The Nordic Region – The Happiest Place on Earth

For all that Swedes complain about the winter, weather, and rain, Sweden is one of the happiest places on Earth.

And so is Finland, Norway, and Denmark. Our saddest little neighbor, Iceland, is only the 15th happiest place on Earth.

Overall, the Nordic region is one happy family and Scandinavia is Disneyland in real life.

The 2012 Legatum Prosperity Index, produced by a British non-partisan public policy organisation, identifies the world’s happiest and saddest countries. They used several sources of data (objective and subjective) from Gallup, World Development Indices, and self researched. The 2012 LPI is similar to the UN World Happiness Report though the latter relies more on surveys than objective data.

The LPI focused on eight areas: economy, entrepreneurship, governance, education, health, safety, personal freedom and social capital.

Scandinavia and the greater group, the Nordic region, rank near the top in every category.

Here are the rankings of the Nordic countries. A few OECD and BRIC countries are included for comparison.

CountryEconomyHealthEntrepreneur-
ship &
Opportunity
Safety
&
Security
GovernancePersonal
Freedom
Education Social
Capital
OverallGDP
per
Capita*
Finland16123351985736472.6
Norway244213661157230.9
Sweden5142645129339024.2
Iceland611591201013131535642.2
Denmark19161837162240162.6
United Kingdom261862071130121335686.2
United States202122710145101247153
India571049911449671001381013425.5
Japan1262316224223202233732.9
Brazil3354787562579644411210.4
Use the arrows to zero out a category and reset the ranking list.
 
In some ways, the findings are not too surprising. India, while growing economically, severely lacks basic access to healthcare and sanitation. Women, suffering some of the greatest injustices in the world, sends the country spiraling downwards when backwards ideology like “marrying your rapist” is acceptable. Interestingly, governance is the country’s highest ranking factor; perhaps a sign that India has the potential to become a better and happier place.

The United States dropped two spots to 12 after three years of holding 10. A massive recession coupled with increased long term unemployment, decisive elections, and long wars have played its toll on the American psyché. The next several years will tell if the people can return to higher levels or continue on a broken path.

There was one very interesting finding. Nordic swept the Entrepreneurship and Opportunity category. Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Norway took the top four positions. I would not have expected it because the venture climate is still lukewarm. Delving into the study questions, it became clear that the Nordic region would top the list. Some questions included, Mobile phones (per 100 people), Mobile phones per household, Secure internet servers (per 1 million people), Good place for entrepreneurs to start a business? (% yes), Business start-up costs (% of GNI per capita).

And most definitely the Nordic region is home to cheap cell phone plans and low start up costs from Skatteverket. If you think about it, how many people do you know owning a HB or AB in Sweden versus your home country?

Looking at the World Happiness Report, the Nordic region holds the top three slots (Denmark, Finland, Norway) followed by the Netherlands and Canada. The whining about the Swedish weather pushed Sweden out of the top.

Still, after all our complaining about Sweden, it really is not a bad place. We are happy, prosperous, and eat a lot of semlor. What more could one ask?

Now only if Disney opened a Disneyland here would we be truly the happiest people on Earth.

Research:
http://www.prosperity.com/2012Findings.aspx
http://www.forbes.com/sites/christopherhelman/2011/12/07/the-worlds-happiest-and-saddest-countries/
http://issuu.com/earthinstitute/docs/world-happiness-report

Christmas Traditions in Iceland

I asked one of my girlfriends, Tinna, to share her Icelandic Christmas traditions. She’s amazing and has written up about all the major dishes and treats as well as traditions on days before and after Christmas.

Tinna hails from Isafjördur in the West Fjörds of Iceland but is a true globetrotteur. Please check out Tinna’s blog (in Icelandic) and post a comment if you a question or experience to share!

Christmas stamps 2008, Iceland


Food

Jólahlaðborð – Julbord – is something that co-workers and groups of friends do in the advent, usually at restaurants and hotels. There they’ll find most of the food that will then be eaten at Christmas. This is usually not a family thing, and more of a drunken ordeal with over-eating and dancing through the night.

