Iceland Report – Part 2

Golden Circle and Lava Tunnel
I spent my first day in Iceland exploring Reykjavik, but it’s a small city of maybe 200,000 people and there is not that super much going on there or to do. They have a few museums, but it doesn’t feel like museum time when you go to a country like Iceland. You do tours tours to the nature sites. Although, during that first day in Reykjavik, I stumbled across a comedy show of an hour entitled “How to become Icelandic in 60 minutes”. That sounded intriguing, so I bought a ticket for it and it was fun indeed. An Icelandic comedian tells you (in English) some fun things about being or becoming Icelandic with nice sarcastic spice and it was well worth the entrance fee. But back to tours: The most common tour is the so called “golden circle” tour to the famous geyser and the Gulfoss waterfall and the Thingvellir national park. 
I did that tour on a small bus, and we started with a small crater, then a small waterfall.


The first official highlight was the geyser. The original geyser has gone dry by the way, but next to it is its little brother that spouts every few minutes. The big geyser spouted only every half hour, but was admittedly bigger. There were more people than spouts present, of course.


While we left Reykjavik in rain, we had sunshine since the small waterfall. In the sun, without wind, it actually got nicely warm, the only time it was warm in Iceland 😉 The geyser is funny but with too many tourists not a breathtaking spot. I found the Gulfoss waterfall much more impressive. Now that’s a decent waterfall, nice and big and gushy 😉

Despite all the people there that’s a sight worth seeing and the people’s noise gets drowned out by the waterfall anyway. In the distance you could spot the Langjokuell glacier, a magnificent sight in the sun and I would have loved to get closer, but that was not on the itinerary.

Next up was a short visit to some Icelandic horses, which were for a very long time the only form of transport for the locals. A farmer put “horse candy” for sale, some dry food stuff and I fed this lovely guy here and he nibbled his nuggets skillfully from my hand 😉

The last stop was the Thingvellir national park, a fantastic valley with yet another waterfall, a rift where the island is breaking apart and a magnificent lake. A beautiful day well spent with some breathtaking nature sites. 

I had wanted to do “nothing” between the prearranged long bus tours, but there is a bit too much of nothing in Reykjavic and during my first day while exploring the town, I decided to book some additional smaller afternoon tours for my days “off” and I’m glad I did so. I would have gotten bored without those activities. The first smaller trip was thus a cave tour through a lava tunnel just 45 min away from Reykjavik. That day was the weather-wise worst day of my stay. It rained the entire time, but who cares for that in a cave. It wasn’t the most impressive cave I have seen in my life, but the guide was hilarious (he had lots of funny comments and a very dry humor) and the cave was wide and not scary and easy to climb. It was a great short trip and another day well spent.

In the Name of Detox

I was on a short business trip to Germany last month and while buying some supplies and also during common lunches/dinners with colleagues it struck me that the German eating habits are very different from Japan. Among the German colleagues there was a vegetarian, a vegan, someone who eats no carbs, someone who has gluten problems.
I’m not judging, I’m just stating facts when I say that among my Japanese friends and colleagues, there simply is no one who is a vegan, a vegetarian, eats only carbs or has gluten problems. Despite that Japanese people are generally slimmer than Germans and live longer too. So what’s going on here?
I mentioned that to a French colleague at an after-work dinner recently (who lived in China and Japan the last ten years) and he brought another interesting aspect into the story with the statement: “Yes! What happened to sex, drugs and Rock’n’Roll? Now it’s “organic”, “detox”, and “xx intolerance” – How boring have we become!”
I had a good laugh at that and I heartily agree 😉

Coming to think of it, I don’t think there is a “no carbs” or a vegan among my heavy metal buddies 😉
Of course we can all do what we please and eat what we want, but lots of this “no carbs”, detox and whatever is in my humble opinion nothing but a marketing thing. In Japan we have tons of food marketing, but I have the feeling it’s “healthier”, since it focuses mostly on seasonally available products, and not so super much on trendy pseudo-health stuff. There is the mango or citrus ice cream in summer, the chestnut ice cream in autumn, the red beans ice cream in winter, the berry mix ice cream in spring and so forth, point is that it’s all ice cream and not so much business is made with the stuff being for example lactose or whatever free.
I dearly hope that Japan doesn’t pick up on the “health” trip too much, since I am convinced that humans became the dominant species of the planet because they can eat bloody anything.
Modern man has loads of allergies, myself included, if we keep on “sterilizing” our food and get ever pickier, it’ll only get worse, not better. Further, sex, drugs and Rock’n’Roll might not be the healthiest lifestyle but at least it’s fun and maybe the “no carbs” and “detox” etc. fanatics need a bit more of that? Just speculating of course 😉

