Glaumbær, Drangey and Hólar

Day 58. 25th August, Holmavik to Akureyri, Iceland (North Central).

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On another damp day I drove from Holmavik to Akureyri.  This is the historic Glaumbær farm.  The current buildings date from between the eighteenth and mid-nineteenth century but the farm itself dates back to the early eleventh century.

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You may need to click on the map to see it large enough to read it.

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The first farmer was Snorri Thorfinnsson, son of Guðríður Thorbjarnardóttir and Thorfinnur Karlsefni.  His mother had moved to Greenland and there married Eric the Red’s son and Leif Ericson’s younger brother, Thorstein Eiriksson.  Guðríður and Thorstein travelled to Vinland (probably New York State) where Thorstein died.  Guðríður later married Thorfinnur and moved again to Vinland with him where Snorri was born.  Snorri Thorfinnsson was thus the first known person to be born in North America of European parents.  Thorfinnur died in Greenland on their return from Vinland and Guðríður and Snorri probably bought Glaumbær about 1010.  Guðríðurs exploits are related in Saga of the Greenlanders and in the Saga of Eirik the Red.

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Analysis of an adjacent midden shows that the original turf farmhouse dates back to 1100.  However, remains have been found of an earlier scali or longhouse, thirty metres long.

Glaumbær was privately owned until 1550 when Bishop Jón Arason (of whom more later) endowed it as a church property and Pastor’s residence.

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The buildings have stone foundations, turf walls and rooves, and wooden internal structure.  Turf houses can last up to 100 years and are resistant to rain.  This was the normal method of building in Iceland until about 1900 due to the shortage of wood.

 

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Storeroom.

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Kitchen.

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Guest room.

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Akureyri, Architecture, Drangey, Glaumbær, Hólar, History, Iceland, Landscape, Nature, Photography, seascape, Travel, Wilderness

Guest room.

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Storeroom.

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Akureyri, Architecture, Drangey, Glaumbær, Hólar, History, Iceland, Landscape, Nature, Photography, seascape, Travel, Wilderness .

Akureyri, Architecture, Drangey, Glaumbær, Hólar, History, Iceland, Landscape, Nature, Photography, seascape, Travel, Wilderness

The far right building is one of the two “nineteenth century houses”.  This one was originally in Ísafjörður but was moved to this region when its owner became district administrator of Skagafjördur in 1862.  It moved to four other locations in the region over the years before ending up at Glaumbær in 1996.

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A bit further on from Glaumbær, this is Hólar, the religious capital of Northern Iceland.  It was founded in 1106 by Jón Ögmundsson, who became the first bishop there.  Skaholt, in the south, which had been the religious centre for all Iceland since 1056, remained as the centre for the south.  In 1801 Reykjavik became the centre for all Iceland.

Guðmundur Arason was a prominent Bishop in the early thirteenth century who consolidated the power of the Church.  He had a reputation for generosity but was also responsible for many deaths in pitched battles with local chieftans for which he was twice exiled to Norway.  Jón Arason, Bishop at Hólar in the sixteenth century, was the last defender of Catholicism against Lutherism imposed by Denmark.  The Danish influence conclusively won that argument by capturing and beheading Jón and two of his sons.

The current church dates from 1763.

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Here are a few turf houses behind the church at Hólar.

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This is the island of Drangey in Skagafjörður.  If you click on the map towards the top of this post, you may be able to make out the island as the small white dot below the “n” of Drangey.

Though scientists will claim it is the remains of an ancient volcano, it is the remains of giants and their cow who were petrified when they were caught by the rising sun.  The ancient tales tell us this.  The island is the cow and to the left is the woman (Kerling or the Old Hag).  Karl, the male, disappeared long ago.

The island is also the last refuge of Grettir, whose epic tale was described in Grettir’s Saga.  After many misadventures and numerous deaths, he was declared an outlaw and took refuge on Drangey for nearly twenty years with his brother and a servant.  He earned the wrath of local farmers when he took over and lived off their sheep who were atop the island.  There were many attempts to kill him over the years until the last one that finally succeeded.

It is possible to visit the island and go to the top though this requires a somewhat parlous landing and a long climb up a vertical steel ladder.  On the top it is possible to visit the small depression made from the crude hut that Grettir lived in all those years ago.  I went to Reykir to try to arrange this but the boat trips had closed for the season.  These images are taken from Hofsos on the other side of the fjord.

In historic times, the island has been notable for the great number of birds nesting there.  Many intrepid locals would scale the cliffs and suspend themselves from ropes to gather eggs and birds, much as the residents of St Kilda did for thousands of years.

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The charming village of Hofsos, with Drangey in the distant background.

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An old building at Hofsos, a restaurant unfortunately closed at that time.