Laufabrauð – Leaf bread – is traditionally from the northern parts of Iceland, but in the last 50 years or so the custom has spread and it is common for families to meet up in the weeks before Christmas to cut beautiful patterns in the leaf thin bread that is then deep fried. I’ll send pictures this week!

Kjötsúpa – Meat soup – is really not eaten at Christmas anymore, although I know that some people in their 50s and older have grown up eating meat soup for Christmas. It is actually really interesting to see how the traditions have changed in the last 50 years. Turkey of course is the newest addition to our Christmas tables, and I think more and more people eat it every year, but then perhaps on the 25th or New Year’s Eve.

Today, ptarmigan and glazed ham (hamborgarhryggur) are the most common dinners on the 24th, hangikjöt with white sauce (kind of bechamel) and potatoes on the 25th.

The leg of lamb is something my father grew up eating at Christmas. He grew up on a farm, and the Christmas luxury in the 60’s involved eating fresh meat, not smoked or salted, on the 24th. Often the meat was stuffed with dried apricots, prunes and dried apples (this is actually insanely good, but not really done anymore).

Brúnaðar kartöflur – Caramel potatoes – is a side dish that I think it is safe to say that is on every family’s dinner table sometime over the holidays. It is sooo sweet but is surprisingly good with the savoury meat. Basically you boil a bunch of potatoes, remove the skin and let them cool for a while. Meanwhile you slowly heat 50 g of sugar in a big pan until it starts to melt, then add the butter and stir until combined. My grandmother also adds a splash of cream, which is delicious. The cream can not be to cold though, then the caramel will get angry. Also be careful that the potatoes are completely dry before you add them to the pan. Cook until potatoes are warm and be careful not to get burned by the piping hot caramel.

Jólagrautur – Rice pudding – is traditionally just risgrynsgröt, sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar. This is a dish now eaten year round, but some families still eat it at Christmas as well. Many have turned to the sweeter Ris à l´amande, served with cherry-sauce (as in Denmark) or with warm sauces made from blueberries or crowberries. It is perfect as a dessert and in some families (mine for example) an almond is hidden in one of the bowls of Ris à l´amande. The person who gets the almond is supposed to keep it hidden for as long as possible and then gets a small present for winning the almond.

Christmas dessert varies a lot though, so many have home made ice cream or just some delicious and super advanced things that they finally have time to make as they are on holiday.

Rjúpa used to be eaten all winter long by families living in areas where they were common and easy to get. I think it is just in the last 40-50 years that they have become Christmas food. 10 years ago or so, the ptarmigans were getting dangerously few, so ptarmigan hunting has been severely limited since then.

We bake a lot of cookies (smákökur) in December, not only piparkökur. The different sorts are too many to count, but the remarkable thing is that cookies are basically only baked before Christmas. People in Scandinavia would recognize most of the cookies, as they are a version of Danish/Swedish/Norwegian småkakor, but I’m not sure if they are common in the US for example.

Kleinur and skyr are not really Christmas food, although they are certainly also eaten at Christmas. There is not really a tradition of glögg here in Iceland, it is at least clearly Scandinavian to us. We do drink a lot of hot chocolate though.

On the 23rd of December we celbrate Þorláksmessa, which is the mass of the only saint Iceland got before we stopped being catholic and became protestants back in the 1500s.

The tradition of eating fermented skate on the 23rd apparently has it’s origins in the West Fjords, and has just spread to other parts of the country in the last 30-40 years. Not everyone eats the skate
(understandably) and the smell gets stuck in your clothes and irritates the hell out of people living in apartment buildings for example. It is served with potatoes and hamsatólg (melted lamb’s fat (I KNOW!! YUK!)). I prefer having a few slices of rúgbrauð (rye bread) and a lot of butter with my skate.


Festivities

Thirteen nights before Christmas the Yuletide Lads (Jólasveinarnir) come to cause mischief in the home. The parents of these lads, Grýla and Leppalúði, are trolls that were angry and wanted to scare children. Over the years, they have taken on a more benevolent role.

Today, you put shoe on the windowsill for the thirteen nights before Christmas. If you were well behaved the Yule Lads will treat you with something in the shoe, if not, you get a potato. It’s a lot of fun!

