Traveling Nancy

Traveling around the world as far as I can go.

June 14th in Iceland

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I forgot to write about the something we learned about what is going to happen on June 17th which is a National Independence Day in Iceland.  They are celebrating their independence from Denmark in 1944.  The pastor from the church in Reykholt told us that everybody in the surrounding communities will ride their horses to the church.  They will have a church service and then party (food, dance, joy).  I wish we could be there to see that but there are many other things to do.

Also last night (or really early this morning at about 2:15) when I went inside the hotel to brush my teeth and get ready for bed, I saw that all of the young women who were going to be horseback riding in the morning dancing in the dining room.  I went in to see if I could get a photo.  One of the women said that I could not post a photo of them, but I needed to dance with them.  So at 2:30 this morning I was dancing with about 15 women.  What a blast.  Then when I came outside to get into the van, I saw my first Icelandic sunrise.

I was so wired that it took a bit to get to sleep so I slept in a bit this morning (no surprise).  We didn’t get going on our drive to Arnarstapi until after 10:30.  The views along the road were stark and stunning.

As we were driving along the road we saw about 5 or 6 people taking photos by a lake.  Elaine turned the car around and dropped me off to see what was going on.  They all had huge camera lenses and were photographing a bird in the water.  I was so excited to actually get one half decent shot myself.

As I was walking back to the camper, I saw this beautiful rock.  I think it looks like a fabulous painting.

We drove on for a while and then decided to turn into a driveway to see a church near a house and a cemetery.  There was an Oyster Catcher on the path.  We learned that in Iceland they are called Tjaldur.

Along the road a bit further we came across another group of cars parked.  The sign said Rauðfeldsgjá  I read that on the  Eastern side of the mountain known as Botnsfjall, there is a  massive natural crack that doesn’t immediately seem to be accessible from the ground. However, if we walked up closer to the base of the mount it would become clear that the nearby stream is actually issuing from the fissure, and there is ample room for a human to get into the crack.  The gorge extends inside the Rauðfeldsgjá fissure for a ways until it narrows near to from where the stream is issuing. Within the split, the walls are covered with vibrant green moss and the imposing cliff walls looming on either side provide a truly unique sense of the sprawl and majesty of Iceland’s natural terrain.  So of course we had to park and walk up to see it.

We had to walk on the rocks through the stream sometimes holding on to the wall.

It was well worth the trip into the back.

When I reached the back of the fissure, I could look up and see the sky.


What a great side trip.

Then we drove on to Arnarstapi or Stapi which is a small fishing village at the foot of Mt. Stapafell between ,Hellnar village and Breiðavík farms on the southern side of Snæfellsnes.  You can see Snæfellsjökull from the town. This is the view of the glacier that we saw as we drove along the road.  It is widely visible even from Keflavik Airport and Reykjavik.

The glacier’s highest peak is 1,446 meters.  Locals believe that great forces flow from the glacier and the myth has inspired many novelists and poets.

There is a huge statue  of Bárður Snæfellsás near the water at the end of this small village or hamlet which was created  by Ragnar Kjartansson one of Iceland most renowned sculptures.  The statue is his interpretation of the giant character, Bárður Snæfellsás, that dominates the area around Snæfellsjökull glacier.  There are many sagas told in Iceland.  This is one of them.

Bárður is known as an extraordinary being from the time of settlement in Iceland.  His story was written in Medieval times in the fifteenth century and is part of the Icelandic Sagas.  His mother was one of the tallest and most beautiful women in her days, but his father Dumbur was a half-giant or a half-troll. Bárður was also considered extremely handsome with a large presence.  In his youth, he was fostered by Dofri, the mountain-dweller, of Dovrefjell in Norway and received an excellent education and training. Bárður married Dorfi’s daughter Flaumgerður and had three tall and beautiful daughters by her. Like he, she also had a human mother. After she had passed away he married Herþrúður his second wife who was human; he had six more daughters by her.

Along with his wife and daughters and some friends, Bárður emigrated to Iceland and settled at Djúpalón on the south coast of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. Bárður’s half brother Þorkell also emigrated with his family and settled at Arnarstapi. They were fleeing the tyranny of Harald, the king of Norway. His brother Þorkell had two sons, Sölvi, and Rauðfeldur.

