Traveling Nancy

Traveling around the world as far as I can go.

June 19th – Iceland

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What an incredibly fantastic day.  We hung around the campsite for several hours this morning.  It was nice to take a shower in an indoor bathroom where it was warm getting dressed.  I finished working on yesterday’s blog posting and charged all of the batteries..  Elaine thought it would be fun to take a photo of me since I spend so much time working on the blogs.

We didn’t leave until after 12:00.  The drive to Borgarfjörður was really beautiful.  Much of it was on a gravel road going down switchbacks.  Here are a few photos from the ride.



We arrived in Borgarfjörður which is a fjord and a district in south-western Iceland, by Faxafloi bay. It takes its name from the farm of viking and poet Egill Skallagrimsson, of Egil’s Saga fame. Borgarfjörður eystri one of Europe´s “EDEN” destinations. It has a total of only 130 inhabitants.

We checked out the campground and then went to the Alfa Cafe. Álfa Cafe is made from local stones and wood and decorated with old Icelandic cultural items.  The inside of the cafe is warm and inviting.  Elaine and I had delicious fish soup with bread.  The soup bowl was refillable and so was my tea.

These are our waitresses.

There were dried fish heads hanging in the cafe.  It used to be exported to Nigeria.  The Nigerians used the heads for soups and nutrition.  I think the cheeks of the fish were a delicacy. Last year the company that exported it went bankrupt so they no longer export the heads.

There are more fish heads hanging behind the cafe.

There are replicas of paintings by Johannes Sveinsson Kjarva.  He did paintings of the local people and many of them have information describing the people.

Johannes Sveinsson Kjarval (15 October 1885 – 13 April 1972) was an Icelandic painter. He is by many considered one of the most important artists of Iceland.

Born in poverty, he rode his horse from southern Iceland to Borgarfjörður.  He came from a family of 13 children and they couldn’t afford to support him.  When he arrived he was adopted and as a young man worked as a fisherman. However, he spent every spare time drawing and painting and managed to learn basics from artist Ásgrímur Jónsson. At age 27 with financial support from fishermen and the Icelandic Confederation of Labour he passed an entrance examination and was admitted to the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts for higher education in the arts where he completed his studies. During the Copenhagen years he became acquainted with various styles including impressionism, expressionism and cubism but he also became an accomplished draughtsman. Later he also took shorter trips to France and Italy.

  • In Reykjavik, one of three buildings belonging to the Reykjavik Art Museum is called Kjarvalsstaðir and presents Kjarval’s works alongside temporary exhibitions.
  • He is depicted on the Icelandic 2000 króna banknote.
  • The 1977 Debut Album Björk by Björk, includes an instrumental flute-tribute (Jóhannes Kjarval) written and performed by Björk

One of the women at the cafe created beautiful felted Icelandic trivets and I purchased 2 of them.

We learned that there was a turf house in Borgarfjörður where a woman lived in the summer.  We were told that her name is Stella and if we knocked on her door, she may let us in.  So we walked across the street.  There were workers in the yard and I asked if Stella was home.  We knocked on the door and she answered.  Stella lives in Reykjavik in the winter.  She has 3 sons, 9 grandchildren and 20 great-grandchildren. I took many photos of her home (both inside and outside).


The bright-red home has a name – Lindarbakki (1899). It is completely cocooned by whiskery green grass, with only a few windows and a giant pair of antlers sticking out.  Its oldest part dates back to 1899, but it was thoroughly renovated just before the end of the 20th century.  The house is 30 square meters.  Lon ago a farmer used lived there with is wife and 3 children.  I read that the cellar of the house with its well is original.  We didn’t know about the cellar when we were there so we didn’t get to see it.  What a delight to see a really authentic turf home that is occupied.

We walked down to the harbour.  On the way to the harbour we took photos of a couple of cute sheep that were near the water.