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Travelling further took me to a tunnel from Siglufjörður to Ólafsfjörður.  This briefly emerges at Hédinsfjardavatn, for just a couple of hundred metres before continuing on to Ólafsfjörður.  Hédinsfjardavatn is thus a wild and isolated fjord that is not otherwise easily accessible and where there are no visible signs of settlement.  It is not explicitly labelled in the map above though it should be clear enough there and there is an entry for Vik beside it.

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Hédinsfjardavatn.

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Coming out of the tunnel from Siglufjörður, this is Ólafsfjörður.

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Round the corner from Ólafsfjörður and now in Eyjafjörður, here are some views across the fjord.

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Ísafjörður to Holmavik

Day 57. 24th August, Ísafjörður to Holmavik, Iceland (Vestfirðir or West Fjords).

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Architecture, Iceland, Landscape, Nature, Photography, seascape, Travel, Vestfirðir, Waterfall, West Fjords, Wilderness

 

This waterfall and creek is at the back of the camping grounds where I was staying in Ísafjörður.  I went into town to see whether I could find somewhere to repair my spare tyre and rim but it was I think Sunday and that trip was to no avail so I kept on going to Holmavik.  It was a day of rain, often heavy so the countryside would have looked quite different in different weather.

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At the top left, Ísafjarðardjúp is the name of the big fjord system on which Ísafjörður is located.  It means Ice Fjord Deep.

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This derelict and isolated hut, perhaps a boat shed or a fishing hut, is on Álftafjörður, the first fjord after Ísafjörður, and looking back towards Ísafjörður.

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The building with the red roof here is the church Eyrakirkja (location shown on the map) and the fjord is Seyðisfjarðar.  The church is of iron clad wooden construction.  It dates from 1866 but there must have been earlier churches here because the church clock dates back to 1526.  The white building must be the priest’s house and there are some old farm building to the right, perhaps stables.

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Another hour and a half’s driving further on, I can’t locate this reliably but it must be close to the end of the fjord system.

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I drove to Holmavik, then took a loop to Drangnes around the coast and back inland.  This waterfall must be on the inland part of the return journey but I don’t know its name or precisely where it is.

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That is a bank of snow below the waterfall, incidentally.

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After the Drangnes loop, I returned to Holmavik.  The black building in the middle is the Museum of Sorcery and Witchcraft (though they did not allow photographs inside).  Witches were persecuted in Iceland between 1625 and 1683. 170 people were accused in 130 trials and 21 executed, of whom 20 were male.  Charges usually referred to alleged use of runes  to lay spells to make people ill or kill cattle (thereby affecting the food supply of a farm).  A successful accuser could be awarded the property of the victim and this appears to have often been a motive for the accusation.

In 1656, a father and son both named Jón Jónsson were burned after a trial following accusations from their pastor Jón Magnússon, who accused them of causing his poor health.  This included accusations of a farting curse levied by the younger Jón Jónsson on an unfortunate young woman.  Jón Magnússon was awarded the Jónsson’s property as compensation.  When his health did not improve, he accused Thuridur Jónsdóttir, daughter of the elder Jónsson and sister of the former.  However, she was acquitted and then she was awarded Jón Magnússon’s property in compensation.

One of the more curious, not to say gruesome, items on display in the museum was a nábrók (hopefully simulated), the skinned legs of a dead person worn by a sorcerer to guarantee wealth (though perhaps not success in love).

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Dynjandi

Day 56. 23rd August, near Bildudalir to Ísafjörður, Iceland (Vestfirðir or West Fjords).

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This is eight or ten kilometres on from from the waterfall near Bildudalir that we saw in the previous post.  It’s another branch of the fjord and you can see where it is in the following map because it’s the only place you can get a view straight out to the mouth of the fjord.  The next two images after the map are from a similar location.

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Dynjandi

The map shows the drive for the afternoon from the waterfall and machinery dump in the previous post through to Ísafjörður.  However, the weather closed in after Dynjandi so there is only one image after that point, from the approach to Þingeyri  (= Thingeyri).

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View up fjord

This is likely the same view that Flóki Vilgerðarson saw of Arnarfjörður in 871 except that then he was at the top of a mountain and the fjord was filled with ice.

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Þingeyri, Bildudalir, Dynjandi, Iceland, Landscape, Nature, Photography, seascape, Travel, Vestfirðir, Waterfall, West Fjords, Wilderness

The following images show the austere beauty of the sparse Vestfirðir landscape.  They are in chronological order as is the case with most posts.  I won’t attempt to locate them more specifically than the vague position you can infer from the map (before Dynjandi).

The road I am travelling on is impassable in winter.  You can click on any of the images if you want to see a larger version.

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Þingeyri, Bildudalir, Dynjandi, Iceland, Landscape, Nature, Photography, seascape, Travel, Vestfirðir, Waterfall, West Fjords, Wilderness .

