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Iceland: Dark and white; hot and cold

Dark and white. That’s how I’m going to remember Iceland.

Iceland in the darkness of winter

11am in Reykjavík.

Cloud hung over Reykjavík all week; we had only occasional glimpses of the stars or the moon. Yet the cloud was a continual grey abyss. The moon, shone brightly, just as it does through my skylight at home in the middle of the night when I’m trying to sleep, but this was half nine in the morning. We shared the breakfast table with a tea light.

One moment, the air would be clear. The next instant a storm would saturate the sky drowning everything in white snow. The mountains across the bay disappeared to such an extent that when I told the Father there were mountains across the water he assured me that I was wrong, he said the only thing out there was the cold North Atlantic and in the far distance, Greenland.

As the snow cleared I was proved right. Yet I only knew this because I’d seen the phenomenon a few days earlier when the Midget and I had fought our was back along the coastal path home, unable to determine what was path and what was road.

Iceland, church tower

Amazingly, 90 degrees and no ore than 3 minutes from the picture in the previous post.

Except where the geniuses had placed under-floor heating beneath the pavements. This might seem excessive, but hot water in Iceland is magic. Electricity and heating are super cheap because of the magic the scientists and engineers generate out of the powerful tear of the tectonic plates (2cm per year). In Iceland, electricity bills are at a flat rate, so Icelanders keep their twinkle lights on all day and all winter.

Underfloor heating in Reykjavik for the pavements

Under-floor heating.


The Midget delighted in having super-hot showers for as long as she liked, guilt free.

The Blue Lagoon, Iceland

The Blue Lagoon.

Showers aren’t the only way to enjoy all this amazing hot water. Swimming pools in Iceland are in their high twenties (Celsius), but this is nothing compared to a 40 degree thermal bath.

Have you ever been to Iceland, if so, what did you think?



The question of luggage: packing for travel

cat bird and sun painted shutter bratislavaToo much stuff

Various relatives have at some point raised worries about my holiday wardrobe. For some people, especially those who have witnessed me gathering the troops to load the cars when moving in and out of university accommodation, the idea of me travelling light might seem like a joke.

I do own a lot of stuff. The Boyfriend points this out on a regular occasion – partly because we have a very small house and partly because he’s just awkward.

I’m a woman with many creative hobbies, painting requires an easel, sewing requires Lulu the Grandmother’s dress-making doll and cycling requires a bicycle. Yeah ok, cycling and creative don’t fit together.

Of course I don’t get around to sewing all that often, I tend to do a lot in a spurt, and at the moment I’ve a shortage of thread and fabric for anything large. Same with painting. Too little canvas, too little paint – hence a lot of doodling or drawing on the tablet. Much of my art materials still live in Yorkshire.

I could talk about pianos but I’m not going to.

When I told the Midget we were only taking our small rucksacks on this Eastern Europe adventure of ours she thought I was joking. You would have thought that living with me for 16 years she would have learnt to recognise when I’m trying to make a joke.

Since we’ve been out here I’ve seen suitcases dragged onto trains, remembering the absence of platforms, which I could have fitted into. I’ve seen rucksacks bigger than the people carrying them and flocks of handbags, carrier bags and coats in thrall.

On one train the girl next to me, inter-railing for a fortnight, stated she’d worn about a third of the clothes she’d brought. She was flying home the next day and was worried about her baggage allowance – 25kg.

dog butterfly painted shutter bratislavaHow I packed for Eastern Europe

I carry a 30 litre rucksack. If I’m wearing my boots then everything else fits inside it. The boots were a necessity, otherwise I would have struggled with the miles and miles we’ve walked.

Inside I have enough clothes for a week, a gorgeous but large camera, a pair of dolly shoes, a coat, various bathroom supplies  and a water-bottle.

The Midget and I share a charger for our phones and my tablet. I have a diary/notebook which I keep easily accessible and small things like a couple of purses, passport etc.

I also have a handbag, but this fits inside the rucksack for when I’m hopping on and off trains.

I don’t keep receipts, tickets or leaflets. The Midget hoards, I just take lots of photos.

Mainland Europe isn’t an alien planet. Here they have shampoo (ours is from Hungary and smells strongly of almonds), tissues and tampons. I’ve seen Marks and Spencer’s and H&M plus many more exciting alternatives.

