A Visit to the Westman Islands

Landscape

On my recent trip to Iceland I spent two days on the main island of the Westman Islands, Heimaey. I did not know much about this island before my visit, but I can say that this place is full of friendly people who are truly a community.

The only way to get to the island is by ferry, and after arriving and checking into the hotel we went to walk around the island. Shortly after we set out a car pulled over and a woman got out and asked if we speak English. She asked if we wanted to see puffins and stated she had some in the car and we were welcome to get in the car and join her in taking these puffins to be counted.

Now, let me say, in most places I would not get into the car of a stranger. But this is Iceland. Not only Iceland, but a small island of Iceland only accessible by ferry. So I figured why not.

We got in the car with (I hope I am spelling her name correctly) Vigdis, her son and her son’s friend. She began to explain to us a fascinating tradition on the island. During this time of year baby puffins – also called pufflings – would coast into town in search of food.

However, there would be no food and they are in danger of not only starvation but also other city dangers. So, during this time of year the brave and noble children of the town are allowed to stay up late and catch the pufflings and then take them to be counted, weighed and measured and then released back to the sea so that they can find food and survive. There were currently three pufflings in the back of the car that had been caught.

We arrived at the center to count the pufflings. They are taken out of their boxes and then the children who caught the bird proudly take their picture holding their bird.

I also spoke to one of the employees at the center, who explained that they had noticed the puffin population on the island decreasing several years ago so they had established this process in order to not only help the puffins, but also see if there was any correlation between weather conditions and the puffin population over time. They are studying to see what type of conditions may cause a change in the number and size of the pufflings born that year. This year is a good year and the count has been record breaking!

Bird in AquariumBoy with Bird

After this, the next step is the most fun one, in my opinion. We drove to the local golf course which had a platform looking out over the ocean. There were many children coming back and forth with their cardboard bird boxes. We went up on the platform and I was asked if I would like to release one of the three birds the children had captured. Of course!! I watched the two expert children to see the proper bird releasing form. Hold the body, loosen the wings, and then throw the bird up and out so that it can swoop gracefully to the sea.

Bird Release

When it was my turn, I followed the instructions and hoped like crazy the bird would not crash into the cliffs directly below us. Thankfully, he coasted gracefully down to the sea and is hopefully snacking away happily now.  I am so appreciative for this very unique experience.

The next day, we had a puffin and volcano tour with Ebbi from Eyjatours. And hey, guess what? He showed up with a puffling in a box! Bird in Hands

Ebbi was great and took us on a tour of the island and provided us with a good amount (as in, more than I can remember) of the history of the island. He also introduced us to the island sport of Sprangan. This is the art of swinging from a rope on a cliff in order to obtain bird eggs for eating. He gave us a demonstration and I can honestly say he looked like quite the expert to me.

Spranga

He also told us about the volcanic nature of the island and that one of the newly formed Westman Islands is the newest island in Europe!

I truly enjoyed my visit to this island. The people were so friendly, and the puffin experience was totally unexpected and totally amazing!

Signs

Advertisements

A Trip Through Romania Part I

Rainbow Over Cluj

From the end of May through the first week of June, I spent two weeks travelling through several parts of Romania.

I can honestly say that Romania has some of the friendliest, most laid back people as well as some amazing scenery and history. We started off in Cluj-Napoca and were lucky enough to see a rainbow over the city before a heavy downpour of rain came in. Thankfully, we made it inside right before it got too bad!

After Cluj, we headed to the Maramures region and captured images of local scenery, buildings and wildlife. OK, so the horse wasn’t really wild life but he was there and made sure to stare right at us as we were watching for the beautiful morning light. There are also many haystacks of varying shapes and varieties in this rural area.

Additionally, we able go to a local village on a bright and sunny Sunday morning to see the residents heading to church for Pentacost dressed in their Sunday best. A simple Buna Ziua! and a smile were enough to get many reactions.

Pentacost Day two Men

We also paid a visit to the memorial museum for communist victims. This sobering museum is housed in a former prison and dedicated to those who were victims of communism and of the resistance in Romania.

Romanian Silhouette

Travelling on to the Bucovina Region, we encountered some beautiful scenery and friendly locals who did not mind stopping to model for us on our evening walk around Vama. The town of Vama was lovely and peaceful and made for a great place to sit out on the porch and relax and enjoy watching the moon rise in the evening.
Man and CowCottages

We continued to travel on, meeting many individuals from a blacksmith, a copper smith and two women who hand paint eggs with extremely steady hands and a patience I would never be able to maintain. One of the women is passing this art form and tradition down to her daughter who is also currently creating these beautiful works of art.

I will be sharing more memories and photographs from this trip here and on my photography page under Romania.

All in all, it was a lovely trip.

Oh yes, and there was Palinka…
Palinka

Noroc!