The Iceland road trip Day 2, 3 and 4

We dedicated the second day of our journey through Iceland to some places of interest in the so called Golden circle, the most touristic part of the country. First we went to one of the most famous and absolutely gorgeous waterfalls – Gullfoss. Be prepared for a lot of people – we arrived around 11:00 and the parking lot was already packed full of cars and busses.

So far (but with a tendency to change in the not so distant future) all major sites in Iceland, like waterfalls, glaciers, geysers, etc. have no admission fee. There is no waiting time and no entrance queues :-).

At Gullfoss waterfall there is a big visitors’ centre, with a gift shop, restaurant and café, and WC (you might want to use the one in the restaurant premises, and not the one outside, because there is a fee for the second, 200 ISK (a little less than 2 EUR).

You can see the waterfall in all its glory from above first, and take a look at the river it is formed from, the canyon through which it flows and the magnificent mountains in the far distance, as a background. After that you can go near the water, for a more first-hand experience, but be prepared to get wet. The water flow is so strong that when falling to the river bed it kind of evaporates back and if you stand at the edge you get soaked wet just like in heavy rainfall. It is a good idea to have a raincoat. And dress warm, because if the day isn’t sunny it can get really cold there.

Gullfoss waterfall

 

 

 

 

 

 

After visiting one of the most gorgeous waterfalls in the country we went to the Geyser park. This is a place absolutely out of this world. The original geyser, the one which all the other such hot water natural fountains are named after, Geysir, is no longer active. It used to through water up to 70 meters high. It still does that sometimes, very sporadically, and hasn’t done it in a while.

Geysir
Geysir

 

 

 

 

 

 

The majority of tourists gathers around the second biggest geyser in the park, Strokkur, which erupts every 5 to 10 minutes. The water from it can go from 15-20 to 40 meters high.

Geyser
Strokkur

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are a lot of other, smaller geysers in the park. Take a stroll around them, make some pictures of the small round pools from which they erupt. The water colour is milky and sometimes turquoise. The whole area is magical.  But don’t touch the water because it is boiling hot, literally.

Geyser park
Geyser park from above

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is a steep hill which you can climb for a view of the geyser park from above. If you do that, don’t forget to look from the other side of the hill. Below it there is a gorgeous valley, with a river flowing through it, and small farms. The view from above is very beautiful and almost difficult to take in because of the scale. The houses and the river below look like toys, as if they are many kilometres away.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Geyser park also has a visitors’ center, with a shop, restaurant, WC (free, big and clean :-)).

The next day, third in our road trip, was dedicated mainly to moving from the south-western part of the country to the northwest, or from the small and very charming town of Fludir, where we stayed the first two nights, to a very pleasant cottage near the town of Stykkishólmur. In it we stayed for only one night. The idea was to divide the long and tedious travel to the north in two. On our way in the northern direction we visited two waterfalls. They are located next to one another.

Hraunfossar is a group of small and absurdly beautiful waterfalls that come straight from a frozen lava field. They look like a lace of water. There are three wooden decks over the waterfalls and the river, and a high wooden bridge from where you can look at the water (and take pictures, of course).

Hraunfossar waterfall

 

 

 

 

 

 

Barnafoss is not very high or big but the water has magnificent colour and the rock formations through which the water flows are really beautiful.

Barnafoss waterfall

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is a WC and a gift shop with restaurant at the waterfalls.

The cottage in which we stayed at the third night of our trip was the most charming wooden summer house ever! It is located “in the middle of nowhere”. It has windows on all four sides, each one showing a new and amazing view – to the wilderness of western Iceland, to the ocean, to the Western Fiords.

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the fourth day of our trip we were supposed to take the ferry and get ourselves to the West Fiords, the least densely populated part of Iceland, through a three-hour boat ride. But the ferry boat had an engine problem the previous day and our reservation was cancelled. The next day was to become one very long car ride from Stykkishólmur to Patreksfjörður where we were staying for the next 3 nights.

