Category Archives: Europe 2013

Europe, 2013: Bruges

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Maybe the single biggest reason I wanted to visit Belgium was the movie In Bruges, a genius dark comedy starring Colin Ferrell and Brendan Gleeson, set in – you guessed it – Bruges. It made the place look like a fairytale town, besides which Bruges is reputed to be the best-preserved medieval city in Belgium.

Did it live up to the hype? For me, not really.

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Of course, it’s a charming place, but it feels a bit like a Disneyland for grown-ups – like a more sophisticated amusement park, where the curtains and the tunnels are a bit less obvious.

It’s no grand conspiracy, but this is a city whose entire economy consists of lace shops, kitschy tourist places, fancy chocolate stores, and restaurants.

When I reached Bruges, I had been traveling for over three months, first around the US in a van, and then through Belgium. I was a bit tired of all this movement, never staying in the same place for more than three or four days. And as a fabricated, Disneyland kind of romantic place, there wasn’t a lot for one person to do in the town.

De Halve Maan

De Halve Maan

I did take a brewery tour, with a genuinely funny France-hating tour guide.

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But even here… the main brewery operations had long since been moved outside of town, so what exactly were we touring?

Park at the edge of central Bruges

Park at the edge of central Bruges

I really enjoyed two things in town: first, going to the very edge of the tourist zone, which was encompassed by a ring of canals with parks and windmills, an area I found peaceful, with few tourists.

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The parks were extensive, with ponds, swans and little castles. Not to mention a few alcoves and recognizable sights from the movie.

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I also loved the city after dark. The crowds started to disappear, at least outside of the main restaurants, and most of the buildings are lit by tasteful floodlights. It’s quiet, and there was a slight drizzle. It really felt like another, older world (one that just happened to have great lighting and safe streets).

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The canals were charming, too.

Lace map of the city

Lace map of the city

It wasn’t like this before – during the middle ages, Bruges was an authentic large town, a trading port and center of lace manufacture. But it started to silt up, and trade moved to Antwerp and other cities, leaving the city as a backwater. That’s the case for all these “authentic” medieval towns: once they were something important (otherwise they wouldn’t have been a city) and now they’re a curiosity (if they were still an important city, they wouldn’t have all these “authentic” old buildings).

Central square

Central square

I don’t mean to be so down on Bruges. I wouldn’t mind returning at some point.

The stairs were really narrow

The tower stairs were really narrow

It was a good town for pondering on two feet, for snacking on chocolate, and for people-watching. From Bruges, I traveled back to NYC, via Brussels, to return to work. This was the end of my travels in 2013.

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Europe, 2013: Ypres

10/19/2013

Growing up in the US, you can only see a few types of battlefield firsthand: revolutionary war battlefields, which basically just look like fields. And civil war battlefields, which are mostly fields with a few earthworks thrown in (Vicksburg is an exception). You might also see French and Indian battlefields, or battlefields from the Indian Wars. I figured these were pretty different from modern battlefields.

Uniforms at the Ypres museum: German, UK, French, American. Click to expand.

Uniforms at the Ypres museum: German, UK, French, American. Click to expand.

One of my top goals in visiting Belgium was to visit a World War I battlefield (I also wanted to visit the Ardennes, sight of the Battle of the Bulge, but it was in a far corner of the country). I wasn’t sure if the World War I battlefield would be the same or different than Civil War battlefields.

Ypres before and after the war

Passchendaele, near Ypres, before and after the war. Those dots are craters.

My target was Ypres (pronounced ee-pruh), sight of some of the worst fighting in the entire first world war – Ypres was a battlefield for almost four years, divided into some five barely distinct ‘battles.’ Whereas a civil war battle was typically a one-day affair (Gettysburg was an outlier – open fighting lasted three days; the only longer battles I’m aware of were the extended sieges of Vicksburg or Petersburg). Although the numbers are impossible to pin down, more men maybe have been killed on the Ypres battlefield than in the entire Civil War (620,000 men were killed in the Civil War; the upper estimate for total casualties on Ypres is 1.2 million, of which maybe half were killed). That’s leaving out the hundreds of other battles – such as Verdun, the Marne, or the Somme.