Drawing by Hugleikur Dagsson

The festivities begin on the 23rd, with the eating of skate. This is also the day when most families decorate their Christmas tree. On the 24th, aðfangadagur, Christmas arrives at 18:00. Before that people are busy taking their Christmas bath, finishing the food for the evening and wrapping the last of the presents.

Then at 18:00 the holy hours begin, lasting through Christmas day.

Christmas mass is usually at 18:00 and then sometimes there is a “midnight” mass at around 21:00. Many families sit down to eat their dinner at 18 sharp, but some wait until normal dinner time at 19h or 20h. Most families that don’t go to church on the 24th will still listen to the Christmas mass on the radio at 18:00.

After dinner and cleaning up, we gather around the Christmas tree and open up our presents. This can take a long time, as everyone is supposed to look at and admire each others new things. Afterwards it is common to open the Christmas cards (I open mine when they arrive though) and read them over a cup of coffee, some chocolate or smákökur.

This is the holiest of nights, the 24th, there is no playing cards or board games. During pre-Christianization, there was a lot of drinking, merriment, and playing cards during this time of the year which after Christianization, was frowned upon.

On the 25th, jóladagur, many go to church again (a holy event). The 25th and 26th, annar í jólum (the second day of Christmas) are very common for family gatherings and the eating certainly continues. The family gatherings often continue in the week between Christmas and New Years, so Christmas feels really long.

There is absolutely no Boxing Day or mellandagsrea in Iceland. We take our Christmas seriously and spend it with family, not running around in shops. Oh, and there is no getting drunk and partying, not until the 26th at least.

In my family we have a big tradition of playing board games in the days between Christmas and New Year. Friends and family come over and eat mandariner and smákökur over games of Trivial pursuit, Risk, Sequence etc. Plenty of food, family, friends, and the occasional Monopoly fight.

New Years Eve is also spent at home with the family. It is not until after midnight people would go out to meet friends and go dancing.

Christmastime is incredible dark and long for us in Iceland so we take the holidays seriously. It is a time to splurge on fresh meats and sweets, since these were/are luxury items, and reflect upon the year with families.

Here’s to wishing you a God Jul!

More Photos from Eyjafjallajökull Volcano

Just a quick post about nothing related to Sweden (unless Arlanda airport is deserted) but of our nordic country neighbor Iceland.

I came across some more amazing video and photos gathered from the volcano region in southwestern Iceland and have to share them with you. There is also a large collection of photos of the volcano posted last month.

This video is from Sean Stiegemeier who flew to Iceland on his own to capture this video. Music is from Jónsi – Kolniður.

In the video there’s a clip of a famous airplane in the middle of nowhere. If you want to visit it, the aircraft is on the beach of Sólheimasandur.

Iceland, Eyjafjallajökull – May 1st and 2nd, 2010 from Sean Stiegemeier on Vimeo.

Here’s another video of the first volcanic eruption by the Raw Iceland Team.

Volcano eruption in Iceland from Enrique Pacheco on Vimeo.

And a few more photos of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano from Flickr photographers.
Wrath of Hell - Eyjafjallajökull Eruption
By Orvaratli

Iceland - Under Construction
By Skarpi

And the last photo, a stunning photo by Rakel Ósk Sigurðardóttir of Icelandic horses with the volcano in the background.
icelandic-horses

Volcanolypse 2010 Conquers Europe

As if Iceland needed to be in the news any more than it had in 2008 and 2009. When the rumors of a worldwide financial meltdown came to light in 2008, most people squarely blamed the small island nation in the North Atlantic Ocean called Iceland. Few people cared about the little country and even fewer ever visited the nation before then.

Soon after, Icelandic citizens were blamed for the world meltdown in the finance industry while failing to see the Wall Street gambling addiction. Iceland was just another catalyst in a series of wreck less, amoral decisions made by big American/British/pick another banks to make more money at the expenses of long term financial stability.

And now, the small Nordic nation has created a second global export: ash. While shellfish, scallops, lax, and other goods languish in the country because of the inability to reach Europe, Iceland is on the defense of “it really wasn’t our fault.” And it isn’t their fault.

