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Day 4...Navigating the weather of Iceland

Day 4 was unexpectedly challenging, but turned out to be one of the most interesting….. heads up, I’m probably going to completely nerd out on this blog post but truthfully blown glass and gardening are my most favorite 🤩 things!!  It started with an early drive after a minimal night’s rest due to our drunk fellow guests. I got up and made us a quick breakfast and we got on the road. The wind was treacherous and challenging to drive. We had a list of things we skipped over, things in the capital and things in the Borganes region. We decided the night before, since the weather would be tricky, we would figure it out as we drove. The blowing snow from the ground was causing more of an issue then the falling snow. Our drive was already scheduled to be 3.5hrs from the Southern region to the western region.

After making it through the tunnel not to far past the capital going under a glacier, we came to a standstill. We saw a helicopter 🚁 flying in and 3 ambulances. The police came to tell us it was a bad accident and the road would be closed for a minimum of 2 hours. This is the main road (Hwy 1) that goes around the border of the island. We headed back through the tunnel and decided to go back to the capital to see sights there…. We entered the tunnel with minimal wind and no snow. We exited the tunnel with snow and hard to keep your car on the road wind. I told the girls I wasn’t comfortable driving so we decided to opt for a swim. Hahahaha… the girls first went into the school after trying a few different doors and disrupting the kids watching them through the windows, they were told the gym was around back. We drove around back to see the outdoor pool that I’m sure was warm, but the wind was insane and the temperature was dropping steadily so that was a no for us Southern girls! No food places were open for lunch. (Not a lot of food choices in winter.) Now what?!?!? We see a sign that says glass blowing shop. I LOVE blown glass. The sign says closed but call to make an appointment, so I called. It was an older lady that said she lived next door and to give her 10 minutes. I told her I didn’t want to inconvenience her in this weather, but she insisted that it wasn’t a problem. (I love farm visitors but not always surprise ones so I hated to be that person!) We see her walk over so we get out and all are fighting the wind to walk and open the door. Turns out she is a glass artist that was published worldwide for her art. She told us the story of her life including the passing of her blown glass partner and husband. Sigrún Olöf Einarsdóttir spent her life making such special pieces that represented their country in a special way. She incorporated Icelandic Horse hair and sheep’s wool into their glass art pieces. She explained the easiest way for us to get started and even gave book recommendations to learn. I bought 3 candlesticks for my master bathroom window. She called the emergency service number and found out a route we could take to get to Borganes as the road was still closed 3 hours later. We finally read that 2 cars collided head on and 2 tourist died at the scene and 6 are in critical condition. It’s so scary and sad. The weather was treacherous that day and I was glad we decided to just stop until they improved a few different times. I’m confident in my driving, but wise enough to know that I wasn’t willing to risk our lives to sightsee.

We got back on the road on the scenic and longer route that went around the mountain and glacier. It was a stunning drive. Our map adjusted without me realizing it when Callie adjusted our destination straight to our house versus the city center. Before you know it, I realize we were those tourist on a road we didn’t belong. We did have a 4 wheel drive SUV which I was thankful. Callie had us heading right through the pass between 2 mountains. To our credit, there were no signs. All other roads like these had a sign indicating winter closure. I feel we were on non-tourist roads to begin with due to the detour. We were all focused on the road and I wish I had pictures to share, because it was absolutely amazing and scary at the same time. Pictures were not important at the time! The sights were phenomenal. We only saw 1 one and a few farms over this 40km drive. There was no way I could turn around because the snow was so deep I was using the side post to stay on the road. We thankfully made it safely to Fossatun Country Hotel. We got all checked in adjusting the requested extra bed from a crib to a twin bed (lol I’m not sure my 1-4 year old would have fit in it much less my 14 year old! And who would write 1-4 year old in any language?!?)

I asked the owner if he felt the road further north were drivable to see some more sights and he assured me they would be fine if you were comfortable with snow, because they were salted underneath the fresh snow and the plows would be out. Again to the car we went. This trip took us to Hranunfossar Waterfall, Barnafoss Waterfall, Egill’s tale setting at the School for Medival Studies, Deildartunguhrer Hot Springs and some random farmer’s greenhouse 🙃

The falls were beautiful, but the temps had plummeted and the wind was fierce so those were very quick stops. There was an open restaurant and we were starving! It was $75 for 3 ham and cheese sandwiches, 3 drinks and cookies. Insane! The little girl of the family that owned the restaurant made us a list of her favorite Icelandic candy we could buy for the boys. She was super sweet. I love seeing multigenerational businesses with the kids learning to work from a young age.

Next up was Deildartunguhrer Hot Springs. It’s the largest in all of Europe and the main source of electricity for Iceland.

Throughout this area you could see steam rising which is when we noticed someone in the greenhouse! Bless his heart ❤️ We stopped and I knocked on the house door. His girlfriend answered and I explained what we did and apologized profusely for even stopping. She lived 20 years in the US and said she would call and ask him ( if we could look at his setup). He said he had to finish up with his son and so she asked if she could. I explained we would stand at the door and not touch and understood the risk etc. He could hear all the questions the girls and I were asking and she was doing her best to answer. He walked in after he realized we weren’t just tourist, but farmers.

Quick bullet list to highlight the conversation:

-greenhouse system works in such a truly simple way with the hot water going through metal pipes

-The Icelandic government pays them according to how much they sell.

-He was the largest pepper farmer only growing 1 red bell and 1 yellow bell pepper.

-Operation is just him and his 5 sons

-He grew up just behind where he is now at the source and made the pump that he still uses today.

-Has fertigation system

-starts his seeds in the foam tray like us and then inserts his starts into wool bases (all sourced locally) until they outgrow that and then they are transferred to the next greenhouse where he grows hydroponically using volcanic rock and moss as his media

-reusues the wool, rock and moss after sterilization year after year

-greenhouses are glass because plastic doesn’t hold up to wind

-a week before planting last year a bad windstorm tore up the greenhouse roof so him and his boys frantically repaired it (real life!)

-more snow in the winter the better cause the reflection off the snow keeps the seedling house warmer

-they seat (sit ) on rolling carts that roll on the hot water pipes to plant and pick (jealous cause what a back saver!)

They are going to try to come to Nashville in the winter so we exchanged info. It was so fun for us and we didn’t take any pictures because I felt we intruded enough!

We made it back just after dark and the snow was really coming down. I hand washed enough clothes for the journey home and we watched for the lights again but were unsuccessful cause the snow fall was so heavy. It was our last opportunity so that was a bummer, but we still saw so many amazing sights!

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