Day 10 – Caught in the wind, darling, and the reindeer

Thursday 8th July 2021. The Fosshotel Austfirðir continued to not particularly impress over breakfast. Slow replenishment of items on the buffet, and staff not seeming to be particularly keen on keeping the selection refreshed. I think this hotel is definitely suffering from the pandemic-induced shortage of trained staff in the hospitality industry – just like the UK, really. I’m sure things will improve in time (just like the UK, really); but it’s interesting that the Fosshotel in Myvatn managed to provide a decent service (despite clearly being short-staffed) whereas this one, well, didn’t. Anyway, nobody died and we got a decent breakfast, so we were well set up for the day.

Oh, I nearly forgot to provide the utterly essential comment on the weather outlook for the day. It was good. Sunny and warm. Better than at home, so yah boo.

Before we set off on the day’s travels, Jane and I decided to have a walk around Fáskrúðsfjörður, which is a small town, but not unattractive. The hotel itself is photogenic.

We came across an extraordinary hanging basket of flowers.

The pot was originally used a century ago to melt liver in the the local whale factory, and then for salting fish, just so you know.

Also intriguing were the street signs, which were all in both Icelandic and French.

Apparently the town was a centre for French sailors and fishermen, back in the Good Ol’ Herring Days, so this street-naming is a tribute to their history, and the hotel itself combines historic buildings previously made for French fishermen in the years between 1898-1907: the French hospital, the Doctor’s house, and the Chapel.

The town has a nice little church

and several other interestingly decorated buildings.

and I was able to get a decent reflection photo at the small harbour.

As with yesterday, churches would figure quite large in the day. The first town we passed through, Stöðvarfjörður, provided not one but two Interesting Churches for our collection. One is the old church, Kirkjubaer, now used as a guest house.

and from which you can see the new church,

which is quite a striking building.

Another feature of the town is “Petra’s Stone Collection“, which is a good example of how far short a name can fall in describing something. Petra Sveinsdottir collected stones and kept them in her house. You can go and see them. This is true, but doesn’t prepare you for the impact of the place.

There are literally tons of stone samples, from all over Iceland, which Petra personally collected over the many years of her life and which are now on display in the house – and the garden.

All of the outdoor stones have to be cleaned every year, which looks like it’s a massive task. As well, there are quirky items on show, such as this animal made from various odds and sods

It’s a magnificent tribute to a magnificent obsession – I commend her story to you. There are some very lovely things on display; Jane was very taken, for example, with this small but perfect piece.

Stone actually was a key factor at and en route to our next stop, just along the coast. Iceland provided some typically dramatic rocky scenery as we went.

We stopped along the side of Berufjörður to look at an unusual geological sight – “Green Rock” (the Google Maps description, not mine; I would have sought something a little less literal and a little more, well, intriguing).

Whatever the key mineral was – we never found out – there was plenty lying around on the beach.

The next stop was a waterfall. Well, it’s a while since I showed you a waterfall photo, so here you go:

This waterfall is set on the river Fossá, and is one of several along the river. I suppose that’s why the river is basically called “waterfall”. Anyway, it’s a nice sight, worth a few minutes to set up the long-exposure shot.

By this stage, the idea of lunch was beginning to appeal, so we stopped in Djúpivogur. Before we could eat, though, there was another Interesting Church to add to our collection.

as well as a very striking artwork along the edge of the harbour called “Eggin í Gleðivík” (“The Eggs of Merry Bay”).

This is an artwork by the popular Icelandic visual artist, Sigurður Guðmundsson. There are 34 eggs, each representing a local bird.

We had a nice lunch in Hotel Framtid (“Hotel Future”), in the dining room which seemed more like someone’s living room from the past – very homely and comforting.

The rest of the afternoon was spent staggering about in whistling gales around a kind of “East and West” matched pair of mountains, Eystrahorn

and Vestrahorn.

We spent a lot of time scrambling around and trying to keep our balance in the windy conditions to take several different views of Vestrahorn, but actually the first one I took, above, with the lupins, is the one I like most. Note the “Batman” rocks to the right of the picture:

Also on offer to the unwary tourist at Vestrahorn is a visit to a “Viking Village”. This was actually a film set for a film about Vikings to be directed by one Baltasar Kormákur, who is a recognised Hollywood director and was briefly related to our guide Dagur until his (allegedly frequent) philandering caused a marital split. Anyway, we trudged over towards it

only to find that the years of neglect (we don’t think it was ever used) have taken their toll and it’s rather dilapidated.

There’s evidence of the nice touches that were used, for example the authentic-looking carving around the doors.

so I guess it was worth the visit, but only just; it could really do with a lot of maintenance if they wish to charge the entry fee they do.

As we exited the Vestrahorn site, Jane suddenly asked Dagur, urgently, to stop. Her sharp eyes had spotted something that’s quite rare in Iceland these days – wild reindeer.

It was good to see these creatures just pottering about without being spooked by anyone and it was a nice end to the day’s relentless tourism. All that was left was to get to a nearby town called Höfn and check into our hotel, imaginatively called the Hotel Höfn. We had an agreeable evening meal, with good service from a waiter called Philip, from Prague, whom we learnt has spent the last five summers working in Iceland whilst he studies for his degree in International Relations. Whatever that entails (other than talking to foreigners…)

We are now in South-eastern Iceland, officially in the southern region, and distinguishing features of the area are mountains and glaciers. Tomorrow we are promised a ride on a Zodiac RIB and a glacial lake, which is either going to be fascinating and fun or freezing cold and wet. Tune in tomorrow to find out how it worked out, eh?

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