Ypres during the war

Ypres during the war

Not only did Ypres see intense extended fighting, it was also the sight of the first chemical warfare attack, ever. Also, Hitler fought there. Incidentally, if you’re unfamiliar with WWI, there’s an amazing 5-part soldier’s eye podcast produced by Dan Carlin that covers the war over the course of 15 hours.

The town today, looking toward the Menin Gate

The town today, looking toward the Menin Gate

Ypres was pretty close to Antwerp by train, so I took the train into the city center. The city as a sort of physical entity was pretty much obliterated during the war (it was a mid-sized cloth manufacturing town). Now, it looks pretty much like other Belgian towns, with a charming downtown that belies its bloody history.

The center, which was had a cute farmer’s market when I visited, also features an outstanding WWI museum, my first stop. It’s a pretty intense museum – there are lots of artifacts, videos, some gruesome photos, reconstructions of trenches. This is a part of the world where there’s still unexploded ordnance in farm fields, and where trench systems are still being uncovered.

After visiting the city, I started out on a tour of the battlefield with a few other people. The tour met by the Menin Gate, a memorial that commemorates 54,000 men from the British Empire whose graves remain unknown. There’s a ceremony here, every single night, to pay tribute to soldiers from the Empire who died in Ypres.

The battlefield during the war

The battlefield during the war

The area around Ypres doesn’t look much like a battlefield. There’s no craters, and no sign of fighting at all. Most of the land is farms; it’s absolutely flat, enough that a 200-foot hill was a major strategic objective. It rained lightly during the tour, which felt fitting. Most of what you hear about the western front is mud. Because there was four years of fighting, and because men were confined to trenches by artillery fire, it was often impossible to move bodies. You dug a shallow grave, but when you left the front and another unit came in, and they needed to dig? The only gruesome option was to dig through the bodies from one or two or three years before.

Tyne Cote cemetery

Tyne Cote cemetery

Nonetheless, there are graveyards, and we visited three: a small and large English graveyard, and a German graveyard. The large British cemetery was Tyne Cot, with about 12,000 graves, with soldiers from the UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and other parts of the empire. It’s hard to believe, but at this time, Newfoundland was a separate country from Canada, so you also see soldiers with Newfoundland flags on their gravestones.

South African gravestone, with Springbok

South African gravestone, with Springbok

It’s a beautiful cemetery, on a slight rise, very peaceful. It doesn’t look like 12,000 men are buried here. We also visited the German cemetary of Langemark. German cemeteries in Belgium are something of a sore topic – or, at least, they used to be. After all, Germany invaded Belgium during the war, and there was a lot of bad blood between the two countries afterwards.

Langemark German Cemetery

Langemark German Cemetery

The British cemetery, Tyne Cot, looked basically like an American military cemetery: rows of white stones, about 2 feet hight, with clipped green grass. It was familiar. The German cemetery was totally different: wooded, with black stones set into the ground. The stones aren’t for a single soldier. It’s common to see stones saying “7 unknown soldiers buried here.” But far and away the most striking thing was an empty square in the center of the cemetery.

"In a mixed grave, here rest 24,917 German Soldiers. 7,977 remain unknown."

“In a mixed grave, here rest 24,917 German Soldiers. 7,977 remain unknown.”

It’s surrounded by low stones, and a small metal wreath. If you walk around it, on the far side, there’s a small plaque that states simply that 25,000 soldiers are buried in the grave. I found this cemetery had a far more profound effect on me. Maybe it was how few soldiers were named, and how few soldiers had their own grave. And it also was different from other cemeteries I’ve visited, so I had to reconsider what it really meant.

It’s a complicated cemetery. Many of the soldiers who fought here were students; some were 15 years old. On the other hand, Hitler visited this cemetery. After all, he fought at Ypres and received a commendation for bravery. You can stand in front of a memorial, where he’s photographed standing during World War II, and wonder what you’re supposed to think.

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The final stop, and my favorite on the tour, was some of the few remaining untouched World War II trenches. These trenches, which had been occupied by a unit from New Zealand, belonged to a farmer who took back the property after the war. He thought it might be worth preserving these, maybe to make some money, so he left them unchanged. Now they’re part of a little amateur museum.

Stereoscopes

Stereoscopes

The museum itself isn’t much: lots of old rifles, lots of helmets, bits of metal. Lots of stereoscope photographs of the war. Behind this museum are the trenches.

