Friday, December 28, 2012

Czech 'Forrest Gump' runs 30 marathons in 30 days around Iceland

A Czech runner, who doctors said might never walk again after a car crash, had finished a 30-day run around Iceland in September 2012. 38-year-old Rene Kujan has run 1,340 kilometres (838 miles), equivalent to 30 marathons in order to raise money for the Wheelchair Sports Club in Prague.
The quest has earned him the moniker of the "Czech Forrest Gump", after the film character who spent years running across America in the 1994 US film.

We, at GO LOCAL ICELAND, have interviewed Rene and are glad to share it with you here below.

 Those interested in joining Rene and supporting the good cause, please follow the details:
  Support wheelchair sportsmen!
 Wheelchair Sports Club in Prague
Bank name: Fio banka, a.s., V Celnici 1028/10, Praha 1, Czech Republic
Beneficiary: SKV Praha, Ovčárská 471, 108 00 Praha 10, Czech Republic
IBAN: CZ65201000 00002600062191 BIC: FIOBCZPPXXX
Unique variable code: 11001002 more details here.

Interview:
1, What is your biggest memory from your visits in Iceland?
When thinking of my last visit, out of 5, then definitely the chance to meet an excellent marathon runner Ívar Josafatsson. Truly deep experience happened on my first and last day of the run around Iceland in 30 days. It is mostly thanks to Ívar and some other great people. The first day was rather modest, I was accompanied by a few runners. However, meeting each and every of them was very important to me. When it comes to natural beauty in Iceland, I simply have to mention the whole Iceland. Each and every corner of this land has its own charm. I like ‚meeting‘ these places and, they, in return show me something new back each time. I love coming to Dalvik, where we met some really nice people and I might end up going to Grimsey one day from there.

2, What is it that makes you come back to Iceland over and over again? It is some sort of irrational attraction. And, at the same time, I´m able to rationalize it. Ilike north, plains covered with snow, winter, cold, rough nature, which actually isn´t that rough, once one tries to understand it. I like uninhabited regions, places, where one can wander for days without having car or factory smells disturbing. I like those last bits on earth, where human has not interfered much yet. And that´s exactly where Iceland has its full credit. Iceland has many regions, as described above and Icelanders should definitely protect them. There will always be more and more money at stake, however, places like this, they do not get created. If Iceland was a person, it´s very likely we´d be brothers. We´re quite similar. Sometimes melancholic, sometimes extremely merry, which can be changing very fast and we both like Northern Lights above us.

3, Why did you choose Iceland for your 30x30 project and not some other country in the world? 
I´ve partially answered in the previous answer. I actually feel that it was not me choosing Iceland, but Iceland has chosen me. There, I can find all important elements I like – rough northern landscape, run and my family. Even the fact that Iceland is an island has its special charm – the borderlines are clearly set and it cannot get lost in any bigger state formation. It´s always been a separate unit, which can only be reached by crossing the sea somehow.

4, Before you started off your 30x30 journey you had certain ideas and expectations of what it would be like. Can you name at least one expectation which was met and you´re extremely happy about it, and which worry (if any) was met and you´re truly sad about it? 
I´d expected I would meet a few nice and interesting Icelanders. And this has come true a my expectations were by far surpassed. I was leaving home feeling that I actually have some true friends in Iceland. I feared wind a little – and it even showed us its power big time at the beginning. It was very hard to run against the wind, which was the case during the first 10 days. After that we had really nice weather and all went very smoothly.

5, What parts of Iceland are you specifically connected to and why? (please be as concrete as possible, when it comes to places) As mentioned earlier, each and every part of Iceland has a unique charm for me and I´m able to find beauty in each and very of them. The ones that I particularly like, they include thermal wells.

