41 years ago today we were married. The extent of pre-nuptial counseling that I received was the minister’s pragmatic advice, “If it doesn’t work out then get a divorce.” It has worked out, but then we continue to work at it.

In the context of the last 87 days this has been a good day, but not exceptionally so. In any other context today would have been spectacular beginning with lambs bleating beneath our window.

We visited a museum dedicated to Iceland’s pre-modern turf homes. Unfortunately the museum was closed, but we were able to enjoy views of the exterior and gain a sense of those pioneer times.

There were waterfalls…

Tall waterfalls…

hidden waterfalls…

distant waterfalls…

and really big waterfalls.

We left the interior in favor of the south coast and the community of Vik. We will be here two nights and then return to Reykjavík on Thursday in anticipation of our Friday flight back to Kansas City. Our lodging in Vik is a well appointed satellite cottage adjoining an ultramodern hotel with a top notch bar and restaurant. There is even a half price “happy hour” where beers are discounted to $7.00 from the usual $14.00. One does eventually get over the “sticker shock”.

Those of my generation may recall a time in 1972 when the eyes of the world were focused upon two men and the chess board that separated them. The stage was Reykjavík Iceland and the players were Soviet Russia’s Boris Spassky and Bobby Fischer of the United States. The chess they played was at a level beyond the comprehension of all but a very few. The Cold War tensions seething in the workup to the match were palpable. It was not just white pieces vs black pieces but West vs East, Democracy vs Communism, Good vs Evil… National Pride on the world stage was at stake in a time that the United States still took pride in its reputation on the world stage. Bobby Fischer was our hero and he was victorious.

In 1975 Fischer forfeited his title and went into seclusion until 1992 when he and Boris Spassky played a rematch tournament in Belgrade Yugoslavia. The once heroic Fischer was declared a criminal by the United States, citing his participation in the match as a violation of an economic embargo that it had imposed upon Yugoslavia. The US issued a warrant for Fischer’s arrest and thereafter he remained a fugitive from the country that once adored him. He was eventually granted asylum and citizenship by Iceland where he lived until his death on January 17 2008 at the age of 64. He was buried in an obscure church cemetery surrounded by farmland just outside of the small town of Selfoss. It was there today that I found Bobby Fischer… “en passant”.

Peace Everyone. Pete

PS. We have gifted each other an upgrade to our flight on Friday from coach to first class. We have earned it.

Here are some additional pictures from the day:

After breakfast we asked a hotel staff person for some sightseeing suggestions. He gave us an itinerary of places less often visited by tourists.

Just down the road we visited the oldest hydroelectric plant on the River Sog. It was installed in 1937 and upgraded in 1944.

Next was the 6500 year old Kerio volcano cone and walked the circuit of its immense rim. It you look carefully at the top of the far side of the rim you can see some “specks” that are people. It will give some sense of the scale of the crater.

30 minutes down the road we visited a unique hydroponic tomato farm. A brief presentation and tour preceded a $23.00 bowl of tomato soup. It was worth it! This one farm harvests over 2,000 pounds a day, 365 days a year. They supply 20% of the islands tomato consumption. Their unique restaurant is situated within one of the working greenhouses. They do “everything tomato”, including cheesecake, and two different varieties of tomato infused beer!

Lunch concluded, we drove to the Fludir hot springs pool. The Blue Lagoon attracts throngs of tourists, so many that reservations are required. We were the beneficiaries of “local knowledge” that directed us instead to the oldest public bathing spring in Iceland. Hot water is hot water, and relaxation is much easier to achieve when one is not elbow to elbow with other bathers.

We visited another set of spectacular waterfalls that join at their base. Again, a careful examination of the images will give you an idea of the size of the falls.

Eye popping scenery continues to be commonplace. As beautiful as the pictures of the last two days have been, it is a tribute to the hand of Nature and not the photographer.

Tomorrow, June 19th, is special. In 1977 41 years seemed an unimaginably long time to me.. nearly twice as long as I had then lived. Today I look back on those 41 years with wonder at just how fast they have passed. We were married 41 years ago tomorrow. Much has changed, and much remains the same. We are a bit slower and a lot grayer. However, 41 years ago we embarked upon our life together with a 30 day honeymoon camping trip that covered 9 northwest States. It was Christine’s first camping trip and it was an epic journey for a young couple… Epic like the journey we are now concluding and epic like the marriage that we share.

Peace Everyone. Pete

We departed Reykjavik this morning choosing to embrace the countryside over the urban celebrations of Iceland’s National Day. For us the party actually began a little after midnight when volley after volley of fireworks explosions “split the light”. Remember, we haven’t seen darkness since we arrived in Iceland.