Craters near the trenches

Craters near the trenches

It was raining while I was there. The bottom of the trench was muddy, filled with pools of water. Metal sheets lay against the edge of the trench, and there were big craters on either side. A forest grew around the trenches, which would never have been there during the war. But this was still far and away the most authentic-looking battlefield I’ve seen. It didn’t take a whole lot of imagination to think about what it would have been like to fight here.

Besides this little plot of land, the rest of Ypres, and the land around it, looks like farmland everywhere else. Like there was never a battle fought there. The only sign of fighting is what’s still below ground, and the dozens of cemeteries that dot the countryside.

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Europe, 2013: Antwerp

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10/17 – 10/19

I suspect you know that Antwerp is a pretty large city, and maybe you know that it’s a port, but I suspect most people know little beyond that, but it’s the largest city in Belgium. It’s got an extensive history (gaining prominence after the fall of Bruges), and is actually the third-biggest port in Europe (after Rotterdam and Hamburg).

My Ikea room

My Ikea room

I was feeling pretty tired from the breakneck pace of my travel (both through the US and then to Europe immediately after), and was further exhausted after some food poisoning in Ghent. I spent a day relaxing in Antwerp, just recovering. In fact, my AirBnB was the most commercial yet (but still charming). The host had split up a floor of the building into 5-6 rooms, each furnished pretty much to Ikea specifications. It was like sleeping in an Ikea store. I think the turnover in this place must have been amazing, with 5-6 fully occupied rooms you could make a good living with AirBnB.

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I even got a chance to sit down with the proprietor and her husband, on the morning before I left (breakfast was included here). She had returned from the US, where she had biked across the country. I had read a book about cross-country biking written by an American, and if I remember correctly, it was between one and two months for him to cross the country. So assumed this lady would have taken a similar length of time, but she seemed shocked when I suggested such a quick trip. She’d visited a lot of national parks along the way, and traveled at a ‘European’ pace.

Grote Markt, the main city square.

Grote Markt, the main city square.

Antwerp a city that seems highly livable and modern, but which still has a distinctly Renaissance air. I picture Antwerp as a huge steel-and-glass concert hall next to a block of traditional low-country townhouses. Two years after the fact, I only remember two things about Antwerp: first, it had an amazing museum, and second, the train station was spectacular.

Museum aan de Stroom

Museum aan de Stroom

The museum I visited was the MAS, a museum about Antwerp. It’s located on the river Scheldt, near the piers, and has a commanding view of the city. The building itself is strikingly modern, and the exhibits were as well.

Museum archives, in the museum itself

Museum archives, in the museum itself

One exhibit consisted solely of the ‘archives’ brough up to the main area of the museum: rows and rows of Indiana-Jones style artifacts locked in cages, awaiting the right exhibition. It’s a great idea. You see a lot of notes in museums ‘from the museum archives,’ and I liked seeing what that meant.

Shipping exhibition

Shipping exhibition

Theoretically the museum concerns itself with the history of Antwerp, but it really spans the world. There was a pre-Colombian Indian exhibition, an exhibition on shipbuilding, and modern art. The aesthetics of the museum may have been the best I’ve seen: even the walls and layout were interesting.

View from MAS

View from MAS

Maybe the best part of the museum was the view from the roof. Like most European cities, Antwerp is basically flat, so the rare tall buildings offer a stunning view.

Some sort of university hazing, I think.

Some sort of university hazing, I think.

Walking around the city, I started to realize that most of these Northern European cities had similar characteristics. Belgium, the Netherlands, and even Germany all have similar characteristics: they’re distinct from Italy (or presumably, Spain, Greece, Hungary, etc, though I can’t speak to that just yet).

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There’s one other thing I have to talk about. Antwerp’s train station is incredible. Maybe not the best overall train station (Berlin’s Hauptbahnhof is a perfect modernist work), but certainly the best combination of modern and Victorian.

Antwerpen-Centraal entrance

Antwerpen-Centraal entrance

Throughout European cities, train stations received a level of respect that’s just absent here in the US. And it wasn’t always like that: the destruction of the old Penn Station was one of the great tragedies of NYC history (seriously, look at some of these photos). There are some nice train stations in the US (Washington and Philadelpha are both pretty), but nothing like Europe.

