Summer is coming – Golfing in the midnight sun

NEWS FLASH: There are six and a half month until the beginning of summer in Iceland!

Why not start planning now? After all, even thinking of the midnight sun can add a bit of sunshine to life .

It sounds crazy but the only time I have been golfing in my life was in the North of Iceland on a beautiful summer day in July and it was midnight. Magical view and great company. Golfing did not become my passion but I will never forget this experience.

Fishing at midnight is also one of the things Iceland has to offer and what a way to end the day by a beautiful river, in spectacular surroundings, with fresh air and time standing still.

I also went climbing up a mountain at 8 AM in June when I was a young woman. No time to waste in summer. Everything is possible and the feeling of energy is endless.

It´s a fact that during the summer, visitors and locals are filled with energy during the time of the midnight sun where everything is possible. So why not go golfing, horseback riding, swimming, hiking, sailing, kayaking or dancing at midnight. You can even play chess outside in the midnight sun and I´m certain you could find someone to play with you.

The feeling of peace, space and excitement when you manage to use your day to the fullest while in Iceland during summer. There is nothing like it.

I reccomend it.

Summer 2018 is just around the corner.

Time to start planning your visit to magical Iceland.

I can‘t wait to hear from you – Greetings from Helga Stina owner an founder of Iceland Unwrapped.

Iceland Unwrapped 

(Photo by Frida Hjaltested)

Beer – An important part of the Iceland experience

There has never been a better time to be a beer drinker in Iceland, with an unprecedented mix of clean-tasting lagers and craft-brewed ales, stouts, porters and Belgian-style options available to locals and travelers alike.

While Icelanders are fond of their beer, the good times have only rolled in the Land of Fire and Ice since 1989, when the country lifted its national ban on normal-strength beers.

The ban was intended to keep the hooch-loving locals on the straight and narrow, but its widespread subversion by bar owners and party hosts who mixed the watered-down 2% alcohol “Pilsener” with prime Icelandic vodka, led to a release of the small country’s untapped potential as a truly micro microbrewing superpower.

For those who indulge, Iceland offers a potent mix of microbrews.  Indeed, given the size of the market, even its standard lagers would be microbrews anywhere else.  I am a big fan of two: Gull and Brio, which are both brewed at Reykjavik’s Olgerdin brewery and benefit from the pristine Icelandic glacier water with which they are brewed. Olgerdin also has a small visitor’s center and a range of craft micro beers, the Borg range, anchored by Borg’s Garun Nr.19 Icelandic Stout and with more than 60 mainly British, Irish, and Belgian-inspired brews.

My preferences aren’t universally shared: rival lager Viking Beer, from the city of Akureyri in the country’s north, beats out Reykjavik’s Gull as the country’s market leader.  Perhaps its slogan gives some insight: “You deserve to feel like a Viking at heart. You deserve to drink like one too. You deserve Viking Beer.”

Akureyri’s also represented in the world of craft and micro beers, with Einstok, a local brewery. Einstok produces ales, bocks and porters highlighting the city’s proximity to the Arctic Circle, and enjoys good national distribution.

Sampling these brews is easy in Iceland’s often-excellent collection of pubs and beer bars, with Olstofan and Kaldi being personal favorites.  Olstofan is kind of like a laid-back journalists’ bar with enthusiastic bartenders, and Kaldi more like a US fraternity house from the late 1980s.

Outside of the bars and licensed restaurants, finding a decent beer requires some local knowledge.  Unless you go to the state-run Vinbudin, which has a healthy selection of more than 300 beer options, it will be as if 1989 had never happened.

But a cold lightweight “pilsener” with one of Iceland’s distinctive lamb-based hot dogs, or with a hamburger at a gas station lunch counter has its place. It is a traditional part of the Iceland experience.

If you are coming to Iceland, will beer be on your agenda? Helgastina can arrange brewery visits, recommend watering holes and make sure your favorite microbrew type is waiting for you when you Dine with the Icelanders.

Mike Klein is an American writer and Belgian beer enthusiast based in The Netherlands.

The Rolemodels, My Foremothers

When I was growing up in Iceland, I was surrounded by powerful women. My mother came from the “West fjords” in northwest Iceland where life was harsh, nature was brutal and women often had to lead the fight for their families survival.

My grandmother on my father’s side came from the relatively isolated Snaefellsnes peninsula. In most coastal areas in Iceland, the main livelihood at the beginning of the 20th century came from fishing the treacherous North Atlantic. My great-grandfather, Adalsteinn, had bought his own fishing boat to provide for his family: my great grandmother Helga, for whom I am named, and my grandmother Kristin for whom I also named. Adalsteinn’s ship tragically went down on the coast, visible to the village where he had been born and in front of his wife and two-year-old daughter.

The day after the officials of the area came to collect all of the belongings of the family to pay for the boat that had just gone down so tragically.

Fortunately Helga had a good friend, a woman, who agreed before the officials arrived that it would be best that Helga would give her belongings to her, to prevent them from being taken from her. A powerful act by a powerful friend who managed to save family treasures, some of which still belong to the family. When my wonderful Aunt Helga (also named after our grandmother) told me this story I was impressed by the power of this incident and the kindness and courage of my great-grandmother’s friend in those days.

Since I was a young woman, my group of friends and I have shared stories of our fore mothers in Iceland, we have talked about great women heroes of ours, like the first woman president of the Republic of Iceland, Vigdis Finnbogadottir, Audur Laxness, the wife of our Nobel prize winner, the women settlers and Viking women who went through tough situations, took risks, and found a way to survive powerfully in making the world more tolerable to those around them. We have made trips to honor these women, visited their places of birth and so on and so forth.