Þjóðhátíðardagurinn, celebrates Iceland’s June 17th plebiscite which severed its centuries long ties to Denmark and established the Iceland Republic. Shortly thereafter Iceland joined NATO and is not only the member with the smallest population (350,000) but the only one without a standing army. It is considered the “greenest” nation in the world with almost 100% of its energy needs being met through renewable non-polluting sources, geo-thermal being the primary one.

Iceland is Europe’s second largest island, second only to Great Britain. It is geologically active and is the only place where the tectonic plates of the mid-Atlantic Ridge are found above sea level. Although Iceland is situated just below the Arctic Circle, it enjoys a relatively temperate climate due to the warming influence of the Gulf Stream. Winters are said to be more moderate than those of New York City.

Iceland is geologically young and rapidly changing. These factors contribute to its remarkable beauty. The “Golden Circle” is an arbitrary route outside of Reykjavik that links some of the most popular and accessible tourist sites. It is under 180 miles in length and can be driven in under 4 hours. 6-8 hours are needed to include visits to the major attractions.

Today we mostly enjoyed the remarkable vistas.

However our drive included stops at the Geysir (actual spelling) geothermal area and the stunning Gullfoss waterfall. The Great Geysir has been mostly silent in recent years, but we were treated to multiple eruptions of the Strokkur Geysir which are only slightly smaller than those of Yellowstone’s Old Faithful.

The Gullfoss Waterfall descends over 100 feet in two huge cascades, discharging over 35,000 gallons of water a second into an ancient river gorge. It is breathtaking!

We may give thanks to the tenacity of one woman for the preservation of this wonder.

Tomorrow we plan on continuing our leisurely tour of the Golden Circle and may include some hiking in and around Iceland’s Þingvellir National Park.

In the meantime we are enjoying our rustic but comfortable hotel accommodations which include a bar, restaurant, and the obligatory Iceland spa.

Peace Everyone. Pete

PS. Happy Father’s Day!

While Kansas City sweltered in humid temperatures that approached 100 degrees, we shivered in constant rain with temps that didn’t make it to 50. Nevertheless, nothing interfered with this as a unique and fun filled day.

First stop was the nearby Catholic Cathedral where we secured the final stamp in our Camino credentials. Reykjavik’s Cathedral of Christ the King was built and consecrated in 1929. Its new Bishop was installed that year, the last one having been executed in 1550. There were virtually no Catholics in Iceland until the late 1800’s, a 1970 census placed the number at just over 1,000, and today there are about 13,000 in a country of 350,000.

We also visited the towering Lutheran Church, which is the center of Iceland’s official religion. In front of the Church is a beautiful bronze statue of Lief Erickson, a 1930 gift to the people of Iceland from the people of the United States.

In the course of making improvements to the center of Reykjavik the remains of an 1,100 year old Viking settlement were discovered. These ruins which are below modern street level were preserved and the urban improvements were installed overhead. This information rich site provided us with details about life in the early settlement, and even insights into the genetic heritage of the original and modern inhabitants. DNA establishes that most of the early male inhabitants were from Scandinavia but most of the females were from Ireland and Scotland. This is consistent with the practice of raiders during the Viking era of taking women into bondage.

We also visited the oldest remaining house in Reykjavik, which dates to 1772. It now serves as a museum that features temporary exhibits. Currently photographs from 1918 are on display. These images portray life in the months preceding the Spanish Influenza epidemic that devastated Iceland and the world.

Tomorrow is Iceland’s National Day, but for soccer fans that day was today. Russia is hosting soccer’s World Cup. This is the first World Cup competition for Iceland and today was its first match. They faced an experienced team from Argentina and were considered to be hopelessly outmatched. Iceland played Argentina to a historic 1-1 tie which we and much of Reykjavik watched on a huge outdoor screen in the city center. We again had the experience of finding ourselves in the right place at the right time. Serendipity at its best.

Finally, we attended an intimate play at Reykjavik’s Harpa, a remarkable center for the performing arts.

It was a one act performance featuring two talented and energetic actors. They presented an interwoven comedic script based upon the subjects of all 40 of the surviving “Icelandic Sagas”.

At times they made this into an outrageous audience participation farce. I myself became the recipient of a pair of large hanging boobs. We reprised this in a post production photo opportunity with the actors.

Tomorrow Christine and I strike out into the countryside for a very different “Icelandic Saga”.

