(Photo: Sonya Warren, class of 2032 Lead Teacher, poses as a Viking on her educational trip to Iceland.)
Sonya Warren, our rising fourth grade teacher, is in her third round of class teaching. This past winter she started to research the Norse society where Norse Mythology was birthed. Sonya soon realized that Norse society comes from an egalitarian society, prior to the influence of Christianity, and that there is so much buried information about female Vikings, leaders, and stories. She soon discovered that much of the written information comes from Iceland. Sonya designed her own week-long training in Iceland with her mom as her traveling companion.
On Sonya’s first day of the trip, she flew into the Keflavik Airport on a volcanic peninsula that had an active volcano erupting at the time. First, she went to Viking World. Viking World had a full size Viking ship and copious exhibits to read about the first Icelanders. On the second day, she took a cruise out to see the puffins that come to visit in the summer. She learned that puffin mates renew their partnership every year by rubbing their beaks together. She also went to the local flea market where there were beautiful Icelandic knitted items, jewelry, and food. Later in the day, she took a walking Folklore tour. Sonya learned much from this experience, like how most Icelanders were buried with a tree planted on their graves. She learned about the Yule lads, elves, and the hidden people.
The third day was her dream day. She went to Eiriksstadir, which is where the ruins of Eirik the Red’s house is located. They made a reconstructed version of the house on the grounds. There was a young Viking telling us stories. She learned that the Icelandic people used bones to tie onto their shoes for ice skates. She also learned that silver jewelry could be worn and pieces chopped off to pay people - like an old credit card. She then went to a volcano that blew up 3,800 years ago called Grabrokargigar and climbed to the top and looked down into a huge crater. The land around was covered in white lichen on the volcanic rock. Sonya drove in a tunnel that went underneath a fjord. It was a mix of a hobbit house and a high tech tunnel. Super cool! To round the night out she and her mom watched a professional fútbol game. It was the Knattspyrnufelag Reykjavikur versus the Vikings.
On the fourth day, they had a Viking photo shoot. We learned so much Viking History from the photographer, Goodman Thor. The Vikings referred to themselves at Heathens, which was their religion. Apparently, Viking men and women were equals until Christianity arrived in Iceland. Christians altered the use of the word heathen. Later they went to the Saga Museum which was beautifully put together. They mosied around town and found the local Waldorf school - a Waldorf teacher’s natural habitat! Sonya felt completely at home looking at it. They then visited a church and a lighthouse. The beach on the way to the lighthouse was such a beautiful blend of colors: black, white, brown, and PURPLE. To top it off they headed to Fjorukrain, a Viking restaurant. It was so beautiful and the food was delicious.
On the fifth day they hit the road and drove to southern Iceland to Vik i Myrdal so they could play at the black sand beach. And play, she did! Sonya made sand angels, climbed rocks, got fairly close to a puffin, and sat quietly listening. After a delicious meal they headed over to Skogafoss, which was a huge waterfall! On the way, they saw snow capped mountains and a massive glacier. Then they arrived at Skogafoss. Sonya hiked 16 kilometers on the trail and saw 7 massive waterfalls. Their names were: Skogafoss, Hestavadsfoss, Fosstorfufoss, Steinbogafoss, Fremri-fellfoss, Skalabrekkufoss, and Kaefufoss. The hike was incredible and magical. She even hung out with some sheep on the way. Right when Sonya reached the last falls it started to rain. By the time she got back, she was drenched and smiling. She warmed with some hot chocolate at Freya Café . Afterwards, they saw an ancient building built inside a giant rock. Then we went to Ingolfsskali Viking Restaurant. It was absolutely stunning inside with beautiful wood carvings. The outside was covered in sod. Finally, they arrived at our new place for the next few days.
Adventures in Iceland day 6, they woke up and went to Efstidalur Dairy II to go horseback riding on Icelandic horses. These horses happen to be the sweetest horses she has ever met. One with blue eyes and a strawberry blonde mane came straight to her and wanted hugs. He was so sweet. Sonya rode on a black one named Hockey (it is probably spelled differently in Icelandic). She and her mom took a two hour ride and stopped at Bruarfoss during the middle of the trip. It was the most magnificent blue glacier waterfall. It was gorgeous. After finishing their ride they ate the most delicious ice cream from the dairy. The milk doesn’t even leave the building from the milking to creation of ice cream. They then went to Fridheimar Greenhouses. The greenhouse grows tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and more in the massive greenhouses. They use geothermal energy in the winter to heat and create light in the greenhouses. They grow a large percentage of the country’s vegetables. Later in the day, they went to Gullfoss and Strokkur. Gullfoss is a massive waterfall (comparable to Niagara Falls). There was a huge rainbow over top. Then, they went to see Strokkur, a geyser. It went off every 5 minutes or so.
On the seventh day, Sonya woke up to make her journey to Þingvellir National Park. She was making the journey in a modern car, but nonetheless, headed there like so many Icelanders did for the yearly Althing. During the Old Commonwealth era (930-1162), the law council would meet there to make laws and resolve disputes. People would travel from all over Iceland for the Althing. They would bring goods to trade, come to make matches, and come for resolution with others. They would build booths to stay in with their families. There was a pool of water (her sad face picture) where people were drowned in if they were punished at the Althing. The people would gather around and listen to the Law Speaker recite the laws from memory. Behind him was a huge rock wall that amplified the sound. This wall is the eastern edge of the North American tectonic plate. There is a 7 kilometer rift valley that separates the North American tectonic plate from the Euroasian tectonic plate. It was so cool to walk between and to think the rift continues to grow. It felt amazing to look around and feel all the people of the past. In the year 1,000 at the Althing all Icelanders were told they must be baptized to be Christian (but they could worship the gods on the side). They did not want to be baptized in cold water, so they went to a hot spring in modern day Laugaratn.
Sonya's last day in Iceland began at Laugarvatn Fontana where she learned about the old villagers' way of baking bread in the sand. There is a hot spring that heats the water under the sand and then the bread is baked for 24 hours. It was so funny to see water boiling on the beach! The bread was divine. Sonya is trying to figure out how she can do this with eighth graders in Organic Chemistry. She just needs a volcano. They then headed to Keflavik and took a walk along the ocean. Sonya came across a giantess' cave house. It was so funny. It had big shoes, a giant toothbrush, and a snoring giantess. Lastly, they headed to the Blue Lagoon to take a dip in the mineral waters. She was able to see the smoke, at a distance, of the erupting volcano.
Sonya is very satisfied with her trip and has so much to share with her class and fellow teachers. This trip will bring fruits to all the grades she teaches in the future.
written by: Sonya Warren edited by: Paula Gerhardt photos by: Sonya Warren