6, What is it that you liked about Icelandic tourism and services during your 30x30 and what are the changes you would like to see in the future? I belong to a crowd of less demanding tourists. As long as car rentals and accommodation services function well (which, in my opinion is the case in Iceland), then everything is OK. It is handy to have enough information material about regions, and detailed publication and I reckon that there´s abundance of them, both in bookshops as well as in information centers. What is a bit pity, especially for travelers from central Europe, is the fact that Iceland is a rather expensive country. But I´m not sure, how much tourism industry as such is responsible for this.

7, If you were to give just ONE advice to a Czech tourist coming to Iceland, what would it be? 
Run around this beautiful island! It is really big fun!

Private story of truly local travellers, part II.

The whole journey lasted one month all in all - partly in June and partly in July. We slept in sleeping bags, sometimes in tents - mostly in camps, sometimes out of camps, by some roads, on beaches in cottages (that was the case on the peninsual behind Grenivik), and a few nights at our friend´s Lenka on matraces. A few interesting facts: Weather: Despite having been warned that it can rain loads, we were quite lucky as it rained just a little. We even got to know that June 2012 was one of the driest in the past few years. Otherwise, we fully enjoyed northern wind and sun, cold and sweaty T-shirts. There was some frost during one night. Each and every valley brought different kinds of weather. It was foggy on one, rain in the otehr one and right next to it could be a sunny valley. White nights: We got to Iceland on summer solstice and we successfully slept it over, (unlike our friend Lukas who actually danced it through by fire) even-though the sun has not set. Well, it did set after midnight, just for the sake of rising again at around 1 in the morning. We didn´t get to see darkness during our stay at all. Landscape: Volcanic, glacier-ed, fjords, sea, ocean, glacier rivers (bleary), clear rivers (not connected to glaciers), waterfalls - literally everywhere, geothermal s, plains, deserts, mountains, snow, wasteland, colours - green, grey, brown...different landscape in each and every valley - first look (wasteland impression), second look (impression of diversity), third look (breathtaking landscape). People: We haven´t met a bad person. Those who we´ve met were ready to help, without hesitation. So to answer the question of many of my friends:'What the hell Icelanders do there on that distant island?' - they live, help, fish, drink and are happy, they´re trying to solve more important and less important issues and don´t steal. Fauna: Loads of birds, sheep, horses, some hens. We´ve even seen polar fox and a head of seal. Not reindeers, though. Some spiders, surprisingly enough. Whales, salmon and believe it or not, our friends were chased by a polar bear (he was hungry and was from Greenland). Flora: Loads of flowers. They looked rather bizarre in volcanic wastelands. Even the ones familar to us from central Europe, just that they had arctic touch: dandyline, alchemila vulgaris, wild thyme... Food: Excellent butter (smjor), youghurt, chedar, beer viking, pizza, pastry was disappointing. Lamb meat and fish at Lenka´s. Couscous made in 100 ways, lentils, pasta, rice, ready made soups, oats with pudding and other similar goodies made on our gas cooker. Hitch-hiking: It was very smooth as long as we didn´t have to be at a concrete place. When we needed to catch our ferry and truly needed to get to Seydisfjordur by certain time, either there were no cars or were not ready to take us, so we ended up hitchhiking a bus.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Private story of truly local travellers part I.

