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Scanadventures

Odinsson2 and friends’ random musings on all things Scandi from the Northern Lights & where to see them, Reindeer Sledding & where to do it, along with news, views, gossip, hotel reviews, nerdy stuff and more.

LAPLAND'S GLASS IGLOOS

Beginning with Jussi Eiramo's creations at Kakslauttanen the fad in Finnish Lapland over the last few years has been glass igloos: the lazy man's way of spotting the Northern Lights from the comfort of your bed for the night. We're not sure what the planning rules in Lapland are but they must be relatively relaxed since they are literally popping up all over the place. Of course for geometric pedants some are not strictly igloos in shape; there are conical shaped ones reflecting the traditional Sami Lavvu, cabins with glass roofs and some luxy cabins with panoramic windows looking out over the forest. What's common to them all is the techno glass which prevents it frosting over so you can lie in your bed keeping a watch on the night sky and not missing a chance of seeing the Northern Lights if they should choose to appear that night. So here's our first hand guide to the best with our own star rankings for each.

Levi (5*)
Perched on a fell top with gob smacking views over endless miles of forest Golden Crown igloos are a cut above the ordinary. Each comes with a radio/CD player, hair dryer, motorised double bed (convertible in to twins), bathrobe & slippers and shower/WC. All the windows and ceilings are insulated and electrically heated to prevent them from frosting up. Top notch with 23m2 of space. Self styled 'premium igloos' have front row stall positions with gob smacking views over the adjacent fjells and a stay here can be luxed up with lodgings at the Northern Lights Luxury House. Here's how you can make a stay here an adventure: http://www.scanadventures.co.uk/holidays-in-finland-lapland/igloo-nights-levi
Luosto (4*)
A cut above the average laavu, the tripodal tent used by the migratory Sami, Luosto's glass laavu's (so alright not strictly an igloo if you're a geometric pedant) come toastily heated with all mod cons. Comparable in styling & comfort to the hotel's rooms proper each comes with its own shower/WC, entrance hallway, wrap round privacy curtains, double bed and glazed walls & ceiling. Probably (for the moment) the luxiest way to see the Northern Lights; just by gazing up at the night sky. Accompanied by nights in The Aurora Hotel where all the rooms face North so if you miss the Aurora then you only have yourself to blame.Here's how you can make a stay here an adventure: http://www.scanadventures.co.uk/holidays-in-finland-lapland/aurora-nights-luosto
Kakslauttanen (4/5*)
The original glass igloos in Kakslauttanen's East Village, along  with newer larger ones in the West Village, are testimony to owner Jussi Eiramo's obsession with detail. All are built with a thermal glass domed ceiling that insulates the interior to keep it warm and whose frost preventative element maintains crystal clear panoramic views even with outside temperatures as low as minus 30c. The smaller ones which are tiny, tiny have twin beds, hanging locker and a WC/hand basin, whilst larger ones at 32sqm have 4 single beds, shower and WC. Of course, if you are opposed to all this genuflection to modernity and want to go for the real thing, there are also snow igloos which maintain an inside temperature of between minus 3 and 6 degrees Celsius, and in which you bury yourself in a thermal sleeping bag for the night. Here's how you can get the best out of a stay here http://www.scanadventures.co.uk/holidays-in-lapland/igloo-nights-kakslauttanen
Sinetta (4*)
26 kms North of the Arctic Circle SnowHotel & Glass Igloos are located. In the hotel, you can accommodate in snowroom or glass igloo. Kota tepee, log restaurant and ice restaurant will take care of your hunger or thirst. You can also try traditional Finnish sauna meanwhile your stay as well as other arctic activities such snow sculpting or ice fishing. Friendly staff will take care of you during the whole stay by waking up with a warm drink or even if you wish, also in the middle of night, if the Northern Lights would appear and give the fabulous show up in the sky. http://www.scanadventures.co.uk/holidays-in-lapland/arctic-experience-rovaniemi
Nellim (3/5*)
Not so much an igloo as a bubble (which is what owners Jouko & Mari Lappalainen call them) Nellim's bubbles are nothing more than a perspex domed roof on top of a cabin. Rudimentarily furnished with wood cladded walls, a hanging locker/porch and compost loo they're simple in every sense of the word but a pretty good way of staying away from light pollution and not missing a flash of the Aurora however fleeting. Worry not if this all seems a bit too rustic; we keep a hotel room available for you so there is somewhere for you to shower in the morning.
If a bubble sounds a bit too rustic then Jokuo has recently built a handful of Aurora Cottages, altogether more luxurious affairs resembling a log cabin with a glass mansard roof. Built out of deadwood pine with open fires and furnished by Mari these are the real Mcoy. This is how w ebuild an Adventure around a stay here http://www.scanadventures.co.uk/holidays-in-lapland/aurora-adventures-nellim

