Reykjavik View from Hallgrímskirkja Church

Reykjavik is a quiet little city and the Hallgrímskirkja Church is the main landmark and a popular tourist attraction. Check out our video about the church and the view from the observatory.

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It’s Official: We’re Moving!

Sorry for the delay in blogging! I got carried away with our move. I will resume writing posts every other day! The content of The Travel Bug Bite will keep changing and evolving. Prepare for more DIY home projects, less New York and more Rhode Island – our new home starting end of May.

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The New York Mycological Society

There are strict rules about foraging anything in state parks and city parks. The laws aren’t clear at all, so it’s always best to ask someone more experienced. Whenever we go picking mushrooms, we bring a towel/picnic blanket to drape over the basket just in case.

We have finally gotten a taste of some good weather so I started researching one of my favorite topics: mushrooms! I grew up picking mushrooms in Europe which is completely different than doing it in New York. First of all, in Europe, Czech Republic in particular, mushroom picking is a popular sport! Second of all, the mushroom season is only 2-3 months long.

In New York it’s completely different! First of all, almost no one picks mushrooms. This is true for New York City as well as the state, most Americans in general seem too scared to pick mushrooms! Also, mushroom hunting season here is practically all year round. However, prime mushroom picking time is from April until October.

Coming from a country where you have to wake up at 5 AM after a rainy day to find a single mushroom that hasn’t already been picked by the hordes of hungry mushroom hunters. The first mushroom I ever found in New York was found in plain sight on a very busy path in a New York City park… that got me researching.

Even if you know something about picking mushrooms in Europe or Asia, you can’t just apply the same knowledge in a new place. There are lookalike mushrooms that can be edible in one country and poisonous in the other. That’s why it’s a good idea to join a mycological society. If you’re in New York, I recommend the New York Mycological Society!

They have a website and a Facebook Page where members (and non members) can learn about mushroom types and join on mushroom hunting expeditions for just $5, unless you become a member for $15 annually ($25 for a family). The group consists of experts, some experienced mushroom pickers and many newbies.

They also don’t focus on picking edible mushrooms, they like to explore and identify mushrooms of all sorts! I joined for a walk through a cemetery in the Bronx, where we split up, picked mushrooms and met at the end to examine all of our findings. It was a lot of fun and very educational!

A mycological society can also help explain the laws regarding mushroom picking in the area that you are in. I was surprised that there are so many rules in America about literally everything. Isaac got a fine once for being in a park when it has snowed, despite there being no signs about it.

There are strict rules about foraging anything in state parks and city parks. The laws aren’t clear at all, so it’s always best to ask someone more experienced. Whenever we go picking mushrooms, we bring a towel/picnic blanket to drape over the basket just in case.

Starting this weekend, I will start going on hikes hoping to find oyster mushrooms that grow all year round! But the moment it gets warm and rainy, everything else will sprout too. I just can’t wait!

Do you love mushroom picking? Share your favorite mushroom stories int he comments below!

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Waiting for the Icelandic Geyser to Erupt

This geyser, situated right next to Geysir – the oldest geyser that all others are named after – erupts every 10-15 minutes. While we were there it erupted four times. Two were 15 minutes apart and the other three erupted within 10 minutes! It was freezing but we kept ourselves entertained.

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Tourist in Pripyat – Visiting the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant (Part 1)

I anxiously kept my eyes glued to Google Maps. What would it be like? What would the city be like, once a bustling Soviet metropolis of 50,000 people, now a wasteland – abandoned in a moment during the disaster in 1986?

Hopping on a bus in Kiev, Ukraine at 7 AM, I could hardly believe where we were headed. Would the bus have a bright, blaring marquee declaring “Chernobyl” on it? We really didn’t know what to expect.

After some trial and error, we finally located the little van that would take my wife, her mother, a dozen other tourists and me north about 100 km to the abandoned town of Pripyat. It was the heart of winter and the temperature wouldn’t get much above freezing that whole day.

Along the way, we were handed out little devices that would measure the radiation in the air around us. These were basically just a novelty to let us know that we were safe, and were a bit of fun when we saw the numbers start to rise. The levels never got high enough to do any harm, and in fact we were told the snow was an additional insulator against any radioactive particles.

Along the way, as the 2006 documentary “The Battle of Chernobyl” played on a small screen, I started googling statistics. Apparently, we were among 60,000 people to visit Chernobyl that year. I knew it was safe and that, of course, they wouldn’t let people come if it wasn’t, but I couldn’t help searching things like “Effects of visiting Chernobyl” and “Signs of radiation poisoning.”

Google Maps told me that we were getting close, and sure enough the van stopped and we entered what’s known as the “Exclusion Zone” or “Alienation Zone.” This is an area of 30km in radius from the reactor itself, and is to this day uninhabited, except for some stubborn villagers who refused to leave. We hopped off the bus, had our passports and special passes checked, and got back on.

The drive inside was fairly uneventful, mostly through forests that have had the chance to thrive in the absence of human intervention. I anxiously kept my eyes glued to Google Maps as the little blue dot got closer and closer to the town of Pripyat, and the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant just a few kilometers away. What would it be like? Would we need special suits to get close to the reactor? What would the city be like, once a bustling Soviet metropolis of 50,000 people, now a wasteland – abandoned in a moment during the disaster in 1986?

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