This is a first rough overview of an itinerary of our dear friends who decided to explore Iceland in a bit different way. Here is the part 1: We reached Iceland by boat. For us, it meant travelling by bus from Prague to Copenhagen and then carrying on to Hirsthals (north of Denmark). The boat leaves once a week to Iceland via Faroe islands (stopping in the capital Thórshavn and ends in Seydisfjordur, located in the eastern part of Iceland. All in all, the boat journey itself took 2 and a half days. Our transport within Iceland was the following: hitchhiking, a few expensive public buses and the rest by foot. We set off, from Seydisfjordur in the direction of Egilstaddir, hitchhiking and having passed these places: Vopnafjordur, Bakkafjordur, Thorshofn we ended up in Ásbyrgi. In Ásbyrgi, being a starting point of a National Park Jókulsárgljúfur, we gave ourselves 2 and a half exploring days all the way to Dettifoss waterfall (reputed for being the most powerful in Europe. Next stop was lake Myvatn, where we got by bus and then rented a bike and took a cycling trip around the lake. After that we hitchhiked to Grenivik. There, we went for a four-day hike 'at the end of the world' - basically going around the peninsula located above Grenivik. Hitchhiking again and then via second biggest town of Iceland (Akureyri), we headed to Dalvík, where we have a friend Lenka and her family. We spent 3 days there and then carried on to Westfjords. Unfortunately, the transport frequency for hitchhiking there was really low and that´s why we changed our minds and headed south instead. We missed out on Reykjavik on purpose unlike National park of Thingvellir, where we enjoyed the whole day. From there on, hitchhiking again to Sellfoss and then to a base camp for Landmanalaugar trek (famous for its colourful mountain formations). Our trek lasted for 3 days and a half, ending in Thórsmork, unless one wants to carry on all the way to a glacier. After this trek, we took a bus to get us to the ring road number, from where, as we were hoping, we´d hitchhike all the way to Seydisfjordur. However, the hitchhiking luck was not really on our side and thus we luckily caught a bus from Hofn to Egilstadir (240 km). We ended up hitchhiking from Egilstadir to Seydisfjordur to catch the boat, stopping at Faroe Islands for 3 days and then reaching Denmark again. What was left, was a train to Copenhagen, sightseeing there and taking a night bus from Copenhagen to Prague. That´s very rough overview of a journey itself in a nutshell and the details are to come in the following parts, so keep on staying tuned.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Local food to be ready for winter

We, at GO LOCAL, love local events and if they´re connected to food, then even better. So, we did not hesitate a minute, once we got an invitation to take part in 'Bjúgu making' and set off from Dalvík to Skeiðsfoss - a small farm house close to Skeiðfoss power plant. There, in a small cellar, lots of local fresh lamb meat was being minced, when we arrived. The meat would then be used as a base for special lambmeat sausages called Bjúgu in icelandic. Quite an experience to watch 4 locals filling in special sausage sacks and tying strings around so that one big whole piece would then turn into 8 small pieces to be ready to get smoked in a cute little shed built right next to the house. and next one, and next one, and believe it or not it took them an hour all in all to make 320 pieces. After having been smoked, sausages are then kept in the freezer and used throughout winter to be served to hungry icelandic stomachs. As far as I know, the preparation is very simple, as they are simply boiled once they have been defrosted and served with traditional white sauce very similar to bechamel. Well, I must admit that I missed singing during the whole making, which apparently used to be a tradition in old days. Hm, maybe my friend Sibba will eventually bring the tradition back. And for those, who are ready to taste these 'directly from farm' sausages, you´re welcome to do so at BJARNARGIL guesthouse on your travels around Iceland, once exploring beautiful places hidden off the beaten track. Staying there over night is an experience on its own.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

How to become invisible

Oh yes, even tricks like this can be learnt at the Sorcery museum and witchcraft in Hólmavík. The main employee and the showman is Siggi who is a guide not only with his body but also with his soul fully. We were visiting as a group and were privileged to have theatrical sightseeing with all the important details while exploring Icelandic witchcraft. Now, Siggi is not only a great guide but also excellent cook and thus he spoiled us with muscles directly from the fjord and home-made bread and home-grown parsley and delicious sauce......hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm. definitely recommended. We were there out of the main season but lucky with a nice autumn day so one could enjoy local hikes to the full. Afternoon was dedicated to a unique visit. We drove south of Hólmavík and ended up in Sheep´s museum. Well, I was having doubts about the place - hearing the name did not really make me imagine exciting place to visit. However, the reality turned out to be the opposite. Powerful story of a community house which was getting abandoned and neglected and then revived by local enthusiasts who proudly gathered local sheep farmers and created a really inviting place in the memory of sheep farming in Iceland, with special focus on local area of Strandir. Sævangur - this is what the house is called - has a small and cosy coffee bar where guests can sit down and relax over a cup of coffee and genuine Icelandic cakes and bread. Handicraft- and souvenir store placed in the lobby of Sævangur sells crafts made mostly by locals. And last but not least, just a stone-throw away from Sævangur one can watch seals and edier ducks and even visit natural hot pots in the vicinity, such as (Drangsnes and Krosnesslaug. We are really excited about Westfjords and recommend you to take good week or two to explore them and enjoy hikes and culture it has to offer.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