 

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10 THINGS YOU DIDN'T KNOW ABOUT RANDERS


It's on the right hand side of Denmark's Jutland Peninsula at the head of an eponymously named fjord and perfect for a short break either on its own or together with somewhere else. It's also quick & easy to get to. I flew with BA on their new service to nearby Billund which took not much more time it took for me to get across the Randersfjord on the high tech ferry shown here. 

It's perfect for a short break: a Town and Country picture postcard sort of place. The town bit being all winding cobbled streets, half-timbered houses, crow stepped gables, clay roof tiles and statues of imperious looking long forgotten Vikings. The Country bit all rolling meadow land peppered with beech forests. Alongside the Randersfjord you can get up close and personal with eerily encanting reed banks; take a dinghy out and watch the day go by, fish for herring, whitefish and cod: or literally just wade into the water.

The place to stay is the newly and nearly refurbished Hotel Randers although when I say refurbished I really mean re-built, the place having gone up in smoke last year much helped by the 150 year old wattle and daub walls being like tinder. It oozes history with murals in the public areas and an eclectic mix of fabrics and furnishings. (Victor Borge* played the piano there before WW2 and 'his' piano is still there). My stay was truly surreal because of the meticulous way in which the workmen disappeared with their tools at the end of the day and reappeared in the morning: literally like going to bed in a hotel and waking up in a building site!! http://hotelranders.dk/en/

Aound and about there are several places where you can eat food to die for and which give Noma a run for its money. In Laurbjerg half way between Aarhus and Randers is Fru Larsen where husband and wife chef team Tommy Friis and Birgitte Pedersen knock out superb grub. Fladbro Kro sits either side of a road in the sort of position where in this country you'd find a Little Chef but that's where the similarity ends: I had lunch there but can't remember a thing I ate other than it was all epic. On my first night I had dinner at the Randers Hotel's Cafe Mathisen courtesy of Hotel Manager Sven Eskildsen which was similarly epic. 

Idiosyncratically one of the area's growing attractions is a replica of Elvis' Gracelands Mansion. It's stuffed full of Presley memorabilia and surrounded by Bose speakers filling the air with the sound of Blue Suede Shoes & Heartbreak Hotel. In any other country one suspects the owner Henrik Knudsen would be sectioned but Denmark just seems to let people do their own thing!!

Similarly idiosyncratic but without any foriegn appropriation is former schoolmaster Jens Skovgaard's Cold Hand Winery. Jens developed a thing about apples, apple trees and orchards and has morphed himself into a vintner. A brilliant raconteur he tells his own story: how he stumbled on a technique for freezing concentrate by accident; how he linked up with a man on Funen who was the apple king of the island and why he refuses to call his products cider!! He's shortly to open a restaurant which has to be as good as his wine. www.coldhandwinery.dk/en/

Not at all idiosyncratic is Clausholm Slot, a baroque moated castle surrounded by a couple of thousand acres of farmland. You can Wiki all the detail of its restoration and so on but the story of Frederick IV's abduction of his young Queen Anna Sophie and some Henry the 8th like sex and rock n'roll is better than Poldark. Whilst there I ran into current owner Berit Førland Berner who, whilst perfectly charming, gave off an aristocratic sense of looking at me as though I was a trespasser. www.clausholm.dk/ 

