Flatlined on Flatey

We made the decision to take the ferry from Brjánslækur to Stykkishólmur, which saved us some crazy rugged-road driving. Although looking back the time might have been better-spent in the car on those deadly treacherous roads….

Lonely Planet and all my online research recommended we stop off at a little island called Flatey between the 2 stops. There are about 40 little islands in Breiðafjörður, but Flatey is the only one with year-round inhabitants (although in the wintertime there’s only 5 brave souls who stay there, and I’m not even sure if all 5 are human). All descriptions painted it as an idyllic little island where you feel like time has stood still:


Sounds good, right? Well, time sure stood still for us! That 7hrs felt like 24hrs! We had read that in the 19th century, it was a hub of commerce, art and culture, and that there had been an Augustinian monastery on the island, founded in 1172, and in the Middle Ages it was responsible for housing Flateyjarbók, one of the most important of the ancient Icelandic sagas. Anyway, that all sounded appealing, so we thought “why not?”, and hopped off. No cars are allowed on the island, so our rental car went on to Stykkishólmur, and we’d pick it up on the other end, after catching the ferry back.

I will say that the town is really pretty. Surrounded by the water, lots of greenery, pretty black cliffs, rocky beaches, and colourful houses. But we have NO idea how one is supposed to kill 7hrs on this island that measures 2km long, and 1km in width. Plus, it was windy and freezing cold! We started out optimistic that the time would fly by….Mo decided to use patience to try to win over some local sheep:

While I went for a walk to try to find some Puffins that were rumoured to be living on the island.  No luck finding any, but the views were nice!

After Mo finally gave up trying to win the wary sheep over, we wandered into “town”, and started with the church, which was cute and had some very pretty frescoes from the 1920’s:

Next up was the library behind the church, which turned out to be the oldest public library in Iceland, dating from 1864:


It was all wood inside, and very cosy, with maybe 150 books, and 2 armchairs. We were tempted to curl up in the chairs and take a nap, because we were freezing there weren’t many places to go for shelter, but there were too many other tourists milling about for us to do that without looking weird.

We checked out the cemetary, which had grave markers mostly from the 19th century, but a few of the deceased had been born in the 1700’s, which was kind of cool. We found an elf house:


If you look closely, you can see that 2 of the elves are passed out on the roof. Not sure what they got up to the night before, but we’d had 1.5 bottles of wine the night before, so I was envious of their drunken slumber! Then we found some fish-drying racks, and I decided to try a wee nibble.


By this point we were exhausted and cold, so we went to the only cafe/restaurant, which was really cute. Mo had cheese toast, and I had the seafood tacos (which luckily did not include the rancid dried fish from the drying rack!). We tried to make that meal last as long as we possibly could, but we still had 3hrs left…..possibly 3 of the longest hours ever.

I went off exploring, and came across the ruins of the monastery (which don’t look like much from the photos because they were roped off and I couldn’t get close):

I also found an old shipwreck:

Unfortunately I couldn’t get close to it because the eider ducks  in the area were still nesting until July 15th. And while I was respecting those birds and their nesting, their cousin-species ( the Common Redshanks) were NOT respecting me! I wasn’t even close to any stupid nests, and a few started dive-bombing me. I could hear the flutter of their wings approaching, they’d wait till they were a millimetre from my ear and let out a loud screech as they whizzed by. But a few actually smacked me in the head! I’m sure I made quite the spectacle running through an uneven field (nearly twisting my ankle several times in the process!), shrieking and waving my arms around like a human windmill. These birds are JERKS. And I can’t help but feel that they had been biding their time, planning this attack because they’ve pretty much been annoying us at all our stops in Iceland. They’ll fly right in front of the car windshield, and then swoop down to the grill of the car, making you think you’ve hit them, and then about 10 seconds later they’ll come soaring back up at the windshield again, as if they’d just been psyching you out. It’s the weirdest thing, and they’ll do it for minutes at a time! At first, when we thought we had hit them, we were kinda upset about it….now I’m going to start aiming at them! This is what they look like:


Innocent and kind of cute-looking right? WRONG! We saw them attacking a redheaded woman at the glacier lagoon, the day we did our zodiac tour (and no, it wasn’t “kick a ginger day”), and her husband had to throw rocks at them to get them to go away.

Anyway, after my harrowing ordeal, being swarmed by murderous birds, I met Mo back at the cafe, where she tried ordering a hot chocolate with the dual purpose of warming her up, and killing more time. The hot chocolate ended up being weirdly salty, and neither of us could drink it, but we sat there hoping they weren’t going to kick us out. The people at the table behind us had clearly fallen for the same Flatey propaganda we had, but they spent all 6 of the 7hrs in that cafe/restaurant, and appeared to be barely speaking to each other, which must have made the slow passing of time even more excruciating!

When we finally decided we couldn’t stay in that cafe any longer, we ventured out to try to find puffins again, and found a little rocky cove sheltered from the wind:


Still no puffins appeared, but it was here that I discovered that the redshanks had actually pooped all over the back of my jacket and hoody when they were terrorizing me earlier….I was happy to remember the old adage that it’s good luck to have a bird poop on you, but Mo piped up and said “no, no….that’s just what people say to make those who are pooped on feel better”, and then I was back to being angry again (notice I’m wearing a hat that this point, so that if they land on my head again, they can’t make try to make a nest!).

Finally the ferry re-appeared to take us off this island, and over to  Stykkishólmur, which is in the Snæfellsnes peninsula (both are fun names to try to say!).


We’re doing some laundry at our accommodation, and planning out our busy day tomorrow! I’m sure I’ll have nightmares of birds tonight!


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