First on our agenda for today is a quick jaunt south down the west side of the valley to Glaumbær to check out the museum. Sod houses were important to the early development of Iceland. they use less timber (a rare resource in a treeless country) and are highly insulated. The museum in Glaumbær has a restored farm building dating from the early 1800s. There are a couple of buildings of more recent vintage as well. It's a fascinating place to experience what life in Iceland might have been like in earlier times.
Turning north on highway 76 we follow the coastline for an hour and a half until we reach Siglufjörður. This is the most northerly settlement in all of Iceland. The town is shrinking in size since the herring ran out in the 1960s, with the population currently around 1,500 - about half of what it was in its 1950s peak. Siglufjörður is probably our favorite of the entire trip. The snow covered mountains, calm water, cool old buildings and fishing boats in the harbor all add to the quaint nature of this out of the way village. They also have a nice website - http://www.siglo.is/en/ -or in Icelandic - http://www.siglo.is/new
We had read about the Herring Museum in just about every one of the tour guides. Now, I have to admit, somehow a museum about herring was having a tough time bubbling up to the top of my list. But, after wandering up and down the streets window shopping, popping into Aðalbakari for their famous 'love balls' and hot chocolate and eating a whole pizza at Pizza67 (Rock, Sex and Pizza, according to the imprint on the napkin!), we just kind of ended up at the museum. Here's my assessment - if you're not into the breathtaking scenery along the drive, the beautiful setting of the town itself, great pizza and pastries, it's still worth the trip just for the museum.
At Pizza67 we were introduced to the artwork of Ragnar Páll. He has done such a wonderful job of capturing the essence of the community through his series of Christmas prints. We found that prints were available from the local printer, so we set off in search. One thing we discovered as you move into more remote areas of Iceland, the level of English speaking skills drops noticeably. Fortunately, it's a small town and all we had to do was mention the pizza place and the printer knew what we were after. Of course, the print we most wanted was sold out, but he still had a couple others, and he also had small prints, so we came away with one big print and two small ones.
So, after purchasing the most expensive souvenir of the trip we were back in the car. At the northernmost point of the west side of the fjord just above the Sauðanes lighthouse we could see the island of Grímsey. In retrospect, I think I would have skipped most of the day puttering around Akureyri or destroying a camera trying to watch whales in Húsavík to either fly or ferry out to Grímsey. As far north as Iceland is, Grímsey is the only part that actually lies on the Arctic Circle.
We had two more stops to make yet before returning to our hotel. It was 4:30pm when we finally hit the road. The sod church at Gröff was intriguing for two reasons - it's an old sod church, which is a cool thing, and the tour book said if the church was locked to just go knock on the farmhouse door down the way and they'd let you in. These are the kind of things that makes touring in Iceland really special. You really get the sense that you're someplace that not many people visit. And, while it all seems so remote and rural, there's almost always a farmhouse in sight, everything is well marked, and you get the sense it's been like this for a thousand years.
The church is easy to find and not far off the road, but you'll miss it if you're not looking for it. Be sure to close the gate behind you so you don't let all the sheep and horses out. The key was chained to the front door of the church, so we didn't have to bother the residents. The church has one significant problem - it's only big enough for trolls. The front door is 5 feet high and the seats of the pews are only about 10 inches deep. Worse yet, the seats are about the height of a normal seat, which means anyone short enough to walk through the front door would not be able to rest their feet on the ground while seated. Maybe that's why you don't see many troll converts.
Last stop - Hólar, a few km out 767. Of course, we spent too much time at Gröff and arrived in Hólar ten minutes after the Cathedral had closed for the day. Oh well. We snapped a few pictures around the grounds and headed back to Sauðárkrokur. The end of another fabulous day in Iceland!
- Glaumbær - Part 1 - Part 2
- Gröff - Grafarkirkja
In the home stretch - Day 7