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Þingeyri, Bildudalir, Dynjandi, Iceland, Landscape, Nature, Photography, seascape, Travel, Vestfirðir, Waterfall, West Fjords, Wilderness .

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Þingeyri, Bildudalir, Dynjandi, Iceland, Landscape, Nature, Photography, seascape, Travel, Vestfirðir, Waterfall, West Fjords, Wilderness

This is now our first sighting of the Dynjandi series of waterfalls.

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Dynjandi.

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Þingeyri, Bildudalir, Dynjandi, Iceland, Landscape, Nature, Photography, seascape, Travel, Vestfirðir, Waterfall, West Fjords, Wilderness

The falls are overall about one hundred metres high.

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Þingeyri, Bildudalir, Dynjandi, Iceland, Landscape, Nature, Photography, seascape, Travel, Vestfirðir, Waterfall, West Fjords, Wilderness

After Dynjandi, the weather closed in.  This is a view somewhat later looking through the rain and fog towards Þingeyri.  The fjord you are looking at is Dýrafjörður, setting for Gisla’s Saga, a complex tale of murder and revenge featuring Gisli Sturrson and set in the tenth century.  There is a useful summary here but there’s nothing like reading the full saga which you can find here.

Further on again, approaching Ísafjörður, I encountered probably the freakiest driving condition I have experienced.  Driving into a tunnel, I found myself in a one-lane tunnel with traffic in both directions.  The headlights of oncoming vehicles were directly ahead in the darkness.  Every so often, there is a passing bay so that vehicles travelling in a particular direction (I think, North) can pull over and let oncoming traffic through.

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Bildudalir

Day 56.  23rd August, Breiðavik to Bildudalir, Iceland (Vestfirðir or West Fjords).

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This is at Breiðavik where I had stayed overnight (note: ð in Icelandic is pronounced as th).  The road circling around to the right is the main road.  The road to the left is to the bird cliffs of Latrabjerg.  I had read about the huge flocks of puffins there but by this time they had all left due to lack of availability of sand eels, their main food source.  I did drive there but after talking to another photographer, didn’t climb up the cliffs there and took no photographs.  I didn’t see a puffin in Iceland; just as well I’d got lots of photographs at Mingulay over a month before.

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Bildudalir, Breiðavik, Iceland, Landscape, Nature, Photography, seascape, Travel, Vestfirðir, West Fjords, Wilderness

The route for this post.

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Bildudalir, Breiðavik, Iceland, Landscape, Nature, Photography, seascape, Travel, Vestfirðir, West Fjords, Wilderness

at Breiðavik.

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Bildudalir, Breiðavik, Iceland, Landscape, Nature, Photography, seascape, Travel, Vestfirðir, West Fjords, Wilderness

Distant view of Bildudalir (the town) and Suðirfirðir (the fjord) behind it.

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Bildudalir.

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Bildudalir.

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Bildudalir, Breiðavik, Iceland, Landscape, Nature, Photography, seascape, Travel, Vestfirðir, West Fjords, Wilderness

About ten kilometres south of Bildadular, I came across this waterfall.  The small shed must be the water supply and/ or electricity supply for the nearby farmhouses.  Following images are of or near the waterfall.

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Bildudalir, Breiðavik, Iceland, Landscape, Nature, Photography, seascape, Travel, Vestfirðir, West Fjords, Wilderness .

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Bildudalir, Breiðavik, Iceland, Landscape, Nature, Photography, seascape, Travel, Vestfirðir, West Fjords, Wilderness

Looking back at the farm buildings and my vehicle.  it was parked some distance away so as not to impede other vehicles although I then discovered a parking place just before the waterfall.

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Bildudalir, Breiðavik, Iceland, Landscape, Nature, Photography, seascape, Travel, Vestfirðir, West Fjords, Wilderness

 

Just past the waterfall there was a cache of dead vehicles and machinery that I found irresistible, especially in the context of such a wild and remote landscape.

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Garðar BA 64

Day 55 . 22nd August, Patreksfjörður and Rauðasandur, Iceland (Vestfirðir or West Fjords)

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From Stykkishólmur I took the ferry to Barðastrandarvegur.  I had intended to next take a short journey to the north-east, to the area around Flókalundur, where there may have been good views.  Since it was raining and I still had a fair distance to travel that afternoon, I omitted that trip.  However, this is where Flóki Vilgerðarson stayed for a winter in 870-871.  He was not the discoverer of Iceland; that was probably Pytheas, a Greek explorer from Massilia (now Marseilles), in 325BC.  Flóki was not the first man to stay in Iceland; Irish monks were already there.  He was not the first Scandanavian; Naddoður from Norway was the first to encounter it and Garðar Svavarsson from Sweden had stayed for a winter around 850, circumnavigated the island and named it Garðarshólmi.  Flóki, though, was the person who gave Iceland its name.  This is how it came about:

