Gauchos of Argentina

Argentina criollo

Published on: Mar 21, 2017, by Alex Cwalinski  Travel Podcast   

Among some of the many unique things about Argentina, are the Gauchos. These cowboys of South America have a lot in common with their American counterparts. I spent a month living and working on an active horse and cattle ranch to learn what life is like for a Gaucho.

The GauchosArgentine Gaucho

Gauchos, are the Cowboys of Argentina. They share common traits with the American Cowboy, like a penchant for lawlessness, skilled horsemanship, and ruggedness. In this part of Argentina, they say, a man without a horse is a man without legs.

Like the American Cowboy, the Gauchos flourished in the mid to late 1800s and they lived in the less inhabited parts of their country.

The Gaucho Toolkit

Gaucho

Gauchos carry an important set of tools that are essential for life in the Pampas. Like the Rebenque that you can see hanging off the side of the Gaucho, in the picture above. This tool is essentially a flat rawhide whip, about two feet long. It's used to both 'motivate' (their words, not mine) the cattle and the horses, to move quicker.

Then they have the Boleadoras. These are a throwing weapon, unique to South America. It is made out of three dense balls, connected together by rope. Each rope cord is about two feet long and is used to catch animals by throwing it at the their legs, entangling them. Indigenous people have used Boleadoras for thousands of years, in hunting and in war.

They also carry the traditional Lasso, to catch runaway cattle and horses. No toolkit is complete without a knife. The Gauchos carry a blade called the Facón. It can range anywhere from 10 to 20 inches in length. This thick blade is used as a weapon, tool, and eating utensil.

The Criollo Horse

Some consider the Criollo to be the hardiest horse with the most stamina. Before a male Criollo can be selected for breeding, it must pass an extremely rigorous test called, La Marcha.

La Marcha consists of a 466 mile long course that must be completed in 14 days. Each horse must carry 200 pounds and can only eat grass during the entire event. 20 days before it begins, they cannot be ridden or given any supplements or feed, besides grass.

This strict breeding requirement has made the breed famous for their endurance capabilities and ability to live in harsh conditions. The Criollo can survive on grass alone and have been known to live up to 40 years.

Between 1925 and 1928, Swiss adventurer Aimé Félix Tschiffely, rode two Criollo from Buenos Aires to New York City. The trip was again repeated from 2002 - 2004 by South African, Marianne Du Toit.

The Climate of the Pampas

argentina

The pampas region of South America covers nearly 300,000 square miles and extends into Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay. The land is relatively flat and marked by rolling hills. Grass thrives in these conditions, making it the perfect place for raising cattle.

This is also South America's tornado country and huge thunderstorms are known to cause dangerous flash flooding in the region.

Generally, the climate is temperate, with summer heat peaking at 100 degrees Fahrenheit and winter temperatures dropping to 34.

The Cattle

cowboy cattle

Cattle in the Pampas eat grass, instead of grain or feed. They're also provided with an enormous amount of space to roam and get exercise.

These cows don't take any hormones either, so they can't pop any drug tests, but this means they take longer to mature in size.

This way of raising cattle is more expensive due to the amount of land, time, and Gauchos needed. However, these cattle don't require antibiotics, like feedlot cattle.

Feedlot cattle live in small grassless lots and eat grain, packed with antibiotics. The drugs keep them from getting sick, since they're essentially defecating where they sleep and eat. More and more cattle in Argentina are being produced this way. This has made it harder for Gauchos to find work and get paid fairly.

The Guarani

Argentina Guarani

One of the very first things I noticed when I got to the ranch, was the way the locals spoke Spanish. They had such a strong accent that it didn't even sound like they were speaking Spanish at all.

That's because a lot of the words they used weren't Spanish. Many of the locals here speak a language called Guarani. It’s the most widely used indigenous language in the Americas.

Both languages in the Pampas now borrow words from each other. Making it harder for travelers like myself to understand the locals. Pictured above is a Guarani Shaman, who incorporates a mixture of his native religion with Roman Catholicism.

Working Cattle Dogs

Cattle Dog

Working dogs in Argentina can come from all different breeds. The ranch had two small working dogs, Chancla and Rosita, that worked with the Gauchos everyday. They were just as effective in rounding up the cattle as one Gaucho, and needed little to no instruction.

Tough Pups

horse

They were both mixed breeds. Rosita was medium size dog, about 40 pounds with short black hair. Chancla, was small, about 20 pounds. She worked twice as hard as some of the horses. As small as these dogs were, they covered a lot of ground, running up to 15 miles a day. Injuries didn't stop them either. Chancla would work with a limping back leg, and could chase down a runaway cow, no matter how big.

Despite their tough work ethic, they love to play and relax after a long day on the range.

Talia

Horseback riding

My second week at the ranch I went on my first supervised ride through the grasslands. I went out with a Gaucho who looked like he was 40 years old. His name was Antonio, and he was 19. He’d been working as a Gaucho since he was 12 years old, ever since his father deemed him old enough.

One of the daily tasks here was to walk the perimeter of the ranch to make sure none of the wire fences were damaged. Cattle and horses often get tangled in the wire since there eyesight isn’t that great. At least once a week one of the animals would need to get their leg freed from the wire.

On other days the Gauchos had to herd, anywhere from 50 – 100 cattle through a special wash. It’s like a shallow canal full of water and pesticides, to wash away the tics and keep their wounds clean.

Eventually Antonio started letting me work alongside the other Gauchos. One day I went out to round up a large group of cattle so we could count them and tag the younger cows. It was my longest day on the ranch. The horse I had been riding was a gorgeous light brown Criollo, named Talia. She was a great horse. Mild mannered, obedient, and strong. Everyday before I suited her up with the saddle and reins, I’d grab some of the greenest grass I could find, and feed it to her. She liked that and we soon became bffs.

The Lasso

LASSO

By week three I was going out on horseback on my own. I’d inspect the gates, the fences, and huge sections of the property. They even encouraged me to learn how to lasso, which is a lot harder than it looks.

Every weekend, I’d go out into the town of Mercedes to pick up supplies, like beer, and a nice leather hat.

The Legend of Gaucho Gil

GAUCHO GIL

In the town of Mercedes, I came across several small shrines on the side of the road. Like the one in the photo above, to the left. These red little shrines were in dedication to a legendary figure of Northern Argentina, named Gaucho Gil.

