Completing the circle


Completing the circle
Keflavík, Iceland

Keflavík, Iceland

From Dyrholaey we headed west and made a stop at the Skogar Folk Museum. Most of the artifacts collected here come from the personal collection of the museum’s guiding light, Thordur Tomasson. Now in his 90s, he has never stopped collecting things to place in his museum, and he often comes by and talks with visitors. Besides the main museum buildings there are several old farmhouses, churches, and other buildings that are part of the complex.

Our guide demonstrated some of the articles used by fishermen over the years, such as mittens with two thumbs, so you can wear them on either side, and shoes and rain gear made from fish skin.

I spent most of my time in the transportation section of the museum, where there were lots of trucks, cars and other equipment on display, as well as an exhibit about the hydro power industry. Iceland is also justifiably proud of its famous search and rescue teams, and there were several exhibits describing the history and exploits of these brave men and women.

No day in Iceland is complete without a waterfall or two, so we left Skogar after lunch at the museum cafe, and headed for Skogarfoss.

Before we get to the next waterfall, we made a stop at a visitor center run by a farm family that evacuated during the eruption of Eyafjallajokull in 2010. That was the one that disrupted air traffic in Europe for several weeks. Icelandic volcanoes tend to produce a lot of ash, because they have glaciers on top of them. In this case the wind was coming from the north, and the ash went south and was picked up by the jetstream. Nearby Katla had a much bigger eruption that went on for months, but no one knew about it because the ash cloud went in another direction.

Here at the visitor center we saw an excellent film the family made of their evacuation, the eruption itself, and their return to clean up their property and get their farm going again. Their kids must be handling the farming these days, as the farmer and his wife seem to be spending most of their time at the visitor center.

Now it was time for one last waterfall, and it was a dilly. Seljalandfoss has a trail where you can walk behind the waterfall for a great photo op. The rainbow effect in the pools caught my attention.

In the evening we had our farewell dinner where we said goodby to our new and old friends, and thanked Gummi and Trosti for their hospitality.

For our last day in Iceland we would continue along highway 1 back towards the airport, but we haven’t run out of amazing sights to see. We stopped in some charming little fishing villages where we went inside the old sod fishermen’s huts. The interior is made mostly of driftwood, which is a very valuable resource in a country that has no forests.

This guy must have been waiting a long time for the bus!

As we headed back west we went by the State Prison. As I mentioned earlier, Iceland seems to have very little crime (although there are some bankers in prison since the financial crisis!). There are only a few prisons, and they are generally fairly low security and have some amenities like television and other pastimes for the prisoners. Gummi tells us that the maximum sentence, even for murder, is 16 years, and prisoners are required to either work or get an education. Even after these light sentences they have never had anyone commit a second murder.

At our lunch stop for a fish buffet, Gummi led us across the street to the studio of Dagni, a local glass artist. Besides her studio and gallery she operates a bakery and restaurant in the same building. She used a lot of volcanic ash for the color in her glass pieces. She showed us the trophies she makes for the Grand National, Iceland’s big championship horse show.

Also near the restaurant was a memorial called Hope, in honor of the local fishermen who have lost their lives at sea. The mother holds a wreath in one hand, and the little boy is holding a fish.

Our final area to explore is called Reykjanes (smoky) Peninsula. This is the place where you can see most clearly the division between the tectonic plates. The Bridge of the Continents claims to touch both North American and Eurasian plates, but it’s really more of a metaphor than a literal bridge between the continents. Gummi insists they are really more like a few miles apart here.

There is also plenty of geothermal activity here, as well as beautiful sea views.

Where the peninsula ends there is a statue of a Great Auk. This is part of a memorial to birds that have become extinct. There is another similar statue in Newfoundland, since the artist could not find any agreement on where the last Great Auk was actually found.

After seeing the sights in Reykjanes, including the lighthouse and huge geothermal electric power plant, we headed to Keflavik for our flights back home.



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