“Viltu skötu?”

Today at work we all went out together for lunch to eat “Skata”. I had never even heard of this dish before, so when they said this was something I needed to try since it’s an Icelandic tradition to eat this on the day before Christmas, I decided to tag along. That was a HUGE mistake. Just the smell of this fish made me want to turn in the door and run to safety. I guess the reason it smells so bad is because it’s rotten fish, so when you think about it I kind of makes sense. What I don’t understand is how some people can really like it.

Doddi had of course warned me that it would be bad, but I had no idea it would be this bad. Many people had warned me about “Hákarl” (shark) but I did try that and it was far from as bad as I thought. “Hákarl” isn’t something I enjoy, but I could still eat it. “Skata” was a lot worse! But even if the smell wasn’t inviting I did try it, and it doesn’t taste as bad as it smell, but it’s still quite horrible and I will never ever eat it again.

Skata. (Picture is borrowed)

Skata. (Picture is borrowed)

Instead of eating “Skata” I had some “Saltfiskur”, which is just salted fish. But sitting in the smell from the “Skata” and eat was not pleasant, and I had a hard time finishing my food. I felt like my “Saltfiskur” started to take taste form the “Skata” smell.

The worst part is that now my clothes and hair and everything smells, so I can’t get away from it. All I want to do right now is to go home and take a long hot shower and wash everything that I’m wearing, but I still have to finish my working day.

Next year when I get invited to this I will without a doubt say NO! I’ve learned from my mistake 😉

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Yule lads

You know that Christmas is right around the corner when the Icelandic Yule lads start showing up at Dimmuborgir. This weekend three of them were out greeting the tourists visiting Dimmuborgir, which is said to be their home. I’m still getting used to the Icelandic Christmas traditions and the Yule lads are one of those things that is completely new to me. In a few days all Icelandic kids will put their shoes in the windows before bed and waking up to find gifts in the shoes that a Yule lad has left for them during the night. Each night there is a different Yule lad coming to visit the houses and if the kids have been naughty the might find coal or a potato in the shoe instead of a gift.

The Yule Lad Giljagaur (Gully Gawk)

The Yule Lad Giljagaur (Gully Gawk) is the second one to “come to town” and will arrive on the 13th and he will hide in gullies to try to sneak into the cowshed to steal milk.

The Yule lad Gluggagægir (Window-Peep) comes on the 21th to peep through windows in search of something to steal.

The Yule lad Gluggagægir (Window-Peep) comes on the 21th to peep through windows in search of something to steal. This lad try to steal our car 😉 Good thing the keys weren’t in the car or he might have succeeded 🙂

On the 12th the first Yule lad makes his way to town and the first one to arrive is Stekkjarstaur (Sheep-Cote Clod). Unlike our Santa Clause the Icelandic Yule lads aren’t nice, but still they leave you gift so I’m not sure how that goes together to be honest 😉 But I still think it’s very nice that Iceland has kept this very old tradition, even if the gift part is fairly new I think. I guess the whole thing with the Yule lads were just to get children to behave during Christmas, if they didn’t the Yule lads would come down and scare them and steal things, and if the children had been very bad the Yule lads mother Grýla would eat them. It’s kind of a funny tale and it’s a tradition I will make my own.

The Yule lad Kertasníkir (Candle-Stealer) is the last one to "come to town" and will come for a visit on the 24th to try to steal our candles.

The Yule lad Kertasníkir (Candle-Stealer) is the last one to “come to town” and will come for a visit on the 24th to try to steal our candles. Here he’s warming by a nice fire.