Antwerpen-Centraal boarding area

Antwerpen-Centraal boarding area

It’s not just the stations, or their scale, but the care that goes into their design – everything is so well laid out, the times and tracks are easy to access, and taking the train simply isn’t stressful. Compare to Penn Station today, a cesspool of filth buried deep underground.

Europe, 2013: Ghent

1015bridge
October 15-17

Little did I know that Ghent, sandwiched between bureaucratic Brussels and industrial Antwerp, would be my favorite city in Belgium – and maybe one of the best cities I’ve visited.

I visited Belgium in part because I absolutely loved In Bruges (both the comedy and the scenery). So I had big expectations for Bruges. But in the end, Ghent was better in every way.

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Ghent lies right in the center of the country, a big trading port that was the second-largest Northern European city (after Paris) for much of the middle ages. It was also a big brewing city, home of beguinages (monasteries for women), and had a large wool industry.

There are two central areas of the city, one the crossroads of a few canals, the other a row of large squares near the two dominant church buildings (Saint Nicholas’ Church and Saint Baavos’ Cathedral). The whole center is stunning, with little windy streets, the largest pedestrian zone in Belgium, canals, castles, chocolates, beer.

Typical houses along the main canal

Typical houses along the main canal

I took the canal tour, of course, but two years on I remember little except that the guide was funny. I love canal or boat tours of any city I visit. It’s provides a different, lower perspective that meanders to unexpected parts of the city – and it’s relaxing to boot.

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Ghent has a community of local artists, so there were cool local sculptures along the canal, including a totally badass avenging angel.

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I knew in advance of my trip that scheduling my visit for October was asking for trouble – it’s the rainy season in Belgium. It was a bit of a bummer, but on the other hand there were few other tourists and I knew that I wanted the most authentic experience possible later, when I visited the World War One battlefields. The only downside is that grey skies can make for some boring pictures.

Gravensteen

Gravensteen

One of the big highlights of the city – at least, one of the things that you can’t avoid when you visit – is the castle that looms over the canal, and which presides over the northwest part of the city. This castle, called Gravensteen, dates back to the twelfth century, but it fell out of use during the industrial revolution and was in the process of being converted into other buildings when it was saved as a historical landmark – but it was already in deep ruin; the restoration process was intensive.

Square in front of the castle

Square in front of the castle

I got tickets and took a self-guided tour, and it feels a bit like a Disneyland castle. There was a weapons exhibit complete with guillotine, and it’s tough to tell what’s original and what’s not. The view, at least, is great. But I think I would have been better served going to the top of the cathedral.

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I was staying at an AirBnB location run by two gay guys, and I talked with them a bit. Like most of the other AirBnBs, they had something like 4 steep stories. They lived on two, rented one on AirBnB and rented out two tiny apartments to college students. I never saw the college students.

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It was interesting talking to the hosts, though. They were watching a soccer game on my first night, a world cup preliminary. Belgium is one of those world-cup teams with a ton of huge names, that just doesn’t gel. They outperform their population and underperform expectations, if that makes any sense.

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We also talked a bit about the divide in Belgium. As you may or may not know, there’s no real reason for Belgium to exist as a country. IT sort of fell together. It’s divided into two sections, a Flemish-speaking Northern portion and a French-speaking southern portion, and there’s separatists. It’s a bit like the US, the southern portion is more rural and there’s ill-will that they’re dragging down the richer urban north. The Flemish speakers want to do their own thing.

Aside from all the cathedrals and boats and beautiful streets (and a few hours where I was violently ill), my most enduring memory of Belgium is when I knocked on the door of the main floor living area and opened it to find these two guys sitting together right by the door, on a little couch, looking utterly content.

Europe, 2013: Brussels

Grote Markt, Belgium

Grote Markt, Brussels

From Iceland, I flew into Brussels. You couldn’t call it a city that I wanted to visit: it was the cheapest place to fly, and I thought I’d spend a few days because it’s the center of the EU, and so on, before moving on to Ghent.

This being Belgium, the first thing I wanted was to grab a beer. There’s a lot of unique styles of beer in Belgium, notable Gueuze(a really distinctive bitter lambic… I didn’t like it), Kriek (a cherry beer brewed with Belgian yeast, which I loved), and then the Trappist beers, like Chimay.

