I sat on the balcony of our guesthouse on our second night in Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina, reflecting on the last day and a half. The call to prayer was ringing out from I don’t know how many mosques simultaneously, echoing around me, in beautifully haunting voices that could lull me to sleep. And then, as the clock struck 9pm, church bells rang. I was writing in my journal, trying to get all of my thoughts out before I lost them, but my brain was moving too fast for my pen. When Dave and I first began planning this Europe trip, Bosnia wasn’t even on our minds, but visiting there was one of the best decisions we made. Continue reading Mostar: A moving introduction to Bosnia→
We made it to Husavik, another perfectly picturesque Icelandic town, just in time for our 14:00 whale watching tour, run by a company called North Sailing. The beautiful oak schooner Haukur, built in 1973, was awaiting us in the harbour. Once our group of 12 passengers boarded along with two crew members, we were given big, heavy, warm overalls to wear. Even though the weather on land was gorgeous – blue sky with only a few clouds, little wind – we would absolutely need this warmth very soon.
As we set out into the bay, everyone was eager and alert to spot whales, although it was more likely that we would see them further out where the water is deeper. The tour we were on was called Whales, Puffins and Tails, so we were also all on the lookout for those funny little birds. I still hadn’t seen any puffins up close, so my hopes were very high. About 30 minutes after setting out, we reached Lundey, nicknamed Puffin Island. Finally, there they were! They were so much smaller than I realized they would be, flitting through the air, some of them looking like they were about to drop out of the sky. The crew turned off the engines and we floated around the island for a bit, watching the puffins while the captain told us more about the birds.
Driving into Akureyri, the view of the town and the surrounding area is incredibly breathtaking. It sits at the end of a fjord with mountains rising up all around it. The sky was such a brilliant blue and the sun was shining so bright, it made the water twinkle in the most beautiful way.
After we settled into our guesthouse, we headed out to explore Akureyri by foot. We grabbed a couple of beers at the liquor store to sip on while we walked around. Weekends are a busy time at Icelandic liquor stores, as drinking in the bars is very expensive, so people drink at house parties first. But this liquor store was manic. Foreshadowing of things to come. As we walked around the very cute and photogenic town, something struck us both as very odd. It felt like a ghost town, even though it is a fair size by Icelandic standards with over 17,000 residents. Continue reading Alluring Akureyri, cut short→
The next stop on our Europe trip was Croatia, and the best way for us to get to our destination, Split, was to take an overnight ferry from Ancona, on the Adriatic coast of Italy. We had an easy drive, followed by a mildly irritating time returning the rental car and figuring out how to get to the ferry terminal.
As soon as we got off the elevator into the ship’s reception area, everything felt surreal. Even before that. It was surreal as soon as the Russian elevator attendant crammed the two of us plus bags, plus another young couple and their bags, plus another random bag onto the elevator. We were packed so tight. It was so hot. We were only going two floors, so it wasn’t even a time saver at all!
There was music playing on an intercom system all throughout the ship, but not what you would expect. What made the whole place really the pinnacle of bizarre was the 70s rock music playing over the intercom in every part of the ship, including a little speaker in the wall of our room. Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix… “Everybody Must Get Stoned” was playing as soon as we got to the reception area and a middle aged British man behind me was singing along to it. Continue reading Sailing across the Adriatic to my 20th country→
After two uneventful, yet sleepless, flights, Dave and I touched down in Roma. Although the trip from our door to the airport in Rome was 17.5 hours, we decided to rent a car and hit the road right away to get to San Marino, where we were spending two nights. Continue reading My visit to the world’s oldest republic→
This past weekend, my husband Dave and I went to Waterton Lakes National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, in Southern Alberta to celebrate our sixth wedding anniversary. It’s become a tradition with us to go out of town every year for our anniversary, ever since our first anniversary of dating, all the way back in 2003. Aside from our wedding day and a couple of longer distance trips, we always spend our anniversary in the mountains, usually in Banff or Jasper. We wanted to try something new this year and have only heard good things about Waterton, so it was set. Continue reading A weekend in Waterton National Park→
The next big stop on our Iceland road trip was the Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon, in southeast Iceland, just off of Route One between Höfn and Skaftafell. Even though you can still have a fantastic visit without leaving the shore, we really wanted to immerse ourselves in it, so we had booked a Zodiac boat ride long before we left home.
Our ride was booked for 16:30, but we couldn’t contain our excitement and arrived at the lagoon at 15:00. You can start to see some icebergs while you’re still driving on the road. I was practically jumping out of my seat with excitement as soon as I saw them. Even the view from the parking lot is incredible.
We decided to check in with our tour before we went down to the shore to take pictures. As we walked up to the trailer for the company we were to take the ride with, the first words out of the staffers mouth were “I have horrible news”. My heart sank. She told us that the icebergs had shifted and were in the way of where their boats launch, and they had been waiting all day for them to move. She suggested we not even come back because they likely wouldn’t be going out. Continue reading Scatter my ashes at Jökulsárlón→
After our snorkeling adventure, we drove the rest of the Golden Circle, seeing some of the most famous sites of Iceland, Geysir and Gulfoss. We stayed the night in a guesthouse on a farm in Flúðir, relaxing in the hot pot and enjoying the incredible view of the mountains and the open green fields with the iconic Icelandic horses grazing quietly. These pony-sized horses are almost like an unofficial mascot for the country. They have the funniest manes of luscious hair and are very friendly. I was really excited to see them, so we spent some time petting them while they nibbled on grass out of our hands.
Our day was full of driving and sightseeing. There’s lots to see on the south coast of Iceland, so we hit some of the highlights on our way to Vík í Mýrdal, or Vík for short.
Seljalandsfoss – Although there are countless waterfalls in Iceland, this tall beauty is special because you can walk all the way behind it. Be careful, it’s slippery!
Eyjafjallajökull – Even if you don’t live anywhere near Iceland, chances are the eruption of Eyjafjallajökull in early 2010 affected someone you know. There is now a small visitor’s centre across the road from the volcano, run by the family whose farm sits right at its base but which miraculously didn’t suffer extensive damage. There is a 20-minute movie that is definitely worth watching. It was chilling to look at Eyjafjallajökull, which doesn’t look like much from the visitor’s centre, and contemplate all the damage it did.
One of the amazing geological oddities in Iceland is the Silfra Fissure in Thingvellir National Park, a rift where the North American and Eurasian plates are slowly pulling away from each other. While researching the trip, we found out that it is possible to snorkel or dive in the fissure, so we jumped at the opportunity and booked a snorkel trip right away.
Thingvellir is a 45 minute drive northwest from Reykjavik. We arrived at the meeting point and saw the van from Dive.is waiting for us. I started to get nervous as we approached the van. I knew that they were professionals and that I would be wearing a dry suit so I didn’t need to worry about getting cold, but I was still uneasy. I am from the land-locked prairies in Alberta, after all, so floating in freezing water between continents is foreign to me! Continue reading Snorkeling between continents in Iceland→