Tag Archives: churches

A departure from the unusual

Tuesday 13th July 2021. Today was departure day, with all of the old familiarities of international travel subsumed by the strangeness and uncertainties imposed by the pandemic. Our departure was not until 4pm, so at least we could do something we  are used to doing, which was to wander the streets of a town exploring as we went.  The area of Reykjavik around our hotel is full of lovely little architectural touches, as well as homicidal people on rented electric scooters, and it repays rambling around. In many places, the actual streets are decorated.

and there’s the longest hopscotch track [Jeremy Clarkson Voice ON] in the world [Jeremy Clarkson Voice OFF].

Many of the buildings have some quite extravagant art on them.

And the touches of colour are not only for the traditionally-architected buildings

but can also be found among the more modern ones.

At one stage we stopped for a coffee, in, as it happens, the bar out of which we got chucked at closing time yesterday.

At that point we were en route from the downtown area which contains both the Lutheran cathedral (which, while attractive enough, is, well, just a church really, and hardly Interesting at all)

and the Roman Catholic cathedral (the Church of Christ the King, an altogether much grander affair, unsurprisingly)

in our search for the final Interesting Church of the holiday, which we’d espied as we scurried to and from our Covid test.

This is Háteigskirkja, which as far as I can tell is a non-denominational church. Its website modestly refrains from conveying very much useful information about it, which is a shame, because it’s a striking building; and as the door was open (unusually in our experience of Iceland’s Interesting Churches) we ventured in to find some lovely mosaics inside.

Climbing the stairs to the gallery level we noticed yet more stairs continuing up… the place was deserted so of course we climbed them, eventually arriving at a final workman’s stair up to an open trapdoor… Well, what is a photographer to do when faced with an open trapdoor? Thus we clambered out into one of the bell towers.

When we did this, it was about five to midday and I wasn’t going to hang about trying for artistic images just in case these bells were attached to a clock – so we scarpered back the way we had come!

On the way back to our hotel, we caught a glimpse of the back end of Hallgrímskirkja, the “Space Shuttle” church.

I was quite glad to get that picture, as it’s very difficult to do it from near the church itself.

And that was the end of our wandering around Reykjavik, as it was time to collect our bags and hope that the taxi would arrive that Dagur had promised us would take us to the airport.  Arrive it did, bang on time, with a very large and friendly chap driving it. He whisked us off to the airport where we went through the various formalities of providing the necessary documentation to prove we weren’t currently plague-ridden.  As we approached the security check, I realised that I still had my penknife with me; I usually remember to pack it in my hold luggage, as the security bods don’t generally like people carrying them on to aeroplanes.  Since this was a Swiss Army knife – not a huge one, but even the small ones are ridiculously expensive to replace – I decided to ask the security chap if there was any way I could take it through.  Rather to my surprise, he said it was OK, which was nice of him.

Covid paperwork – and the necessity to wear a mask – aside, the departure process was exactly like it always was, though I suppose the airport was less crowded than it might have been.  After a mask-free fortnight, this was not particularly welcome, but it shows that care is still needed.

We treated ourselves to a coffee and a toastie, and boarded the plane, which was only a few minutes delayed. Much to my surprise, the WiFi on board was free, so I took the opportunity to update this blog as far as I had time to do (you’ll have inferred that this didn’t include today’s entry), and took advantage of some sustenance to fuel the creative juices.

(That wasn’t all me – Jane decided she had to provide moral support.)

Arrival at Heathrow was on the original schedule, and we took the usual half-mile walk to get to the border checks, wondering if there was a horror story about to unfold, having heard tales of six-hour delays and horrendous queues.  Much to our surprise, everything was very swift.  We had all the right paperwork, we whizzed through the border checks, our bags came out pretty fast and our taxi was very nearly awaiting us, we got through so quickly – Heathrow Terminal 2 was very, very quiet.  From touch down to getting the kettle on at home took barely over an hour and a quarter.

And so we reach the end of our adventure into a really unusual place.  Iceland is a remarkable destination, even if you only stay and do the tourist bit in the south; but having seen most of the accessible areas of the island, with, in Dagur, a guide who knows his way around and could make sure we saw things of interest to us, made our time there even more impactful. And we’ve covered a lot of ground:

The middle bit is only accessible with courage and a backup car, but looking at that summary I can understand why our brains were full of the sights, sounds and smells of the country.  It’s been a fantastic fortnight, and we’ve loved the place.  We Will Be Back, as it will be interesting to see what the place is like in Winter (apart from just cold, of course).  I’ll do a further blog post with some general summary-type thoughts about Iceland, and so maybe you’d like to come back in a couple of days to take a look; it will be our opportunity to round off what’s been an extraordinary holiday in a really unusual country.

 

Day 9 – Go East, Old Man!

