Saturday, December 6, 2008

Eg Heiti Ketkrókur!

First and foremost, I would like to apologize for my long absence from the blogging community, especially since this is a Christmas related post...but I guess a month isn't thaaat bad.

In Iceland, there is no Santa Claus. Instead, there are thirteen yule lads, descendants of trolls and the sons of Gryla, an old meanie who eats children, and of course, a Christmas cat. Read more about all the Icelandic Christmas traditions here.

On my move from Akureyri to Reykjavik at the end of November, I stopped in the small town of Skagastrond to pick up some things and say hello to some folks. As it turned out, that evening was the town's Christmas tree lighting celebration. Children danced around the tree as the town sung carols. The celebration always features a special visit from the yule lads who hand out candy to the children. This year's celebration included a yule lad that spoke no Icelandic...During my visit to the mayor's office, he asked me if I wanted to participate in the festivities. I left it up to the other yule lads who thought it would be a good idea, most likely for their amusement. Nonetheless, I ran around handing out candy and scaring little children, which is apparently quite normal, saying nothing but Ho Ho Ho, Gleðileg jól, and Eg Heiti Ketkrókur (my name is meat hook).

The Skagastrond yule lads

Before leaving Akureyri, we also witnessed the tree lighting there. Their celebration was a little bigger (it is after all the second largest city in Iceland).

Some aged Santas in Akureyri singing songs that I can only hope are Christmas related


Lastly, here is my Christmas card that many of you received via email. I know it's been a month, but I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season!

Road Trip to Snaefellsnes

One weekend during my stay in Akureyri we took a weekend roadtrip to the beautiful Snaefellsnes peninsula, the inspiration for Jules Verne's novel, Journey to the Center of the Earth. Our home base was a hostel in the beautiful town of Grundarfjordur. Unfortunately, I don't really know the names of the sites that we stopped at.

The town of Grundarfjordur

Some random awesome lookout

Our rides

Some random awesome beach with old crap strewn about (Definitely going to go back and make some stuff and take some pictures)

A beach loaded with the remains of an old ship that crashed here back in the day

Hot water = hot showers!

Water falling (the camera, or the cameraman, did a lousy job of capturing the crazy aqua blue color of the water)

November in Akureyri

For the month of November I lived in Akureyri "the capital of the North," Iceland's second largest city with a population of around 17,000. Reykjavik, the largest city, has a population of around 200,000, which makes up for almost two thirds of the entire population of Iceland.

My stay in Akureyri was a nice medium between Reykjavik and the small town of Skagastrond, where I lived in September and October respectively. I lived in a guesthouse with a group of students studying at the university, most of which were also foreigners. We went skiing a few times, played curling twice a week, played soccer twice a week, and went on a few exciting road trips. Good times.

Overlooking Akureyri from across the fjord

Hafnarstraeti, the main street in downtown Akureyri

The main church lit up on a cold night (apparently it's a tradition when in Akureyri to climb and count the steps of the church)

Skiing with a great group of folks at Hlidarfjall, overlooking Akureyri

Inside Kjarnaskogur woods, just south of the city, Iceland's most visited woods.

A little craziness on my solo trip to Myvatn lake to see what I missed the first time around

Dimmuborgir, a crazy lava field with amazing formations, including a pretty intense cave referred to as the church. I arrived late in the afternoon as the sun was setting, making everything super creepy and awesome, but also making it difficult to get good pictures.