"" Writer's Wanderings: Seydisfjordur, Iceland

Monday, September 04, 2023

Seydisfjordur, Iceland

 From a metropolis of 18,000 in Akureyri to a bustling town of almost 700. Well, maybe bustling is not quite the right term. It was a Sunday morning and except for visitors from our ship and one other ship, there was no one moving about. Shops were closed and there was only one bar/restaurant open serving mostly local beers. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

We woke to a gorgeous sunny morning. Our excursion for the day was not until after lunch so we spent a little time walking around the promenade deck and checking out what we could see. Our ship was anchored out in the fjord as there was another small ship like ours at the only dock in town. Gathering our things together, we decided we'd go into town and walk around a bit before lunch.

The tender ride from ship to shore was a little longer than our previous ports but not bad. We walked around the two main streets and stopped in to see the Blue Church. It is an evangelical Lutheran church built in 1921-22. The church was painted blue back in the 1970s and again, in a lighter blue, in 1994. It was dubbed The Blue Church by tourists and the name has stuck. They have services every other Sunday except during holiday times when services are a little more frequent. My guess is that they share a pastor.

We passed several houses that were decoratively painted with patterns. The all black and white patterned one was rather interesting.

On our way back to the tender dock, we detoured and walked up a path to see the waterfall that was at the end of the town. The climb up the hill certainly warmed us up with the sun getting higher in the sky and the temperature climbing probably to 55 F. We unzipped our jackets. 

Back on the ship, we decided that for our afternoon excursion, we would wear our lighter jackets. The sun was still shining brightly and with the fact that there are not many trees in Iceland, we figured we'd be in the sun for the most part on our trek through the Skalanes Nature Preserve.

We didn't realize the wind had kicked up so much while we ate lunch. I didn't know why the excursion leaders were warning that we needed to hold onto our hats at the tender boarding because of the wind. What wind, I wondered? And then I stepped out onto the loading platforms and had to hold on to my sunglasses for fear they would fly off my face. The tender was bobbing up and down in white capped waves. Our arms were gripped by crew to make sure we didn't fall stepping into the tender.

The ride into town was a whole lot different than the morning had been but we made if just fine. There were two busses sitting at the dock. One was the usual bus for touring. The other was higher off the ground with large tires--something you would drive through low water. We'd seen this before in Australia. We agreed. This was going to be interesting.

Remains of an old Viking church

The road to the nature preserve was a graveled lane and a half. From where I sat next to the window, you could hardly tell there was any room between the bus and the drop off on the side of the road that went straight down to the ocean. Yes, I did close my eyes several times. We passed a few cars, or I should say a few cars pulled off the road to let the bus squeeze past them.

A little ways from town, we stopped at an archeological dig that was non-working. They had gleamed all they could from it. Our tour guide's wife is an archeologist so he was well informed about what was found. It started with a farm boy finding the remains of a body. As the experts dug down, they found several generations that dated all the way back to the Viking days. Their DNA revealed that the Vikings were a group of hearty people that came from many areas of Europe and Scandinavia. He likened it to a group of bikers from different backgrounds and communities who get together for adventure.

A road through the water.

Back on the bus and more adventure on the road. The preserve was a good hour drive from town, hilly curvy and yes, we forded several streams that become rivers when it rains. The area is not terribly forested and most of the trees have been planted by people in the area. When the Vikings arrived in Iceland, a lot of deforestation was done for building materials. As some have put it, what was that guy thinking when he cut down the last tree?

Our guide, Olaf, (in no way resembling the Disney character) was very knowledgeable and while I didn't hear exactly what he did at the research center where we arrived, I'm sure he was probably a professor and a PhD.  he did talk of working with students from many different countries who came to the area to learn about the ecology. As we walked along a path to the cliffs and an observation point full of nesting birds, he stopped several times to talk about the erosion problem. 

At one time, the government was stressing the planting of lupine which grows quickly and roots are deep enough to hold soil. Unfortunately, the lupine is very invasive and overgrows the natural ground cover. I gathered that there was some controversy over whether it was a good thing or not but the lupine covered huge areas of ground and blooms in July with deep purple flowers. It must be gorgeous.

We arrived at the cliffs and tried to stay in the sun as the wind was now blowing quite briskly. We watched the birds for a bit, took the obligatory pictures and started back to the bus when Olaf said we needed to leave a little sooner as the tender operation had already been interrupted. What we would find out on our return was that the tender operation was canceled shortly after we left. There was quite a wind blowing through the fjord. 

Where the ship was anchored there was a large ring floating in the water between us and shore. We thought it was an aqua farm raising salmon but Olaf explained the occupation of Iceland first by the Brits and then the Americans during WWII. A fuel ship would deliver fuel and once the Germans discovered it, they bombed it from the air. To this day it is still leaking globs of oil and the ring is in the fjord to keep the oil from spreading elsewhere before it is cleaned up.

The ride back to the ship wasn't too bad with the wind behind us and our tender captain did a wonderful job pulling up to the landing. I marvel at their skill. 

We had just enough time to get a shower and dress for dinner before making it down to the interdenominational service led by the Catholic priest onboard. It was a small group but then there are only about 500 guests on the ship. 

Our dinner was exceptional as always with a special lobster and caviar appetizer and veal cooked to tender perfection. It was on to listen to piano music in the Avenue, violin music in the Cove, a little jigsaw work (someone had finished the first puzzle and now we were working a second) and then to the comedy of Steve Stevens again in the Stardust. 

It was White Night and many were dressed in all white including us. The central atrium of the ship, the Cove, was decorated in white streamers and lights. There was a bit of entertainment and then the dance floor was open. We skipped the dancing and went up to our room to chill for a bit, change clothes and don our jackets for a better show outside.

The captain had announced he would turn off the lights on the uppermost deck so that we could hopefully see the Northern Lights. It was a perfectly clear night but the moon was shining brightly and there was still a lot of ambient light from the decks below. What appeared to be wisps of clouds in the sky however when looked at through the iPhone, was actually the light show we wanted to see. We caught a few good pictures and went back to the room, shivering from the cold wind but happy to have seen the spectacle that we'd caught twice before on our previous visit. 

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