Archive for July, 2011

Iceland – land of trolls, elves and hidden people

Sunday, July 31st, 2011

Iceland is a beautiful country with some amazing landscapes and unique wildlife.  However, it does have a very quirky side to it as well.  Specifically, they have some unusual folklore which is surprisingly believed by a large percentage of the population.  Three of the most popular figures of icelandic folklore are the Elves, Trolls and Hidden People.

First up, the Elves…

Elf rock home

No.  the guy in the red shirt is not an elf.  He’s our guide explaining to us during a free walking tour of Reykjavik that this rock is a doorway to the elf world.  How they know this is a bulldozer was trying to break up this rock in a nearby construction sight but after several attempts it only made some small marks in it.  This somehow signified it was an elf rock and need to be moved to a safe place.

He went on to talk about a women who talks with elves, delays in construction, and other things but all I could remember is the amount of hassle they went through to move this elf rock.  As the guide was telling the story he kind of laughed at the whole thing but in the same breath also tried to convince us that it could be true.  We got this same kind of half laughing / half believing the folklore from several of the guides.  It’s almost like they know it’s silly to believe it but just can’t help themselves.

Next up are the Trolls..

Troll Rock

No, the guy in the hat is not an Troll.  He’s another one of our guides trying to point out the outline of a troll in the rock.  Others in our group nodded saying that saw the troll but I couldn’t see anything.  It was a rock and not that interesting of one either.  There was a rock formation just off the beach that did have an outline somewhat similar to a person but you need to have a very good imagination.  I suppose it’s not much different than Catholics seeing the virgin Mary in a piece of burnt toast.

Troll Rock

Last up is my favorite.  The Hidden People.

Iceland hidden people

No, that is not a hidden person.  It’s just Miki.  I tried to take a picture of a hidden person but I couldn’t find one so a picture of Miki hiding behind a rock acting like one was the best I could do.  My favorite story of Icelandic folklore is about the hidden people and the cheating wife.  Our guide explained a story that a husband comes home one day to his wife… his pregnant wife.  The problem is that he has been gone for many months and the could not have fathered the baby.  The husband confronts the wife and says how is this possible?  The wife simply says a hidden person must have came through the window during the night at did this.  The husband believes it without question and they raise the child as if it was his own.

But like I said at the beginning, Iceland isn’t just about their folklore.  It’s a beautiful country with some spectacular scenery.  One such place was Gullfoss falls.

Gullfoss falls

and the nearby Strokkur geyser is also a must visit spot.

Strokkur Geyser

there are also smaller waterfalls all over Iceland and are equally spectacular as the popular Gullfoss.

Waterfall in Iceland

Stay tuned for a few more posts from our tour of Iceland…






Ipad2. A travel camera??

Wednesday, July 27th, 2011


Personally, I don’t have an Ipad2 with the built in camera but even if I did I wouldn’t use it to take travel photos.  First, I can’t imagine it really takes good photos. Second, you look like a complete idiot using it.  Evidence above…

At least he has some pretty famous company.


A full moon in Copenhagen

Monday, July 25th, 2011

A full moon in Copenhagen

I’m not sure what was going on the day we biked around Copenhagen but there was a crazy group of kids around every corner.  For some of them it seemed to be a graduation party and a few seemed to be having a bachelor/bachelorette party.  Whatever it was, we had a good time watching them get into trouble!!

Biking is one of the best ways to get around Copenhagen.  It’s very flat, there are bike lanes everywhere, and the car traffic is very bicycle friendly.

Bicycles. Bicycles. Bicycles

Our self guided bike tour started with a visit to Copenhagen’s most famous landmark.  The Little Mermaid.  I’m not really sure why it’s so famous but it had a VERY large crowd around it all taking pictures… just like me.

The little mermaid

We then toured around taking pictures of fountains, castles, parks, etc.  We had nothing in particular we wanted to do.  We just had 12 hours to kill in between flights and keeping busy is the best way to fight off jet lag.

Random Fountain

So we kept going…

Miki biking Copenhagen

and going…

Miki biking Copenhagen

and going…

Miki biking Copenhagen

and going…

a cool building I forgot to write the name of

until it got closer to our departure time to Iceland.  It was a nice little stopover and hopefully someday we will have more time to explore this charming little city.

More pictures from our stopover in Copenhagen here…

All 7 Continents!!

Saturday, July 23rd, 2011

Our entry into Copenhagen, Denmark marks a milestone in our travels around the world.  We have now been to all 7 continents. We’ve met other people that have been to all 7 but we are the only ones I know of that count Europe as the last continent to reach to the 7 continent milestone.

What’s next?  How about every country in the world?  We’ve got 41 countries down so far which only leaves us 154 to go.  The actual number depends on how you count a country which is a little more controversial than one would have thought.

