Tag Archives: travel

Gunnar and the Elves of Vopnafjörður

In downtown Vopnafjörður, right across from the slaughterhouse, there’s a fine elf hill. Gunnar Gunnarsson grew up in this neighbourhood. He would have seen this hill everyday, and no doubt climbed it often.

Now, it might be hard to visit a “real” elf here (at any rate, it’s out of your control), but you can visit Gunnar.

He has flowers and birds, and place for you to sit down.

This is a pre-Happy-Camper kind of Icelandic travel. There are a lot of Icelanders honours with their very own copper head in the trees. To visit them is a kind of pilgrimage.

Hi, Gunnar.

The Puffins of Rauðarnes

The puffins of Rauðarnes are a fun bunch. The walk is stupendous. It’s 7 km, return, but you could easily spend days sauntering along.

You can brave the rough, steep road to Borgisfjörður Eystr and see the puffins up close and personal, and they are really, really great, but this is better, because they aren’t so crowded, which gives a different dynamic, and more goofiness. These are, like, country puffins.

Plus, the gulls are sneaky. See her below?

And unlike the puffins in Borgisfjörður Eystril, they aren’t controlled by hidden netting to preserve their habitat and green it, so these are puffins in the raw, so to speak, which means erosion, yes, but also (see below) a penthouse!

Very cool!

Turn off the road to Vellir Farm just north of Svalbard, just north of Þorshöfn. You will soon be there, puffing on your 3.5 km walk to the puffins, delighted by the sculpted sea stacks and caves on the way. Get there soon, though. The puffins have an ocean to get back to. Oh, by the way, if you’re lucky, you can get pretty close. How about 3 metres?

Such beautiful birds!

The True Inspiration for Icelandic Architecture, Promise

Here’s a turf house window in Iceland. You’ll still find a few here and there. Wonder where the idea came from?

Wonder no longer.

Of course, that’s old architecture. The new stuff is, like, modern and all. Or maybe not. Here are some apartments in Reykjavik, and the elf stone in front of them, where no developer was allowed to build, because it was already occupied, and you don’t want to mess with magical rocks. Where did that idea come from?

From Snæfellsnes, that’s what. All that’s happened is that people finally got the upper hand and build houses taller than the magical rocks.

That’s simple enough, but what about finer architectural features, such as the red windows below on Laugavegur in Reykjavik. Tough one, eh?

Not at all. We just need to go to the Fljotsdalur in the East and all is revealed.

See, two red panels. Nice. Fine, but what about the really tough ones, like the Harpa concert hall?

Pshaw, nothing to it. I guess you didn’t go quite far enough out on Snæfellsnes. Here you go.

And the Harpa:

See? You can be in and out at the same time. That’s the ticket. Now, about the modern brutalism that graces the city…

… well, not modern at all. You can see its model at Ásbyrgi, in the far North.

Oh, one more time. This time, note the air conditioner…

Nice, eh. Where, oh where, does that come from? Again, the far North.

Well, just imagine the building as a flat rather than a height and you’ll see it. It is a crazy island, but if you hang around it long enough it will come into focus.

Book Laundry in Reykjavik

(Other countries launder money, but Icelanders have learned their lessons about messing with crazy stuff like that.)

 

 

Homecoming in Iceland

This year I will be going to Iceland for my fifth time. People are already making fun. “Why don’t you go somewhere new?” they ask. “It’s a big world.”

Yes, but the bay above called to me. Without seeing it, I suddenly drove off the road, parked in a meadow and started walking into the wind. Soon, I crested a headland and was here. Soon after that, I discovered that the beach was watching me as closely as I was watching it.

Seeing new things often means going home.  The land welcomes one with speech, when one is patient and listens.

Sitting Down With the Mountain

The glacier…

Snæfellsjökull

… makes its own weather…

Stapafell

… in its own shape, just faster.

Snæfell

And then wraps itself in it. So does the land give voice to the sea.

So many travellers spend a week, or less, driving around Iceland to see everything, in the pattern of a modern “grand tour.” A more-authentic Icelandic experience would be to sit down with a mountain and learn …

… it’s not just sitting there.