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Volcanolypse 2010
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor Tea Party

The Eyjaflällajökull glacier and volcano is wrecking havoc on the airline industry (estimated losses at 1.7 Billion dollars and counting), shipping, and travelers alike. More than 1.2 million passengers are affected and airline delays from the volcanic eruption are bringing the cargo world to a halt too. Now the airline industry is blaming governments for being too cautious and the governments are blaming the airline industry for being too wreck less.

Either way, the volcano eruption exported something much more than ash: few days of peace from the bustles of the 21st century world. We can at least admire in the awe of the Earth’s spectacular natural events of a volcanic eruption.

That’s why even though Volcanolypse 2010 conquers Europe, thank Iceland for giving us a few days of simplicity in life. Or enjoy a good laugh from the The Daily Show.

Volcano Travel Delay Information

Update: Thursday, April 22st, 14.42 GMT+1
All major airports in Sweden are operating. This includes Stockholm Arlanda, Bromma, Göteborg Landvetter, and Malmö airports. Please check arlanda.se for flight information to ensure your flight is scheduled to take off or arrive into a Swedish airport.

Update: Wednesday, April 21st, 13.32 GMT+1
Information regarding flights by Ryanair:
(A) Southbound flights from Spain, Southern Italy, Southern France (Marseille), Malta and Morocco continue as normal today.

(B) All flights in Northern Europe (except flights between Ireland and the UK) to operate as scheduled from 05.00hrs Thurs 22nd April.

(C) All flights between Ireland and UK (including domestic routes) will resume normal schedules from 05.00hrs on Fri 23rd April (to allow for extra flights from Ireland to Continental Europe; and from UK to Continental Europe on Thursday 22nd April).

(D) Ryanair expects more delays and cancellations on Thurs/Friday as Europe’s ATC’s and airports struggle to handle the volume of flights.

(E) Revised handling procedures notified to all airports to eliminate a backlog of passengers as soon as normal flight schedules resume.

No other major updates from the other airports. Cathy Pacific announced no new flight reservations can be made until after May 10th.

Update: Wednesday, April 21st, 11.32 GMT+1

Swedish Airports:
Malmö Airport, Ronneby Airport, Ängelholm Helsingborg Airport and Visby Airport are now open for traffic. According to the forecast Gothenburg Landvetter will be able to open for traffic after 2 p.m. According to the same forecast Stockholm-Arlanda Airport and Stockholm-Bromma Airport will probably be able to open for traffic at 4 PM. Karlstad Airport is expected to be closed for takeoffs and landings until further notice. Swedavia airports in the North are also open for traffic – ie Kiruna Airport, Luleå Airport, Umeå City Airport, Örnskoldsvik Airport, Åre Östersund Airport and Sundsvall Härnösand Airport.

Denmark, Britain, Ireland, Scotland, France, and Germany now have flights operating throughout all the airports but are experiencing severe disruptions and delays. Please check with your airline if your flight is leaving.

Belgium, Bulgaria, Belarus, Spain, Italy, Norway, Portugal, Slovakia, Serbia, Turkey, and Ukraine airports are all open but flights may be delayed.

Ryainair is expected to make an announcement regarding its affected flights to certain parts of Europe.

Update: Tuesday, April 20th, 16.40 GMT+1
Stockholm Arlanda, Gothenburg Landvetter, Malmo, Bromma airports are all closed now.


Update: Tuesday, April 20th, 10.30 GMT+1

Gothenburg Landvetter Airport, Malmö Airport, Visby Airport, Ronneby Airport and Ängelholm Helsingborg Airport are closed for air traffic. Stockholm Arlanda Airport has resumed some traffic (mainly from Norway and northern cities), most international flights are still canceled.

Norway’s airports are open but with cancellations to affected European cities.

Airports in Britain are still closed but Scottish airports (Glasgow, Edinburgg, Aberdeen) are open with limited flights.

Airports in Spain are open.

France’s main airports are partially open but with many canceled flights.

Germany’s airports are closed.

Denmark’s Copenhagen Airport is closed but an update is expected at 15hr GMT+1. Thanks to @Shazzer for the information.

For more information check out Flight stats.

Asian passengers, please be aware of significant delays and cancellations with Qantas, Thai Airways, Cathy Pacific, Japan Airlines, Singapore Airlines, and possibly others. Most Asian airlines are routing passengers via Rome, Moscow, Madrid in order to still transport stranded passengers.