Though not officially recognized by the Catholic Church, Gaucho Gil is a local Saint.

In the mid 1800s, Gaucho Gil fought for the Argentine Army as a skilled Cavalryman against Paraguay. After returning home as a hero, he was drafted, this time to fight in Argentina’s Civil War. But instead of fighting, he deserted and became a fugitive.

Not able to return home and live out in the open, he lived the life of an outlaw, evading capture while stealing from the wealthy and giving to the poor. This earned him the reputation as a Robin Hood figure. He was even known as a miracle worker, with healing powers and immunity to bullets.

Eventually he was captured by the local authorities who sent him to trial immediately, where he was sentenced to death. The community was strongly against this decision and demanded a pardon.

Local police, aware of the backlash following his sentence, took Gaucho Gil outside of town where they could quickly execute him. However, a pardon was soon granted by another judge.

Legend has it that they hung Gaucho Gil upside down by his feet, against a tree. Since he was supposedly immune to bullets, his neck would be slit, instead of facing a firing squad.

While upside down, Gaucho Gil told his executioner that a pardon had been granted and that if he kills an innocent man, the executioner’s son would become sick. The only way to heal his son would be to pray to the Gaucho himself, so that he could personally ask God to heal the boy.

The executioner killed Gaucho Gil and upon returning home, discovered that his son had grown very sick. The man prayed to Gaucho Gil, and his son was miraculously cured.

Every since then, the people in this region have been praying to Gaucho Gil, for everything from better grades at school to curing heart ailments.

Every year, over 200,000 people visit Gaucho Gil’s main shrine in Mercedes.

You should visit it for yourself!

 

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Published on: Mar 21, 2017, by Alex Cwalinski  Travel Podcast   

THIS ARTICLE COMPLEMENTS OUR PODCAST. TO GET THE IN-DEPTH STORY WITH INTERVIEWS FROM EXPERTS, CHECK OUT THE EPISODE:

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The Argentine Asado

Most Argentine cattle are grass-fed, and you can tell by the taste.

Argentine barbecue, known as Asado, is the name for both a cooking technique and event. Meat is slow cooked all day on a grill. My favorite dish was this thing called Matambre.

Matambre combines two Spanish words, mata, which means to kill, and ambre, which means hunger. So matambre means kill-hunger, and it’s does exactly that. This dish is essentially a pizza, but instead of putting tomato sauce and cheese on dough, they put it on a round and thin slice of meat. After slow cooking it, it transforms into the best pizza ever.

Argentine Asado

Recoleta Cemetery

Argentina

If you’re fascinated with cemeteries, then the Recoleta Cemetery is for you.

The Recoleta Cemetery takes up about two city blocks. Like miniature alleyways, getting around here.

You can get lost in the labyrinth of the Recoleta Cemetery. You might want to because it’s one of the most amazing places in the city. The cemetery is about four city blocks in size and I’d recommend going when it’s raining to add to the eeriness.

It can get really quiet in here. A lot of cats roam these parts. I used to see them sleeping on top of coffins inside the mausoleums. Some of the doors are made of metal and glass, and you can see that the mausoleums go two stories beneath the ground.

Recoleta Cemetery

Next Episode

We're going north of Buenos Aires to the Pampas region of Argentina. This fertile land provides grass for the country's cattle population. Next episode we'll find out what it's like to live and work on an Argentine cattle ranch. Episode won't be coming out until March, because we're currently in Cuba!

horse

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Buenos Aires

Published on: Jan 30, 2017, by Alex Cwalinski  Travel Podcast 

After getting out of the Marine Corps, after four and a half years, the first thing I wanted to do was leave the country and travel. Having been to two wars makes you consider a lot of things you haven't done in life, and travel was one of those. I had never been south of the equator, so I bought a one-way ticket to Buenos Aires, Argentina. Here's how it went:

Buenos Aires

The Buenos Aires Obelisk is located in downtown Buenos Aires, the busiest part of the city. It was built in 1936 to commemorate the city's 400th year.

I flew out of New York the day after Christmas. When we have winters in New York, Buenos Aires is having their summer. That's the nice thing about going south of the equator in December.

The first thing I noticed when I arrived at the airport in Buenos Aires was that it was very hot and very humid. The ride from the airport to the city was about a 45 minute drive. I made the mistake of not haggling with my cab driver and got royally ripped off.

I booked an apartment for one-month in an area of the city called Palermo Soho. It used to just be called Palermo, and Palermo is about an eight the size of Brooklyn, but each little neighborhood had it's own vibe and so they started added words like, 'Soho,' and, 'Hollywood,' to make them distinct.

Palermo Soho was kind of like the up and coming neighborhood. Cheap enough to afford, somewhat safe, and close enough to the bars and restaurants.

Trees in Buenos Aires

Trees line every street in Buenos Aires.

The nice thing about a tree outside your window is the noise it makes in the wind. In South America the trees are obviously different, so the sounds they make are different too. Even the birds chirped to another rhythm.

Traveling is one of the most stimulating things you can do. The cars are unfamiliar, the sidewalks are foreign, and street signs are in another language. I can see how this might scare some people, but there's something truly exciting about it.

Buenos Aires Dogs

Even The Dogs Were Different.

Well, the dogs weren't that different, but they strut slower down the sidewalks and like to poop where you're most likely to step on it. I ran into a gang of street dogs once at around 3am. They weren't happy that I barked at one of them. Don't bark at a stray dog, 7 more might be hiding in the bushes to show you who's boss.

I signed up for Spanish speaking classes at the University of Buenos Aires, we called it, "La Uba," for short. It was an intensive one month program, five days a week, for two hours a day. At the end of the program they gave you an official certificate from the university, which was one of the reasons I signed up. Being the hot humid January that it was, I sweat my ass off in the classroom.

Taking that class did more harm to my Spanish speaking abilities than good. The reason is, I was in a class with other people who didn't speak Spanish as well as they wished. They were essentially on a long vacation like I was. I met an amazing group of people in this class, who I hung out with for months. A met people from the UK, Australia, the States, and Brazil.

Brazilians

My two close Brazilian friends. Many are crazy, and a lot of them vacation in Buenos Aires during the summer.

There are two types of Brazilians I met in Buenos Aires. The ones you want to stay away from because they're crazy, and the ones you want to hang out with because they're crazy.