Wednesday 7th July 2021. A fine day was promised by the weather man and (for Iceland) sizzling temperatures of perhaps as high as 21°C! Somewhat better than we would have had at home. Schadenfreude lives!

Our overall direction, which you might have guessed from the title, was east, crossing from the northeast region towards the east coast. Dagur started the day with a few stops local to Lake Myvatn, the lake which was overlooked from our hotel.  There are some nice scenes

particularly if you ignore the photographer’s shadow.

The next stop was at a slightly bizarre place called Dimmubogir, not to be confused with the Norwegian symphonic black metal band, of course.  This is a dramatic expanse of black lava

which was lightened somewhat by the voluble song of this little chap as we arrived.

In folklore, Dimmuborgir is the home of the thirteen  ‘Icelandic Santa Clauses’ or Yule Lads. On the thirteen nights before Christmas, these trolls come one by one, not to deliver presents like in the softy UK, but to terrorise Icelanders, each with their own strategy after which they were named. It’s amazing what you can think up when the night lasts several months.

After that we visited a small geothermal pool in a lava cave, which was rather lovely.

It’s called Grjótagjá and is so small that really only one or two people at a time can enter.  A sign outside forbids bathing, but as Game of Thrones fans will know, Jon Snow ignored this sign for a bit of how’s-your-father.  I’m told.

Following this, we set off into the region of Iceland called the Highlands. This is basically a wilderness. In the distance one can see Herðubreið, rated as Iceland’s most attractive mountain.  We never got close enough to form an opinion about this, really.

Above is part of a region which had full vegetation until the 16th century until this was largely wiped out by an eruption from Vatnajökull. Despite this attempts were made to (sheep) farm the land some 100 years ago, which made this the highest farm in Iceland.  However farming was abandoned here twenty years ago.  Generally speaking lava and farming are not happy companions.

Further on in this wilderness is another slightly bizarre place, based on a settlement on an original farm called Möðrudalur. A company called  Fjalladýrð set up a company and now operate a campground and set up some buildings in a sort of modern take on traditional Icelandic construction.

As well as camping facilities and this accommodation, the company operates 4×4 tours into the surrounding wilderness.  Somewhat specialised vehicles are needed.

And there’s rather a neat little church nearby, too, which we added to our collection of neat little Icelandic churches.

We carried on eastwards (rather than head into the Highlands proper, which requires serious preparation, vehicles and cojones) and stopped to admire yet another waterfall, this one called Rjúkandafoss.

 

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Steve Walker (@spwalker2016)


The observant among you will by now be thinking “hold on – didn’t you rabbit on about this some days ago?”. And you would be right. But the Other Rjúkandafoss is a different Rjúkandafoss, you see, and is in the northwestern region, by Holmvik. But well done for paying attention.

Our journey took us into a town called Egilsstaðir, where we took lunch. Well, we paid for it, to be completely honest with you (and the restaurant). On the way in to town, I noticed a building which looked like yet another unusual church, and so we went in search of it after eating.  And it’s a remarkable building.

Sadly, access to the tower was locked. Damn!

The next town on our itinerary was Seyðisfjörður, but our route took us past (yet) another waterfall, which actually had two parts, upper

and lower.

Seyðisfjörður styles itself as “the heart of culture, heritage and hospitality in East Iceland.” It’s certainly a pretty place with all sorts of colourful buildings

as well as a cruise ship harbour (this was the Viking Sky, a 900-passenger ship so relatively small by cruise ship standards – relatively large by eastern Iceland fishing town standards though… we encountered the blue buses full of cruisers at some of the sights we visited).

The church is attractive outside

and lovely inside, with a wonderful scent of wood.

With the Seyðisfjörður box ticked, we simply then had to head back across the hills to get to our hotel.  En route, there was some great scenery

and a completely bizarre art installation

This is called Sæki Þetta Seinna, or “Heavier Mountains”, and I simply can’t be bothered to type in an explanation, so here’s a photo of the “explanatory” sign.

This is what the TVs were facing:

Accurate neorealism and minimalism? Or just utter bollocks. You decide.

Anyway the final town en route to our hotel was Eskifjörður. The town features a modern version of the fish processing factory we first encountered at the Herring Museum, and as a result the town smelt (see what I did there?) rather strongly of goldfish food… Anyway it also featured yet another unusual church.

which we’ve added to our burgeoning collection, and a rather cute hotel setup called Mjóeyri, which is a central building and several cottages.

The route to our hotel took us back through Reyðarfjörður, which has a remarkable aluminium smelting operation on its outskirts (it was hoped that this would save the village by bringing in jobs, but it didn’t really work, sadly).

And so we ended our day at the Fosshotel in Fáskrúðsfjörður, which has a lovely setting and a very, very slow kitchen.

And so to bed, with the ongoing journey towards south Iceland starting tomorrow.  Please come back and see how it went, won’t you?