American airlines are reissuing tickets for free, please check your itinerary or visit the website of your carrier.

I just found that European Union laws are very strict about canceled and delayed flights. You may be entitled to compensation (hotel, food) so please keep your receipts and email the airline as soon as possible to check what possibilities exist.

Update: Monday, April 19th, 9.05 GMT+1
Stockholm’s Arlanda airport is now OPEN for limited operations sometime this morning. Stockholm-Bromma Airport and Gothenburg Landvetter Airport will also open durning the morning time. The ash cloud may deteriorate flying conditions Monday night which can force the airport to close again.

If you need information on arrivals and departures at Arlanda:

http://www.arlanda.se/en/Information–services-to/Traveller-information/ArrivalsDepartures/Domestic-arrivals/

http://www.arlanda.se/en/Information–services-to/Traveller-information/ArrivalsDepartures/International-arrivals/

http://www.arlanda.se/en/Information–services-to/Traveller-information/ArrivalsDepartures/Domestic-departures/

http://www.arlanda.se/en/Information–services-to/Traveller-information/ArrivalsDepartures/International-departures/

For information Göteborg Landvetter Airport, please click here.

Other European cities are expected to open airspace amid heated discussions between airlines and the governments. Norway’s airports are currently in limited operations. Most of the Baltic states’ airports are still closed. France‘s Paris Charles De Gaulle Airport is closed until Tuesday, April 20th 08.00 (Suspension du trafic aérien en Ile-de-France jusqu’à Mardi 20 avril 08h00 au minimum).

Erfurt and Frankfurt Airports are open for some flights. All other German airports are closed.

Airports in Britain, Scotland, and Ireland are closed most of the Monday.


If you need information on a particular airport not listed, please post your comment below.

Check this board for all updates.

Update: Sunday April 18th, 22.39 GMT+1
Most airports are still closed in Europe.

All major airports in France are closed (Paris CDG, Orly, Lyon) while Nice and Marsaille airports are open.

Airports in Spain (Madrid, Barcelona and Son Sant Joan) are currently open and operating flights to countries not affected by the ash cloud.

Ryan Air has canceled flights until Wednesday 13.00GMT. This includes flights to and from: UK, Ireland, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Belgium, Holland, France, Germany, Poland and the Baltic States until 1300hrs on Wed 21 April. Ryanair flights from Spain, the Canary and Baleric islands, the south of Italy (including Pisa, Rome, Sardinia and Sicily), Malta and North Africa will continue to operate just domestic and southbound routes.

Northern airspace in Sweden is open but all major airports are closed until further notice. I visited Arlanda Airport today and it was devoid of the bustle and chaos associated with airports.

Please click on the links below to go to NYtimes flight board. Some flights may resume tomorrow but it is unclear what will happen.

Sorry, We're Closed because of an Ashcloud

Saturday, April 17th:
Just a really quick update for those traveling to or from Europe and needing information about flights regarding the Eyjafjällajökull volcano eruption.

Airports in most of Europe are closed with the exception of Spain, Keflavik (Iceland), Russia, and Turkey. British airspace is closed until 1AM Sunday local time. Many mainland European cities may open at 2PM local time today. However, that is uncertain.

To check current flight time tables you can use the NYTimes on the Tracking Cancellations From the Ash Cloud.

Swedish airpspace is basically closed until further notice. DN (in swedish) has updating information about the closure and information about other European cities. IceNews has a long list of places to check if you more information.

You can at least see photos of the volcanic eruption on my other post.

I’ll post as I hear information. At this point rail, bus, and rental car service is completely booked. If you don’t have to travel, please do not.

The ash cloud coverage over the Northern Hemisphere:
iceland volcano interactive

The Confusion between Scandinavia and Nordic

It’s long been a mystery for me and most of the world the difference between the Nordic and Scandinavian. As I learned, Scandinavian is an anglophone term that includes Sweden, Denmark, and Norway. Occasionally, in loose English definitions, it includes Finland and Iceland.

The Nordic countries is composed of an official group called the Nordic Council. The Nordic Council includes the three Scandinavian countries (Sweden, Norway and Denmark), Iceland, Finland, and three autonomous regions (Faroe Islands, Greenland and Åland Islands.

