Yesterday a glacier; today an Iceberg…tomorrow?

Ok, we are on the plane to Reykjavik and my first Icelandic beer. This is named after the biscuit baron, Sæmundur. This one has mango for those hot summer 66° North nights. How cool to have a beer bear your name! Think they will name on after the tax genius?

I remember this brewery from our last visit. They have a beer called 14/2. I thought it was the European version of Valentine’s Day but nope. It was to commemorate a soccer game score between Iceland and Denmark. I was quite enthused that my guys whooped the Danes by such a lopsided score. I was corrected though – the visiting Danish team beat Iceland baaadly. It seems the owner of the brewery is Danish too. Nice nose rubbing, Lars! (At least it is a good beer).

Iceland Air is taking delivery of new 737 Max jets and the same brewery has come up with a 737 brew full of PNW hops. An IPA no less.

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Ok, that was the getting to Iceland part of the adventure.

Now it is Wednesday and we have had our hiking boots on the ground for three days. What a beautiful country – we are very happy to be back.

Last visit here was September ’15 and boy has the place changed. We think it is a combination of the following three provisions – the time of year, the part of the country where we be and it is 3 years of more advertising and marketing to get people here. It has worked.

There are a lot more tourists, hotels, restaurants and outfitters for excursions. Rick Steves has written an Iceland book now & holy moly, there is even a Costco here!

On Monday we had a zodiac tour of a glacier lagoon called Jökulsárlón. It was pretty darn cool to be on the water (very cold, I might add) with ice bergs all around us.

As you can see, we had a great weather day, too.

Right by our hotel was our own private waterfall (Grófarlækjarfoss – foss means falls).

It was a great first day but the fun continued for us on Tuesday- this time we hiked ON A GLACIER! Now, we have been close to these things in boats and boots before but never actually treading on thousand year old ice and drinking from the river created by the melt. Our guide, Simeon, said, “…yesterday this was glacier, now it is river.” We were a group of 12 and it was a very long but fun 5+ hours. We hiked up about 1000 feet elevation gain and about 6 miles on Falljökull Glacier.

We strapped on crampons, a helmet and carried an ice ax. Plus cameras, food and freshly glacier filled water bottles.

Just when you thought we couldn’t have anymore adventures, today we kayaked in another glacier lagoon – Heinbergslòn.

Another small group of eager adventurous tourists and two guides, Svanna and Arnie spent a couple hours on this amazingly calm and picturesque body of coooooold water. About 1°C or 34°F. We were in dry suits and life vests. Nancy and I shared a kayak with me in the back directing the paddler up front. Boy is that tough work watching her do all the paddling but how else could I take photos?

Being right at water level in such a location is awe inspiring. We even were able to get onto a berg! How bloody cool is that?

In between these adventures we have visited a couple black sand beaches,

wandered small towns,

and bird and lamb watched.

Good food of course is part of the appeal of Iceland

Nancy also found some of her favorite giant marshmallows here!

So far, we have been very lucky w the weather. Beautiful sunshine Monday, overcast yesterday and today with most likely more of the same the next couple days. How is that lucky, you ask. It could be cold, windy and raining, that’s how. We will take overcast (good shooting light) and mid 50s anytime over being rained out of our mini adventures.

Speaking of light, the ‘sunset’ is funny. Even though we are not at the solstice yet, we have 20 hours of daylight now! Sunset at 11 and sunrise at 3. Since the ‘set’sun is never far below the horizon, it has not been dark for even a minute since we arrived. We are next going into higher latitudes and June is coming…with even more daylight to come. It is hard to sleep when I could be snapping away with my Nikon.

In case you are wondering what part of Iceland we have been through so far, take out a map and trace the south coast from Reykjavík headed east all the way to Höfn (hoepn).

Tomorrow, we head up the east coast. We will have more to report soon we hope.

Until next time,

Bless í Bili

Nancy & Chris

“OK, Danke, danke, ciao”

You might be wondering about the title of this piece. Remember me saying last time what a diverse place is Berlin? This quote typifies my assertion. I overheard a woman on the phone taking a reservation in a restaurant tonight. Three languages in one sentence!

As I write this, it is Saturday evening (& now Sunday at the airport waiting to board) We have finished most of our packing and will be sad to say ciao to Berlin morgen nachmittag (tomorrow afternoon). We are looking at the Iceland leg with a lot of anticipation but I gotta tell you, Berlin ist wondervoll! We urge you all to visit here.

So, last I wrote, Matt was headed home. How’d he do, you ask? Well, his early morning flight from Berlin was delayed so long, he missed two connections outta Barcelona. Not a bad place to be stuck overnight. He kept sending food pics from there. He then flew to Chicago where his plane to San Francisco was canceled due to mechanical issues so another overnight stay. In all, 60 hours door to door. That does sound dreadful until you think back not so long. A couple days to cross the Atlantic and the USA ain’t so bad (but don’t tell him, now). We certainly appreciate his coming for a birthday surprise.