There's tons to do for culture vultures and next year nearby Aarhus will be a European Capital of Culture so whatever time you go there'll be something going on. I went to the ARoS Aarhus Art Museum floating above the roof of which is a circular walkway called Your Rainbow Panorama by Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson who is apparently world famous (I don't know about these things). At the other end of the building i.e. the basement, there are several rooms devoted to video art and installations and then in between top and bottom a concuopia of art from 18th century stuff through to pieces of incomprehensible modernism!! www.aarhus2017.dk/en/programme/

Lastly but not really leastly there's Den Gamle By in Aarhus a 'Back to the Future' open air museum where you can wander from decade to decade amongst streets and buildings painstakingly restored to replicate their era. It sounds a bit hokey but really isn't. www.dengamleby.dk

And for the 10th thing watch this space for special things to do and ways to do them. www.scanadventures.co.uk/holidays-in-denmark

Odinsson2

*If you're under a hundred you might not have heard of Victor Borg but you can check him out on You Tube. He's one of the funniest men ever to have been.
**Odinsson 2 travelled to Randers courtesy of the Danish Tourist Board. In the manner of an Oscar acceptance speech there are many who made the trip fun and informative but a special thanks  to Ninna for putting up with him. 
*** Odinsson 2 is the pseudonym of Ian Woolgar the ScanAdventures 1st Team Coach. Opinions are his own and not neccessarliy endorsed by our Travel Designers.
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NORTHERN LIGHTS DIRECT FROM GATWICK

Beginning this December there will be twice weekly direct flights to Finnish Lapland from London Gatwick operated by Norwegian. Quite simply that means that for the first time the Northern Lights are just are just 3 1/2 hours flying time away by scheduled airline. You'll be able to spend a 3 night weekend searching for them each evening whilst trying out snowmobiling, husky mushing or reindeer sledding during the day. Or you can multiple your chances of seeing them even more by taking the better part of a week off flying out on a Monday and back on Friday.
To start with we've redesigned our holiday in Luosto "http://www.scanadventures.co.uk/holidays-in-finland-lapland/aurora-nights-luosto"<a   
And there's more coming.

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HOW THE NORTHERN LIGHTS SENT ONE MAN MAD

Galileo first used the term boreal aurora (later changed to Aurora Borealis) after Aurora, the Roman goddess of dawn; but it was a Norwegian scientist Kristian Birkeland who set out to achieve what many before had tried and failed: to solve the mystery of the Northern Lights. To Birkeland, the Lights represented the threshold between the visible and invisible worlds; the link between the planet and the mysterious forces that shaped the universe. However in the late 19th Century the prevailing belief was centred on Aristotle’s assertion that there could be no interaction between the heavens and the Earth because the heavens were perfect and unchanging. This resolute popular conviction created a difficult climate for Birkeland’s propositions. In the winter of 1899 Birkeland spent five months isolated in a mountain-top observatory at Kaafjord in the far north of Norway, a position known as having the most sightings of the Lights. Eventually he discovered that the force disturbing the magnetic field came directly from the sun in narrow, high-velocity beams of negatively charged particles (electrons) called cathode rays. Sometimes these active particles hit the magnetic field of the Earth and followed the field lines down towards the poles, where they struck atoms in the atmosphere. The energy created by the collisions was emitted as light. The lights only appeared during magnetic storms because the cathode rays from the sun were moving beams of electrons, creating electric currents that, in turn, made their own magnetic fields. Birkeland’s conclusions were published in 1901 and Norwegian newspaper headlines trumpeted, “Riddle of the Aurora solved!” However the international scientific community was not so impressed. Britain was the global leader in science and would not shift from her resolute opinion that space was an empty vacuum.

Birkeland’s findings were rejected. He was bitterly disappointed but even more determined to prove his theory The Norwegian government refused him any more funding, so he had to raise the money himself. This he did through the invention of a fertilizer (of which there was a chronic global shortage at the time) using electromagnetic furnace technology. Birkeland continued his fanatical study of the Lights over the following years and in 1908 published his monumental work, “The Norwegian Aurora Polaris Expedition 1902-1903” describing his second, bigger expedition to the far north. But again the scientific community was disparaging of his ideas and he suffered another major blow. Gradually over the five years following this second disappointment, his life began to crumble.

