In addition to lots of interesting lectures, the Saga conference also provided field trips.  I chose to go on the trip to Schleswig, Germany.  What’s in Schleswig, you ask?  Well, Schleswig is very close to an old Danish fortification called the Danevirke, which was built back in the Viking Age to keep the Germans out of Denmark.  You won’t see much of it there anymore, but we went to a museum where some of it has been excavated.

In order to draw more visitors, the museum staff have built a reconstruction of a Viking Age town.
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You’ll recognize this as a Scottish Highland cow.  I think the good folk at the museum must have thought they looked medieval.  Since there are some researchers who think that the breed does date back to the British Iron Age,* this could be reasonable, but I wonder if the cattle in Viking Age Denmark and Germany would have really looked like this.  For no particular reason, I’ve always imagined something more along the lines of the Heck cattle.  This too could be chronologically or geographically wrong.  If any of you have a good guess, feel free to leave a comment.


So you can see that the Schleswig countryside is pretty, well, pretty.  I’m very fond of this shot of the two boats on the lake.


Another bus ride away from the museum, we visited a current archaeological dig.  Here you can see the site all roped off and excavated.  I want to say that that pile of rocks you see inside the red and white tape is a fire-pit, but I can’t remember for sure.  Again, I apologize for taking so long to write these posts.


These next few pictures are fun.  These are trinkets that were dug up here.  As you can see, Dark Age people liked bright colors.  So if you’re inclined to think of the early Middle Ages as being entirely brown, you might revise your mental image to being just somewhat brown.

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On a very different note, we also visited Schleswig Cathedral.  It’s important to realize that this cathedral is much, much more recent than the time period that I study, but as long as we were in the area, it seemed good to take a look.


One thing you’ll notice about this cathedral, like the one in Århus, is that it’s red brick.  I like this.  Of course stone is nice too, but it’s fun to see the red brick.  If you work for Baylor University and have some hand in their building projects, take note of these photos.  Great things really can be built with red brick.

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Like many cathedrals, this one has undergone a passel of renovations over the centuries.  This makes for fun viewing, because if you look around for them, you’ll see some of the leftovers of the older days.  Here we have some stone carvings that, according to our tour guide, date to the twelfth or thirteenth century.  This first one is a pair of lions eating a pair of less fortunate (and not quite recognizable) animals.



And here we have a carving of the King of Kings himself.  You’ll recognize symbols of the four gospels surrounding him.  (The angel, the lion, the bull, and the eagle, as you know, represent Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.)



So that was our field trip.  I’ve got to say, field trips are considerably more exciting in graduate school than they ever were in grade school.

Thanks for reading!


* Pukite, John.  A Field Guide To Cows: How to Identify and Appreciate America’s 52 Breeds.  Penguin Putnam Inc.  New York, 1996. pp.22-23

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Now here’s a change in pace.  In August I had the privilege of attending the International Saga Conference in Århus, Denmark.  I really liked Denmark, and I hope that you’ll like the pictures that I took of it.  I also really loved the conference, but I won’t be covering much of that.  There was a lot discussed there, but not a lot for photographing.  So I’ll show you the sites I saw.

Here’s the local cathedral.


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And here’s what I think is the opera house.

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I really liked this building, but I’m not sure what it is.  It was right across the street from the hostel I stayed in.


I especially liked the decorative chimney tops.


As much as I love Iceland, one thing about it that doesn’t wear well is the prevalence of modern architecture.  Århus doesn’t have this problem at all.  It has lots of nicely preserved old buildings that come in lots of fun designs and colors.  Here are just a few.

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I especially like this doorway.  It might actually be fairly new – I’m not sure.


I’m pleased to say that Århus, like San Antonio, has a River Walk.


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Among the many fun aspects of the Saga Conference was that one of the local breweries made a special “Saga Brew” just for the occasion.

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So there you go.  I loved visiting Århus.  Sadly, I’ve waited too long to tell you about it, and I’m short on things to say.  The scenery was great to see, the conference was fun to attend, and I found Denmark to be one of the most friendly and enjoyable places I’ve ever visited.  If given the opportunity, I’d return in a heartbeat.


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A Short Post

Hello All,

Here’s a short post to wrap up the pictures from Mom’s and H.’s visit.  Here’s a picture that I suspect almost every American feels compelled to take in Reykjavík.  This is the house where Reagan met Gorbachev in 1986.  Now you know I’ve seen it too.


And here’s another picture I suspect almost every foreign tourist must take in Iceland.  This is the Blue Lagoon.  I get the impression everyone and his dog has heard of the Blue Lagoon, but in case you haven’t here’s what it is: it’s an enormous hot-tub fed by the runoff from a geothermal power plant.  Its water and mud are supposed to be good for your skin.  I can neither confirm nor deny this, but I can say that I’ve been there.