For example, I’ve been to Hong Kong while it was a territory of England.  It’s now a territory of China.  Do I count England as a country I’ve been to?  Same for Turks and Caicos.  That still is a territory of England.  Do I count that country as visiting England?  If so, how can I count visiting England but not visiting Europe.  So, I came up with a method that seems logical to me.

First, you have to determine how many countries there are in the world.  The UN has 192 member countries so this is often used as the number of countries in the world.  However, Vatican City, Kosovo, and Taiwan aren’t members of the UN but they are independent nations.  The US officially recognizes 194 countries (Taiwan is absent).  I agree with many others that Taiwan is a separate country.  For the purpose of my country count I use 195 countries.

Nathan’s Country Count
Countries – 41

Territories – 10

I like to count territories as well.  No hard set rule here other than it has to be significantly “different” from it’s governing country.  Antarctica, Galapagos, Tibet are examples of what I count as territories.  Our upcoming trip to Svalbard, Norway would also count as a territory.

This country counting started because we have a competitive family and my dad started bragging about how many countries he’s been to.  He was winning for quite a while at 33 countries but I left him in the dust a while back :)

List of countries and territories I’ve been to (as of June 24) after the break…


Badlands & Black Hills – video slideshow and gallery

Thursday, July 21st, 2011

Here is the video slideshow from our trip to South Dakota.  I played around a bit with taking video from a camera mounted on the dash of the vette.  It didn’t turn out exactly like I hoped but it was a good frist attempt.  Next time I’m going to get the suction cup car mount for the gopro I have and mount it different parts of the car for some unique perspectives (if my dad ever lets me borrow it again:)

and a gallery of some of the best pics from the trip…


Rushmore Cave – the adventure tour

Tuesday, July 19th, 2011

One of the coolest (and scariest) adventures we had when visiting the Black Hills of South Dakota was an adventure cave tour in the Rushmore Cave.  This wasn’t your normal cave tour with handrails and carved out passages.  You had to pass a squeeze test before you could take the tour.  They had a little box in the lobby that replicated the smallest opening on the tour which was 10 inches.  Miki had no problem of course and I also made it but had to do some wiggling to get through.

They tour did start with their normal tour that most of the tourists takes.  They tell you about the cave.  Show you the big caverns, etc.  All of it is pretty cool and worth visiting even if you don’t do the extreme tour.  After the normal tour then the real fun begins.

Our guide showing us the techinque to get in and out of tight spaces.

I did it with no problem.  However, a little bit later he showed us a much smaller hole.  The “practice hole” we went through before was pretty big compared to what was in store for us.  Our guide showed us this hole.  He said, this hole is where you start the tour.  We had to leave our cameras behind because the space was so small.  There was barely enough to fit me through some of the holes so a camera was out of the question.  One of the holes was so small I had to exhale to collapse my chest and slowly slide through the dirt to get through.  About half way through the very small squeeze I tired to take a breath but couldn’t.  The hole was so small that I couldn’t even take a full breath.  After I freaked out a little I managed to compose myself and wriggle myself to safety.

Start of the Rushmore adventure cave tour

Would I do it again?  Yep.  In a heart beat.  One of the coolest things I’ve even done.  Plus it’s always fun to get a little dirty.






Road Trip to the Badlands and Black Hills… in my Dad’s Corvette

Saturday, July 16th, 2011

I’ve been on several road trips before but have never had a ride like this.  Having a car that can do 0-60 in under 4 seconds and can handle speeds in excess of 100 mph with ease was a real treat.  Having a great ride is only one part of a great road trip.  The destination, the Black Hlls and Bad Lands of south dakota, in our case made the trip even better.  We have travelled to the ends of the earth and back and yet were pleasantly surprised on the amazing landscapes, wildlife, monuments, hiking, and other adventures that South Dakota had to offer.  Who knew that a speculator destination was so close to home.  We only had a week to travel around but it’s on our list of places we’d like to return to.

Our first stop was the Badlands.  The weather on the day we drove through was pretty bad but the dark, gloomy sky made for some dramatic photos.

Badlands South Dakota

After our short detour to the Bad Lands we continued to the Black Hills.  The first day we explored Custer State Park and did a few short hikes with some high speed driving through the switch back curves between trailheads.  Sylvan Lake, the most photogenic spot was also the most accessible.  It’s only a short hike around the lake but highly recommended.  There are a lot of hiking trails in the area and the few we did were great.  We were there just after memorial day weekend so a lot of the trails were pretty busy but once you got a little distance away from the trailhead you would only occasionally run into another hiker.

Sylvan Lake in Custer State Park

The most popular attraction in the area is Mount Rushmore so you have to go see it.  I didn’t have high expectations and frankly thought it was going to be a waste of time.  I wanted to get the most time as possible taking the Vette on the many scenic drives.  However, we were surprised once again.  The pictures of Mount Rushmore don’t do it justice.  It is HUGE.  But beyond the scale of the monument the history behind it was also very fascinating.

Mount Rushmore

More after the break…