No history, no churches…just the story of a day of climbing, swimming, writing, and having tea in a bakery. Thanks to a young couple I met right off the ship, I set my sights on a scramble up and up above the small town.
After the climb, I swam in the town’s public pool, this one smaller and indoors, since there is no geothermal heat in this NW corner of the country. Those of you reading along since early on will be delighted to know that I now have a group of daily swimming friends, including “snorkel man,” who has visited all the public pools along the way. Well, it has been a delight to have tea, sweets, and INTERNET. Talk more soon!
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 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.
Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth becomes a bit more believable once you’ve seen this geologically youthful island steaming with latent energy. Yesterday afternoon I took the frigid plunge into ice cold water after swimming in one of the city’s outdoor swimming pools heated with geothermal energy. There aren’t so many truly sunny summer days here and we’ve enjoyed two. Tomorrow a lot of blonde Icelanders will be feeling mighty sunburnt! Even streets and driveways in Reyjkavik are heated with this green energy source, which makes me wish for some steamy vents in the Maine countryside, too.
Along with the waterfall and a geyser, we (some new friends and I in a rental car) visited Thingvellir National Park, site of the first Viking legislative and judicial assemblies, beginning in 930 A.D. Faint impressions in the ground gave mute evidence to the temporary booths that housed the gathering year after year for centuries.
For Christmas, Mom gave me just what I was dreaming of, a ride on an Icelandic horse. Dad went along, too, on one of these sturdy, well-tempered small horses, purebred from the earliest Nordic Viking settlers. The population is kept totally isolated and, as a result, is free of all equine diseases. Even championship horses, taken abroad for competitions, can sadly never return to their native country.