Following an altercation after a rather dangerous prank played on Bárður’s daughters by the half-brother’s sons, Bárður was provoked to a point of uncontrollable anger. An event that made him extremely depressed and totally loose his mind in the end.  Finally, he gave away all his land and all his earthly belongings and vanished into the Snæfellsnes Glacier. In the glacier, rumor has it, that he built an ice cave more in line with his troll or giant side.  There, he became known as the Guardian Spirit of Snæfell as the locals worshiped him and looked at him as their savior. For centuries, they would call upon him in times of hardship and trouble. Bárður wandered the region wrapped in a gray cowl held together by a walrus-hide rope. In his hand was a cleft staff with a long and thick gaff for mounting the glacier.

Bárður’s cave is still in situ, and his story is a timeless, fantastic read. It is, of course, a true story written about events that occurred in Iceland more than eleven hundred years ago, written about six hundred yers ago. Many names of many places in the area around Snæfellsjökull glacier are related to Bárður Snæfellsás and his story.

 We wanted to do the coastal walk between Arnarstapi  and Hellnar.  Since it was after 3:00 and we were hungry, we decided to first drive to Hellnar for lunch at a cafe that several people recommended.  The name of the cafe is on the sign below.
After asking several people, we finally found the cafe.  It was down a path and around the corner overlooking the water.
Elaine and I each had a bowl of fish soup.  This was the first time we ate in a restaurant and were pretty shocked to find out that the cost of each bowl of soup was 26 króna.
Then we drove back to Arnarstapi to chose a site for our camper before we started the walk.  We learned that the cost of parking our camper was going to be 30 króna and there were no showers or hot water at the site.  So we decided to do the walk to Hellnar and back and then drive on down the road.
Here are some of the photos I took on our walk.
The next photo is of Gatklettur or Arch Rock.  It isis a cliff with a circular arch. The arch shows how distinctive wave action has eroded the rocks into arches and beautiful swirled patterns.
After our short walk along the coast we drove to Hellisandur which is around the other side of Snæfellsnes Peninsula.  We explored the town a bit and then found a place to park our camper. It was such a treat to see the rainbow over Snæfellsjökull  form our campsite.
I am watching my first midnight sunset which is setting over Breiðafjörður just before I go to bed.  s a large shallow bay, about 50 km wide and 125 km long, in the west of Iceland. It separates the region of the Westfjords  (Vestfirðir) from the south of the country. Breiðafjörður is encircled by mountains. An interesting feature of the bay is that the northern tip was formed about 15 million years ago, whereas the southern end at Snæfellsness was formed less than half that time ago.
We have been so blessed with our weather (3 sunny days in a row).  Rain is forecasted for tomorrow, but we can hope.

Author: Nancy Panitch

Traveling has been a passion of Nancy Panitch's life and she loves seeing how people in other cultures live. Her travels have taken her to many places within the United States, Asia, Europe, South America, and Africa. Being around people inspires her and she has much gratitude for the kindred Souls that are joining together with her in body, mind, and heart. She moved from Chicago to Portland, Oregon in 1982. It was one of the best decisions of her life. While in Portland she stays very, VERY busy. She volunteers (Inter-Religious Action Network, Human Rights Council, & ushering for various theaters); attends a Unitarian Universalist church; goes hiking with groups (Cascade Prime Timers & Trails Club of Oregon) and also with individual friends. Book groups, movie group, and bridge groups occupy her time as well. Her quiet activities include yoga, knitting, Sudoku, and reading. She enjoys all of these activities, but making time to see her wonderful 4 grandchildren takes priority over it all. She is happy to share this blog and hopes to encourage others to travel.

4 thoughts on “June 14th in Iceland

  1. Just magnificent!

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  2. Pictures are awesome,love looking at them.

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  3. Some of the pictures are reminiscent of Newfoundland to me.

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  4. The black and white sea bird is a Common Eider. You had a photo a day or so ago that I think was a Black-tailed Godwit. He had a long neck and a very long bill tipped with black, and he was rufous-colored on his face and neck, I believe as well as his breast. His back was kind of marbled. We don’t have them in our hemisphere as far as I can tell, so think he is a European bird.

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