So with Matt gone we decided to drown our sorrows by doing another bike ride. This time our guide was Brett (pronounced with 2 Ts) from Anchorage. We, along with an international cast rode the train 30 minutes to Potsdam, picked up our bikes and rode around this cute and oh historic city. Not only was the division of Germany decided here by Churchill (then Atlee), Truman & Stalin (no French representative) but the conference where the nazis came up with the final solution was held in Potsdam (a different Schloss though).

The pic of Nancy on the bike has the famous Bridge of Spies in the background.

it really is a very nice small city. Lots of Berliners retire here. We rode all over, stopped for lunch in another bier garten (I could get used to this!), rode some more and trained back. (When you come to Berlin, we cannot recommend Fat Tire tours any higher – they do great work and take you to bier gartens!).

Back to BRŁO for dinner and a coldy

On Wednesday we bought the 3 day museum pass. This covers @35 places in the city and costs 29E. The admissions we would have paid at the 8 we visited would have been about 90e so it was a great deal.

There is a group of 5 museums on the appropriately named Museum Island. This passel includes the Pergamon and the Altes, homes respectively to the Ishtar Gate and the Nefertiti bust.

The Bode museum is reckoned to have 3 Caravaggios but don’t be fooled. After searching for an hour or so, it turns out they were moved to another joint across town. Schiezzer!

The Technical Museum is quite the place. All sorts of industries and technologies are represented. The biggest exhibits are the choo choos

And the aerospace- including s Berlin Airlift Gooneybird taking off from the roof.

They have a flight simulator donated by Boeing and I was able to get in the left seat for a flight out of and into Innsbruck airport in a twin engine Beechcraft. It was actually pretty intense and I was sweating after. I only slightly crashed upon landing!

Next was the Jewish museum which was more a memorial than a place of exhibitions. There is one though to share. These are thousands of disks (10,000) made of steel. Each is unique in the face. Different thicknesses as well. You are invited to walk on them to make them ‘scream ‘ – quite effective.

we even went to the Espionage Museum- what better place to have it then Berlin? I’m even reading John Le Carrè’s memoir of his days w MI6 right now.

Some other thoughts about Berlin- it is a very clean city. Not much litter at all. People wait for the crosswalk signs – ALL the time. No horn honking. The weather was perfect the whole time but a lot of pollen this week. I went through a whole box of tissues. Bikes are everywhere but so is cigarette smoking. You want to sit outside and figure wind direction to stay outta the slipstream. All the young kids smoke. When will they learn?

The food is great. We found an Italian place last night (diversity) and had a great German/Italian waiter named Antonio who used to dance w Nureyev! He brought us biscotti and limoncello just like in Italy.

We had dinner twice in a row at KaDeWe- 1st time Nancy had Thai but I had Boullabaisse and the counters are across the store from each other so my chef led the way to Nancy with my dinner!

Burgers made by bergers the new night

When you come here, DO NOT rent a car!!! The public transit is better than I have seen anywhere. A comprehensive combination of long, medium and short distance trains, trams, buses make this city a joy to get around. Also, very walkable. We never took a cab, uber or any other car type ride. Getting to the airport was one stop on the U2 (a 10 minute walk from the apartment), and then a 15 minute express bus ride right to the terminal. We bought a week pass for the train for about 30e and that was it. Covered all public transit.

If you like chocolate (& other than my nephew, Jack, who doesn’t?), this is your city. At least 4 high end gourmet schokolate hauses are here. Custom make your own Ritter Sport bar, have a custom made chocolate covered cream bar at Neuhaus or amazing hot chocolate at Rausch.

Great Turkish food too.

Don’t get me started on the bier! We were hear 4 years ago and do not remember any craft breweries

They even have baseball!

We are boarding the plane to Reykjavík now so I shall close here.

Until next time, OK, Danke, danke, ciao.

Nancy and Chris

It’s a Berlin kind of day!

Guten Morgan alles,

Nancy and I have started another adventure and hope you will enjoy joining us vicariously on the haunt.

We are in Berlin now having arrived a few days ago. What a beautiful and vibrant place! Much more diverse than we expected. We are hearing many languages and seeing people from all over the world. Not just tourists either but residents too. Very nice to see when you consider the not so distant past.

We rented an apartment in the Schöneberg neighborhood right around the corner from the KaDeWe department store which all by itself is worth the trip to Berlin. What an amazing place. The 1st 5 floors are full of general merchandise but we think they are only there to hold up the top two floors – food heaven. 6th floor is groceries + munching counters, cheese at one, potatoes at another, finned fish, shell fish (with a separate one for oysters – Austern), bouillabaisse, sushi, lobster but the sausage counter is the wurst (sorry, a little German humor there).