Flóki sailed from Norway via the Pharoes with his family and some friends.  He took three ravens with him to help him navigate.  The first flew back to the Pharoes, the second flew around and then landed back on deck and the third flew off to the north-west.  He sailed in that direction, found Garðarshólmi and subsequently became known as Hrafna-Flóki (or Raven-Floki).  It was summer and he was so enamoured of the abundant fishing and hunting that he neglected to make winter hay for his animals.  In the ensuing harsh winter they all starved.  In the spring, Flóki climbed up the nearby mountain Lonfell where he was able to see to the south over Breiðafjörður and to the north-west over Arnarfjörður.  Arnarfjörður was covered in pack ice.  The climate was much colder then and Arnarfjörður these days would be almost always ice-free all through winter.  When he returned to Norway, Flóki expressed his dissatisfaction by naming the land Iceland.  His companions gave more favourable accounts and Flóki’s excursion was the spark that led to settlement.

Actually, there is an ancient cairn on top of Lonfell that may even have been built by Flóki.  He was known to build cairns and for most of the settlement period, mountain tops were believed to be inhabited by trolls and demons and therefore avoided.

The naming of Greenland by Eric the Red is an interesting contrast.  Eric’s father had been banished from Norway for manslaughter and Eric in turn was declared an outlaw for three years for killing a few people too many.  Being an outlaw meant that anyone could kill you and would then take over all your property.  So Eric sailed off to Greenland.  It had been discovered before and there had already been an unsuccessful settlement attempt.  Eric sailed up the west coast and found a place that appeared to be permanently ice free at that time.  Later he returned to encourage more settlers.  Channelling a potential future vocation as a used car salesman, he called it Greenland.

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Garðar BA 64, History, Iceland, Landscape, Nature, Patreksfjörður, Photography, Rauðasandur, Sculpture, seascape, Travel, Vestfirðir

Back to the journey.  From Barðastrandarvegur I headed towards Breiðavik and on the way encountered this abandoned ship, somewhat dissociated from the sea.

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Garðar BA 64, History, Iceland, Landscape, Nature, Patreksfjörður, Photography, Rauðasandur, Sculpture, seascape, Travel, Vestfirðir

The map shows key places I visited.  You can see a small label above Barðastrandarvegur (especially if you click on the map to see it larger) and that is Flókalundur, where Flóki landed.  The fjord to the north-west is Arnarfjörður.  The pin by the label for Breiðavik is actually Látrabjarg, the nearby bird cliffs where huge numbers of puffins may be found in season.

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Garðar BA 64, History, Iceland, Landscape, Nature, Patreksfjörður, Photography, Rauðasandur, Sculpture, seascape, Travel, Vestfirðir

On the way I found Garðar BA 64 in Patreksfjörður.  As the sign says, this is the oldest steel ship in Iceland, built in 1912 and run up here in 1981.

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Garðar BA 64, History, Iceland, Landscape, Nature, Patreksfjörður, Photography, Rauðasandur, Sculpture, seascape, Travel, Vestfirðir .

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Garðar BA 64, History, Iceland, Landscape, Nature, Patreksfjörður, Photography, Rauðasandur, Sculpture, seascape, Travel, Vestfirðir .

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Garðar BA 64, History, Iceland, Landscape, Nature, Patreksfjörður, Photography, Rauðasandur, Sculpture, seascape, Travel, Vestfirðir .

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Garðar BA 64, History, Iceland, Landscape, Nature, Patreksfjörður, Photography, Rauðasandur, Sculpture, seascape, Travel, Vestfirðir .

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Garðar BA 64, History, Iceland, Landscape, Nature, Patreksfjörður, Photography, Rauðasandur, Sculpture, seascape, Travel, Vestfirðir .

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Garðar BA 64, History, Iceland, Landscape, Nature, Patreksfjörður, Photography, Rauðasandur, Sculpture, seascape, Travel, Vestfirðir

After Garðar, I took a detour to a view of Rauðasandur, or Red Sand Beach, as shown here and in the following images.

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Garðar BA 64, History, Iceland, Landscape, Nature, Patreksfjörður, Photography, Rauðasandur, Sculpture, seascape, Travel, Vestfirðir .

Garðar BA 64, History, Iceland, Landscape, Nature, Patreksfjörður, Photography, Rauðasandur, Sculpture, seascape, Travel, Vestfirðir .

Garðar BA 64, History, Iceland, Landscape, Nature, Patreksfjörður, Photography, Rauðasandur, Sculpture, seascape, Travel, Vestfirðir .

From Rauðasandur, I proceeded to Breiðavik but it was dark by the time I arrived so no photographs from there for that night.