At home with Nonni – Akureyri, Iceland (Aug. 14)

For a magical hour last evening, whales were everywhere as we approached the end of the fjord. Days ago, the captain had said something that resonated with me. Don’t spend all your time looking at these wonders from behind your camera. So there are no whale photos, but some incredible memories. Whales breaching, one for 4 or 5 times in a row in the same spot. Another rolling on his back and waving hello with just his flippers showing. More showing a long length of shiny black back, before diving to reveal an iconic whale tail. A great ending to the day Mom and I spent together in Akureyri!


Long ago, a small boy named Jon Svensson, called “Nonni” for short, was growing up here in the north of Iceland in a traditional wooden house with impossibly small and crooked doorways. Yesterday, ducking through those doorways after climbing the steep attic stairs, I could just picture Nonni’s life,  filled with the adventures he would later share as a beloved children’s author.  Like Laura Ingalls Wilder, a nation loves his stories of growing up in a simpler time.


Out of curiosity, I had bought one of Nonni’s books on eBay months ago. It was the true story of the day he and his brother were rescued by a French Navy ship, after drifting out to sea in the fog and having a close encounter with whales. Before their rescue, the boys made a vow to God to become Jesuit priests, like St. Francis in one of their storybooks. It was a vow that Jon later fulfilled, even though his family was Lutheran!
Mom and I were on an official (incredibly expensive) Holland America bus tour, a first for me. Our other stop was Laufas, an ancient manor farm with traditional turf-clad timber buildings and a church.


The farm property contained an eider duck nesting area that provided a large income from the sale of the eider down. In 1880, unbelievably, down was gathered from 5,520 abandoned eider nests.

The smooth waters of the fjord are like a mirror, with water so pure that most people safely drink it unfiltered. On the hillsides, sheep roam wild all summer, ranging from high mountain fields to the shore, where they also eat seaweed. The most interesting fact we learned was how Icelandic people are named: a first name and then a last name indicating whose son or daughter they are. I would be Laurie Georgedaughter (in Icelandic) and my brother would be Gregory Georgeson! This amazingly still happens today. I took the photo below in a cemetery today.


A wife does not take her husband’s last name and a family could all have different last names.

4 thoughts on “At home with Nonni – Akureyri, Iceland (Aug. 14)”

  1. Love that you read one of Nonni’s stories – – it sounds fascinating, especially because it was a true story. As for the naming pattern there, it echoes that of many Scandinavian countries, however it has died out in many places, beginning in the cities and spreading to rural lands. Still, a genealogist’s nightmare in some ways! As always, a joy to read your thoughts – Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Laurie,
    I’d like to ask your permission to use the image of the attic room, in the sod-covered home, for a cover on a book of poetry.
    The poetry’s mine, penned over several years, and is finally compiled and finding a home in an Amazon Kindle Direct Publish paperback (and eBook).
    If you allow me to use the photo, I will give credit and link back to your Laurie’s Adventures website on WordPress.
    Let me know if this is amenable to you, or if you prefer other stipulations.
    TJ Weeks

    P.S.: My wife and I (and our 5 kids) spent a few years at Keflavik Naval Air Station while it was still active. We loved the tours of the capital city, Reykjavik, and surrounding areas. Our favorite day trips were to the Blue Lagoon (15 minutes from the base) and to Glymur Falls (a couple of hours of slow driving).


    1. Hi, TJ! What a fun comment to wake up to this morning. It would be an honor to have my photograph as the cover on your book. Congratulations on finishing your project. I am still writing every day on the story of my NFCT thru-paddle and am in chapter 15 of 17. I will send you a separate email so that you can let me know when your book is available. Laurie


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