His work was overshadowed by other scientific developments at the time, such as Einstein’s theory of relativity and Bohr’s model of the atom. His obsessional relationship with his work drove his wife to leave him. He was also growing increasingly dependent on alcohol and the sedative veronal, and his health began to deteriorate. He spent his final years in Egypt studying the Zodiacal Light. A combination of insomnia, whisky and veronal fuelled chronic paranoia. He became convinced that with the outbreak of war, one of his inventions, the electromagnetic cannon, placed him in danger. He kept the copies of his patent in a specially installed safe in his room, bought two guard dogs and three guns and sacked his servants as he was convinced were plotting against him. On the 16th June 1919, aged just 49, Kristian Birkeland was found dead in a hotel room. The post-mortem revealed him to have taken 10g of veronal the night of his death, instead of the 0.5g recommended dose.
For 50 years after his death, Birkeland’s reputation sank into oblivion. In 1970 space satellites found incontrovertible evidence of a flow of electric particles from the sun. This proved that “empty space” was actually not empty at all, but filled with electrified gas, which then forms “solar wind”, which Birkeland had identified more than 60 years earlier. Today he is credited as the first scientist to propose an essentially correct explanation of the Aurora Borealis.

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EPIC THINGS TO DO IN REYKAJVIK (1ofa100)

Until last month I’d never flown in a helicopter; a couple of flights in a Cessna (one of which was over Vatnajokull) yes; but anywhere in a chopper no. So when Helo's boss lady Herdís Anna (Þorvaldsdóttir) and pilot Gunnþór (Sigurgeirsson) suggested I might like an evening whirl in their new Bell 407 I had to think about it for all of 3 seconds. 

I had no idea what a Bell 407 was other than when I first saw it at Reykjavik's domestic airport it didn’t look like an Apache Longbow!! Importantly though what Helo's version has is specially modified oversized floor to ceiling windows through which you get the best views of Iceland to be had. And Bose headphones to muffle the external noise while you're looking at them.

We flew out over Pingvellir and the Mid Atlantic Ridge to Hengill, a geothermal thermal plateu with hot springs and fumaroles. We touched down on top of a volcano, marked our intrepidity with a glass of champagne and just stood gob smacked at the scene : steam leaking from the ground; melt water streams trickling over it and all against a backdrop of snow capped mountains. And when we left Gunnþór did a sort of arial back flip down the side of the mountain just for a bit of fun

Everybody running the company and the pilot oozes Icelandic charm matched with effortless efficiency and the pre-flight safety briefing was delivered simply and assuringly. What can one add – this is the thing to do and these are the people to do it with. 

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GLASS IGLOOS AND BEYOND

Although glass igloos first appeared in Kakslauttanenen which is probably why they're the ones most people have heard of, more recently they've cropped up all over Finnish Lapland and leached into Norway and Sweden. They also now come in all sorts of shapes and sizes: pointy hat ones modelled on the traditional shape of a Sami Kota; combination ones that are part log cabin and part igloo and bubble shaped ones that are just that 'glass bubbles'. The latter are the brainchild of the Nellim Wilderness Lodge's owner driver Jouko Lappalainen, the glass Sami Kotas sit alongside one of our favourite boutique hotels at Luosto and the new cabin combi ones are at Kakslauttanen where Jussi Eiramo has pioneered them alongside his original ones. 

On top of which there are now variations on the theme in the form of what are called Aurora Cabins; log cabins with glazed roofs or walls that have much the same thing going for them, i.e. the chance of seeing the Northern Lights whilst snuggled up in bed. The latest of these are just outside Rovaniemi, are really luxe inside with fantabulous views out over the forest and hidden gallery beds for children. 

And they're spreading. Beyond Finnish Lapland in Norway at the apex of the Scandinavian Peninsula where it touches Russia the Kirkenes Snow Hotel has installed ones designed in Switzerland (sic). In Sweden the ICEHOTEL has Kaamos rooms with corner floor to ceiling windows by which you can sit in heated comfort with forest views and a chance to see the Northern Lights. Iceland hasn't quite got there yet but a couple of inventive locals are developing a sort of heated glamping contraption which can be moved from place to place about which we'll keep you posted. In the meantime there's always the lounge bar at the epic Hotel Ion with its floor to ceiling windows.