Below is a table of the Nordic region nations:

Flag Country Governance Capital Population
Official Scandinavian countries
demark flag Denmark Kingdom Copenhagen 5,519,287
norway flag Norway Independence 1905 Oslo 4,836,183
sweden flag Sweden Kingdom Stockholm 9,336,487
The additional Nordic nations
finland flag Finland Independence 1917 Helsinki 5,349,829
iceland flag Iceland Independence 1944* Reykjavík 319,756
Nordic autonomous regions
faroe islands flags Faroe Islands Self-governance 1948 Tórshavn 49,006
greenland flag Greenland Self-governance 1979 Nuuk 57,600
åland flag Åland Islands Autonomous province 1920* Mariehamn 27,456

Together, the Nordic region is 25 million people with some member states in the European Union, NATO, Eurozone, and Schengan.

To make the definitions more complicated, in terms of geography, the Scandinavian Peninsula includes mainland Sweden and mainland Norway, and also a part of Finland. The Jutland Peninsula includes mainland Denmark and a small part of Germany. But Denmark proper has not had any territory on the Scandinavian Peninsula since 1658. Alas, Scandinavia is still Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. Forget Germany.

Nordic Flags

So you can call a Swede a Scandinavian or Nordic person but a Finn is a Nordic person not Scandinavian. Stick to Nordic region for anything relating to those cold, Norse god loving, vodka infused nations of the north. Well, minus Russia.

Photos from Isafjordur, Iceland

I only spent a few weeks in Isafjordur, and by far it’s been one of the best cities I have every visited. Mostly because of the friends I made but that, it’s still so routed in nature. Here are a few photos from my time there.

The Viking man. We meet him while taking a field trip with the summer program at Háskólasetur Vestfjarða and received a history lesson on how the northern vikings lived and fished 1000 years ago.
Viking Man in Bolungarvik

A storm is approaching
Clouds over Isafjordur

One of the bakeries in town called Gamla Bakarid. Really tasty breads and sweets, like the Vienerbrod. Mmmmm, so tasty!
Icelandic Bakery

Here’s the view of the little city. It only took 20 minutes to walk up and you could go higher.
Isafjordur

Fog descending from the mountains.
Fog over Red house

Ohhh so yummy fish! I wrote more about Tjoruhusid, the little fish restaurant at the end of the town road. Seriously, best food ever. Best. The fish soup, something I’m not so fond of, was the best I have ever had.
Delicious Fish

Near the restaurant is where fish was weighed and taken to the market. This of the fish scales used.
Fish Scale Isafjordur
What an adorable town in northern Iceland!

Iceland: A Trip around the Ring Road

In spring 2005 I visited Iceland for the first time. I won an auction for two tickets and two nights at the IcelandAir flagship hotel for $1000 from the Cal Alumni Assoc. Being naturally crazy, I dragged a friend to Iceland for a week at the end of April.

Then, in August 2007, I returned back to Iceland, this time to study Icelandic in the small city of Isafjordur. Icelandic? Yes, traveled to the tiny town to learn a bit more about the Nordic peoples.

Iceland is an adorable Nordic nation where the Norse gods and their Eddas originated. I love reading about the history of the country because the Norse language formed here as well as the pagan Norse religion. A must read for those interested in Icelandic history are the Poetic and Prose Eddas.

This post is for traveling in Iceland. I drove around the Ring Road, Route 1, and had the opportunity to see most of the major landmarks in the country. This article is a work in progress and I will keep adding more information to it. If you have photos or favorites places to share, please write a comment below.

Iceland is my favorite country and everyone has to visit the country. Join the Facebook group called Iceland and give the little place up north some love.