And what a ride it was! It was worth every single second of it! The road may be winding and very VERY steep at places but the views … Oh, the views! The road follows the edge of the “fingers” of the fiords and every minute gets you to a new view out of this world. Absurdly high hills, the greenest of green grass, waterfalls, faraway mountain tops covered in snow, horses and sheep living free on idyllic meadows and the ocean that encompasses it all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The weather was also on our side. I can only imagine what this ride could have been like if it was rainy or even foggy but we had the sunniest day in our journey so far.

We arrived at the town of Patreksfjordur around 18:00. The town is small but very beautiful. It is situated on the shores of the fiord. Although it is a small town it has a cinema, church, two supermarkets, café-restaurant with a terrace with magnificent ocean view and an open-air pool, also with a view towards the fiord.

The Iceland road trip Day 1

Traveling to Iceland from where I live is not so easy but is worth every minute (or hour, or a few 🙂 ) of waiting at airport security and passport control, and every hour spent in the air (though, I must be honest, as I adore flying, those hours on a plane for me are not a waste of time but rather an essential part of every journey). It took us literally almost 12 hours to arrive in Iceland (2 hours waiting time at the airport at home, 2 hours for flight number 1, 4 hours transfer time at the biggest European airport (Frankfurt), a little more than 3 hours for flight number 2, and here we were.

Iceland’s airport is relatively small and very well-organized and it took us almost no time to get our bags, get the rental cars we have booked well in advance and start this remarkable journey (well, as it is still going on, at least I hope it will be remarkable).

The best way to really be able to appreciate Iceland is with a car. There are ways to see all the major touristic sights in the so called Golden circle around Reykjavik with public transport (organized tours) but only with a car and on your own you can best see all the other wonderful things this amazing country has to offer.

Our first stop, right after we landed, was the Blue lagoon, the world-famous natural thermal SPA complex, which is so well-known and described by so many, that I won’t dedicate any time to it now. I will say only that no pictures I have seen before coming here could prepare me for this amazing and out-of-this-world place.

The Blue lagoon
The Blue lagoon

When coming to Iceland you should be well aware that even in summer the weather can be very cold and the almost constant wind and drizzle makes it even colder. 10 to 15 Celsius is the most you can usually expect during the Icelandic summer. Dress as you would for a mild winter/early spring days in the more moderate climate zones. Wind shield/waterproof upper layer is essential. Sun glasses that can protect you from the wind are also a very good idea. Hiking shoes are also a good choice, even if you don’t plan to go long distances on foot.

After the Blue lagoon we visited Reykjavik, the country’s small but very charming capital, and paid a visit to the church Hillgrimskirkja, the tallest building in Reykjavik. You can pay entrance fee of 8 EUR and get to the top of it for a breath-taking view over the city. Entrance to the main building of the church, where you can see it’s wonderful pipe organ, is free.

Hallgrimskirkja

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then we were planning to visit the recently opened Cat cafe, Kattakaffihusid, on Bergstaðastræti 10a, but unfortunately we were there a few minutes after the closing time, 18:00, and we could see its inhabitants, two very beautiful black-and-white cats, only from outside. Obviously, as I am a crazy cat lady, now I have a reason to come back 🙂

The Cat cafe

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After that it was time to stock on food and other things and head over to the place we were staying for the first 2 nights – a charming country house in the small town of Fludir.

Fludir

 

 

 

 

 

 

And finally, I must add few more things before I end this account of my first day.

Iceland is a relatively expensive country, so if you want to go on a budget trip, be prepared to buy supplies from the big supermarkets and cook your own food (it is a good idea to stay at home rentals, like houses or flats, not in hotels, where you will have all the necessary appliances to do that). There are a lot of chain stores in the country, you can find a lot of useful information on the internet, just have in mind that most of them don’t work until late, the usual closing time is around 18:00, with only a few exceptions.

If you are making a road trip, it is a good idea to buy in advance pre-paid cards for car fuel, because outside the major cities there aren’t any big gas stations, only gas pumps, where you can pay for the fuel only with these cards as there is no personnel at all.

And last but not least, if you are visiting this amazing country in the summer months, as I am now, be prepared for the 24-hour long day. The sun never sets during the summer. In my opinion, this is absolutely amazing! But you have any trouble sleeping, better have a personal blindfold (eye mask for covering the eyes) during the night hours, or you won’t be able to sleep at all.

