Ciao, Venezia!

via our Facebook page:

Venice was a great little vacation, we loved “getting lost” (though comparatively, it was much easier to get lost in Fez or Marrakech), strolling around the canals, and finding little hidden pockets of history. The whole island is a beautiful museum!

Now, off to the Mediterranean for a few days!

@ http://www.facebook.com/pages/p/190184244496819

Iceland, Day 3 – Golden Circle Panoramas

The Golden Circle is one of the major tourist circuits out of Reykjavik.

Waterfall at Gullfloss
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Click to view interactively: http://360.io/ArR8Z2

Waterfall at Gullfloss 2
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Click to view interactively: http://360.io/Zmn3Cs

Þingvellir at Bláskógabyggð (Historical site for the Icelandic Commonwealth)
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Click to view interactively: http://360.io/DMPsdB

Þingvellir 2
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Click to view interactively: http://360.io/hRvzxT

Above the rift valley in Þingvellir
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Click to view interactively: http://360.io/mtN6sy

Þingvellir path to the rift valley
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Click to view interactively: http://360.io/U3hGA5

Captured with 360 Panorama.

 

Forget #planking, #anchoring is all the rage. #iceland #reykjavik by sohflo

Waterfall fusion!

At Gullfoss Waterfall

Iceland, Day 2 – Reykjavik Panoramas

Tjörnin Lake near the Parliament Building.
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Click to view interactively: http://360.io/E6yXbG
Captured with 360 Panorama

When you’re inside the Harpa Concert Hall, it feels like you are surrounded by soap bubbles due to the shape of the windows.

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Click to view interactively: http://360.io/Fh8Pgw
Captured with 360 Panorama

Iceland, Day 2 – More Reykjavik

Walked around more of Reykjavik again today. Crossed a small lake, and into the Parliament area. Apparently there’s a town square where the locals held a “Kitchenware Revolution”: during 2008 after the economy sank, a bunch of people took their pots and pans and banged on them in the town square to protest the government.
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We strolled towards the waterfront again to check out the Opera House and ships docked in the harbor. And lo and behold, we found the hot dog stand! (This time I took a photo of the intersection for reference).
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The opera house is called Harpa. Apparently when it was being built, it caused a lot of controversy because it was really expensive and the economy was going through a slump. Now it’s highly regarded as a city treasure, and could be considered Reykjavik’s main concert hall. It’s a big building, and I’d recommend seeing it at night when all the lights turn on, it almost looks like a bunch of blinking pixels from a distance. There was a conference happening inside for ICES, some oceanography/undersea exploration committee, and for a while it felt like I wasn’t in a foreign country because everyone spoke American English.

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So this was an morbidly odd attraction: on the waterfront was a maritime exhibit celebrating all ships that sank off the coast of Iceland from 1870-present.
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We stopped by a place called Volcano House that serves as both a cafe and a museum about volcanoes. They have a small (free) hands-on exhibit showcasing different rocks from recent eruptions, and an hour-long documentary about eruptions from 1973 and 2010 (not free).
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We spent a bit of time in the cafe, as it also doubled as a tour booking center, and rescheduled our Northern Lights tour, and booked an additional day tour to see the Golden Circle. I’m actually getting a bit nervous about how much we’re pre-spending already, as the cost of these tours is actually quite expensive. We are considering renting a car this weekend and going off on our own to see various sights, but since gas is expensive and I can’t drive manual, I’m wondering which would be more economical. =/ We’d still like to see glaciers, waterfalls, and take some time to jump into a thermal pool, eat whales & puffins, and get our toes nibbled at by parasitic fish.

Anyway, to round up the night, we ate at a restaurant called Icelandic Fish & Chips, which likes to emphasize their organicness. The fish texture was quite good, and the potatoes were nice, but overall the whole plate was bland–but for a reason! They happen to sell special sauces on the side for your fish & chips. I chose coriander & lime, and Mark picked truffle & tarragon. I ended up adding salt to my plate. But it certainly tasted fresh! And to be quite honest, I’m not entirely sure what a “organic” fish should taste like…
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And here’s a mural that reminded Mark of the Ridiculous Fishing iOS game:
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Iceland, Day 2 – National Museum of Iceland

Unfortunately we woke up late again today! That means no trip to the Perlan Dome or stroll to the geothermal park (maybe another day?). Also, it’s raining again, so that means our Northern Lights tour for tonight was postponed til tomorrow night.

Rainy days mean museums, so we decided to check out the National Museum of Iceland, which is all about Icelandic history from the time of Nordic settlers to the present.

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Some notes:

– admission is kr 1200 for adults

– open til 5pm during off-season

– has 2 floors of exhibits, the bottom floor is roughly 870AD – 1400AD (from early Settlers to Nordic Vikings, Christianity, and Danish rule), and the top floor is 1400AD – present (Lutherans, Icelandic independence).

– we were only there for a little over 2hrs, and felt rushed, but it was doable. Ideally I’d recommend 3-4hrs to really see all the exhibits.

– an audio guided tour is available, but we skipped it.

– if you get one of those Iceland Welcome Passes (where you can visit any number of attractions for free/cheap if you go within 24/48/72 hrs), I believe you get in here for free.

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We spent a majority of our time on the bottom floor, and learned about the early history of Iceland. Some interesting things I noted:

– Iceland’s main export was woolen items up until the 1400s, then it became dried fish. Fishing was their big industry, and as a result there was a lot of fighting with British & German military over control of their ports.

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– 60% of all Icelandic female DNA can be traced back to Scotland/Ireland, and 80% of all Icelandic male DNA can be traced back to Norway. Meaning that while Vikings were on their way to conquer Iceland, they picked up a few Celtic slavewomen on the way.

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– Iceland converted to Christianity without any aggression. To paraphrase: one of the Icelandic chieftains had a group meeting and told the other chieftains that they should all follow the same religion so it would cause less conflict. But they were still allowed to practice paganism in the privacy of their own homes.

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– Even though there are plenty of rocks and stones in Iceland, people didn’t start using them to build homes until the 1700s. Wood was the main construction material, and was used extensively in everyday life. Houses were built out of wood supports and walls were made out of stacks of grassy turf. It reminded me of Hobbit homes.

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– It was common for many countries to paint frescoes depicting scenes from the Bible, but in Iceland they’d carve those scenes into wood.

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All in all, I’d say this museum is definitely worth a trip. Give yourself plenty of time too, there were several interactive video kiosks as well.

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