Reykjavik
The capital of Iceland, population 119,000. The photo below is the view from the largest church, Hallgrímskirkja.
Reykjavik city

Sólfar – The Sun Voyager
Located on the river front near downtown Reykjavik.
Sólfar - The Sun Voyager, Reykjavik

Þingvellir
Home of the world’s first parliament founded in 930AD.
Þingvellir -Alþing

Gullfoss and Geysir
Foss means waterfall in Icelandic. Gullfoss and Geysir are near Þingvellir (about 30-45 minutes away) and are beautiful places. While not the largest waterfall, Gullfoss is spectacular. Geysir is the name for several geysers located together. One of them erupts every 10 minutes or so.
geysir

Gullfoss - Iceland

Ísafjörður
This little city of 4000 is the capital of the West Fjords. Isafjordur is a cute, little city and taking photos in Isafjordur was amazing.
Isafjordur Iceland

Bolungarvik
Located about 10km away from Ísafjörður. There is a great Viking tour (it was organized through our class) in Bolungarvik. Best way is by car or bike, buses seldom pass by.
Bolungarvik, Iceland

Flateyri
Another small city in the West Fjords, about 20km away.
Near Flateyri

Vigur Island
An island less than an hour’s boat ride away from Isafjordur. A beautiful island with many species of birds, including the eider ducks who produce gorgeous down feathers.
Vigur Island

Akureyri
Largest northern city of Iceland at 17,000.
akureyri

Húsavík
husavik

Myvatn
Near Lake Myvatn, Iceland

Hverfjall
myvatn

Dettifoss
Europe’s largest waterfall located east of Mývatn. The waterfall is normally closed in the winter season.
Dettifoss
Courtesy of Dbrim

Jökulsarlon
One of my favorites places in Iceland, this glacier lake is a must see after visiting Skaftafell National Park.
jokulsarlon

A more panoramic photo of the glacier lake
Jokulsarlon

Skaftafell National Park
Another view of a glacier and a mountain

Vík
Church overlooking Vik

Skogafoss
Skogafoss


Vestmannaeyjar

Three Small Islands
From LittleFrank

Selfoss
A small city outside of Reykjavik. There’s a wonderful fish restaurant on the water called Fjöruborðið (translation from Icelandic: At the Seashore). The restaurant is 20-30min away from Selfoss and is closed on Monday and Tuesday.
A set of crosses from people who died from car accidents.
Field of Crosses, Iceland

Bláa Lónið – Blue Lagoon
One of the world’s most famous spa and lagoon. The Blue Lagoon is close to the Reykjavik Airport so many people stop there at the beginning or the end of their trip. There are also buses that pass through the Lagoon and into Reykjavik or the Keflavik Airport.
Blue Lagoon

Keflavik
The Reykjavik International Airport is located in this tiny city.

Iceland: Visiting the Island Up North

My two year anniversary visit to Iceland is coming up so there’s going to be a few articles about my travels and plenty of reminiscing.  What can I say, I love Iceland. =)

If you are off the loop and looking for something fun to read, take a look at these old posts about Iceland. Actually, they are the FIRST posts in this blog.  Pretty awesome stuff.  Wait wait.  I lie, there is one first post, nothing special to you but always important to this blog.

Tjoruhusid: Isafjordur’s Fish Restaurant

The Viking Alcohol: Icelandic Brennivin

Visiting Isafjordur, West Fjords

The First days living in Isafjordur

Say hello in Icelandic

Hope you guys enjoy and inspires you to travel and visit Iceland.

Old Norse Mythology, Myths, and Gods

I am a sucker for random facts; just love them!  I rarely remember them but hey, I am silly.  As part of my random factoid collection, Norse history is pretty awesome.   These Vikings came up with insane gods and goddesses and earthly events that make up the backbone of Scandinavian history.   When I was learning Icelandic and Icelandic history, there was little online information about this fascinating pagan religion.  So why not put together a short guide to Nordic gods and the sagas?  Swedes learned Scandinavian history back in grade school but most don’t have a clue about the origination of the Runes and the Gods anymore.  Here’s the refresher for your summer soaked brains.

You may be wondering why on earth you should care for Nordic history.  As we all know, our Swedish vikings friends inherit their personalities and culture and heritage from somewhere.  One somewhere is the world of the gods and goddesses.  It is here that women were written into the books as possessing deep powers and respect in society.  We must not forgot though, these societies were still very much patriarchal and male oriented.

When your little Swedish boyfriend is quietly sitting by the table drinking coffee without uttering a word, think about where that cultural habit came from.