That’s it for now 🙂

 

 

 

 

On my way to a new adventure

Dear friends,

I now it has been a long time since you last heard from me, but I have been busy (to be able to travel, as we all know, you need to have money, and to have enough money, you need to work, and work takes your time). But! In a few days I am going on a new adventure and I will do my best to keep you informed about it as it happens! This will be a new experience for me, so don’t be very harsh if I am not able to achieve much (in posting about my adventures every single day during the trip). As to where I am going – the new cover photo of my blog page is a tip 🙂

I will also post many photos in my Instagram account (you can follow me, if you want – the link to my Instagram account is in the Contact me section of this page, on the right hand side, or simply follow this link:

https://www.instagram.com/lidiyaaleksandrova/

I hope you enjoy following me during my travels!

 

How about an around the world travel while sitting in your sofa?

Traveling is always a good idea but unfortunately, sometimes it is just not possible. No matter if the reason for this is lack of time, or money, or both, or something completely different, sometimes we just have to stay at home.

What can make this easier to live through? Books. Yes, reading is a good way of traveling while staying at home. Especially when you are reading a book about someone else’s travels. And if the places the author visits through the book are new for you, the feeling is even more intense. You sit on your couch and at the same time you travel to far away exotic places where you still haven’t been.

No, I am not trying to say this can replace the actual going to a new place. But it can be a fair substitute when there is nothing else you can do.

Let me tell you about one of my favorite books about traveling.

It is called “The Lost Girls: Three Friends. Four Continents. One Unconventional Detour around the World” by Jennifer Baggett, Holly C. Corbett & Amanda Pressner.

The Lost Girls

As the title says, this is the story of three friends, three American girls who decide to travel around the world for one year. This is a biographical travel story. It is written by all three of them, Jennifer, Holly and Amanda, each writing about a different part of their shared journey. Each chapter in the book is written by one of the girls, the next – by another, and so on. This way of writing makes the book really fascinating.

The book is so well written, that it instantly makes you want to visit all the places they go to, even the ones you have never even thought of visiting before. And everything is so vividly depicted that you immediately feel you are there with them, the hidden fourth member of the group.

The story is not only about travel, but also about finding yourself and who you want to be and what you want to do with your life.

It all begins, as all good and memorable journeys should, with a long period of planning and preparations. For the long year of travel each girl should give up on something – a job, a career, a boyfriend, a life. Is the sacrifice worth it? All readers should find the answer for themselves. After all, isn’t it always like this – you give up on something to gain something else, something new, and sometimes the thing you gave up on comes back to you.

The book follows the adventures of Amanda, Holly and Jenn as they dedicate a whole year of their life to traveling around the world.

During this year they visit more than 10 countries, on 4 continents.

They start from South America, where they first visit Peru, taking their time to enjoy its most famous sights, like Machu Picchu, the Amazon River and its capital, Lima. After that they visit Brazil, dedicating time to get to know this beautiful country by staying in the city of Salvador, the capital of Brazil’s northeastern state of Bahia.

The journey continues in Africa, where the girls live for a period of one month in a Maasai village in Kenya and work there as volunteers in a charity program.

After that they go to Asia. The first country they visit is India, where they go to an ashram. One of the girls, Holly, stays there for a whole month, and the other two keep her company for a week. After that, being not so keen on yoga and meditation practices, as Holly is, they go to the beautiful seaside in India’s smallest state, Goa, for a sea-vacation-party getaway.

The trip then gets the three girls to different countries in this part of Asia. Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia. Each gives the girls new impressions, new memories and new things to think over and to wonder about. They also go to Thailand, where they visit the infamous island of Phuket, and the world-famous capital of the country, the ambivalent city of Bangkok.

The journey through Southeast Asia gets its logical final point on the tranquil island of Bali.

For the final months of their journey the girls visit New Zealand and Australia, where they live with locals, raft down waterfalls, race with the tide, hike a glacier, and do breath taking (not metaphorically speaking) bungee jumps, and many more. In Australia the girls travel with a big van that was given to them by a local insurance company, in exchange for doing some writing about their travels in the company’s blog.