Peace Everyone. Pete

PS. On a street corner is a non-descript food stand that sells hotdogs. Bæjarins beztu has been there since 1937, and is one of those “must do” things that visitors of all stripes “must do”,

At the beginning of this journey, or “Odyssey” as suggested by a friend, Christine and I imagined it to unfold like the chapters of a book… Puerto Rico, the Atlantic crossing, Barcelona to Porto, walking the Camino, Ireland, Scotland, the Continent, and now Iceland as the final “chapter”. 83 days behind us, 7 yet before us. My mother has closely followed these posts. She suggests that I look tired. I think “travel weary” is a more apt description. Whether tired or weary I already imagine heading off with the camper at the far side of reuniting with our home, children, and grandchildren.

Our flight was uneventful and has placed us not only closer to the arctic circle (about 150 miles north of us), but two time zones closer to home (5 more to go). Norway’s verdant forested green has been replaced by Iceland’s stark moonscape.

We have rented a car. It has been 12 weeks since I last drove. The roads look well maintained (so far), but we have been cautioned about the hazards of glass etching volcanic sandstorms, door destroying coastal winds, flash-floods, and worst of all the merciless speed cameras that mete out thousand dollar fines.

We will be staying the first two nights and final night at a simple but well located Airbnb in Reykjavik. The 4 nights in between will be spent at lodgings in the countryside.

We have been warned that dining out can be breathtakingly expensive. Our experience this evening was pricey but the meal was both unusual and exceptional. Two “grand appetizers” for each of us together with drinks and a shared desert set us back the equivalent of $130.00.

I enjoy exploring new cuisines and tonight was a double header. My choices were a creatively arranged Arctic Char and an incredibly tender horse meat filet. I suggested to Christine that the chef might consider naming it their “Belmont Steak”. She was not amused. However, she sampled the filet,or should I say filly (another really bad pun) and declared it to be quite tasty.

We walked the old wharf to get a sense of the area and we look forward to seeing the sights of the city tomorrow.

Peace Everyone. Pete.

PS. Today’s high in Reykjavik was 51 degrees. Tomorrow’s high is predicted to be 48. Sorry Kansas City. On the other hand, you have “night” there, unlike here where it is now light 24/7.

This was our last full day in Norway. Christine and I have been guests in the home of Hege and Jan Cato Bjørnstad since the 11th. The home is located in Maura Norway, a pleasant community about 40 miles drive from downtown Oslo. The high speed train from nearby Gardermoen International Airport delivered the two of us into the center of Oslo in a mere 15 minutes.

Christine and I took advantage of the day for a bit of solo touring. The rain dampened but did not deter us from a bit of wandering. We visited the grounds of the Royal Palace, and the National History Museum.

We also enjoyed lunch under an awning near the National Theater.

We are steeling ourselves for the dining “sticker shock” that awaits us in Iceland. In the meantime, Norway isn’t far behind. Our lunch consisting of soup, sandwiches, and beverages for the two of us was over 700 Norwegian Krone, about $90.00. Prices outside of the central city are a bit lower.

The highlight of our visit was the National Gallery.

It was established in 1842, and has been housed in its current location since 1882. It is an art gallery of modest proportions, but what it lacks in size it more than makes up for in quality. The collection includes works by such international notables as El Greco, Monet, Cezanne, and Picasso. There are also many works by Norwegian masters such as Tidemand, Gude, and of course Munch. Here are some of my favorites:

An entire room was set aside for the works of Edvard Munch, including “The Scream”.

Valued by the Gallery as second only to The Scream is the famous 1848 collaboration work between landscape artist Hans Gude and Adolph Tidemand an artist of the Romantic Nationalism school. This painting, titled “Bridal Procession” attracted quite a crowd.

After our return to Maura we and the Bjørnstad family went out for dinner to celebrate Hege’s birthday. Following that we visited her parents and enjoyed a traditional Norwegian cake, the name of which appropriately translates to “World’s Best Cake”.

We depart tomorrow for a week in Iceland. This would be another sad parting for us except that the Bjørnstad family will be our guests in Kansas City in about 2weeks.

Peace Everyone. Pete

Before I launch into a description of this marvelous day I want to make an acknowledgement in a picture worth a thousand words. Our German “son” Andre’ and his wife Asuka are the proud parents of 11 year old daughter Helena and 4 year old son Moritz. During our time in Berlin I became especially close with the little boy. Perhaps it was because he spoke better German than me, or maybe it was my special talent making “fart” sounds with my hand to my mouth. In any case we shared a bond that is best explained in this picture.