I’m the Grinch

Winter is here and soon so is Christmas. For me this will be the first Christmas I spend in Iceland, so I’m looking forward to it! Icelanders are kind of famous for loving Christmas. They put up a LOT of lights and decorations and they start a bit too early for my taste. Since it’s a bit dark during the winter I do enjoy lights and all that, but I still feel like they start a bit too early. It’s only the middle of November now and still there are quite a few which have put up their lights. Why does Christmas preparations have to start so early? Are they afraid they won’t make it in time? I don’t want to start putting up light and other decorations until the beginning of December, or I might get tired of it before Christmas is even here. So this year I’m a bit of a Grinch 😉 Or maybe I’m always a bit of a Grinch, I’m not sure. Don’t get me wrong I LOVE Christmas, but at the same time I think people make too much out of it. they start earlier and earlier for every year. I mean the stores start selling Christmas things as early as middle of October. But I guess I just need to get used to it. I mean there are a lot of good things too about it. One good thing about everybody putting up lights is of course that it’s less dark, and that’s always a good thing. Since we have snow now it does feel a little bit like Christmas is on it’s way 😉

At Dimmuborgir the Icelandic Yule lads have started to come out and greet the tourist. I think this is a very nice tradition. But since they’re not suppose to come until 13 days before Christmas, I think it’s a little early to start showing up at Dimmuborgir now. But I will for sure go visit them in a few weeks or so, since I’ve never seen them before.

Icelandic Yule lad Gáttaþefur

Icelandic Yule lad Gáttaþefur

Old houses

Since I have a great interest in architecture I find it quite interesting, that just 100 years ago half the population here in Iceland were still living in turf houses. To me this feels very old fashion, but it all makes sense in a way. Since there isn’t much wood here it’s of course been hard for Icelanders to find a different way of building. And also the turf houses were working, so why change?

Old turf houses at Baugasel

Old turf houses at Baugasel

In the 1960:s there were almost no one living in turf houses any more and many of these old houses disappeared. Icelanders had by then realized how old fashion this was, and most people wanted to live more comfortably. But it’s a huge shame that there are so few of these houses left, since they hold so much history and not just for Icelanders but for all of us.

The turf houses at Laufás are really nice and very interesting for me, so I didn't mind going here a few times during the summer.

The turf houses at Laufás are really nice and very interesting to me

Luckily there are a few of the old turf houses that has been preserved and some of them are now being used as museums. I personally love these houses, they are so smartly built and the often look really cool 🙂 So I’m very happy that there are still some left, and that there are some very close to where we live. My favourite ones are probably the ones at Laufás, they are in a very good state still so you get the feeling of being transported back in time. The ones at Baugasel are also nice, but there some of the houses are gone and there’s just the foundation left and it’s being taken over by the vegetation. But still I find them very fascinating.

 

Icelandic traditions II

As most of you know there has been celebrated “Þorrablót” for a few weeks now and we have of course also been to one, a couple of weekends ago.  For those of you who don’t know what Þorrablót is then to explain it very simple, it’s just an evening where you get together and eat the old traditional Icelandic food. Many have huge gatherings, and it’s especially common on the country side to have larger parties.

Doddi’s work had invited all employees to come celebrate Þorrablót and since we wouldn’t have the opportunity to go to Akureyri and celebrate it with Doddi’s family, we decided to go to the one at his work. All the “great” food was there and I actually tried some of it. So for the first time in my life I tasted shark, and I must admit that it wasn’t as bad as I had thought, mainly because it doesn’t taste as bad as it smells 😉 I also tried some other things, but my biggest achievement was definitely the shark. I didn’t have the guts to trySúrir hrútspungar” (sheep balls), it just looks so horrible and just the thought about eating sheep balls were too much for me. Another thing on the table which I still haven’t tried issvið” (sheep head). It just does not appeal to me, but I guess I will have to try it at some point. The good thing is that Doddi doesn’t eat these things either so I’m kind of safe 😉 The best thing on the table is definitelyHangikjöt” (smoked lamb), which I have learned to appreciate now, so I didn’t starve during the evening 😉

An example of the food to be found on the Þorrablót-table
(picture is borrowed)

Icelandic traditions

Yesterday was “Bollurdagur” here in Iceland and of course we had to celebrate it by buying some Bollur 🙂 Last year Doddi made them himself but he didn’t have time to bake this year so we just bought some at the bakery, but I must say that they were not as good as the ones Doddi makes 😉 Still they were very tasty 🙂

We of course had to try some different ones to see which ones were the most tasty

We of course had to try some different ones to see which ones were the most tasty