When the year of travels gets to its end, you, the reader, almost feel physical pain (at least I did) that this extraordinary adventure is over.

I have read this extraordinary book so many times, I cannot count. I love the feeling it gives me. I love the idea of leaving everything – the stress of everyday life, all the familiar places and people behind and just go. What can be better than to do it with friends who are as passionate as you about learning new things, visiting new places, meeting new people?

Even if most of us can’t afford to do it in reality, we can all do it by getting in the shoes of those three girls and do it in our imagination, just by reading this wonderful book.

If you want to know more about The Lost Girls, visit their website and blog:

www.lostgirlsworld.com

And finally, and I want to make this as clear as possible, this is not in any way an advertisement about the book (in a commercial sense) but please, if you like reading and traveling, do yourself a favor and read this book.

New articles in preparation

As a very wise person once said, and as we all know so well, life is what happens while we are making plans…

I know I promised a new article about two books about travel, which, in fact is not ready yet, but is in preparation… I hope I will be ready to publish it here really soon.

And as I also promised, I will have a small piece about another wonderful city in The Netherlands, Utrecht, which I have visited already 3 times, all three because of a music festival held there every year (I promised I will tell you a little bit more about this specific type of travel, festival tourism, and what you should have in mind). I am not making any promises as to when it will be here, but I just want to assure you, I haven’t forgotten it.

And last, but not least, as time goes by, it is getting near my next trip. I will be coming back to my most beloved spot in The Netherlands, the city of Leiden, and I hope I will have some new places and ideas to share with you about this wonderful town, in case you decide to visit it some day (and I hope you do, because it is really worth it!).

So, again, stay tuned 🙂

5 places in Amsterdam you probably haven’t visited yet

Amsterdam is definitely one of the most popular tourist places on Earth, with hundreds of things to see and do. Whether you have already been there or not, you might find those next five places interesting, even though some of them are a bit away from the main tourist routes of this city.

  1. Poezenboot (The Cat Boat)

You must definitely visit this extraordinary floating cat sanctuary, especially if you are a cat person. Situated in a boat house on one of the main Amsterdam canals, Singel 38 G, this place is the home of some of Amsterdam’s lucky and no longer stray cats. The sanctuary is run entirely by volunteers. They take daily care of the cats and most importantly, keep the inhabitants of this extraordinary boat company, to make them feel loved and at home. Everyone can visit the cat boat sanctuary, play with the cats and see the interesting home they have there.

The visiting hours are daily from 1 p.m. till 3 p.m., except on Wednesdays and Sundays. There is no entrance fee, but if you want you can always buy some souvenirs or simply make a donation, to help the volunteers keep running this wonderful place.

For more info about De Poezenboot, visit:

http://depoezenboot.nl/en

The Cat Boat, Amsterdam

The Cat Boat, Amsterdam

  1. XtraCold Ice Bar

Situated on Amstel 194 -196, this extraordinary bar, as its name suggests, is very cold, just like on The North Pole. But you needn’t worry. The drinks they serve you there will keep you warm. Even if they are all served in glasses made of ice.

The XtraCold Ice Bar is a very interesting place to visit. You will be given a warm coat and a pair of gloves and after viewing a short movie about the discovery of new and faraway lands, you will enter the ice bar itself, where the temperature is -10 degrees Celsius. In it everything is made from ice, the bar, the sitting spots, the glasses. Take a drink, make some pictures and enjoy this amazing place, where your drinking buddies are the polar bears. After that you can go to the other, “normal”, and warm part of the bar, and take another drink to gather back your warmth.

Entrance fee is around 20 euro but the exact amount depends on the time of visit, on whether there are some promotions at the moment or whether you combined the visit to the bar with some other tourist attraction in Amsterdam. The entrance fee includes three drinks.