These two girls were a blast. We went out until 7am one time and then couldn't find a cab that wasn't trying to gouge us to take us back home. The girls were tired of wearing heels, so they took them off before we ran across a six-lane highway during the morning rush hour.

A cop car stopped us and asked us what the hell we were doing. We told him we were trying to get home, so he waved down an Ambulance and told the driver to drop us off at home.

Notice the elevator in the background of the picture. It was an old wooden elevator from the 1930s with doors that your had to close yourself. One of my favorite things about Buenos Aires were the old buildings.

La Bomba Tiempo translates into, "The Time Bomb." This event at the Konex, an outdoor venue in Buenos Aires, is a must-do. Watch to video to get a taste of how Argentineans like to party. It's one of the few ways to party and dance during the day. I met a lot of Americans and Brits while standing in line to get in. I went multiple times and it's a great place to meet new friends, and score some weed if that's your thing.

Amerika

My first night out in Buenos Aires, I invited a group from my Spanish class to the Roxy Bar in Palermo Hollywood. I told everyone I'd be there at 11pm. When I showed up it was just me and the bartender for an entire hour, before anyone started showing up. I thought the Roxy Bar was going to be lame, but by 1am, the bar was very crowded.

Notice the white foam at the bottom of the picture above. This picture was taken at club Amerika, where the foam rises to about chest height every Saturday night. I dropped my camera in the foam right before taking this picture. I almost lost it and spent several minutes searching for it beneath the foam. My friends all helped me find it, which required holding your breath and diving beneath the foam.

They kicked everyone out at 7am. They did this by opening a pair of two-story high doors that opened to the outside. The morning light sure was a surprise to all of us. We later got breakfast at a coffee shop nearby.

Buenos Aires Breakfast

This is the standard breakfast in Argentina. Notice the tiny glass of sparkling water and the two small croissants. Those are called, media-lunas, which translates into, half-moons.

Adjusting to this breakfast diet wasn't easy. I didn't fully understand it until I started going out until 7am and eating Argentine steak for dinner every night.

The first time I ordered a coffee in Buenos Aires I made two mistakes. I thought saying the Spanish word for, 'order,' was how you ordered a coffee. I was wrong. Instead, it translated into me saying something like, "I order you to get me a coffee." So don't use the word, "orden," when asking for a coffee. Instead say, "Te pido," which translates roughly as, "I ask you."

I also asked for, "Un cafe," which means an espresso shot. Sometimes it means instant coffee, depending on where you go. Americano is your best bet if you're looking for a regular coffee.

Buenos Aires Taxi

I'm pretty sure a few of my cab drivers were a little tipsy or maybe even drunk, you could tell by how wide their smile was when they picked you up. You can typically get around the city using the subway system, but taxis were so convenient and relatively cheap, that I used them a lot.

Buenos Aires Stop Sign

If you don't know how to say, 'Stop,' in Spanish, it's, 'Pare'. Most cab drivers in Buenos Aires don't know that either. These red octagonal signs are simple suggestions for drivers to stop if they want to.

Buenos Aires Podcast

Cops use the same model cars the cab drivers use. Oftentimes they drive around the city with their blue lights blaring, even if there's no emergency. They also don't know what, 'Pare,' means.

Our next episode and post is going to explore the Asado and how they have the best steak in the world. We're also going to find out about Gaucho/Cowboy life on the Argentine Plains, where I spent some time herding cattle.

THIS ARTICLE COMPLEMENTS OUR PODCAST. TO GET THE IN-DEPTH STORY WITH INTERVIEWS FROM EXPERTS, CHECK OUT THE EPISODE:

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Airplane etiquette

Being boxed in at 30,000 feet above the Earth in close quarters with strangers requires a different kind of patience. We compiled an easy to read infographic to help you navigate the world of airplane etiquette:Airplane etiquette

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Seats are shrinking and getting closer together. In the 1970s seats were 18 inches wide, today they are 16.5". 1.7+ million Americans fly everyday, and according to the International Air Transport Association,(IATA) the rate of unruly passengers is increasing. Meanwhile, the average man weights 30 pounds more than the average man did in the 1970s. These changes are creating more obstacles to air travel. So, we compiled any easy to read list to help you navigate the world of air travel etiquette:

Reclining: Nobody likes the drink on their tray table spilling when the person in front of them slams their seat back as fast as they can. Be mindful of the person behind you and recline like a sloth.

Feet: Your feet should never be this angle on an airplane. Don't rest them on the armrest in the seat in front of you and please keep your shoes on for the entire flight!

Armrests: The middle seat gets the armrests. The aisle or window seats already have more space to move around. When using the armrest, don't let your elbow wander into the seat next to you.

Hygiene: Before flying take a shower, use deodorant, and wear clean clothes! This can't be stressed enough. Sitting next to someone that smells, for hours, should be a crime. Practice good hygiene.

Noise: Keep noise to a minimum, especially during overnight flights. Some passengers may not be in the talking mood. Putting headphones on is the universal 'do not disturb' sign.

Children: These little people should follow airplane etiquette, but it's ultimately the parents who should ensure that their children are behaving.

For tips and advice, check out Go the Travel Podcast, a podcast for the curious traveler.

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Airplane etiquette

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Travel and Health

Research consistently shows that travel is good for your health. So book that ticket and check out our infographic for five health benefits below:Travel and Health

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Increase Heart Health: Adults who take vacation at least twice a year, were less likely to die of heart attacks or any other coronary cause.

Be Happier: People who don't travel are more likely to suffer from depression. Frequent travelers are less stressed and have improved psychological functioning.

Stay Smart: Traveling keeps the mind sharp and increases creativity. Experiencing new cultures, foods, languages, and currencies maintain healthy cognitive function.

Boosts Immune System: Traveling exposes the body to different kinds of bacteria and viruses. This exposure strengthens your body' immune system.

Keeps You Fit: There is no better way to reach 10,000 steps a day than traveling. Hiking, biking, and lots of physical activity often take place when you're traveling.

For tips and advice, check out Go the Travel Podcast, a podcast for the curious traveler.

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Travel and Health

Sacred Stones

The Centuries Old Story of the Sacred Stones

Sacred Stones

Published on: Jan 8, 2017, by Alex Cwalinski  Travel Podcast   

 What was once a beautiful 12th Century monastery in Spain, ended up in a pile of rubble in California. In the latest episode of Go the Travel Podcast, we explore the mystery of the Sacred Stones.