It’s 9 days before my own bed, but who’s counting? (Spoiler alert: me.) As tempting as it is to focus on that future, today put those thoughts on hold.

When I was eleven I read “Kon-Tiki” by Thor Heyerdahl. Its 250 pages chronicled the 1947 voyage of Heyerdahl and his 5 man crew aboard a balsa log raft from Peru to Polynesia. The Norwegian adventurer sought to establish the possibility that such voyages could have populated the south seas islands. The voyage was a success, and in the process of its telling he populated the imagination of an 11 year old boy with visions of travel and adventure. 55 years later that little boy stood in Oslo, awestruck before Kon-Tiki and Heyerdahl’s later vessel, the Ra-2.

Norway has produced many of the world’s greatest navigators, adventurers, and shipwrights for more than 1,500 years. Heyerdahl was just the start for today. The Kon-Tiki Museum behind us, we walked less than 100 yards to the Fram Museum which housed not one but two of the word’s great vessels of early 20th Century polar exploration.

The smaller of the two vessels, Gjoa, measures 70 feet long by 20 feet on the beam. She was a stout ship capable of withstanding the crushing forces of the arctic ice pack. Her Norwegian captain, Roald Amundsen, and a crew of 6 were the first to successfully navigate the fabled Northwest Passage, completing the 3 year effort in 1906. They spent two winters icebound in the arctic but occupied their time engaged in serious scientific study and measurements.

The second and larger vessel, Fram, (127 feet long by 34 feet on the beam) is famed as the wood hulled sailing vessel to have sailed both the farthest north into the Arctic (86° north in 1896) and farthest south into the Antarctic (78° south in 1912).

Each of these ships have been magnificently restored and are exhibited with a wealth of information concerning polar exploration throughout the centuries.

Next, we were off to the Viking Ship Museum. The reputation of these 1st millennium Scandinavians for barbaric savagery has eclipsed their accomplishments as shipbuilders and navigators. Archeologists and Sociologists have established that Viking exploitation extended west to pre-Columbian North America, and as Far East and south as Russia and Turkey. They were as fearless sailing the oceans in their fragile appearing ships as they were in battle.

Their ships were anything but fragile. They were graceful, seaworthy, and at over 10 knots they were capable of twice the speed of the ponderous ships of “more civilized” people.

The Viking Ship Museum features 3 large excavated and restored vessels, together with smaller boats of the time. There are wonderfully preserved sledges, wagons, and carvings that cast an entirely different light on these explorers.

Finally, we drove to Oslo’s Frogner Park to see the work of another famous Norwegian “explorer”, sculptor Gustav Vigeland. He was an explorer of human relationships and emotions. Between 1924 and 1943 he sculpted in both bronze and stone 212 works which detail hundreds of human figures and are exhibited over 80 acres within the park.

The figures are mesmerizing in their depictions of human interactions.

Chief among these works is the appropriately named sculpture “Monolith”. It is a 46 foot tall single block of granite that depicts 121 seamlessly interwoven bodies… men, women, old, young, exhibiting the full spectrum of human emotion. This piece took 14 years to complete! It is surrounded by other larger than life figures arranged in tiers like spectators at an exhibition. It is no wonder that the Park attracts nearly 2 million visitors annually.

Peace Everyone. Pete

After a two hour flight from Berlin we landed at the ultra-modern airport located near Oslo. We were greeted there by Hege who was the third foreign exchange student that we hosted. She lived with us during the 1994–95 school year.

Hege, all 6’1” of her, remains as a bubbly and full of life today as she did 25 years ago. (Here is 25 years ago)

We will be guests of her family for the next four nights. This is Christine standing next to Hege and Jan’s 15 year old son!

She, her husband Jan, and their three children plan on visiting us in Missouri later this Summer. Every member of the family speaks fluent English, however the children seem to make fun of their father’s English which they consider to be less than perfect. We disagree!

Hege and Jan are both teachers in a nearby elementary school. They both have a pleasant lighthearted demeanor that must endear them to their students. Hege has explained that she is assigned a class in the first grade and then follows that class as their teacher for the next seven years. She becomes very close to the class members as if a member of their own families. I asked Hege if she ever had students that she found “challenging“. “Of course,” she replied, “it just means that I have to try harder.” I have no doubt that she does, and successfully.

Norway has approximately the same population but twice the land area (5.2 million and 149,000 sq miles) as the state of Missouri (6 million and 69,700 sq miles).