The Eddur (Eddas)
Most of Norse mythology is based on the Icelandic Eddas, specifically the Prose and Poetic Eddur. Edda is Icelandic for saga and these stories are often to as The Sagas. Snorri Sturluson wrote The Prose Edda in the early 1200s while the Poetic Edda is part of the Codex Regius. The writing time is heavily debated; ranging from 1000s-1180s and has no true authorship. Snorri referred to the Poetic Eddas but it was not until the 1700s did researchers find the Poetic Saga.
Prose Edda is part of the very popular folklore history of Scandinavia. Snorri’s Edda is comprised of three parts: Gylfaginning (The delusion of King Gylfi), Skáldskaparmál (Language of Poetry), and Háttatal (List of verses). It is here that we hear the stories of Odin, Loki, Thor, Freyr and the creation and destruction of Earth. Hopefully you can a little taste, a short summary of the Eddas here.

The Main Norse Gods and Goddesses of Snorra Edda
Gangleri – King Gylfi’s alias while traveling
Odin
Loki
Thor (Þorr) – The god of thunder and is known in Germanic mythology as well. He is the son of Odin and Jord (mother Earth) and has a wife, Sif.

Baldur – The son of Odin and Frigg. He marries Nanna and they have a son Forsete. He builds one of the most beautiful ships called Hringhorni. However, Baldr often dreams of his own death so his mother Frigg asked all the world’s objects to swear on a vow to never hurt him. Everything agreed except mistletoe. When Loki heard of the news he had an arrow made of mistletoe. While the gods were playing a game of throwing objects at Baldur and him standing infallible, Loki gave the arrow to Höðr, Balder’s blind god brother. With a tip of the arrow, Höðr killed his own brother.

In retaliation, Odin and the giantess Rindr gave birth to the giant Vali and killed Hodr. Baldur was burned upon a pyre on his ship. Nanna also throws herself on the pyre and burns with him. Hyrrokin, a giantess, drove Hringhorni out to the vast sea on her wolf. After Baldur’s death, Hel agreed to release Baldr from the underworld only if all of the world, dead and alive, would weep for him. All did, except Þökk, another giant. As it turns out, Loki was Thokk and for this trick he was punished for eternity.

Freyr – The son of Njord and sister to Freyja.  He marries the beautiful giantess Gerg.  He dies at the beginning of Ragnarök as he gave his sword, his only weapon to his servant Skrinir.

Freyja – One of the beautiful Norse goddess, Freyja is the daughter of Njord and sister of Freyr.  She is the goddess of love, fertility, battle, and death.

Njord– the second mythlogical King of Sweden as told in Heimskringla.

Tyr – Son of Odin and is known as Leavings of the Wolf.  He lost his right arm to Fenrir.  Tyr lends his names to Tuesday (Tisdag in Swedish) and to the runic letter T.
Æsir – one of the two types of gods, the other being the Vanir. The Aesir comprised of the
major gods and goddesses of Nordic mythology.
Vanir – Part of the two groups of gods (Aesir and Vanir). The Vanir are mainly fertility gods who lived in Vanaheim.

Places, things and Events of the Prose Edda

Svithjod OldThe Icelandic name for Sweden (thanks to LaughingPuffin for fixing that).

Ragnarök – the series of events where the world is destroyed. It is the end of the world and all the gods.

Asgård – The capital city of the Aesir gods

Vallhalla -The great hall in Asgard; Gangleri appears here to hear the stories of the gods but is ultimately tricked when all the gods and the hall vanishes.

Mjölnir – Thor’s hammer

Tanngrisnir and Tanngnjóstr – The goats that drive Thor’s chariot. Thor can eat the goats, as long as the bones are not damaged, and uses Mjölnir to bring the goats back to life again.

Yggdrasil – The Tree that lays out the Nordic gods’ worlds
1) Asgård – The world of the Æsir; land of the Gods.
2) Vanaheim – The world of the Vanir.
3) Midgardh – The world of men.
4) Jotunheim – The world of the Giants.
5) Svartalfaheim – The world of the Dwarves.
6) Alfheim or Lysalfheim – The world of the Light-Elves.
7) Muspellheim – The world of fire; located in the south and home to the Fire-Giants.
8 ) Niflheim – World of ice and terrible cold; located in the far north and home of the Frost-Giants.
9) Helheim or Niflhel – The world of the dead.

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