25 euros left, but it’s gonna be a long way, and she is hungry. There must be a restaurant, she supposes, since it’s a business class.

I suggest to go to the restaurant, hoping cards are accepted there. I would pay by card for anything she’d choose, and she would give me 22 euros.

So, we set off looking for a restaurant. In the passage, we come across with an old man driving a cart loaded with chips, beer, and other drinks. We ask him, where the restaurant is, and he points at his cart in reply.

Dalia gets more and more shocked. She just whispers “it’s a business class wagon…”

My head starts boiling of ideas. “Listen, I’ve got a super-tasty Icelandic chocolate, I just bought it in duty-free shop in Iceland. And I’ve got a pack of nuts, and a unique Ukrainian delicacy – some halva from my native town of Druzhkovka in Ukraine. It’s all packaged and sealed! And it’s a much healthier food than those harmful chips! Please, come on, buy them from me! And I give you some more money in Prague too!”

Now she is looking at me, even more shocked. I understand her feelings)) No comments…

And… she says “Yes. Ok”.

Hurray!!!!

I rush to my compartment and get the Icelandic chocolate I bought for a present (that’s right, in Iceland they love coffee, and produce chocolate from imported coffee-beans), and the nuts, and the Druzhkovka Halva my mum gave me (luckily, I haven’t eaten it during the trip)))

I get 22 euros and rush to the conductor. With a stone face (but I noticed blinks of surprise) she takes the money and gives me the ticket saying: “this ticket is valid only till the border with the Czech Republic. There, you must buy a new one from Czech conductors”.

Shoot! All right, that’s gonna be in my dear Czechia, I’m gonna make something up. At least, I didn’t get off in German forests, which is good.

So, I go to the compartment. For some reason, my American friend is seating in a closed compartment between two police officers with the same shocked look on her face, and telling something to them. What a weird train…

Soon, after they leave and she remains alone, I move to her compartment. We are screaming with laughter. And she still doesn’t believe in this business class wagon)))

It’s a border with Czech Republic now. “Dobry den!” – the door opens, and a Czech conductor wants to see my ticket. I show him my seat reservation and the ticket I’ve bought. He takes some time to think and calculate, and produces his verdict: “You need another ticket from Plzen to Prague. It’s 240 korunas, please”. I hand out my card… Of course, I know what he’s gonna tell me now… “CARDS ARE NOT ACCEPTED. YOU MUST PAY 240 korunas CASH OR GET OFF THE NEXT STATION”…

OMG!!!!!!!!!!!!…….

P.S. Well, I did manage to get to Prague by the same Albert Einstein train. My new friend Dalia also reached Prague safely. Well, except for a couple of characters that sat next to her later during the trip – a trouble-making Czech child, who kept getting into her purse, trying to find something there, and an old man, who was were loud, for about 30 minutes expressing his displeasure and disaffection with the ill-mannered conductor)))))

I am sure, both she and I will long remember the business class of Albert Einstein train. As well as Icelandic chocolate&halva from Druzhkovka.

The End.

P.S. And, certainly, if you’re still thinking whether you should drag yourself into this country and whether it’s worth spending on a trip to Iceland… and if you’re still wondering what on Earth to do in this remote country of fire, ice, rain, and wind, then my advice to you is: YOU MOST CERTAINLY SHOULD go for it. Especially, if you love nature, incredible scenery, not crowded places, and Bjork; and if you wish to experience all the elements of nature during one trip – Iceland is for you, then. 

I’ll be glad to answer your questions and share my experience with you in more details. I have a wonderful National Geographic map featuring a great roadmap (even the smallest passages) and different points on it. Feel free to keep in touch)

And the Iceland Image Gallery is here. Hope you’ll enjoy 42 photos.

Yours, Improviser traveler, 

 Alina Ushcheka ))))

 

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