Norwegians enjoy one of the highest standards of living in the world, ranked sixth worldwide in per capita gross domestic product (USA is 11th), and 1st in the International Human Development Index (USA 10th) which seeks to quantify factors such as the delivery of healthcare, education, infrastructure, housing, nutrition, life expectancy, and personal freedoms. Our 30 minute drive from the airport to Hege’s home community visually confirmed these statistics.

We are approximately 400 miles from the Arctic Circle, the farthest north thus far on this journey. We are also nearing the summer solstice. Therefore, it was still “daylight” at 11 pm and it never did get totally dark. At 2 am the brightening skies forced me to get up and pull down the blinds.

Today is a “chill out“ day so we are doing laundry, catching up on a little reading, and I’m trying to figure out how to make my iPad “cooperate“ again. I am currently typing this on the annoyingly small screen of my iPhone. No pictures today, but I hope to remedy that tomorrow when we travel into Oslo to tour the sights that might include the Viking Museum and the Kon-Tiki Museum, dedicated to Thor Heyerdahl’s epic 1947 voyage from Peru to Polynesia on a pre-Columbian raft.

We have 10 nights to go before we are home in our own bed.

Peace Everyone! Pete

This was our last full day in Berlin. I am writing these “Thoughts” in the early morning hours of June 11th. There are 11 nights of this journey yet before us, 4 in Oslo Norway, and 7 in Iceland. Yesterday afternoon at a local cafe we met our friend from the recent Portuguese Camino, Stanislaw Mowinski, together with members of his family.

It was a wonderful reunion that integrated our recent friendship with “Stanley” and our decades long friendship with André.

Before that meeting we toured the Berlin Neues Museum. Built between 1843 and 1855, it is located on Berlin’s “Museum Island”. It was heavily damaged during World War 2. It’s restoration was finally completed in 2008. The museum houses a remarkable collection of prehistoric, early history, and ancient Egyptian artifacts. The iconic 3,350 year old bust of Nefertiti is the most treasured object on display.

Although photography was allowed throughout most of the museum, it was forbidden in the chambers that housed the bust and very ancient documents. Those documents included early Christian writings, 5,000 year old Egyptian papyri, and even a tablet from the 4,000 year old “Epic of Gilgamesh”, believed to be the world’s oldest surviving work of literature.

I was allowed to photograph the working models that were excavated from the workshop of the artist that sculpted Nefertiti. They appear incredibly modern in their form and detail, in spite of being over 3,500 years old!

The following image of the bust of Nefertiti is an internet image.

I was captivated by the extent and quality of the collection. Among the statues were 4,000 year old poses that conveyed the most natural of modern relationships.

Our tour ended and we adjourned to a nearby cafe and then on to André’s home where we rejoined his wife Asuka and daughter Helena. We enjoyed dinner with the family and then said our goodbyes.

A series of seemingly insignificant events brought André into our family. We all agree that those events altered the course of our lives, and continue to do so today.

As a gentleman said to us at the start of this journey, “In Life there are no coincidences.”

Peace Everyone. Pete

PS. My iPad has essentially shot craps. I have posted this note using my iPhone. Writing narrative, downloading pictures, transferring and then organizing the pictures on the website is very difficult with the small device. If I cannot get my iPad to behave then it is quite possible that this will be the last posting before we arrive home.

Here are some images from our day in Berlin:

By the way, this is the REAL Budwar “Budweiser” beer from the Czech Republic, not the Dutch owned “American King of Beers”.

Berlin is a city fettered to the tragedies of its 20th Century past. The people of this city could have easily turned their back on this past, or worse declared it to be “fake news”, but they recognize that ignorance of history merely perpetuates the malignancy of the past. This city lives the lesson taught in 1863 by Spanish philosopher George Santayana that, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” There are current world leaders who could benefit from that lesson.

The people of Berlin have taken the fetters of the 20th Century and made them into the jewelry of the 21st Century… their version of beating swords into plowshares. Take for example Herman Goehring’s Luftwaffe headquarters. When built in 1935 it was the largest government building in Europe. It was one of the few centers of Nazi government to survive the bombs of World War 2.

Today, it has been modernized into a clean and efficient center of finance. Facing it across the street is a large information display that declares its use under the Nazi and Communist regimes, and its proximity to the events surrounding the Berlin Wall.

The Reichstag, a focal point of government under the Third Reich, retains its classic exterior but the war destroyed interior has been replaced by an ultramodern interior. 20% of the cost of reconstruction was dedicated to art, much of it pertaining to the tragedy of the Nazi past. Among the displays was a 20 foot portion of the tunnel that played a part in the mysterious fire of 1933 that the Nazis used as a pretext to suspend many personal rights within the country.