To rent or not to rent a car while in Iceland...what a question

Quite a few of you have written to us wondering whether to rent a car or not and if yes what company, once travelling to Iceland. So, we´ve figured that it´s the right time for sharing our experience and offering some small summary of what we know. First a few useful questions, you should ask yourself: 1, What kind of traveller am I? - Do I prefer, going with a flow, taking it easy, leaving it up to a destiny and hitchhiking and simply going where my rides take me? - Do I prefer being in charge of my travels fully and having my freedom to go whereever I feel like within my timeframe? - Am I somewhere in the middle of those too extrems above? 2, How much money am I willing to spend on renting a vehicle in Iceland? 3, When I buy service (such as car rental) - am I looking at quality and guarantee in relation to price? Nice, we hope that you have your answers clear and now having them in mind, read on... For those who are not interested in car rentals and can go with a flow, we would like to point out a great carpooling site that has been working really well in Iceland. We have personal experience with it and have only good things to say about it. If you prefer going with the flow completely, then hitchhiking is a good choice. If you happen to arrive by ferry, then it´s recommended to hitchhike southwest first towards Reykjavík and then head north and east, as it´s more likelyhood that you get rides in the North, thus no stress about catching a ferry back to Europe on time. For those who want to hire a car, BEWARE. There are many car rentals on the Icelandic market these days. Hm, you probably figured yourself by googling 'rent a car in Iceland'...but, there are only a few that have been on the market considerably long. We have a personal experience with Iceland largest car rental (connected to Europecar) and we´ve been very satisfied each and every time we used their service. When writing this post, I´ve discovered a site that helps you find good deals on car rentals within leading car rental brands. We have no personal experience with it, but at least you have a quick price comparison before you decide to search on webs of different car rentals. There are companies like BUDGET, THRIFTY, AVIS to name a few and many more that have been founded recently. Your comments and feedback related to your experience with car rental service is warmly welcome here as it will help others. Should you have any questions, related to this topic, do get in touch: lenka.uhrova@gmail.com

Fishing village worth exploring

We have big news for those who love exploring places "off the beaten track" and far away from crowds. Today, we want to let you know that a big step in tourism of Dalvík - a small fishing village in the longest fjord of North Iceland - has happened recently. Local whale-watching company has just opened a small and very comfortable center for tourists which we encourage you to check out, even if you don´t necessarily fancy booking a whale watching tour. WHY? - because, you can check out old black and white photos taken around half a century ago that takes you back to the atmosphere around the Dalvík harbour and on boats back then, - because, you can enjoy looking at localy made handicraft and eventually buying it if you wish so, - because you can get a ticket for a ferry that takes passengers 3 times a week all the way above the Arctic circle, - because, you can just chill out and have some snack a chat with staff advising you on what is there to do and explore once in Dalvík. We´ve been watching tourism development in Dalvík closely for the past few years and must admit that we see this brave move of a local whale-watching company as a huge step, helping you - local travellers - find local handicraft, enjoy local horse-back riding, get advise on what is there to explore and stay away from the big crowd. Now, a few words about the whale-watching in Dalvík. In opposition to well promoted whale-watching destinations of Húsavík and Reykjavík, whale-watching in Dalvík stays more personal and is still less crowded. Freyr, the captain of this all, is very clear on his uniqueness when it comes to personal service and we hope and keep the fingers crossed that his visions of authentic tourism will stay that way in years to come. I would like to share my personal experience here, when I was invited to the tour 2 years ago. Before saying yes, I was cautiously double checking with Freyr (the captain) sea conditions. Having been sea sick a few times before, I really didn't feel like vomitting over the whales... The answer I got was: 'Don´t worry, the sea is like a mirror today, you´re really lucky', and yes, lucky I was, both with the calm sea and with playful whales who didn´t hesitate a minute to show off and splash their tales in all its glory. And last but not least, Freyr has a surprise ready for his customers, which I won´t tell you more about, as it would not be a surprise anymore. OK, that´s it for today. More about Dalvík and tips on what to explore here, in the upcoming posts, so stay tuned. For now, I just say that Dalvík is surrounded by breathtaking mountains and hiking is one of very enjoyable activities to do here to feel the area and get to know it better. last but not least, worthwhile article about how to buy icelandair miles cheaply and travel to Alaska for example.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Authentic hospitality in mountains embrace