Borgarfjörður does not have a good natural harbour, being short and wide, but a good harbour has been built at Hafnarhólmi on the east side of the fjord. Around 10-12 boats fish from there. The cath is processed at the local Kalli Sveins Fish Factory. In 2003, Borgarfjörður  Harbour received the Blue Flag, an international certification of harbours which fulfill certain environmental conditions.

Hafnarhólmi is renowned for its excellent facilities for up close bird-watching at specially made viewing terraces.

The 4 main bird species breeding at Hafnarhólmi are the eiders, fulmars, kittiwakes, and puffins.  The eider has numerous nests on the islet.  In June the male sits by the nest beside the female.

The first puffins usually arrive around the end of the 1st week of April.  To begin with small groups gather on the water during the afternoon, but gradually the birds start flying up onto the islet as evening approaches.  By the last week of April, most of the breeding birds have arrived and start sitting on the islet in the early afternoon.  After what is thought to be a winter-long separation, breeding pairs reunite, sitting outside their nesting burrows in the evening.  The pair begins to clean out its nest in early May.  Eggs are then laid around mid-May and hatch around the turn of the month June/July.  Puffins start breeding at 3 to 5 years of age, and live for 25 to 30 years.  when they have eggs and young, the puffins are most likely to be seen standing by their holes in the mornings and evenings, but around the first week of August all age groups usually leave the islet.

The moment I spotted the first puffin I was filled with joy.  These are the times that I feel like a 5-year-old again.  I could hardly believe that I was actually seeing puffins.  Seeing them is one of the main reasons I wanted to come to come to Iceland.  As I was taking photos, we met Michael Vourtsis who was taking photos of the puffins. He is a professional stock photographer.  His photos were extraordinary, but I actually took mine.  I can’t believe how many photos of puffins I took.  There must have been 100 of them.  I am posting a whole lot of them because, well just because.

Can you see the fish in one of their mouths.  There will be more photos with puffins that have fish in their mouths.


There was a cracked open egg in the grass.

The puffins were so cute.  Sometimes it seemed like they were posing for us.  Watching them hop/jump around, fly off around the water, and slip into their nests in the cliff made me just laugh.  I tried to take several videos and  I finally was got one I liked.

I even got a couple of photos of what I think are eider, fulmar, or kittiwake.

By the time we finished hanging out at the harbour I needed to charge my camera battery and my iPhone.  So I headed up to the Alfa Cafe.  I knew that they had banana bread with chocolate.  I looked at the counter and didn’t see any but the waitress told me that they were almost finished baking a loaf.  How lucky can I be.  I got a cup of tea and started working on this post.  Warm banana bread with chocolate chips, butter, and cheese made a fantastic dinner.

As it got close to 10:00, I knew they were closing so I asked the waitress if she needed me to leave.  She said I could stay until she had cleaned up.  Then a man arrived with a guitar.  I couldn’t believe that he started playing.  Then the waitress joined him.  I grabbed my newly charged iPnone and started filming.The waitress wrote down their names for me. They are Þróstur Fannar Arnason, Sólbjört Maria Jónsdóttir and her mother, Freyja Jónsdóttir.

Another woman came to join the singers.  Elaine came back to pick me up and then went to get here camera.  Three women who are from Vienna came to the door and asked if they could come in for a glass of wine and to listen. Their names are Birgit, Karin, and Natasha.

When they singers finished, one of the women from Veinna took up the guitar and played a song for us.

And finally Freyja Jónsdóttir sang a song about the forest for us.  She said that tonight was the first time she had sung into a mike and was more comfortable just singing without it.  But she is hoping to sing with Þróstur Fannar Arnason and, Sólbjört Maria Jónsdóttir when they perform in a local place.

How lucky for me to be just in the right place at the right moment.  I feel so incredibly blessed to have experienced this day.  Unbelievable.  Seeing puffins, spending time with the local Icelandic people and hearing music is the more than anybody could wish to experience.  I can’t imagine it being any more wonderful.  This has been my favorite day in Iceland.  Coming to Borgarfjörður should be a must for anybody traveling to Iceland.

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.

One thought on “June 19th – Iceland

  1. The home inside and out very interesting.


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