Sunday, June 18, 2023


The next morning, before leaving, we were able to attend church with Rachel at Black Forest Christian Fellowship, which was held in the Black Forest Academy auditorium. The pastor started his sermon with an illustration accompanied by a short clip from Star Trek. I guess there are some things that are universal.

Our flight to Iceland departed from the same airport (ZUR) in Switzerland where we had previously arrived. This time around, Gabby discovered a delicious airport restaurant called Marche that had healthy cafeteria style options from which you could pick. We also encountered more Americans airing family drama. This time, it consisted of young man complaining to his aging mother in a wheelchair that he can’t get into medical school due to his ethics professor not liking his position on cannabis, while at the same time claiming that it’s at least partially his mother’s fault for making him take the class in the first place.

Adam's least favorite budget airline
Adam decided the Eurowings is his new favorite airline, just barely edging out Ryanair for the top slot. Given their complete lack of legroom (and he thought Ryanair was bad, with his knees up under his chin) and somewhat lacking flight crew, it wasn’t what would one consider a “premium experience.” However, they did get us there, and it was entertaining. At one point, the flight crew apparently smelt someone smoking or vaping, so they came over the intercom to threaten to have whoever it was fined and arrested when we landed, if they could figure out who it was.

Next, we had a nice deserted layover in Dusseldorf, Germany. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get to the restaurant we wanted without leaving and going back through security, so Adam and I settled for a German bratwurst and a pretzel. While we were walking through the terminal, we spotted an official state plane from the United Arab Emirates. We assumed there was a delegation visiting Germany, but we managed to stay out of the news in this scenario as well. We eventually returned to our gate area, which was occupied by some free range kids, who were running laps and hurtling suitcases while their parents looked on, uninterested.

When we landed, we embarked on a whirlwind tour of Iceland, very similar to the sub 24 hour tour of Paris we had taken not more than a week ago. Both Adam and I had been to Iceland previously, but this was Gabby’s first time (and, she said afterwards, her favorite stop of the whole trip). Given that it had been more than five years since we had last visited, and Iceland has developed substantial infrastructure around tourism in that time, we felt like the theme of our trip this time was, “That was here the last time.”


Our first roadside stop was the Kjosarhreppur waterfall. This was a good introduction to Iceland’s beauty. Completely out of the ordinary and tucked away in a deserted valley, but not so overwhelming as to overshadow other sights to come. Next, we stopped at Thingvellir National Park and walked to the end of the park to see a waterfall we had missed the last time. Continuing around the golden circle, we stopped at the Haukadalur Geothermal Field, where more permanent ropes had been set up to prevent the shortcuts taken by some of our group the last time around.


We stopped at Gulfoss and were able to get much closer to the falls themselves, this time around, given the observation areas weren’t covered in ice. Next was Selandrafoss, which we were actually able to walk behind (although this left us very wet). We also made our way down the cliff face to the Gljufrabui waterfall, hidden from view in a canyon, accessible only by hopping from rock to rock up a narrow canyon. Just a little bit further on, we stopped at a hidden waterfall called Irafoss, off the beaten trail. This might have been one of my favorite stops on this trip, as there was no one else there and we got to enjoy a little solitude for a moment.

Next, we stopped at Skogafoss, which was one of my favorite waterfalls we visited the last time around. This time we hiked up beyond the falls and encountered herds of sheep grazing. Adam and I agreed that, although this was still spectacular, there was a little something lacking without the snowy, frozen, wind swept vistas we encountered the last time we were here. We also stopped at the Sólheimajökull Glacier. This place was deserted, but we hiked up to a breathtaking up-close view of a wall of ice. Finally, before heading back, we revisited the Black Sand Beach where the infamous dunking of Steven occurred. Gabby enjoyed finding and skipping perfectly smooth volcanic stones.

A familiar sight...
After the end of a long day, we boarded a ferry to the Westman Islands for our overnight stay. The ferry itself was deserted on this last run to the islands (arriving after midnight), and the town we landed in was similarly desolate. As we hiked up the hill to our AirBnB, it started to rain, and, for the record, Gabby intoned that this was the “second most miserable” experience of her life. However, once we arrived at our lodging and everyone had had some grilled cheese and soup, things got a little better. Adam had a little bit of trouble checking in for his flight the next morning, and for a moment, I thought he might end up like Joe (just barely making the last plane home), but he messaged Play on Instagram (their only means of contact), and it was resolved overnight.

The next morning, the last thing we had to do was to see the puffins, that we came all the way to this particular island for. These were at the top of Gabby’s list, and I was hopeful that this island would provide the opportunity. We set out from our AirBnB and walked towards the coast, and I started eagerly examining every black bird, hoping that it would be a puffin. I even tried pointing some of these out, “I think that might be a puffin!” Only to be met with the response, “That’s not a puffin.” The more time we spent looking, the more grim our chances appeared. I started praying, “Lord, please show us the puffins. You brought them two by two to Noah, I know you can bring them one by one to us.” We continued looking, to no avail. I started to think about how miserable the flight home was going to be, when, all of the sudden, Gabby said, “Look, a puffin!” Sure enough, perched on the edge of the cliff was not one, but TWO puffins (a breeding pair). We stayed for a while, watching these two and a couple others fly around before heading back.

The Westman Islands
From there, it was a whirlwind home. We rode the ferry back to the mainland and drove back to the airport, passing our friend Mike Jones' favorite KFC, and stopping at the local wool store for our friend Keren along the way. Adam and I both agreed that, as amazing as Iceland was in the summer, it is even more spectacular in the winter. Overall, it was interesting traveling during the summer, but I think a combination of the heat and the people reminded me why I like our February adventures so much.

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