The image above depicts the Château de clos de Vougeot vineyard in France. The building in the background was once a Cistercian Monastery that housed monks for hundreds of years. This particular site is one of the earliest known places where monks began wine making.

Today, Cistercian Trappist Monks still make wine, and they even practice the discipline of Silence, meaning they only speak when necessary. They eat meals in silence, work in silence, and forbid what they call, ‘idle talk,’ except during special occasions.

Hospitality, Manual Labor, Prayer, Simplicity, and Solitude are the five pillars of Monastic Life.

Cistercian Trappist Monks applied these principles to wine making in France, hundreds of years ago. Being disciplined record keepers, they began noting a strange occurrence in their wines. Different soils and hillsides that grew the same type of grapes, were producing very different wines. What they discovered was the importance of soil composition and vine placement in wine making. This gave birth to the strict guidelines of wine production we’re familiar with today.

Sacred Stones
The current state of Santa María de Óvila (Photo courtesy of Wikipedia user Sevegi, CC License)

In the late 12th Century, a few hundred miles north-east of Madrid, Spain, Cistercian Monks constructed the first building of the Santa Maria de Óvila monastery. Soon after, like other monasteries at the time, they began producing wine. But before we move on, you have to understand that the most beautiful buildings or rooms of any Cistercian monastery is the Chapter House. A Chapter House is where the monks meet once a day to discuss a chapter of their founder, St. Benedict's Rules for Living.

Sacred Stones
An 8th Century copy of St. Benedict's Rules for Living.

The monastery of Santa Maria de Ovila housed monks who produced wine for hundreds of years. That is until several wars in the 1800s put the Spanish nation in turmoil. Around the 1830s, the Spanish government took over the monastery and sold it to private buyers. The centuries old monastery languished for about 100 years, even being used to house farm animals.

More strife and turmoil struck Spain in the 1920s and 30s. Around the same time, millionaire William Randolph Hearst was buying European antiquities like statues, rugs, and even buildings, and bringing them to California.

In 1931, Hearst thought it would be a good idea to buy the Chapter House of Santa Maria de Ovila and bring it to San Francisco. It cost him $97,000, or around $1.5 million in today’s dollars, to make the buy.

In order to transport the Chapter House, a crew of construction workers had to dismantle the building stone by stone. They were then boxed up in wooden crates and sent on a railroad line that was constructed for the sole purpose of transporting these stones, to the Spanish coast. It took eleven ships to get them across the Atlantic, through the Panama Canal, and up into the San Francisco Bay.

It cost Hearst around one million dollars just to take apart the building and transport the stones, or over fifteen million in today's dollars.

William Randolph Hearst
This Heart residence in New York is adorned with Medieval Armor, c1929.

Hearst was hurting for cash when the stones finally arrived, and it was costing him roughly $15,000 a month in today’s dollars, to store the stones in San Francisco. This was a little too much money for what Hearst originally wanted to use as his pool house. The millionaire instead donated the stones to the City of San Francisco, and they forgave some of his tax debts in return.

San Francisco officials moved the stones to Golden Gate Park, where the plan was to eventually reconstructing the Chapter House, but it would have cost a small fortune.

Without funds in the coffers for this enormous project, the stones sat for years. While sitting idle at the park, the wooden crates that housed the stones caught fire. In fact, several fires over the course of a few decades destroyed all the crates, which included the instructions for reconstructing the Chapter House.

Golden Gate Park
Some of the stones in piles at Golden Gate Park.

With no plans and no money to reconstruct the building, the city handed over the now pile of stones to their Parks Department. They began using the stones of the once beautiful 12th Century Chapter House for various purposes around Golden Gate Park, like constructing small barricades, benches, garden walls, etc...

You can still walk through the Botanical Garden at Golden Gate Park and see several of these stones. You can sit on them, walk on them, even interview them like our Podcast Co-Host, Laura Klivans is doing below.

Sacred Stones
Laura asking the hard questions.

The stones sat forgotten for two decades until they were randomly stumbled upon by a 21 year old Trappist Monk in 1955. Father Thomas Davis was on his way from Kentucky, to live and work at the Abbey of New Clairvaux, a Cistercian Monastery and winery in Vina, California.

On his way to the Abbey, a young Father Davis stayed in San Francisco for one day. That evening he walked through Golden Gate Park where he discovered a pile of familiar looking stones.

For the next 39 years, he made it his mission to bring the remaining stones back onto Cistercian soil. In 1994, after decades of fundraising and phone calls, the city of San Francisco handed the stones over to Father Davis and the Abbey of New Clairvaux. The hand over of the stones was under one condition: that the Abbey would attempt to rebuild the chapter house, if possible.

The monks were able to retrieve over sixty percent of the Chapter House stones. A lot of them were damaged, not just from the fires but from being out in the elements for so long.

It took over a decade to sift through all the stones to figure out if they had enough that were structurally sound for rebuilding.

To the disbelief of many, the Monks completed the first phase of construction in May 2016. Here you can see them praying in the image below:

Here is another shot of the beautiful interior below. You can see the intricate detail and the many stones used to put the Chapter House back together.

A post shared by Erin Claassen (@erinnoelc) on

The exterior of the building was built with newer stone to preserve the older ones. California requires buildings to withstand earthquakes, so extra measures were put into place. The buttresses on the side of the building help keep it secure.

Sacred Stones
The first phase of the new monastery at the Abbey of New Clairvaux.

The Abbey is only about a two hour drive from San Francisco. For directions to the Abbey or for more information, you should check out their website here: Abbey of New Clairvaux. Don't forget to listen to our episode for the in-depth story. Check it out right here, or on iTunes, Stitcher, Acast, or  GooglePlay.

Published on: Jan 8, 2017, by Alex Cwalinski  Travel Podcast   

THIS ARTICLE COMPLEMENTS OUR PODCAST. TO GET THE IN-DEPTH STORY WITH INTERVIEWS FROM EXPERTS, CHECK OUT THE EPISODE:

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DISCOVER

The Silfra Fissure

“It’s listed, consistently in the top five dives in the world,” according to Murray Johnson, an avid world traveler and certified scuba diver. Silfra Fissure is located on the Northern tip of Thingvellir Lake, which is Iceland’s largest body of water. This Unesco World Heritage Site is only a 35-minute drive from Reykjavik. What's most noteworthy about this site is that Divers and Snorkelers can swim in between this continental divide, which marks the point where two massive tectonic plates are diverging in the middle of Iceland. Here are some quick facts, tips, and advice about this unique place:

The Water At Silfra Fissure Is Crystal Clear

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Water in Thingvellir Lake provides much of the drinking water for the surrounding Icelandic towns and cities. The lake is slowly filled with melting glacier water that travels underground through lava rock for 30 to 100 years.

