Monday, June 20, 2011
My little boy opened it to see what was inside.
Then each added his stamp to the record book in the letterbox, and
a note or signature, and the date.
Thursday, June 16, 2011
Friday, June 10, 2011
Why go somewhere warm for spring break? (Part II)
After spending a few days in Denmark, I set off for Iceland, where my friend is studying abroad at Listaháskóli Íslands, an art school in Reykjavik. I took a bus ride from the airport to the city across moss-covered lava fields. Already, it was clear that Iceland's landscape is other-worldly.
Although it is a small city, Reykjavik is home to about 2/3 of Iceland's 300,000 inhabitants. Below are some of my first views of the area. Although it was an overcast day, Mt. Esja, situated across the water from Reykjavik, can be seen in both pictures.
We embarked on an adventure to find and swim in the hot springs near a small town called Hveragerði. As we walked out of town towards the wilderness, Iceland gave us a taste of its fickle weather-- clouds, misting rain, hail, and heavy rain. As they say in Iceland, "if you don't like the weather, just wait 5 minutes". Finally, the clouds gave way to blue sky and a little sunshine. Look at the beautiful colors-- black, green, blue, and tawny brown.
We got bored with the road, climbed over some fences, and headed for the hills. Who needs the trail? Or the map?
We followed the steam rising in the distance. We came across a piping hot rivulet, green with squishy algae.
Soon, the little stream lead to a river. There, we found many more hot springs feeding boiling water into the river. But, due to lots of chilly rain and melting ice, the river was too cold to for swimming. We didn't mind, though, because our ramble had been quite the adventure. Look at how my friend matches the landscape.
On a day when my friend had class, I went on the Golden Circle Tour to see some of Iceland's famous natural sites. Our first stop was Thingvellir National Park, the site of the first parliament of Iceland. The park is set in a rift valley where the North American and European continental plates meet. Actually, they are moving apart a little bit every year, so the valley is growing. Here is a picture of the North American continental plate.
As we walked along the side of the North American plate, we came across a new fissure which had just been found the previous day, right on the tourist path. It was hundreds of feet deep, but all covered up with wood (phew!). There were many older fissures in the area too, full of rain water...
...and covered with moss, lichen, and little plants.
Next, we stopped in Haukadalur Valley, full of boiling geysers. The word "geyser" comes from the name of one of the largest in the area, Geysir. It doesn't erupt anymore, but it still steams.
All around, steam rises from the ground, floating up into the grey sky.
Some of the geysers were bubbling joyfully, like this one.
After watching Strokkur, an active geyser, erupt, we headed to the next sight, Gullfoss waterfall. It was huge, powerful, and icy.
Little bushes poked out of the snow near the waterfall.
Look at the patterns in the ice. And the footprints.
Our last stop was Kerið, an explosion crater. An explosion crater is similar to a volcano, only it has only erupted one time. Look at the colors: blue ice, soil red from iron, and green rocks.
Here are some views from Kerið. On the bottom are some rocks from around the crater. On the top, you can see the barren landscape with an iron ore deposit in the distance. Notice how few trees there are in Iceland. In fact, the only native tree to the island is juniper, which is short and stubby, like a bush. Icelanders have a saying: "If you are lost in an Icelandic forest, just stand up".
On my last morning in Iceland, my friend and I wandered around Reykjavik. The sun was shining and the sky was clear, so Esja was visible, rising up above the city across the blue water.
There was some sort of festival going on in the city. We saw girls dressed in traditional Icelandic costume...
... and lots of Icelandic horses.
Copyright Cammie Curtin 2011.
Friday, June 3, 2011
Why go somewhere warm for spring break? (Part I)
Indeed, with friends studying abroad in Denmark and Iceland, why would I spend my spring break on a beach somewhere? The nordic countries are way cooler. So, with places to stay and people to show me around, I set off for a few days in Copenhagen, followed by a stint in Reykjavik. Guided by my friend who studies architecture, I explored the urban landscape in and around Copenhagen.
One of the first things that struck me were the brightly colored buildings.
On our first big excursion, we visited Kronborg, the castle which inspired Shakespeare's Elsinore in Hamlet. It was originally built in the 1420s.
Here is the entryway to the ramparts. Can you find the monogram of Christian V? All around Copenhagen, buildings are adorned with the monograms of the monarch who built them. Especially common is the monogram of Christian IV.
There is a small chapel inside the castle, Slotskirke.
On our way back into the city, we stopped at the Louisiana, a museum of modern art. Surrounded by beautifully landscaped grounds on the water, the most stunning part of the museum was the sculpture park.
"Reclining Figure no. 5 (Seagram)", Henry Moore. We stared at this sculpture for a long time, but we didn't quite see the "reclining figure".
Work by Alexander Calder.
We came across a metal pathway embedded in the ground, marked "Self Passage" by George Trakas, and followed it down to a shady platform by the water.
Finally, we made our way back to Henry Moore's reclining figure... and there she was.
Another day, we wandered around Copenhagen while my friend showed me some of his favorite sites. We walked through the archway around the courtyard of Christiansborg Palace.
The Black Diamond Library reflects the sky.
Inside, the lines of the building echo the flowing river on which the library sits.
In Gråbrødretorv Square, we found cheerful houses. Later that evening, we returned to the square to dine at Peder Oxe, a traditional Danish restaurant.
Angels danced on rusting fences with peeling paint.
But, after all this urban exploring, I was ready to spend some time in nature. So, I said goodbye to my friend and to Denmark, and headed for Iceland.
Copyright 2011, Cammie Curtin.
Copyright 2011, Cammie Curtin.