So if you're thinking of a night in an igloo as part of  a Northern Lights holiday remember not all igloos are the same, or in the same place. Some are like luxury hotel rooms with a glass roof over the bed and others more rudimentary: more or less as simple as snow igloos but with a loo. Where they are is also just as important as what they are: you can have anything from a night in the remote wilderness and acquired bragging rights or somewhere with more creature comforts. 

 
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ICEHOTEL NOW OPEN ALL YEAR ROUND

Thanks to some innovative solar power technology, paradoxically using the sun's heat to keep ice frozen, 2016 saw Sweden's legendary ICEHOTEL open its doors all year round just like any other hotel. 25 years ago local Jukkasarvi boy made good (very good), Yngve Bergqvist, built an Ice art gallery for visiting Japanese Ice Sculptors which morphed into the ICEHOTEL.

The rest is history, with Sweden's ICEHOTEL becoming an iconic destination focused around ice art and Sami culture. For every one of the last 25 winters the ICEHOTEL transformed the tundra landscape around Jukkasjärvi 200 miles North of the Arctic Circle with magnificent ice structures, sculptures, ice furniture, glasses & plates (sic), a consecrated church, exotic bedrooms and ICE ART suites.

But, for every one of the past 25 springs, when the weather turned warm, the exhibit and the hotel melted back down into the River Tjorn from where it came. But Ingve is a restless soul and he's now pioneered permanent solar-powered ice suites available year-round; 'rooms for all seasons' if you like. So when the Sun rises above the horizon the hotel, and all that Ice Art, no longer disappears.

 
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THE 5 HIDDEN SECRETS OF SWEDEN'S ICEHOTEL

There have probably been more column inches written about, and pictures taken, of Sweden's ICEHOTEL than any other hotel in the world. Herb Ritts put it on the map back shortly before he died with a shoot for Absolut Vodka and Versace. Brazilian Super model Raquel Zimmermann for Hermes & Naomi Campbell for Versace have braved the ice there, and Kate Moss posed inside an ice sculpture at minus 40 Celsius. ICEHOTEL has spawned imitators around the world from Melbourne to Quebec and licensed its own ICEBARS in London and Stockholm. But here’s 5 of the hotel's secrets you might not know, and which make it more than just a hotel. 1] Its an ART GALLERY. It was originally built as temporary lodgings for a group of visiting Japanese ice sculptors by a man called Yngve Bergqvist and only ever intended to be just that: temporary. Yngve called it Ice Art because it also acted as a gallery for sculptures, wall decorations and furniture and that's what it still is. Each year designers in all sorts of fields enter a competition to design Art Suites which form the centrepiece accommodation for the hotel.This year out of 130 concepts put forward just 19 have been chosen for this year's Art Suites ranging from 'Elephant in the Room' by Anna Sofia Mååg to 'Counting Sheep' by six time contestant Luca Roncoron. 2] Its a CHURCH. Other Ice Hotels, Igloo villages and the like talk of having a chapel; the ICEHOTEL's however is a church proper, consecrated each December. We've lost count of couples we've arranged wedddings and blessings for but each has had the white wedding to end all white weddings. 3] Its a RESTAURANT & BAR. It has a fabulous foodie standard restaurant and ICEBAR, the latter replicated just off London's Regent Street and with imitators from Melbourne to Quebec. The cocktails come in ice glasses & include Arctic concoctions such as Dog Sled Sour and Sparkling Polar Night. The Restauarnt's Bleak roe with potato rosti, Cured smoked fillet of Arctic char, fennel puree, Arctic char mousse & sea buckthorn, Fillet of reindeer with Jägermeister sauce, potato fondant, vegetables & cloudberry jelly; caramel tuile, nougat ganache with truffles & Arctic bramble sorbet are - well you get the point. 4] Its an ACCIDENT that happened. Yngve Bergqvist, the man who started it all never foresaw his original temporary creation would be world famous and freely admits as much. As Benny said of that other famous Swedish institution, ABBA, when he and it became hip again, he never saw it coming. It's longevity, fame and iconic status has just been an accident. 5] It DISAPPEARS each spring. Despite the snow cannons that aerate snow & ice into ‘snice’ as they call it; the JCB’s that do the heavy lifting and the Volvo designed production line for producing ice bricks it still melts away in spring. Although watch this blog for solar powered updates. PS If you want to see some of these secrets for yourself, take a look at http://www.scanadventures.co.uk/holidays-in-sweden/icehotel-adventures-deluxe
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NEW GEOCACHING ADVENTURES IN LAPLAND