“It’s essentially the largest Brita Filter in the world,” says Johnson. “The visibility in there is unstoppable. Over 100 meters you can see; it’s crystal clear, crystal clear.”

Silfra Fissure's clear water lets divers to see up to 100 meters away. So don't forget to fill up your canteen or water bottle after your visit.

The Water is Cold: 36° F

Spoiler Alert: Listen to our latest Podcast Episode on the Silfra Fissure to get a more intimate experience of this magical place!

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Water temperature in Thingvellir Lake hovers just above freezing. So diving and snorkeling in the Silfra Fissure requires a dry suit.

“They suit you all up where you have a seal across your neck and your hands,” travel enthusiast, Allyssa Moreau explains. “So all that ever gets wet is your neck, face, and hands; and it’s extremely cold.”

——————  more  ——————

Sacred Stones

Volcanic Hotspot Iceland

Greenland Arctic Shark

Viking Longhouse Iceland

Airplane etiquette

Travel and Health

 

 

The Silfra Fissure Separates Gigantic Continental Plates.

The fissure is essentially a scar in the Earth, where the Eurasian and the North American Continental Plates are diverging.

Moreau, recalled the exact moment her scuba guide led her in between the continents, “I just remember my stomach dropping through my toes… how small can you get? A lot of things changed right there, because that was probably the craziest thing I have ever experienced, to be so, so, so tiny in such a big spot.”

“At one point when you’re diving you can touch both continental plates,” Johnson said, also adding that, “They’re splitting apart about 2 cm per year."

Each year the Silfra Fissure is getting wider and wider as the two continents spread further apart.

I actually almost had to sprawl out to touch them because it was pretty far apart,” Moreau said. “I could do like one leg and one arm but I couldn’t do with both arms.”

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——————————————————————    Don’t Miss Your Chance To Dive    ——————————————————————

Here's a list of two Dive Centers in Iceland that offer tours through the Silfra Fissure:

"What an awesome experience! Our guide Rob, was great and the water wasn't as cold as I thought it would be." -foxgirl592, Trip Advisor reviewer

Dive.is is also known as the Sport Diving School of Iceland, this 5 Star PADI Dive Center was founded by Tómas J. Knútsson in 1997. Besides providing tours through the Silfra Fissure, they offer a variety of scuba diving courses. They provide certification courses perfect for first timers, as well as more advanced ones like their PADI Rescue Diver Course.Here are some of their Diving and Snorkel tour prices* in the Silfra Fissure:

  • Snorkeling: 17,990 ISK -  $157 US Dollars
  • Diving: 44,990 ISK  -  $393 US Dollars
  • Midnight Sun Dive: 44,990 ISK  -  $393 US Dollars
  • Ten Day, Five Day, and Three Day diving tours: check www.dive.is for pricing

"They had a good sense of humor and were very professional. Best dive guides ever! Thank you for an amazing experience." -Sophie C., Trip Advisor reviewer

Another company based out of Reykjavík, Dive Silfra was founded in 2012 as a division of Arctic Adventures. Dive Silfra has a strong sense of preserving the Icelandic environment and landscape which you can read more about by clicking here.

They offer scuba and snorkel day tours in the Silfra Fissure, as well as private diving tours. Here are their current Silfra Fissure diving and snorkeling tour prices:

  • Snorkeling: 17,990 ISK  -  $157 US Dollars
  • Diving: 44,990 ISK  -  $393 US Dollars

*Prices are subject to change and include dry suit rental and park entrance fee. US Dollars are exchange rate estimates.

——————————————————————    Check out these Rental Van Options   ——————————————————————

Go Campers in Iceland has a variety of vehicles to fit your needs

Iceland Van Rental

Silfra Fissure Iceland Silfra Fissure Iceland Silfra Fissure Iceland

These are just a few of their many van rental options. Each Go Camper Van  comes supplied with a small stove, pots and pans, and all dinnerware needed to prepare simple meals. Mattress and pillows are included as well. They even offer 24/7 roadside assistance in case you're stranded. All you need is a valid credit card and an ID to book yours. Check out www.gocampers.is for more.

Last but not least, check out his amazing video:

 

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“It’s listed, consistently in the top five dives in the world,” according to Murray Johnson, an avid world traveler and certified scuba diver. Silfra Fissure is located on the Northern tip of Thingvellir Lake, which is Iceland’s largest body of water. This Unesco World Heritage Site is only a 35-minute drive from Reykjavik. What's most noteworthy about this site is that Divers and Snorkelers can swim in between this continental divide, which marks the point where two massive tectonic plates are diverging in the middle of Iceland. Here are some quick facts, tips, and advice about this unique place:

The Water At Silfra Fissure Is Crystal ClearBEST TRAVEL BLOGS

Water in Thingvellir Lake provides much of the drinking water for the surrounding Icelandic towns and cities. The lake is slowly filled with melting glacier water that travels underground through lava rock for 30 to 100 years.

“It’s essentially the largest Brita Filter in the world,” says Johnson. “The visibility in there is unstoppable. Over 100 meters you can see; it’s crystal clear, crystal clear.”

Silfra Fissure's clear water lets divers to see up to 100 meters away. So don't forget to fill up your canteen or water bottle after your visit.

The Water is Cold: 36° F

Water temperature in Thingvellir Lake hovers just above freezing. So diving and snorkeling in the Silfra Fissure requires a dry suit.

“They suit you all up where you have a seal across your neck and your hands,” travel enthusiast, Allyssa Moreau explains. “So all that ever gets wet is your neck, face, and hands; and it’s extremely cold.”

The Silfra Fissure Separates Gigantic Continental Plates.

The fissure is essentially a scar in the Earth, where the Eurasian and the North American Continental Plates are diverging.