It is better to visit the website of XtraCold Ice Bar in advance to make a reservation because without it, entrance cannot be guaranteed.

http://www.xtracold.com/nl/

XtraCold Ice Bar, Amsterdam

  1. House of Bols

The next place we will visit in Amsterdam is situated on the infamous Museumplein (Museum square), where all the biggest museums, as Rijksmuseum, Museum Van Gogh and Stedelijk museum are situated. Our place of interest though is a little different. Situated on Paulus Potterstraat 14, The House of Bols is the place where you can learn about and taste The Netherlands emblematic liqueur, the genever. In the House of Bols you can learn how it is made and then try some of the types of genever. You can choose between all the different tastes the genever has and decide on which is your favorite. Later on, at the end of the tour, in the Mirror Bar, you can combine those tastes, with the help of an interactive computer screen, to make your own cocktail recipe, which the bartenders will happily mix especially for you.

The entrance fee to the House of Bols is 15 euro and includes not only the tour but also two cocktails. The ticket can also be combined with other tours in Amsterdam, thus making it cheaper.

For more info, visit:

https://bols.com/experience

House of Bols, Amsterdam

House of Bols, Amsterdam

  1. Magna Plaza

I know it may sound a bit strange to include a shopping mall in this list of places to visit, but hey, don’t we all like to make a shopping trip every now and then? And besides, this particular mall is a bit different. The building itself is a historical one. It used to be the main post office in Amsterdam before it became a shopping center. It has one of the most beautiful facades, a remarkable piece of architecture. It is situated right behind the Koninklijk Paleis (The Royal Palace) and Nieuwe Kerk (The New Church), in the very heart of the city. Even if you are not a big fan of shopping and places full of hustle and bustle, as every shopping mall is, you must at least have a look at the remarkable facade of this magnificent building. Magna Plaza could easily be mistaken for a Royal palace, because it looks as such much more than the real one nearby. It looks like the home of a fairy princess taken from a gothic child’s story.

If you still want to make the best of this visit and take advantage of all such a mall can offer, visit the Magna Plaza website, to be well informed in advance:

http://www.magnaplaza.nl/

Magna Plaza, Amsterdam

Magna Plaza, Amsterdam

  1. Vondelpark

Last but not least, if you are visiting Amsterdam in the warmer part of the year, do take advantage of what one of the most beautiful parks in the city can offer you. If you go there in the weekend you will very easily be able to feel like a local. This beautiful park is full of people – biking, running, walking, sunbathing or playing family games on the green lawns. You can have a coffee or beer in one of the restaurants and cafes, or you can bring your own food and drinks, like most of the locals do, and have a picnic on the grass. There are lanes for bikers and lanes for walking. There are lakes with swans. There are a lot of beautiful flower gardens, with the emblematic tulips. If you are a fan of architecture and design and have enough time, take a walk around the outer side of the park. The most expensive mansions in Amsterdam are situated there.

Vondelpark, Amsterdam

Vondelpark, Amsterdam

“Long time no see”

Hello, everyone!

It has been a while since I last posted something here, and I am sorry for that. I promise this will change very soon. I will be publishing an article about another city in The Netherlands – in fact, THE CITY in The Netherlands, Amsterdam, and some of its not so well known treasures. I hope it will be published till the end of this week.

I am also preparing a small piece on another passion of mine – books about travels. I will tell you about two of the most wonderful books I have read – Paris Letters, by Janice Macleod and Lost Girls by Jennifer Baggett, Holly C. Corbett, and Amanda Pressner. I hope I will be ready with it till the end of this month.

And last but not least, I have a trip planned for the end of next week. I will write and publish here all about it when I come back. It will be an example of my most loved kind of travel – festival tourism. Music is a very good reason to discover new places. And make new friends.

So stay posted!

 

The green cheese of Bulgaria

Have you noticed how very often food and travel come together? Do you think local food tasting is a big and important part in every journey to a new place?

Do you love cheese? If you answered yes to those questions, then read on.

There are only three regions worldwide that can grow cheese mold naturally – The Basque country in Spain, where the Idiazabal cheese is produced, Roquefort-sur-Soulzon in France, where the infamous Rockford cheese is produced and the village of Cherni Vit near Teteven in Bulgaria.