Not only is it all delicious but the displays are mouthwatering.

Sorry to say, we cannot go back Sunday or Monday as they are closed. All Sundays and holidays- Monday is Pentecost Monday orWhit Monday. Can you imagine US retailers not open when everyone else is out and about and ready to spend? Oh well, when in Roma…

But I’m ahead of myself here. I’ll start at the beginning of Berlin time.

We spent our first full day here walking 3 miles to the start point of Rick Steves’ best of Berlin self guided tour. We had downloaded his audio commentary onto our phones and walked along using it. A nice way to see the city as we took our own darn sweet time. This included pauses for lunch and coffee and munchies. A nice way, indeed to perambulate around the city.

We saw many of the old and new highlights:

Brandenburg Tor (Gate), Trabant stretch limo, Vespa riders, Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, self contained wurst portable kitchen, selfie in the Reichstag dome, some knucklehead jumping off a perfectly good building, more dome shots , a sobering memorial to the unknown soldier and victim of hitler, river Spree sightseeing boat with only two passengers as the day was not as pleasant as the rest of the time here (so far), and Nancy with Marx and Engels (she did go to Cal, you know).

At the end of a very long day of walking, we went back to our digs and found a Schnitzeleria. Yum, bloody yum. I’ve always loved weiner schnitzel.

Throughout the city (Frankfurt too) there are these little brass plaques in the sidewalk

These are commemorations to murdered Jews who lived in the houses right there.

The picture below is of another memorial. This one represents all the members of the Bundestag (parliament) who voted against hitler when he took over as president and chancellor – everyone who voted against him were dead within months .

Waking around Berlin is a feast for the eyes, history buffs absolutely go nuts. The very sobering flip side of the coin is the number of lives lost to make this fascinating history. Other reminders of the past is bullet holes in buildings

And a bombed out church that has not been rebuilt

(By the way, there is an amazing chocolatier called Rausch that has rendered the church in guess what…)

So, Saturday was a day for Nancy. She was thrilled to be only 1 time zone away from the Royal Wedding so she did not have to get up at 4am to watch it. I had googled places in town to watch it and a surprisingly large number of pubs came up including Irish ones. I very much doubted the Irish cared a hoot for the English royals so I found a British pub and we trained and walked across town to the Rizz. They had huge crowds inside and out, two big screen TVs and this fellow:

Yup, those of you in the know, recognize this Herr, but for those of you who don’t, please let me introduce you to my youngest sibling, Matt. Yup again, he made the long trek from Northern California to surprise me for my birthday- of course my bride was in on it! ( this actually happens frequently in the Fleck family). She even arranged for him to bump into us at the wedding- I’m so glad he was there so I didn’t have to watch the bloody ceremony.

We could not find a seat with a view of the tv but we had a view of the crowd – there was even a tv crew taping the scene – sheesh!

After the torturous 2 hours had just flown by, we found a humongous festival happening not too far away – the Karnaval of Kulturen. Food and crafts and music and drinks from all over the planet. I ate Ghanaian food for the first time (just between you and me, it isn’t much different from Togoian cuisine).

After that, we found a brewery called BRŁO and besides excellent beers (including west coast style IPA) the whole place is built from 38 shipping containers. Talk about recycling!

On my actual birthday, I received lots of congratulatory emails – thanks!

We decided to do a bike tour with 13 of our new best friends. This 3 hr tour (cue Gilligan) took about 6 including a lunch break at a bier garten. What a hoot and how nice this is a flat city.

There was even an alt right demonstration at the Brandenburg gate. Hmmm, they have those kooks here too!

What a fun way to spend my birthday with my favorite current wife and one of my top 4 siblings. (Wonder what the next big one will bring?).

Probably not birthday strudel

We had such a good time at the Karnaval, we went back on Monday as it was a holiday- Pentecost Monday and a return to the brewery. We did tons of walking @30,000 steps each), and of course we needed foot massages!

I think I’ll just walk down the street with open beers and drink from them both.

Well, my friends, little Matt left us today and is having a dickens of a time getting home. Delay outta Berlin, missed connection in Barcelona and will get home at least a day late. I told him to stay here but kids these days – ya can’t tell them anything! . At least he is ‘stuck’ in a good place.

Nancy and I moped around all day missing him including a stop at Ritter Sport’s chocolate factory and retail store.

They have a pretty cool aquarium here where there is an elevator going through a vertical tank!

That’s all the new that is news so I shall say Aufwedersein for now. Off to Potsdam tomorrow.

Chris & Nancy