Moreau, recalled the exact moment her scuba guide led her in between the continents, “I just remember my stomach dropping through my toes… how small can you get? A lot of things changed right there, because that was probably the craziest thing I have ever experienced, to be so, so, so tiny in such a big spot.”

“At one point when you’re diving you can touch both continental plates,” Johnson said, also adding that, “They’re splitting apart about 2 cm per year."

Each year the Silfra Fissure is getting wider and wider as the two continents spread further apart.

I actually almost had to sprawl out to touch them because it was pretty far apart,” Moreau said. “I could do like one leg and one arm but I couldn’t do with both arms.”

—— Don’t Miss Your Chance To Dive ——

Here's a list of two Dive Centers in Iceland that offer tours through the Silfra Fissure:

Silfra Fissure

"They had a good sense of humor and were very professional. Best dive guides ever! Thank you for an amazing experience." -Sophie C., Trip Advisor reviewer

Another company based out of Reykjavík, Dive Silfra was founded in 2012 as a division of Arctic Adventures. Dive Silfra has a strong sense of preserving the Icelandic environment and landscape which you can read more about by clicking here.

They offer scuba and snorkel day tours in the Silfra Fissure, as well as private diving tours. Here are their current Silfra Fissure diving and snorkeling tour prices:

  • Snorkeling: 17,990 ISK  -  $157 US Dollars
  • Diving: 44,990 ISK  -  $393 US Dollars

*Prices are subject to change and include dry suit rental and park entrance fee. US Dollars are exchange rate estimates.

Dive.is

"What an awesome experience! Our guide Rob, was great and the water wasn't as cold as I thought it would be." -foxgirl592, Trip Advisor reviewer

Dive.is is also known as the Sport Diving School of Iceland, this 5 Star PADI Dive Center was founded by Tómas J. Knútsson in 1997. Besides providing tours through the Silfra Fissure, they offer a variety of scuba diving courses. They provide certification courses perfect for first timers, as well as more advanced ones like their PADI Rescue Diver Course.Here are some of their Diving and Snorkel tour prices* in the Silfra Fissure:

  • Snorkeling: 17,990 ISK -  $157 US Dollars
  • Diving: 44,990 ISK  -  $393 US Dollars
  • Midnight Sun Dive: 44,990 ISK  -  $393 US Dollars
  • Ten Day, Five Day, and Three Day diving tours: check www.dive.is for pricing

*Prices are subject to change and include dry suit rental and park entrance fee. US Dollars are exchange rate estimates.

Check out these Rental Van Options

Go Campers in Iceland has a variety of vehicles to fit your needs

Iceland Van Rental

Silfra Fissure Iceland Silfra Fissure Iceland Silfra Fissure Iceland

These are just a few of their many van rental options. Each Go Camper Van  comes supplied with a small stove, pots and pans, and all dinnerware needed to prepare simple meals. Mattress and pillows are included as well. They even offer 24/7 roadside assistance in case you're stranded. All you need is a valid credit card and an ID to book yours. Check out www.gocampers.is for more.

Last but not least, check out his amazing video:

——————  more  ——————

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greenland shark

Published on: Nov 26, 2016, by Alex Cwalinski  Travel Podcast 

A recently released study in the journal Science, revealed the Greenland Shark with being the oldest living vertebrae. Using radiocarbon dating, scientists discovered that these sharks can live to be over 400 years old. These mysterious sharks have been surprising scientists for decades. Meanwhile, in Iceland they're eaten as a delicacy known as Hákarl. The taste is so foul it's often called, “Rotten Shark Meat,” by visitors. Even Anthony Bourdain said it was the worst thing he’s ever eaten. Here are a few facts about Hákarl and the Greenland Shark.

Theoretically, these beasts can live to be up to 432 years old. In fact, there are Greenland Sharks swimming the ocean that could have been born when Descartes and Galileo were still around. According to scientists, these sharks grow ½ an inch a year and they’ve been observed to be up to 18 feet long.

Hakarl
Hakárl hangs outdoors during the fermentation process.

Greenland Shark meat is poisonous to eat, when fresh. Before it can be safely eaten the meat has to ferment for about five months. This is due to the Greenland Shark's blood, which carries high amounts of Urea and Trimethylamine Oxide. These two chemicals act as a natural anti-freeze. This allows the shark to go deep under the arctic sea-ice for long periods of time.

Another interesting fact about the Greenland Shark is their age of sexual maturity. Only one pregnant female has ever been observed by scientists and she was over 150 years old. Finding a mate could be a challenge for them since most adults are blind.

Greenland Shark
A Copepod clings to the eye of a Greenland Shark.

There exists a species of copepods, or parasites, unique to Greenland Sharks. These small critters latch onto their eyeballs for the duration of their life. The constant rubbing against the surface of the shark’s eye renders them blind. Lucky for the sharks, they spend a lot of time in the deep dark ocean, so sight isn’t essential for their survival. Their lack of sight may explain why they move incredibly slow.

Think sloth speed but with less reaction time. “It takes five seconds for a Greenland Shark to react,” according to Dr. Peter G. Bushnell, Professor of Biological Sciences at Indiana University South Bend. Despite their slow speeds and blindness these sharks continue to amaze scientists. They are active predators, and not just bottom feeders like scientists had assumed for years.

Cod, seal, reindeer, and even polar bear fur has been found inside the stomach of Greenland Sharks. There is a lot of mystery as to how they find their prey. Scientists speculate that they are the most patient hunters in the ocean, and can sneak up on prey under the dark sea-ice.

 

These sharks are so fascinating that they have their own museum. The Bjarnharhöfn Museum in Iceland is a two-hour drive from Reykjavík on the Snaeffesness Peninsula. With admission you can eat as much Hákarl as you’d like, if you can stomach it. Make sure to bring Brennevin with you. It’s Iceland’s national liquor and the locals call it, “Black Death.” Nothing better to wash down Hákarl with than some good ole’ Black Death huh?

Don't forget to listen to our episode for the in-depth story. Check it out right here, or on iTunes, Stitcher, Acast, or  GooglePlay. Subscribe to our mailing list for updates.

Let us know what you think in the comments below:

THIS ARTICLE COMPLEMENTS OUR PODCAST. WE WENT TO ICELAND TO GET THE IN-DEPTH STORY, WITH INTERVIEWS FROM EXPERTS. CHECK OUT THE EPISODE:

And Subscribe to us on iTunes

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The Perks of Living on Top of a Volcanic Hotspot.