Only in those three regions the mold that gives the cheeses their specific taste and smell grows naturally and is not artificially added to the cheese later on during the aging process. All other famous molded cheeses as Stilton, Gorgonzola and many others add the mold artificially during the aging process.

This story is about the green cheese of Cherni Vit.

The small but beautiful village of Cherni Vit is situated in the Teteven region of Stara Planina mountain in Bulgaria. The whole region is famous for its production of milk and milk products like cheese. A big part of the region’s income comes from animal husbandry. A lot of cows, sheep and goats are raised here. Their first quality milk is the main raw material for the production of the so called “Green cheese”.

green cheese

The name of the cheese comes from the specific color of the mold that forms on the outside of the cheese wheel during the process of aging. As was already said, the mold forms naturally, due to the specifics of the mild climate in the region. The moisture that forms because of the drastic differences between day and night temperatures during the process of aging is to blame for the formation of the mold.

The green cheese can be made from all types of milk, but it is mainly made from sheep milk. There are different types of green cheese, depending not only on the type of milk used for its production but also on the duration of the aging process.

The green cheese despite its name is a kind of hard yellow cheese with a strong and specific taste and smell. It goes well both with red and white wines. Combining it with different sweet fruits like grapes and pears makes the taste of the cheese even stronger.

Tasting this unique cheese is a very good reason for visiting the village of Cherni Vit. But have in mind that it is not possible to find it all year long. Before going there it is wise to visit the website:

http://greencheese.eu/category/news/

Unfortunately, the site is still only in Bulgarian.

The perfect place to stay is the hotel by the same name as the village, Cherni Vit. Its website is, fortunately, in English.

http://chernivit.com/?lang=en

The cheese tasting can be done in the yard of the hotel itself. You can also watch a demonstration of the production process and also taste some nice local recipes with the cheese itself in the restaurant. You can also buy a piece of the green cheese for you to take home.

The village Cherni Vit is a good starting point for exploring the picturesque region of the Stara Planina mountain. The closest big town, some 15 kilometers away, is Teteven, a typical small Balkan town, where you can have a walk along the beautiful river of Vit and enjoy the breathtaking views of the mountain that surrounds the town from all sides. Each Saturday the town holds a food market where local producers sell their own goods. You can find home grown nuts, fruits and vegetables, honey, and different types of preserves and jams.

Teteven town Bulgaria

You can take a hike to the Skoka waterfall (its name means The Jump). The waterfall is one of the highest in Bulgaria, and is better to be visited during spring, when the waters are high. It is situated very near to the town of Teteven.

Skoka Waterfall Teteven Bulgaria 1

Skoka Waterfall Teteven Bulgaria 2

Another interesting place nearby is the Ribaritsa mountain resort. Situated some 15 kilometers away from the town of Teteven, it is one of the oldest resorts in Bulgaria. The mountain is especially beautiful and majestic in this region.

Stara Planina mountain

On your way back from Ribaritsa to Cherni Vit village, take a small break in the Fedora hotel, situated right beside the road just a few hundred meters before the town of Teteven. Drink a coffee and taste the wonderful homemade cakes they offer (the tiramisu is perfect, although it is not at all a typical Bulgarian sweet). The terrace of the hotel restaurant is right above the waters of the Vit river, making it a wonderful place to relax, enjoy the sunshine and take a few pictures of the magnificent views that surround this place.

Vit River Teteven Bulgaria

Fedora Hotel

The village of Cherni Vit is only an hour car ride away from the capital of Bulgaria, Sofia, and is definitely worth a visit.

Follow your dreams

Besides writing, or should I say, more than writing, I love reading. I learned to read at a really young age, years before I went to school. The very first book I read on my own was Pippi Longstocking, by Astrid Lindgren. This was my first favorite book. My father, God rest his soul, read it to me twice in a row and after I asked him to go at it a third time, he said it was high time I learned to read myself.

Many years and many books later, I started writing myself. At first it was only for my own pleasure and later, for friends to see.

It was my life long dream to make a living by writing. This still isn’t the case but…

Believe in your dreams, and work hard to achieve them. Writing definitely requires talent but is also a skill you have to master through study and practice.

It is never too late to try.