Thursday, April 06, 2017


Recently, we stopped in Reykjavik on the way home from Heidelberg. We got off for what we thought would be two days of winter fun. A storm kept us in Iceland an extra day, and then depositing us in Baltimore instead of Newark. Definitely an adventure, perhaps a bit more than we planned!

Generally, we’ve been thinking about Iceland more and more over the years. Phil used to talk about stopping off in Iceland on flights between the US and Germany when he was a kid. (Funnily, he recently found an old plane ticket from the 70’s and noted air fare is exactly the same today as then). Way back when the twins were babies, an Icelandic friend bought them adorable wool hats and we thought longingly of going there. Then the financial crisis and then the volcano and then Munich friends started venturing out. It just took a budget airline and a new and improved interest in astronomy.

Ah the Northern Lights. No one told us to expect them on the night flight in but as everyone stood up, we took notice. I crawled over the sleeping student next to me and peered out the windows on the other side. We gazed at huge rippling sheets of green, speckled with bits of pink and white. Tori told us this was solar flares hitting the Earth’s magnetic shield but it really looked like fairy dust to us. Once on the ground in Iceland, we drove around trying to see them again. We struck out the first time but then hit upon a daily news service that reported on low-medium-high solar activity days. On the next high activity day, we drove out of town and parked in an empty snowy field. We saw nothing. And then just when we gave up, the lights in the sky turned on; long and white and waving.
On our first full day in Iceland, we drove the “Golden Circle." We drove through Thingvellir National Park, all snow scape on either side. The kids put down their phones and asked if that was a glacier. We stopped at Fontana Spa, a thermal bath facility right on a lake. The water was warm and the pool quiet. Except for us as we ran from the hot bath into the freezing lake. We ate ice cream at the Efstidalur dairy, with cows just behind the glass. We hit the big items, the Geysir and the water fall, Gullfoss; amazing and beautiful. Proud of ourselves for staying late and avoiding the crowds, we set off for Reykjavik, about 80 kilometers away. We saw no cars, no street lights. Just blowing snow. Phil said the tires were only on snow but they were good winter tires. We told the kids to turn off their phones and conserve batteries. But we made it back. It felt just like Dune or Star Wars, making it back to the city before night forced the walls to be shut.
We wandered around town the next day and we set off for the airport as a storm blew in. The access road to the airport was closed. We were directed to a side parking lot where we sat in our car, with wild sea on one side and while winds rocked our car. We sat for three hours until finally the road opened and the sun peered out. We were put up in a hotel, made out of old army barracks. A little grim with shared bathrooms and all of us spread out along the floor. Until we saw the common bunk room area, with another stranded family of five in there for the night. We ate a pizza dinner at some former military mess. The cheapest pizza and beer in Iceland is what everyone said and they were right. Our dinner cost as much as our coffees and baked goods at the airport.
As we were finally leaving, there was last minute chaos. Adam was picked for a security check  just before boarding. He was whisked away and I went with him. No one could assure me that the plane would be held for us. But we made it. Until our plane had a missing part and we were delayed. All went well until Baltimore, where storms diverted us for over an hour. But we finally landed and the drive up to New Jersey was smooth. Fairly comforting to drive at midnight in one of the most populated places after the solitary driving on Iceland.