Volcano

Have you ever considered moving Iceland? Or maybe just travel there? This tiny Nordic nation sits on top of a huge Volcanic Hotspot in the middle of the Atlantic. Don’t let that deter you! Here are just a few perks of living dangerously:

The Hot Springs

 

Reykjadalur, which translates to Steam Valley, is only a 45-minute drive from Iceland’s capitol, Reykjavik. The further up the natural hot spring you go the hotter it gets. 

Geothermal energy beneath the Earth heats dozens of natural hot-springs scattered across the island.

The Geothermal Bakery

The ground gets so hot in some places that Icelanders use it to cook food. The guy in this picture dug out a pot of freshly baked bread off the coast of Lake Laugarvatn. You can check out Go the Travel Podcast’s latest episode on Geothermal Baking and Volcanic Hotspots.

...it gets so hot that the water constantly boils.

You only need to dig a few inches to reach the Geothermal Bakery.

The Geysirs

Geothermal energy powers these geysers and much more in Iceland. 99% of Iceland operates on renewable energy. Stay tuned to find out more about Iceland! iTunes link in our description. . . . #travel #adventure #podcast #explore #Iceland #icelandair #wheniniceland #worldtraveler #travelblog #travels #worldtravel #traveling #outdoors #geysir #geyser #geothermal #renewable #energy #vsco #inspiredbyiceland #create #radio #viking #geothermal #volcano #exploretocreate #discover #itunes #travelpodcast 📸 by @heatherjayed

A photo posted by Go The Travel Podcast (@gothepodcast) on

Did you know that, “Geyser,” is an Icelandic word? The OG, or Original Geyser in Iceland is named Geysir after the Old Norse word, geysa, “to gush.” This natural phenomenon occurs when the geyser’s water contacts the magma-heated bedrock. The water becomes Super Heated, which means it remains a liquid even though its temperature is above boiling point. This causes it to expand rapidly and upward creating a jet-like stream of water.

 Long Hot Showers

If you take a hot shower in #Reykjavik chances are the water came through this pipe. #iceland #winter

A photo posted by Siggeir (@sigvicious) on

Pipes like these transport hot water to Iceland’s cities. Almost all the homes there don’t need a water-heater. Geothermal heat warms the water keeping the energy costs really low. So you’ll never have to worry about the hot water running out and you can leave the heat on all day!

Ice-free Sidewalks

Via spacing.ca In Reykjavik they run hot water pipes beneath some of their sidewalks and roadways to keep them ice-free in the winter.

Green Renewable Energy

Iceland's Geothermal Power Station #geothermal #powerstation #iceland #roadtrip #adventure #roaming #explore #wild #wilderness #camping #intothewonder #landscape #nature #beauty #love

A photo posted by Emily Meister ↟ Wonder House (@em_meister) on

The Hellisheiði Geothermal Power Station generates cheap energy for Icelanders. This energy source runs 24/7, it’s sustainable and better for the environment than other sources of energy.

Would you live on a Volcanic Hotspot? Reach out to us and check out our latest episode. If you're considering moving to Iceland or doing some Iceland Travel, then listen to our other podcast episodes for more information.

THIS ARTICLE COMPLEMENTS OUR PODCAST. TO GET THE IN-DEPTH STORY WITH INTERVIEWS FROM EXPERTS, CHECK OUT THE EPISODE:

Iceland Travel, Go the Travel Podcast, iTunes

Or Subscribe to us on iTunes

——————  more  ——————Travel and Health

Airplane etiquette

Sacred Stones

Silfra Fissure

Greenland Arctic Shark

Viking Longhouse Iceland

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The Perks of Living on Top of a Volcanic Hotspot.Volcano
Have you ever considered moving to Iceland? Or maybe just travel there? This tiny Nordic nation sits on top of a huge Volcanic Hotspot in the middle of the Atlantic. Don’t let that deter you! Here are the perks of living dangerously:

1. The Hot Springs

Reykjadalur, which translates to Steam Valley, is only a 45-minute drive from Iceland’s capitol, Reykjavik. The further up the natural hot spring you go the hotter it gets. 

Geothermal energy beneath the Earth heats dozens of natural hot-springs scattered across the island.

2. The Geothermal Bakery

The ground gets so hot in some places that Icelanders use it to cook food. The guy in this picture dug out a pot of freshly baked bread off the coast of Lake Laugarvatn. You can check out our episode on Geothermal Baking and Volcanic Hotspots.

...it gets so hot that the water constantly boils.

You only need to dig a few inches to reach the Geothermal Bakery.

 3. The Geysirs

Geothermal energy powers these geysers and much more in Iceland. 99% of Iceland operates on renewable energy. 📸 by @heatherjayed

A photo posted by Go The Travel Podcast (@gothepodcast) on

Did you know that, “Geyser,” is an Icelandic word? The OG, or Original Geyser in Iceland is named Geysir after the Old Norse word, geysa, “to gush.”

This natural phenomenon occurs when the geyser’s water contacts the magma-heated bedrock. The water becomes Super Heated, which means it remains a liquid even though its temperature is above boiling point. This causes it to expand rapidly and upward creating a jet-like stream of water.

4. Long Hot Showers

If you take a hot shower in #Reykjavik chances are the water came through this pipe. #iceland #winter

A photo posted by Siggeir (@sigvicious) on

Pipes like these transport hot water to Iceland’s cities. Almost all the homes there don’t need a water-heater. Geothermal heat warms the water keeping the energy costs really low. So you’ll never have to worry about the hot water running out and you can leave the heat on all day!

5. Ice-free Sidewalks

Via spacing.caIn Reykjavik they run hot water pipes beneath some of their sidewalks and roadways to keep them ice-free in the winter. 

6. Green Renewable Energy

Iceland's Geothermal Power Station #geothermal #powerstation #iceland #roadtrip #adventure #roaming #explore #wild #wilderness #camping #intothewonder #landscape #nature #beauty #love

A photo posted by Emily Meister ↟ Wonder House (@em_meister) on

The Hellisheiði Geothermal Power Station generates cheap energy for Icelanders. This energy source runs 24/7, it’s sustainable and better for the environment than other sources of energy.

Would you live on a Volcanic Hotspot? Reach out to us and check out our latest episode. If you're considering moving to Iceland or doing some Iceland Travel, then listen to our other podcast episodes for more information.

