Couldn’t blog yesterday because the wi-fi was a tad spotty, but better late than never!
We were in the North, staying in the Holmavik area, and started out with some beautiful views of mountains and the ocean! We were following a route called Tröllaskagi (aka “troll peninsula”) which runs between 2 fjords:
So pretty that it actually looks fake. We even found the world’s most scenic phone booth!
Technically it’s an “emergency” phone, but still a phone box! Parked right outside a long giant tunnel through the mountain, where we may (or may not!) have gotten caught by photo radar camera going a tad over the speed limit. It’ll be a fun surprise, and I’m sure the ticket will look great in the scrapbook of the person who was driving at the time (I’m not telling which of us it was, because I know she wouldn’t want me to say….lol). Anyway….it’s called “troll peninsula” because the legends say there’s giants and trolls dwelling in the craggy mountains and deep valleys. We didn’t see any, unfortunately!
Next up we hit the fantastic little fishing village of Siglufjörður where we both made friends with locals. Mo learned that there really are “plenty of fish in the sea” when she was flirting it up with a local fisherman, who agreed to let her pose with a fish, gallantly leant her his gloves, and endured the good-natured mockery of his co-workers:
Wheras I met a kindly old gentleman who gave me a free glass of beer (which was delicious! I’m choosing to believe that just because it was called “Black Death” doesn’t mean he hates foreigners!):
He told us the whole history of the town, and it was actually really interesting! Fishing is obviously a big industry, but so is boat-building, and there’s a pharmaceutical company making anti-inflammatories out of fish skin. After the free history lesson, he strongly urged us to visit the “herring museum”, which we feigned interest in, and then ran the other way when he wasn’t looking. We got hot chocolate to go, and found an adorable outdoor patio with all the furniture made from barrels:
Anyway, if you’re ever in Siglufjörður (and you really should go, it’s gorgeous!), we highly recommend the Harbour House Cafe!
Lonely Planet has really saved our lives. Without it, we would have missed a ton of really cool things, including a little town called Hólar, which was the education capital of Northern Iceland between 1106 and the reformation. It was also a big religious centre until 1798, and now it has a museum, a very old church with some tablets dating back to the 1500’s, and some bibles dating back to the 1600’s. The church itself is from 1763.
We also found more turf-roofed houses! They are adorable, and look like Hobbit-houses.
We went and did the Icelandic Horse History Centre, thinking it was going to be more interactive with actual horses, but ended up just being a museum. We did find the part about the Icelandic mailmen interesting, and all the hazards their jobs entailed, but otherwise the exhibit was a bit dry. That didn’t stop us from taking a photo op in 2 of the random parts of the museum, though!
Here’s Mo doing her best “Murder She Wrote” impression, and making important phone calls:
While I made myself a cup of tea:
You may be wondering how that typewriter/desk and this kitchen set-up figure into an exhibit about horses, and the answer is: we have no idea, everything was in Icelandic. But they were very releastic!
We left little Hólar, intending to take a lovely detour to Vatnsnes Peninsula, and our crazy GPS decided to take us somewhere completely different, making us have to turn around and head 1.5hrs the opposite direction. Now, the guidebook described this peninsula as a “splendid detour”, 82km in length, and also warned us to drive carefully, but didn’t mention that the road was all gravel, full of pot holes, and only big enough for one car. It was like a terrifying amusement park ride. Several times I thought we’d bottomed out, had numerous near head-on collisions, and I think Mo’s fingernail indents are still visible in the passenger-side door handle. But it was worth it! First up was Hvítserkur, which is a 15m high basalt stack which looks like a dragon drinking water. Legend says it was a troll caught by sunrise trying to destroy a nearby monastery (what a jerk, eh?):
…and after that we carried on to Illugastaðir, which is an old farm and has paths leading to bird-filled fields, and rocks where seals sun themselves. It was remarkably good timing because it had only opened to the public the day before we got there, so that all the ducks could finish nesting. The whole place was filled with little goslings and ducklings, and they were adorable. We also saw numerous seals, which made Mo happy (I keep having to remind her that we have seals back home, but she claims it’s not the same….)
She even took off her shoes and socks, and waded into the freezing cold Denmark Straight to walk to a little island to see more seals, and we tested out the complimentary binoculars in the seal-watching shed:
As happy as I was to see baby birds, and seals, I geeked out for another reason. I don’t know if anyone else has read the book “Burial Rites” by Hannah Kent, but I read it about a year ago, and it’s based on the true story of the last person (a woman!) executed in Iceland for taking part in a murder. Well, it turns out the actual murder took place at this very farm in 1829! So, it was kind of cool to be in the spot I had just read about, and Lonely Planet didn’t mention the connection, I only discovered it because of a tiny sign on the public bathrooms.
It was a long day of driving, we ended up being on the road between guesthouses for about 13hrs in total, so we were exhausted. Had the chance to party with some gentlemen of unknown origin who were 3/4 of the way into a bottle of tequila when we arrived at our destination, but we opted to head to bed!