Monthly Archives: August 2015

Back from the land of Arctic Terns

Dearest, Birdiest Readers!

I’m back from two weeks in Iceland and am trying to figure out how to readjust to Toronto life where the weather doesn’t change drastically every couple of hours, where the northern light doesn’t blind you at 8pm in late August, where I can’t sip a delicious latte in a cowshed cafe. Yes, you read those last words correctly. We discovered Iceland’s best cafe, located in a bona fide cowshed about 10 km south of Akureyri. Where else in the world could we sip lattes and eat waffles with fresh cream whilst surrounded by 200 cows going about their (somewhat smelly) business? We even watched the milking process via webcam, and it was nothing short of riveting (yes, our portion of the cafe was glassed in).

Here are the lovelies at KaffiKu. Not your usual coffee shop. Many great black-backed gulls flying overhead, above the barn.

Here are the lovelies at KaffiKu. Not your usual coffee shop. Many great black-backed gulls flying overhead, above the barn.

It’s not easy to readjust to a landscape with trees, with more than one lane of traffic, with crowds of people. I seemed to have no problem getting used to the miles of lava fields, volcanic rock covered in thick moss, and to the near constant crisply harsh sounds of arctic terns overhead. I miss being surrounded by ocean, I miss the omnipresent geothermal swimming pools (we tried out eight different ones; if you’re planning a trip to Iceland, I have plenty of advice!), I miss the delicious¬†vinarbraud (custard and almond croissants of which I consumed at least two every single day), I miss the herring (sadly we didn’t make it to the national herring museum), I miss the colossal sky and fabulously fickle weather, I miss Icelandic non-nonsense ways and absence of garrulous & often meaningless politeness, I miss it all. Perhaps, if I’m being brutally honest, I also miss being on vacation.

In birdier news,¬†I was proud of my modest ID skills that I managed to exercise: we saw Kittiwakes, Oystercatchers, White wagtails, a gazillion great back-backed gulls, and shore birds of every persuasion, but I was scope-less (not to mention skill-less in the shore bird department!), and couldn’t ID much of anything. I studied the birds I knew and contented myself with that.

I did have one unexpected birdy experience. While visiting Halldor Laxness’ house/museum, Gljufrasteinn, I happened on the most lovely sight in his bedroom. Right there, on the windowsill, across from his bed, lay a pair of Zeiss binoculars, which Laxness used every single day of his life. I was alone in the museum and probably proceeded to do something semi-legal: I picked up the binoculars and took a look through his mid-century Zeiss optics, to catch a glimpse of the world — his ancestral hills, mountains and fields — exactly as Halldor Laxness saw it. And to think that five years ago, I wouldn’t have even noticed the binoculars; they would have meant as little to me as the religious paraphernalia on the bedside table.

Halldor Laxness' Zeiss binoculars. Gljufrasteinn museum.

Halldor Laxness’ Zeiss binoculars. Gljufrasteinn museum.

How delightfully strange life is. How miraculously unexpected its twists and turns.