How does a day of treasure hunting sound to you? How about if you can combine that with exploring new places and spending the day outdoors? Geocaching, with over 6 million users worldwide, is a wildly popular GPS-based outdoor game that can be played anywhere by anyone with a smart device. The main idea is to navigate to a set of GPS coordinates to locate a cache: a small container that includes at least a logbook and possibly some other things as well, such as collectibles or travel bugs that move from cache to cache. You won’t know it unless you’re a geocacher (and be aware that you’re not allowed to reveal the caches to 'muggles'!), but there are caches everywhere. I repeat, everywhere. Once you get started, you will never look at things the same way again. The cache types vary from traditional caches, like described above, to mysteries (you need to solve a puzzle or another kind of a mystery to get the coordinates) and even series of multiple caches (you need to find one to get coordinates for the next one, and so on). Each cache is registered on the website and has its own code, and you should log your findings in the system. The caches are made and kept up by other geocachers, so once you’ve got the hang of it, you can even make your own! Typically, a cache introduces something new, like sights, sceneries, memories or history through its description and location, which is why in addition to being great fun for the whole family, it is a great tool for exploring new places while travelling: you might end up finding amazing hidden gems that you would never have come across without the help of local geocachers. It also makes for a good exercise and a nice day outdoors (like snowshoe geocaching in Kiilopää) – the caches are hidden in all kinds of places varying from swamps to hills and lakes (yes, there are caches in lakes) to buzzing city centres. With the help of your smart device, you can see all the caches located near your whereabouts and freely choose the places you want to explore and the routes to take there. There are different sizes, difficulty levels and terrains for caches, all information which you can find in the cache’s description. Even though a smart device connected to the internet is needed to use the GPS and the Geocaching mobile app’s compass to navigate to the cache, it is also possible, albeit more challenging, to check the locations beforehand and navigate towards them the old fashion way - with an actual map in hand. Anything you find can be logged online afterwards! To get started, go to www.geocaching.com for more details, grab a friend, and start exploring (and remember to lay low)!
The writer, Annika Selander, is Finn-Guild’s media intern, who has climbed trees, acted in incredibly suspicious ways in public and turned a 1,5-hour drive into four hours for the sake of geocaching.
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THE DOWNARDS, ICELAND'S BLACK SAND BEACHES & A PLANE CRASH

In 1973 a US Navy C-117 (a military version of the DC3) had to make a forced landing on Solheimasandur's black sand beach close to Skogafoss. The stories as to why, have multiplied over the years not least because they tend to be told and retold by farmers. One version tells of the engines icing up, another that the pilot ran out of fuel and yet another that he switched fuel tanks by mistake. The mystery multiplies as official records give the date of the crash as November 24th but archives of local newspapers record it as having happened two days earlier. Whatever the truth the crew survived after being rescued by Guðmundur Jónasson whose descendents we still work with.

Today, shorn of its wings and tail section, the plane makes a surreal sight in the middle of the black moraine desert, even more so in winter with the Northern Lights overhead. On our Road Trip 'Waterfallls, Glaciers & Geysers' you can detour up the glacier just past Skógafoss on Route 1. Cross a bridge with blinking yellow lights and an access road to Sólheimajökull Glacier on the left. Drive East for about 2 km keeping an eye open for a dirt road turnoff and gate to your right. From there the 'road' is marked with yellow withies but don't believe the idiots who tell you you don't need a 4x4 - you do. Its become the Iceland selfie to have, as the Downard Boys show here. You can yours on many of our Road Trips including http://www.scanadventures.co.uk/holidays-in-iceland/highlights-of-south-iceland
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