A Moving Affair

So, I’ve moved last weekend from Kawasaki to Yokohama and all in all things went smoothly. I made a deal with the moving company that they half help packing and they came at around 8:30 in the morning with a big truck. I was promised three people but there were three plus a driver who also helped, so it was actually four 🙂 I found it impressive that it was two guys and two girls. A Mongolian and a Japanese lady plus two Japanese men. I saw on the homepage of the moving company that they also have women staff, advertising that they are gentler than the guys and recommending women who move to ask for female staff. I hadn’t explicitly asked for female staff, my stuff is not very girlish ;-), but why not, of course. The two girls worked as hard as the guys and jumped around with twenty kilo book cases like nothing. 

They put myself to work in the kitchen so that I was “out of the way” while they took care of the other rooms. While I had packed more or less all personal items, the kitchen, books and DVDs were left unpacked, next to furniture. The moving company had fancy plastic boxes and pre-prepared styrofoam cases in which to store plates, mugs and glasses. 

The old apartment was empty at around 13:00 and while they took the truck and a van, I myself took a taxi and the train and another taxi to get to my new place. Old and new apartments are 17 km apart. The moving company arrived again at 14:45 and on the show went. 

I had asked for the delivery of a new refrigerator the night before but that didn’t work out since I got off from work too late and so the fridge as well as a new washing machine (yeah! No more coin laundry) arrived in the middle of the moving boxes into new apartment chaos. The fridge was kinda too big and it was millimeter work to fit it into the allocated space and I already feared they’d give up and would take it back with them. But it fit somehow and now looks nice. Then my new washing machine gave a headache, some plastic part at the bottom broke apparently during transport and the two guys who brought it refused to set up the machine. Phone calls flew back and forth between the delivery guys and the shop I bought it at and then also myself. Consensus was they need a guy from the washing machine’s maker, Hitachi, and left the machine uninstalled and a frustrated customer behind. I was promised that someone from Hitachi would contact me soon.

Amongst all the chaos also the gas guys came and activated the gas for cooking and for heating water. At peak time I had nine people jumping around the new apartment, four moving guys, two fridge and washing machine delivery guys, two Tokyo gas guys and myself…

The moving was finished at 18:30, all boxes inside, all furniture set up and they took their leave, leaving me with all the boxes to unpack myself. Well that had been the deal and it had been a long day for them already anyway. 

So I stood there with a mountain of boxes. I myself had packed 35 boxes before the move but I failed to count how many the moving company packed. I guess there were 70 in total or maybe more.

Then, at 19:00 suddenly someone from Hitachi stood at the door. The guy checked the machine, the broken part and said he can come back in an hour with a spare part. Wow! That is customer service! So the poor guy came back at 20:00 with a new part, installed the machine and was gone by 21:00. Long day for him too. I don’t know about any other country, but such customer service on a Saturday night, I think you get that only in Japan. 

I ate something and fell into a makeshift bed among my jungle of boxes.

On Sunday morning I had the guys coming who’d install my two new air-conditioning units. One for the bedroom one for the living room. Two guys worked for two hours from 10:00 to 12:00 to install the two beasts, while I was standing out of the way and unpacking the dishes. Luckily everything went smoothly with the air conditioning units. 

It’s much quicker to unpack boxes than to pack them and I threw all boxes out within the last week. The moving guys just came to pick up the empty boxes. 

It is of great advantage that a five minute walk away from my new office is a giant do-it-yourself store and I’ve been there four times last week after work to get bits of carpet, new curtains and small stuff like hooks and other necessities. 

The new apartment is much nicer and more modern than the old one and moving has been the right choice, but the amount of work and money having gone into it is staggering and I don’t want to move again any time soon! 

But as for now, ahhhhhhh, so nice to have a new place 🙂