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Finding my first stop, a famous brewery/restaurant, was difficult because it was hidden inside a little corridor off the main street, with no sign visible from the outside. And the streets in Brussels are just a mess to follow. Signs are all in French and Flemish, but they don’t post signs together. Each street has two names, one in each language. Flemish is somewhere between German and English, so I could get a rough feel for many of the street names. And a lot of French words are intelligible to English speakers when written down. It was like wandering through a Flemish-French dictionary, and trying not to get lost…

Beer at A La Becasse

Beer at A La Becasse

Luckily, I found the bar. All the bars I visited in central Brussels were really fancy. Either with a Victorian feel, or a more down-to-earth wooden charm. This place was called A La Becasse, they brewed their own beer. It was mostly empty when I visited and I just relaxed and planned my visit.

Manneken Pis

Manneken Pis

I walked through the main tourist district, which is relatively small, to see the Manneken Pis, a tiny statue of a boy urinating in a fountain. It’s supposed to convey how ‘cheeky’ the Belgians are. People from around the world send him costumes and he gets dressed up. Apparently there’s a museum that shows these costumes (no, I didn’t visit).

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I kinda liked Brussels, but it’s a tough city to love. There’s a lot of government buildings, for both the EU and Belgium, and there’s no unified style like I’d see out in the smaller cities. Medieval cities next to huge classical-style ministries of Justice. You can’t get your hands on what the country means… just like it’s tough to get a grasp on Belgium as a whole, a country divided between two languages, a tiny peaceful little place that owned of the most horrific colonies in Africa, the Belgian Congo.

Palace of Justice

Palace of Justice

I visited the Palace of Justice, a huge imposing building that the Belgians I talked to intensely disliked. It’s huge and dour, like something out of 1984.

Inside the entrance hall of the Palace of Justice

Inside the entrance hall of the Palace of Justice

Located outside the city center, as you walk back, there are charming murals from the famous Belgian comic book artists (Hergé, author of Tintin, was Belgian, and culturally the country still appreciates comic books).

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There’s a lot of random history in Brussels, as you might expect. It has the oldest shopping malls in the world.

Fancy chocolate store in one of the oldest shopping malls in the world.

Fancy chocolate store in one of the oldest shopping malls in the world.

As well as artisinal chocolate, crazy artwork, and a mishmash of cultures.

Standard beer selection in a 7-11 type convenience store! Chimay, Leffe, Hoegarten, etc!

Standard beer selection in a 7-11 type convenience store! Chimay, Leffe, Hoegarten, etc!

That night I stayed at an AirBnB spot – an enormous three-story building in a more diverse neighborhood outside the city center, surrounded by tons of halal vendors, cricket matches, and Pakistani food. It was their (a small family with a toddler) first time hosting someone from AirBnB; the ceilings in all the Belgian homes I stayed in were super-high, while the apartments were narrow and the walls rich mahogony.

AirBnB room

AirBnB room

My next stop was Ghent (then: Antwerp and Bruges), as I zig-zagged my way across the country.

Europe, 2013: Iceland

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Following my cross-country camping trip, I wanted to make a quick international trip before returning to work – in this case, a week and a half in Europe, traveling to Iceland and Belgium. After spending roughly a week at home in Jersey City, I would head out to Iceland on October 10th, as an extended layover prior to visiting Belgium. I first visited Iceland the previous year, but had spent the entire time within Reykjavik. A cute little city, to be sure, but as anyone who’s seen photos of Iceland knows, it’s the countryside that surpasses other countries in its austere beauty: its waterfalls and glaciers, the volcanoes and icy beaches and hot springs, in the land of the Hulduf√≥lk.

All the gear

All the gear

My packing list: 3 pairs wool socks; 3 pairs synthetic underwear; mp3 player; batter pack; USB cables; mini-daypack; universal AC adapter; wallet; passport; compressible down coat; wool mittens; wool t-shirt; cotton t-shirt; running shorts; ultralight shoes; wool sweatshirt; boots; jeans; toiletries; jeans; belt; Kindle; Nexus tablet; camera. Of these I never used the ultalight shoes (I had hoped to train for a marathon that I would run a few weeks after returning, but found myself distracted, and didn’t really want to run in unfamiliar cities).

Typical four-wheel-drive vehicle near Gullfoss

Typical four-wheel-drive vehicle near Gullfoss

There are a few ways to tour the Icelandic countryside: you can do a quick bus trip, rent a car, or go on a four-wheel drive expedition. Many of the roads on the country’s interior are deep gravel and only suitable for four-wheel drive vehicles. I wanted the autonomy to travel at my own pace, so I opted for the car rental.

