Day 6: Sunday 19 August 2012
Distance travelled: 444km (275 miles)
The wind definitely whistles through Brautaholt, and blustery as it is outside it is in nowhere near as blustery as it sounds. The day is bright and sunny, and it’s a shame we have to leave so soon, but we must and pack our bags once more, and depart.
The neighbours who we met last night who’s key it was in the side door and who share use of the hot tub have locked one door and I discover how to lock the front door to the shop. The downside being that once we leave there is no way to get back in. Better that I figure than to leave it unlocked…
Our road trip continues by, bizarrely enough taking the road south by way of a high pass, half way back to Borganess to get back onto the N1 north. The road is good and we arrive in Viđimyri for lunch and to visit one of only three tiny grass-roofed churches left in Iceland. Timbered inside, and around, the pulpit finally decorated it is beautiful and cosy as well it might for all the turf exterior. The gable walls are like dry leather, and make a solid wall to the building.
We have a picnic lunch outside the church whilst a friendly, heavily pregnant cat makes himself known to us, and then we continue on our way taking a slight detour – to Hólar.
‘Welcome home to Hólar’ is the traditional greeting to everyone when they arrive here, because no matter who you are or where you ar from or going to, Hólar is always home. There’s possibly the smallest cathedral in the world here and it was here that Christianity came to Iceland. It’s also home to one of the first printing presses in Iceland, and because of this one of the first copies of the Bible to be printed in Icelandic. There are also tales of beheading Bishops as well. Now it is part of the University and an agricultureal school and very, very peaceful – unbelievably peaceful.
Our journey continues – for another couple of hours back to the N1 and along – east – to Akureyri. Akureyri is the second city in Iceland but is little more than a small town by most standards. It even has its own international airport even if the runway is a reclaimed strip of land behind the causeway in the middle of fjord.
Our guesthouse, Ytra-Laugaland, is about 10 km south of Akureyri. There is something going on in the local community – all the postboxes at the ends of the drives are decorated, sometimes elaborately, sometimes incredibly inventively, with animals, birds, and people. And so we arrive at our destination – just like it looks in the brochure, a little red-roofed farm overlooking the river. Viborg, our host is an austere looking older lady who welcomes us in warmly, apologetic from the outset that the room we will be in tonight is not the same room we will be in for the following two nights. It doesn’t matter. The rooms are very comfortable. Vilborg is also quick to provide to use post-it note and the password for the wifi network – bonus as it means we can save £3 on Vodafone charges today.
We freshen up and change and head back out almost straight away to find somewhere to eat in Akureyri. Since my last, brief visit to Akureyri ten years ago (when Chas and Sarah left the rest of us in a gravel car park at the back of some industrial units whilst they did a Bónus shop) they’ve tidied up the water front and built The Hof – the Akureyri Culture House. Basalt and concrete it is a perfect circle and reminds me a little of the Harpa in Reykjavik.
We park for free and wander up into the main street. It doesn’t take long because Akureyri is a very small place. There are life-size trolls in the main street and lots of lovely shops and cafes. We make for Bautinn at the top end of the main street in one of the oldest timber buildings in town.
We both go for the soup of the day, and then Emma has a burger and chips, and I, hashed local fish and rye bread – very yum but oh so much cheese!
After dinner we wander in the setting sun (of 8.30-9 o’clock), admiring the dresses hanging across the street outside the opera house and the little church with the stained glass saved from the now bombed Coventry Cathedral.
Down by the main street and we find little souvenirs and gifts for people and another boat sculpture and head back to our guesthouse for a well-earned rest.
Day 7: Whale watching from Husavik and the Great canyon of Ásbyrgi…