WE TRAVELED TO ICELAND TO CREATE THIS EPISODE. LISTEN FROM ICELANDERS THEMSELVES, FOR MORE:

Iceland Travel, Go the Travel Podcast, iTunes

Or Subscribe to us on iTunes

—————— more ——————

Hakarl IcelandTRAVEL PODCAST
Viking Longhouse Iceland

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—————— LISTEN ——————

WE TRAVELED TO ICELAND AND SPOKE WITH LOCALS TO FIND OUT MORE ABOUT ICELAND'S GEOTHERMAL ENERGY:

Iceland Travel, Go the Travel Podcast, iTunes

Or Subscribe to us on iTunes

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—————— more ——————

Hakarl IcelandTRAVEL PODCAST
Viking Longhouse Iceland

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This door opens a Viking turfhouse in Eiríksstaðir, Iceland.

But don't worry, you won’t have to stay in one of these when you visit, they have hotels and Airbnb now!

Vikings built turfhouses like these out of sod or turf, instead of wood, like everyone else in the world was using at the time.

There’s a reasonable explanation for this but it might not be what you think. At the time, wood was used as fuel to keep homes warm but the long winters in Iceland meant trees took a very very long time to grow, in turn, making wood an extremely valuable resource.

Icelandic Turfhouse
Sod is visible from the side of the turfhouse, revealing the building process.

To get around this problem Icelanders began using dirt and grass for the walls and roofing of their homes. It was very effective; Icelanders lived in houses like these for nearly 1000 years, and some lived in them as recently as the 1950s.

Viking Turfhouses were often crowded, housing several families at once. Turfhouse ruins have been found all over Iceland and Greenland but when archeologist Anne Stine Ingstad and her husband, the explorer Helge Ingstad discovered some in L’Anse Meadows, Canada, it shocked the world.

Icelandic Turfhouse
The Icelandic flag is always waving in windy Iceland.

However, Icelanders knew about the presence of the Canadian turfhouses all along. While the global community stuck to the narrative that Christopher Columbus “discovered” North America, Icelanders were claiming that one of their own, Leif Erikson, was the true first.

The world needed proof but the only proof that Iceland could come up with were a few stories in the Icelandic Sagas, a series of historical narratives written in the 13th Century.

“You can’t really say this is history or fiction,” according to Ármann Jakobssen, Professor of Medieval Icelandic Literature at the University of Iceland. “They are simply less reliable as history.”

Travel Podcast
An excerpt from one of the many Sagas, written hundreds of years ago.

Jakobssen explains that the Icelandic Sagas include a lot of mythology and folklore about Elves, Trolls and Witches. Alongside these folklore tales are a lot of historical facts, like the location of Viking settlements in Canada and Greenland.

Much of the skepticism regarding Iceland’s claim about Leif Erikson and North America comes from these sagas.

When the discovery in L’Anse Meadows revealed up to ten Viking structures, any doubt about Iceland’s claims had dissipated. Now, archeologists believe that they may even have discovered another settlement about 400 miles south of L'Anse Meadows.

There are rumors that Vikings traveled as far south as the US state of Maine. No one knows when or why the settlements were eventually abandoned.

If you have an idea, let us know! Find out more about these turfhouses from an Icelander himself, by listening to our latest podcast episode.

THIS ARTICLE COMPLEMENTS OUR PODCAST. TO GET THE IN-DEPTH STORY WITH INTERVIEWS FROM EXPERTS, CHECK OUT THE EPISODE:

Best Travel Blog

Silfra Fissure

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This door opens a Viking turfhouse in Eiríksstaðir, Iceland.

But don't worry, you won’t have to stay in one of these when you visit, they have hotels and Airbnb now!

Vikings built turfhouses like these out of sod or turf, instead of wood, like everyone else in the world was using at the time.

There’s a reasonable explanation for this but it might not be what you think. At the time, wood was used as fuel to keep homes warm but the long winters in Iceland meant trees took a very very long time to grow, in turn, making wood an extremely valuable resource.

Icelandic Turfhouse
Sod is visible from the side of the turfhouse, revealing the building process.

To get around this problem Icelanders began using dirt and grass for the walls and roofing of their homes. It was very effective; Icelanders lived in houses like these for nearly 1000 years, and some lived in them as recently as the 1950s.

Viking Turfhouses were often crowded, housing several families at once. Turfhouse ruins have been found all over Iceland and Greenland but when archeologist Anne Stine Ingstad and her husband, the explorer Helge Ingstad discovered some in L’Anse Meadows, Canada, it shocked the world.

JOIN US: Travel Podcast Travel Podcast Travel Podcast Travel Podcast

Icelandic Turfhouse
The Icelandic flag is always waving in windy Iceland.

However, Icelanders knew about the presence of the Canadian turfhouses all along. While the global community stuck to the narrative that Christopher Columbus “discovered” North America, Icelanders were claiming that one of their own, Leif Erikson, was the true first.

The world needed proof but the only proof that Iceland could come up with were a few stories in the Icelandic Sagas, a series of historical narratives written in the 13th Century.

“You can’t really say this is history or fiction,” according to Ármann Jakobssen, Professor of Medieval Icelandic Literature at the University of Iceland. “They are simply less reliable as history.”

Travel Podcast
An excerpt from one of the many Sagas, written hundreds of years ago.

Jakobssen explains that the Icelandic Sagas include a lot of mythology and folklore about Elves, Trolls and Witches. Alongside these folklore tales are a lot of historical facts, like the location of Viking settlements in Canada and Greenland.

Much of the skepticism regarding Iceland’s claim about Leif Erikson and North America comes from these sagas.

When the discovery in L’Anse Meadows revealed up to ten Viking structures, any doubt about Iceland’s claims had dissipated. Now, archeologists believe that they may even have discovered another settlement about 400 miles south of L'Anse Meadows.

There are rumors that Vikings traveled as far south as the US state of Maine. No one knows when or why the settlements were eventually abandoned.

If you have an idea, let us know! Find out more about these turfhouses from an Icelander himself, by listening to our podcast episode below:

Best Travel Blog

Or Subscribe to us on iTunes


You can find out more about these topics by clicking the links in the article above. If you want to find out more interesting things about Iceland and travel, then subscribe to our Podcast here: iTunes  Acast  Stitcher  TuneIn

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