My cute little rental car

My cute little rental car

I didn’t have a ton of sights in mind, and didn’t have the time for a country-wide tour (I really, really wanted to hike the interior, like the incredible Made in Iceland video, but I simply didn’t have the time. Put it on the to-do list!)

The eponymous Geysir

The eponymous Geysir

There’s such diverse terrain, and after picking up my rental (mental note: make sure to explicitly look for automatic transmissions in Europe), I simply tried to navigate the roads in roughly the right direction. It was foggy, rainy, I was in an unfamiliar car in another country, so it’s safe to say I was cared witless. Nonetheless, I made it to Geysir, the home of the geologic phenomenon from which the geyser takes its name. I wouldn’t really say it was it was worth seeing, it certainly didn’t stack up to similar phenomena in Yellowstone or Lassen Volcanic National Park. Of greater interest to me was the countryside: desolate and dotted with long-haired sheep, looking like a cold, rainy Wyoming stranded in the middle of the North Atlantic. Pico Iyer once wrote “In Iceland, nature adores a vacuum.”

Gullfoss crevice

Gullfoss crevice

I also stopped at Gullfoss, Europe’s largest waterfall, most famous as the site of opening of Prometheus. The landscape surrounding Gullfoss is completely flat, so the river and the waterfall seem to appear out of nowhere; the waterfall is visible only from a narrow vantage point. Gullfoss is also the end of the line, where the pavement ends and turns into gravel – posted signs make it clear that only four-wheel drive vehicles are allowed.

Thingvellir - the intersection of two tectonic plates

Thingvellir – the intersection of two tectonic plates

I hoped to check out Thingvellir, the original home of the Icelandic parliament – Europe’s oldest, dating from 930. Really deep Viking territory; Thingvellir is also notable as the edge of a tectonic plate. It’s jarring in a way that’s similar to Gullfoss: a huge shelf of igneous rock right in the middle of two grassy plains.

The youth hostel I stayed at, pictured with the only nearby buildings

The youth hostel I stayed at, pictured with the only nearby buildings

I stopped at a youth hostel in the middle of nowhere (literally, the middle of nowhere – it was more isolated than Kansas. There was a little swingset out front with two kids playing on it, and I was the only guest… it was far outside the summer tourist season, or even the winter aurora borealis season. I snacked on food from the local grocery store and read about Belgium.

Church at Thingvellir

Church at Thingvellir

The next day, I only had two stops: I wanted to travel along the coast, and I wanted to visit the Blue Lagoon.

Another photo of Gullfoss waterfall

Another photo of Gullfoss waterfall

Traveling along the coast, the absolute emptiness of Iceland became readily apparent. Iceland has an area of 40k square miles. That’s roughly the size of Indiana. But its population is only 300k, of which 200k live in the Reykjavik area (Indiana has a population of 7 million). It’s possible to look at the entire country on Google maps, and see ‘major’ towns that have just 2700 residents.

World-famous Eyrirbakki

World-famous Eyrarbakki

In my case, I stopped in Eyrarbakki, population 530, on the southern coast. It was mid-morning, but I didn’t see a soul as I walked the length of the town – really a one-street town. The ocean was right there, over some rocks, and the wind was chilly. The colorful little houses, so characteristic of Nordic architecture, were here revealed to be shabby – cozy and shabby; no industry was apparent. Wikipedia dryly notes: “The most recent enterprises in Eyrarbakki have been a fish-processing plant, and an aluminum frying-pan plant. However, the main fish factory closed in the 1990s, and the frying-pan factory has closed as well.” Now it’s the site of Iceland’s largest prison, a facility that houses 87 prisoners, 63% of Iceland’s 140 prison cells (there are 12 cells for women in the country).

I also stopped at Blue Lagoon, a famous spa in geological hot springs near Reykjavik. The water is opalescent blue, and the spa is a large single pool of geothermal water outside, surrounded by volcanic rocks; standing up in the water exposes you to some bracing winds. (It’s striking, but they don’t allow photos in the spa). I enjoyed the visit as a one-time treat, but it’s quite pricey and I don’t think I’d return.

I spent the night near Reykjavik, to be ready for an early-morning flight to Brussels, Belgium.