Indeed, Iceland has produced many women who have made a significant difference to its society, and in many cases, well beyond our borders.  Our heritage of empowerment—in many cases borne out of necessity like in the case of my foremothers—helps sustain a culture which, while not perfect, is one of high support, encouragement, and expectation.

Helga Kristin Fridjonsdottir (Helga Stina) is an Icelander based in Delft in the Netherlands.  A custom Iceland Travel Planner, Helga Stina is currently organizing an international women’s leadership tour of the country.

Is there an authentic way to visit Iceland?

A respectful visit to one of the gems of the world

Iceland

Iceland is a very popular destination at the moment.

When I tell people about my firm, Iceland by helgastina, everyone I meet says either that Iceland is one of their dream destinations, or that they have been there and would gladly go again. Very flattering for an Icelander to receive such good feedback.

But should I just recommend everyone to jump on a plane and go to Iceland as soon as possible?

Well that would have been the case some years ago when Iceland was still a bit unknown and people had to be persuaded to go there for a visit. Questions like “Isn´t it just horribly cold?,” “isn´t it very cold?,” “isn´t it too cold?” were the most common ones.

My answer used to be a little briefing on the historic misunderstandings of the names of Greenland and Iceland, or I would explain that it would be ok to be cold in Iceland because of the geothermally heated pools. Or I would calm people down telling them that there is no such thing as bad weather in modern times, only insufficient clothing.

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Now when these issues are not stopping people from travelling to my country, another challenge has emerged.

Too many tourists.

It might sound a bit weird from an Iceland Travel Planner to tell you that Iceland has too many tourists, but it is true. And the aim of Iceland by helgastina Travelplanner is to connect people and to ensure that people get a unique experience when travelling to Iceland. Not a standard touristy solution that is supposed to fit everyone. That is so not Iceland in my opinion.

When travelling to Iceland nowadays, you need to know where to go, what to see, who to meet to get the real Iceland, the peace, the power of nature, the hospitality of the people and amazing food, of course.

That is why my mission is even more clear to me now than ever before since I started this adventure.

Iceland is crowded with tourists, placing massive burdens on the infrastructure, especially at over-touristed sites like the Blue Lagoon. But Iceland does have a lot of space, and there are still many breathtaking and under-touristed sites and experiences to be found.

Flatey

As a travel planner who specializes in creating adventures off the beaten path, I would be delighted to help to make your visit a respectful one towards the precious nature, history and people of Iceland.

More info and customized offers on www.helgastina.com

 

A dash of energy

I have been living abroad for many years now and it is amazing how I miss my country at times.

I try to go to Iceland at least twice a year to meet family and friends and to get the kick of being there in the landscape and energy. I don’t worry so much about the weather when I am over there. I put on an extra jacket, cover my head and face, and I am basically fine.

When arriving at the International airport in Keflavik, an hour outside of Reykjavik, the first impression normally involves wind in one’s face. Massive bursts of fresh air, often in the company of a little rain who never goes straight down but seems to find its own path each and every time.

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It is amazing how a shock of fresh air awakes you and gives you energy on the spot, and you are ready for anything.

The drive through the lava rocks on the way to Reykjavik is a trip in itself.

It is kind of like looking at the ocean or the clouds. Nothing really happens . You could look at the landscape for hours and imagine a lot of things…it has its shape and I start to think about the stories I heard when I was a kid about trolls and elves and the hidden people and spirits who are hiding in the stones.

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The weather in Iceland is not the reason for traveling over there, unless you find sudden climatic changes remarkable. It is better to pack your whole wardrope when you go for a walk because the weather changes every five minutes, and it can occasionally cover the full range of seasons in an hour.

When I took my sweeet boyfriend to Iceland for the second time we went for a short trip. Originally we were planning to go to Snæfellsnes peninsula, which is one of the most fantastic and energetic places on earth. It’s where my father’s side of the family comes from; my mother’s side from the Western fjords (West Fjords). These two parts of Iceland are known for being very stark and imposing and powerful and I am raised with stories of witches and spiritual people from there. Apparently one of my great great grandfathers was burnt at the stake for witchcraft in the days when alternative medicine was not considered socially acceptable. A least that is what I heard.

Because the weather didn´t allow us to go to Snæfellsnes, we decided to go to Thingvellir and then further. The weather was supposed to be better in that direction. After a snow storm came in from Thingvellir, we experienced all weather possible…rain, sun, wind, snow, hail. Amazing and scary at the same time. Puts you in your place. You cannot control nature and you cannot control Iceland or Icelanders for that matter. We go our own way for good or for bad. We are an independent people, as the title of our one Nobel Prize-winning novel would call us.

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My boyfriend is not very fund of cold beaches so I took him to a beach. It was raining. It was crazy windy and I just shouted into the wind because that is the main thing one can do under such circumstances. I think it must be like months of therapy to get all of that energy out of your system and get a new one from the black volcano stones and wind and the amazing powerful ocean with all of its secrets and tragedies. I love it. He was shocked but understood the extent of my craziness a bit better I think.

 

If you would like to experience the wind, energy, snow, sun, rain and people who go down their own path, or to see the scenery that lines such a path, please contact me. I am Helga Stina, and I invite you to Iceland by helgastina.

www.helgastina.com