And here’s a picture of the lava field right next to the lagoon.


So there you go!  Thanks for reading!


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I’m back.

So on to the next round of photos.  Mom and H. and I headed up to the Snæfellsnes peninsula at the recommendation of a friend of mine whose family hails from that area.  Now before I continue, do any of you know how exactly the word “hail” came to mean “to come from”?  This has bothered me (not the fact that “hail” can be used this way, but the fact that I don’t know why it can used this way) for almost two years now, and if any of you know, please tell me.  Anyway, Snæfellsnes seems to be one of the best areas to go if you’re looking to see glaciers, volcanoes, and seals all in one visit.

Here’s a picture of volcanic landscape.  I’m sure there’s a technical term for this sort of lava formation, but I’m not sure what it is.  “Bubble” will suffice for now.

This is Hotel Buðir.  We didn’t stay here, but we did stop here to hike around.  It looks like a very nice hotel.


And here we have a nearby church.  This is one of those moments when I really wish I had typed up these blog posts a long time ago, because I remember there being an interesting story connected to this church, but I don’t remember what it was.  I also don’t remember what the church was called.  I’m sorry about this.  The poor chronology of this blog is taking its toll at last.


And here’s a wee shelter of some sort.


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We met an older gentleman named Sæmundur who took us to find seals.  We were told that he never failed to find seals (when he was looking for them, anyway), and sure enough, here are more seals.  He told us that it was his theory that the common seals, born a greyish color, get more brownish as they age.  Google neither confirms nor denies this, but Sæmunder seems like one to know these things.  I also like learning the occasional bit of ungoogleable trivia.  (Yes, I finally stooped to using a word that hints at the use of Google as a verb, but it was hard to pass up the opportunity to say “ungoogleable”.)


We stayed in a wee town called Arnarstapi, which has a great view of the ocean, and a big statue of a troll.  For those of you who are less familiar with Icelandic (and Scandinavian) folklore, The Hobbit got it right: trolls are traditionally said to turn to stone when the sun comes up.

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The bird you see below isn’t a seagull.  It’s a fulmar.  I was first introduced to fulmars while studying in St. Andrews.  They’re relatives of the albatrosses, and they nest on the sides of cliffs.  I was glad to see them again in Iceland.


And here’s a less exotic bird specimen:

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Here’s a (very) small volcano.  We stopped to go climb it and look inside it.  You might think this inadvisable, but this didn’t occur to us.  It did turn out to be safe, though.


See, there are even little flowers growing on the sides of it.


And here’s the crater.  Notice it’s all green.  It made me think of the “Firebird” sequence from Fantasia 2000.


Now you should have the finale from “Firebird” playing in your head.  If not, here it is, conducted by the great Stravinksy himself:

I did not put in the clip from Fantasia 2000, because you should watch that on a proper screen, not a computer.

Also, for those of you who were wondering, I have finally finished my thesis, and it has been approved.  So, bureaucracy permitting, I should have my M.A. this month.  I’m excited.

Thanks for reading!


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A Note on “Wreaking Havoc”

We all seem a little confused about this phrase, so let’s talk about it.

To “wreak havoc” means, more or less, to inflict a lot of damage.  Easy enough.  But if you’re going to cause a lot of damage, you most certainly are not going to “wreck” havoc.  That doesn’t make sense and it annoys me.

Now let’s say that after wreaking havoc you’re put on trial and you plead guilty.  You should probably say, “I confess that I have wreaked havoc”, not, “I confess that I have wrought havoc”.  Wrought is not the past participle of wreak (or wreck, for that matter).  Wreak is a weak verb.

Wrought, believe it or not, is the past participle of work.  I’m sorry if this is unsettling.

Thanks for reading!


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Ashes, Ashes, We All Fall Down.

After leaving Akureyri, we headed back to Reykjavík, and I must confess I slept most of the way.  But I took these pictures:


As you can see, this one was taken in the desert, which I’ve already shown you.  And this next one is a field.


So that concludes the trip around the Ring Road.  Ashes, ashes, we all fall down.

But since that’s not much of a post, on to the next adventure.  This one consisted of another ring shaped road.  My mother and brother came to visit me and, as every tourist really must do in Iceland, we drove around the Golden Circle.  Yes, I’ve already shown you pictures of that too, but last time the pictures were tiny.  So here we go:P1010447

Here’s another picture of Geysir.  No obligatory Japanese tourist, but you can see evidence of one.


And here’s Gullfoss.  It’s just always pretty.


Join us next time for more travels with Mom and H.

Thanks for looking!


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For your consideration:

“Mythopoeia”, by J.R.R. Tolkien


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