Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Ruby Princess, Akureyri, Iceland, Saturday, September 13, 2014

Entering Akureyri (rhymes with Tipperary), Iceland, we are IN the Arctic Circle and see our first SNOW!

Only 1% of the land is under arable cultivation and all of that is sparsely scattered along the water.  This farm, therefore, is a rare sight.  Many of their vegetables, especially tomatoes, green peppers and cucumbers, are grown in greenhouses, taking advantage of the geothermal energy.

Still approaching the town on the ship, we spot one of many, many waterfalls throughout the land.

Akureyri is larger than we expected.  The entire population of Iceland is about 350,000.  Reykjavik is home to 250,000; Akureyri is home to approximately 30,000.

We decided upon a small tour, totaling 16 people with an excellent guide, John.  His family has been in Iceland for four or more generations.  His English is excellent, his humor entertaining and his knowledge and pride in his country inspiring!  This lake was on our way to the first stop.  All of the lakes are natural; some are fed by melting snow and rain and others are fed by geothermal springs.  

In Iceland, the agriculture is mainly livestock -- sheep, cattle, and swine.  The abundance of sun in the summer allows them to get several cuttings of hay.  That is a good thing since they must feed the animals through the long winter.  The white "rolls" are bales of hay protected with heavy plastic.  Speaking of livestock, John told us up front that you can never use the words "smart" and "sheep" in the same sentence.  However, through years of breeding, the Icelanders have developed a slightly smarter breed of sheep. Now, at the first signs of autumn, about 80% of the sheep are smart enough to start coming down from the high summer pastures to the lower winter pastures.  This saves the sheep herders much time and effort.  This is especially helpful because in 2012, they had blizzards in September and lost 11,000 sheep under the snow.  Only 1,000 perished, but consider the manpower necessary to complete such a feat!

The Icelanders are also very proud of the organic nature of their crops.  In fact, pesticides are outlawed in Iceland.  It helps that insects have a hard time surviving the long dark winters.  We climb high up to where the smart sheep are supposed to be leaving.

We arrive at our main objective of the day -- The Falls of the Gods.

We are not huddling to keep warm.  We are trying to lower our old bodies so you can see the falls.

Getting this shot involved some rock to rock stepping.... beautiful falls!!!

A selfie with the falls.

The legend which named the falls:  About the time of the first millennium, a Norse king was assigned the task of deciding whether the people of Iceland should stick with their old Norse gods or convert to Christianity.  The king thought about it for 24 hours and then decided to opt for Christianity.  To demonstrate his resolve, the king took all the wooden idols of the Norse gods and threw them into the falls.....henceforth, the Falls of the Gods.

The rapids downstream of the falls.

A few random shots taken through the van window of the "old" part of town.  The construction is/was wood board and batten.  John's grandparents lived in this one!

John explained further......in the 70 years that Iceland has been independent from Denmark, the Iceland nation has been bankrupt twice....and recovered twice!  "Necessity is the mother of invention".....hope Scotland remembers this!

Our last tour stop was the Botanical Gardens. This is the northernmost Botanical Garden in the world. We were amazed to see such healthy, vibrant flowers in Iceland!!!  Couldn't stop taking the photos....remarkable.  


Walking back to town, we pass this small church...

It was open....seating only 75 people.

This is the largest church in the town, but it was closed to the public.

A stroll back to the ship, seeing a variety of house styles....everything is soooo clean.  We stopped to pick up litter that a lady from our cruise ship had dropped.  Started to fuss at her, but decided instead just to pick it up out of respect for the citizens of Akureyri......the pride in their towns evident everywhere.

The shopping/commercial streets reflect the same cleanliness and color

Here is our precious family pet, Sadie, again.  She even wore a red bandana!

Don't know the significance of this striking mural

We stop for some wifi, beer and blogging.....soccer is on the TV and several family groups were cheering.  This dad and son were very cute.....the son knew all the terms, watched with avid interest.  You could tell it was a special day out for them.

An unusual sort of selfie....a mirrored building.

Artwork here and there

Rather than a sunset tonight, we thought the clouds were memorable...and so is Iceland