Jul 25, 2006

Goodbye Hofsos and Holm

John and I have an eventful morning while the boys sleep late. I had a great idea last night, just before I fell asleep. I was thinking about the hours Gabe and Pete have spent kicking rocks (acting like the rocks were hacky sacks or soccer balls). I figured that I could find a ball at the market, and it would be overpriced and poor qualilty, but it would get a lot of use. So John and I venture out, to the laundry, the bank, the post office and the market. Along with the obligatory pastries we buy a soccer ball! Just what you'd expect for the equivalent of $10. USD., but a very worthwhile investment-- by the end of the trip the soccer ball will be completely worn out!

After breakfast we walk along a little path down to huge basalt column stacks, hexagonal in shape, along the shore. John stops to sketch them, naturally.

We walk through town to the Icelandic Emigration Center museum, which is a wonderful place for kids and adults alike. It focuses on the Icelanders who emigrated to the U.S. and Canada, primarily at the end of the 19th century. What is so great about the museum is that it provides lots of personal histories with pictures, letters, newspaper clippings, and objects from people's daily lives. All of the exhibits are done in a very tasteful manner: not slick, but artistic and professional.

John notices Bill Holm outside talking to someone, so I go out to see him. I realized last night that during our previous conversation I never told him that his books were the impetus for my reading Icelandic literature, and that he was directly responsible both for my passion for Iceland, and our being here on this trip! I am able to convey my heartfelt thanks for the way in which his books have led me on a path to where I am right now. I confess to disappointment that I don't have his books along so that he can sign them (Antonia made me take them out during our "Take Out" packing party), and he tells me to send them to him in Minnesota to sign. Thank you, I will!

We talk some more about the book he is working on, Icelandic horses (his next chapter--I tell him about my Shih Tzu/tolt theory, and he is unable to confirm it), and he confesses amazement that we'd gone to Drangey yesterday in the fog! He is a little put out that Hofsos has been foggy every day for weeks. I am enjoying Hofsos anyway, but I can imagine how stunning the view must be when you can see across the fjord to Drangey and the snow-capped peaks beyond. Bill recomends that we visit Holar, Siglufjordur, the Icelandic Folk Music Museum and the Herring Museum--all places we want to go, but which will have to wait for our next trip. We have a hug and kiss goodbye; alas, John isn't around to take my picture with Bill Holm. I have great memories, though, of meeting the man whose words introduced me to Iceland.

We head back to our house, Karastigur, to eat lunch with the boys and pack up. Just as we sit down to eat there is a knock at the front door. Who can it be?

I open the door to discover a bank officer! There was a little misunderstanding at the bank when John signed over two traveller's checks (in the wrong place) resulting in this personal visit by the banker, who politely requests that we stop by to rectify the matter. Only in Iceland would a banker pay a house call!

We pack up and, after a phone call to the owners, we simply leave our payment on the table, door unlocked (we never had or needed a key). Outside of town we stop by the little turf church at Grof where Gunnella was baptised. The picture doesn't convey how little--it seats just 20 people, and those people had better be careful when they stand up! Even shorties like me will bump their heads on the low rafters.

Next stop is the Glaumbaer Folk Museum, which features a large complex of 7 or more turf houses once owned by a wealthy priest named Snorri. The adjacent church has flowers and bushes planted on top of the graves, and inside the church is an organ made entirely of pine--keys, pipes and all.

In Blonduos, where Gunnella once lived and taught school, we stop at an Information Center and we meet a very gregarious young man who tells us about his trip to Drangey: how his friend pushed him off Jon's boat into the water, and how he exacted revenge.

The rest of the drive to the Snaefellsness penninsula is through lovely, scenic areas where many of the saga stories took place. We arrive at Arnarstapi late--too late for dinner, due to an infestation of Danish tourists and the fact that it is so remote that there is no alternate place to eat. They agree to fix us sandwiches, however, so that we don't starve.

The dining area is a lovely turf roof building with clean, light pine walls and ceiling. The building we are lodging in, however, is the most institutional of any place that we have stayed, resembling dorm rooms. But there is a very pleasant common room with a remarkably well-equiped kitchen for all of us to use.

We follow our light dinner with a late evening walk in the longlasting twilight, a walk fraught with peril due to the kria. Kria are birds that are fiercely protective of their nests. Unfortunately, they are well equiped to defend with their long, curved, sharp beaks. The birds screech while dive-bombing any intruders. Their intimidation techniques are very effective: smart people steer clear of their nesting areas. As we walk out to the huge rock statue of Barthur, guardian of the area, we meet a mother who tells of being on a golf course where kria attacked her head and drew blood!

Enough excitement. Time for sleep.

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