After the initial panic, the Midget agrees that for this sort of adventure, hand luggage works just fine.

Maybe I’m not so crazy after all.


Too much coffee. Too much cake.

[Written whilst travelling, posted from home.]

burger recipe polandI’m sat in a café with a goat beanie baby drinking tea – it’s Assam as anything that remotely tastes of what I’d call normal (Yorkshire tea or Lapsang Souchong) isn’t sold this side of the channel.

My coffee limit has been reached. Not particularly today, I’ve had one cup, but in general over the last two weeks. Tea’s a lighter welcome refreshment.

The overdose of coffee is part of a bigger problem. My entire diet is a disaster.

It begins with breakfast. I don’t fancy meat and cheese first thing in the morning. When we stay in places that offer a complimentary breakfast I’m overwhelmed and just drink more coffee, sometimes orange juice and eat the fruit.

When there’s no breakfast options then a trip to the nearest bakery for croissants and coffee is in order, and I’m not sure that this rates positively on the healthy scale, even if it tastes good.

When we’re self-catering, i.e. a hostel with kitchen or an apartment, then cereal is an option. Of course we can’t carry a cereal box around with us, but cereal comes in minuscule boxes anyway. Small enough that between two of us we can finish a box in three days.

There is little variety in the cereal sold here. And I feel the basic normal cereals are the ones that are missing. If you want something that’s soaked in chocolate and has a picture of a cartoon astronaut you’ll be fine. If you want something with the most minimal number of calories you’ll also have no problem. If you want normal cereal you’re screwed.

We’re darting between city centres so corner shops replace the supermarkets (although there was an underground Aldi in Vienna), this accounts for the lack of shelf space, but mostly I think the problem is that cereal isn’t revered like it is in my house at home where it’s bought 15 boxes at a time.

Meals that aren’t breakfast come under one of three types:
1. Ones we cook or make. Pasta with vegetables or bread cheese and salami.
2. Ones we eat at restaurants. Pizza or local dishes like gnocchi, veal stew or goulash.
3. Cake or pastries.

Three meals a day can therefore look like: croissant, pizza, cake.

Of course we also have snacks. Sometimes cake, but there are also Spar’s budget cereal bars (the banana one really is very bananary), strawberry and cream flavoured sweets originally bought in Hungary and rather unappetising butter flavoured crisps.

We had chocolate but that lasted all of ten minutes.

What food do you miss when you’re away?


Somewhere in Slovenia on the bus.

The Midget pointed out this graffiti to me

The Midget pointed out this graffiti to me

Hungary presented the first ‘autobus’ diversion. Like this one the train to bus transition was impressively efficient. The coaches stood in lines with competent multilingual men directing people and more men loading bags.

Of course it isn’t ideal, but on the train I was sitting next to a girl who stank of cigarette smoke and here I’ve got the Midget beside me – she showered this morning – and we’re surrounded by older women in gold earrings and coloured scarves.

It”s a different sort of view from a bus. Trains tend to travel across the countryside. Slovenia has stunning scenery, almost 60% is forest and there’s a surplus of hills. Buses however take you through places. Places with houses and allotments.

This bus has a mesh across the windows which stops people looking in, but makes everything outside look slightly hazy. Lucky then that it’s only a short diversion.

[Written on my phone whilst travelling.]

Somewhere in Hungary on the bus

We’re somewhere in Hungary, although it might be Croatia, on a bus. There’s maintenance happening to the train track between Budapest and Zagreb.

The train (bus) passengers are an interesting bunch, due to us surprisingly fitting exactly into the demographic. The racks are crammed with rucksacks. The seats are filled with twenty somethings with bright English accents complaining about the rain, the leg room, the absence of wi-fi and the lack of a dining car.

Of course neither the Midget or I are actually complaining. I’ve got my earphones tight in and a good view to stare out of the window. Plus we shouldn’t be complaining, we’re on the bus that didn’t break down.

This journey is filled with unexpected pauses. We’ve stopped at the edge of the road atop a hill to lend assistance to the other bus and swap ticket inspectors. We stop again when the other bus gives up, and on the train we stopped multiple times to let other trains pass when it dropped to single track.

The Midget is sat watching a film on her phone. I’m watching the geese romp around a garden. If you’re patient then a detour isn’t a disaster.