Easter is knocking on the door and we were privileged to get an Easter lunch invitation by our friends running a truly 'GO LOCAL ICELAND' guesthouse, here on the Peninsula of Trolls.

The weather was not spectacular at all, drizzle, fog and not much snow in the mountains. The cool, early spring air full of humidity promising the coming of the summer and soon to be green grass. Perfect setting for people to enjoy delicious food and good company in the warmth of a friendly house together.
As we set off from Dalvík, we took our favourite way, leading through Olafsjordur, and Siglufjordur, using a newly built tunnel.

Well, Olafsjordur welcomed us with its typical 'money smell' - smell coming from a fish processing company and Siglufjordur was in bloom, as usual, with its shiny and colourful houses - nice lively contrast to gloomy fog.
We passed through both towns without stopping and headed to Bjarnargil - a farm house, where a beautiful couple (Trausti and Sibba), who have worked hard as farmers most of their lives, run tourism business now. Reminiscent of the 'good old days' is a set of buildings where they used to keep their cattle.

We, at GO LOCAL ICELAND, love them for their hospitality, modesty, enthusiasm, authenticity, openness and...well, you tell us more adjectives, once you experience their service and share your impressions with us.

We definitely recommend you to stay there, once you´re exploring the area of Troll Peninsula and are looking for a truly local place with family like service and reasonable prices.
Booking food with them is an excellent choice too as Sibba is a magnificent cook, using a great variety of local and home-made ingredients.

Last but not least, Trausti is an awesome local giude, knowing the area better than his own palms, and you´re more than encouraged to join some of the tours he offers throughout the summer.

And this is what it looks like, north of Bjarnargil on an April foggy Easter day...

Friday, January 20, 2012

West Fjords in winter


We´re glad to introduce a spot, which is far away from Eyjafjordur, but just as interesting as our area if you´re tuned on exploring OFF the beaten track.

A friend of Go Local Iceland, Neil, has been renting an apartment in Flateyri and we want to share more about this hidden destination, letting Neil talk:

'There has been a lot of snowfall, making it a good option for various winter sports – as well as cross country and downhill skiing, there is also snow shoeing and various backcountry skiing adventures which can be organised locally. If you couple this with the prospect of seeing the northern lights, which is, in my experience, very good in this part of Iceland, you can see why I think tourism will take off in the region.
However, for the time being at least the area remains pretty much untouched, and particularly so in winter. Getting there is easier than you think, but difficult enough to put most people off.

The Icelandic airlines (www.icelandair.co.uk, and www.icelandexpress.co.uk) currently offer up to three flights a day to Iceland from London, and several weekly flights from Glasgow and Manchester. This will all change when easyJet (www.easyjet.com) start flying from Luton on 29th March, and WOW Air (www.wowair.is), a new Icelandic airline commence operations in June, flying from Stansted.

Getting to the apartment requires a days drive, or you take an internal flight, from Reykjavik to Isafjordur, on Air Iceland (www.airiceland.is). Best to get a 4x4 if possible. My advice is to take things slowly, and expect the unexpected. It's all part of the adventure.'

If you are interested, do not hesitate and give Neil a shout and we´ll keep you updated about common cooperation on GO LOCAL ICELAND.

Happy journeys and Off the track explorations.