The days are short in Iceland this time of year, a leisurely cruise on the edges of a white jewel, or a bold voyage into extraterrestrial territory, and the nights are long, filled with promises and adventures, killer sheep and northern lights.
The most exciting part, like that old proverbial box of chocolates, is that you never know what you are going to get.
The Gulf Stream brings warm waters from the south up to the shores of this land temperateness the climate so that they hardly ever get the extended sub-zero colds of the continent. Average temperature of the Icelandic winter is around zero and one of the great wonders of traveling there is really watching how the weather changes from one minute to the next, and can on occasion offer four seasons in one day.
One morning we drove out from Reykjavik in the rain expecting that this would more or less be gist of the day. About half an hour out it suddenly stopped raining and as we hit the National Park and Rift Valley of Þingvellir the winter sun came up from behind the volcanoes to the east and lit up the breathtaking winter wonderland. Unaffected by the rain closer to the coastline, it was as if the Valkyries had dropped their white powder stash all over the the lava field making the moss and birch bushes look like a Tim Burton fairy tale. This was basically what we had for most of the Golden Circle, sparkling sunlight on pure white snow and the ice sculptures around the great Gullfoss waterfall were just out of this world. They Geysir area seemed like it was floating above the landscape with the geothermal steam rising and attaching itself to straws and leafs, and then christalising in the cold like spiderwebs made of sunlight.
Then suddenly as the short winter day was coming to an end we saw clouds floating across the sky and as it got dark the wind picked up and shortly after the snow came in and engulfed us in yet another strange microcosmos of this mad country.But as it became dark the driver turned the headlights up and it looked like we were reaching light speed on the Millennium Falcon and the sensation was further heightened by the driver having a striking resemblance to Harrison Ford.
We had booked dinner at Tryggvaskáli in Selfoss on a recommendation from a friend and what a great place. Coming in from the cold we were warmly greeted by our excellent host for the evening, a lady whose name escaped us all but she took great care of us through our amazing meal.
First of all the restaurant is absolutely beautiful with painted wood panels and the decoration is a wonderful collection of vintage items from the area, old photos, painted plates, cross stitching etc. which we all thoroughly enjoyed and arriving on the second floor all painted in blue was like entering another dimension. We all ordered different things and were just amazed by the quality and craftsmanship that went into every dish. Langoustine chowder, charred tuna,slow-cooked wild salmon, organic lamb, grilled beef and then a desert menu to die for whose crown jewel is the chocolate mousse with pistachio ice cream. We also decided to put our trust in the hands of the sommelier and have a glass of wine matched with every dish and they were spot on every time. We just loved that place and found it hard to leave.
After dinner it had somewhat cleared up and our guide suggested that we tried to find a good spot to wait and see if the northern lights would appear. We saw nothing to begin with but he insisted that he could make out the aurora belt so we waited and bit and sure enough a little later waves of green light started flickering across the sky which escalated into quite a show which lasted around half an hour. We were all very happy and ready to go back to our hotel.
What a day!
And hats off to our driver and guide!