Driving Home from Stykkishólmur

We’re about to take a couple more short jaunts over our upcoming Easter break, so it’s high time that I finish recapping the overnight trip that Mark and I took with his dad to the Snæfells peninsula. (Fun fact: in Icelandic, the suffix -nes means peninsula or cape, so saying “Snæfellsnes peninsula” as I had been doing, is redundant. Learn something new every day…)

Our first day’s drive around Snæfellsness was recapped in two parts, which you can catch up on here and here. In this post here, you’ll see the harbor town of Stykkishólmur, the super dee-lightful Settlement Center in Borganes, and the mini-forest on Hamrahlíð, a small mountain just outside of Mosfellsbær. To skip the narration and go straight to these photos, see the photo blog, here.

Stykkishólmur

We stayed overnight in the small town of Stykkishólmur (pop. 1,100), which also serves as a ferry hub for people traveling to the West Fjords and the island of Flatey (pop. 5) which is a popular summer destination, despite its small size.

The night before, we had a delicious dinner at the restaurant Fimm Fiskar—I was thrilled because they had mussels on the menu (from Borgarfjörður, I believe). For whatever reason, mussels and fries don’t make it onto the menu much in Iceland—at least, this hasn’t been the case at places I’ve been—and I’m always up for a big bowl of mussels, so this was a treat. The meal was also served with a lovely fresh mixed salad: all in all, delicious.

Mark and his dad ventured to the pool the next morning, while I opted to sleep a little and enjoy a leisurely cup of coffee. By the time they came back, we had a somewhat sunnier day before us, and so we decided to head down to the small but very picturesque harbor before heading out of town. (We had to be back to Reykjavík in time for me to go to an Aikido class at six that evening, so we were on a bit of a schedule.) The Stykkishólmur harbor is “protected by a dramatic basalt island” and looks out over a number of smaller islands, and in the way far off distance, the West Fjörðs. We walked up to the top of an overlook at the harbor and had a pretty stellar view from next to the little lighthouse there.

The only thing that I was really disappointed to miss seeing here was the Vatnasafn, or Library of Water, which wasn’t open because it was the off-season. From the Vatnasafn website:

Interior of Library of Water, photo from its website.

Vatnasafn is a long-term project conceived by Roni Horn for a former library in the coastal town of Stykkishólmur in Iceland. The building stands on a promontory overlooking the ocean and the town, and houses three related collections – of water, words and weather reports – which reflect Roni Horn’s intimate involvement with the singular geography, geology, climate and culture of Iceland…

Water, Selected is a constellation of 24 glass columns containing water collected from ice from some of the major glaciers around Iceland. The glass columns refract and reflect the light onto a rubber floor embedded with a field of words in Icelandic and English which relate to the weather – inside or outside. The sculpture installation offers a space for private reflection whilst accommodating a wide variety of community uses.

In a small side room, visitors can look at Roni Horn’s ongoing series of books made in Iceland, To Place and listen to a selection of people talking about the weather. Through 2005 and 2006, at the instigation of Horn, writer Oddny Eir Ævarsdóttir, her brother archaeologist Uggi Ævarsson and their father, radio broadcaster Ævar Kjartansson interviewed around a hundred individuals from Stykkishólmur and the surrounding area about the weather. Weather Reports You presents these spoken testimonies as a collective self-portrait of a country where the weather is strongly present in everyday life.

Interestingly, the Library of Library maintains a Writer’s Residency which alternates between Icelandic and foreign writers (Anne Carson has been a resident). Food for future thought, perhaps?

Here are some Stykkishólmur photo highlights:

After leaving Stykkishólmur, we had intentions of driving to a nearby spot and taking a short hike, but we were thwarted by the thick fog that descended on us and a pretty constant rain that varied from drizzle to steady pour. So hiking was out, at least around Snæfellsness. Not without back-up plans, however, we drove to the town of Borganes and returned to the Settlement Center there. We hadn’t been able to go to the exhibitions there the last time we came through town, but this rainy day was the perfect opportunity.

There are two exhibitions at the Settlement Center, both of which you go through while listening to an audio guide:

The Settlement Exhibition “provides an insight into the settlement of Iceland. It tells how the land was discovered, how the Viking sailors conquered the open ocean and why they left their homelands in Norway. It tells of the first men to set foot on the island and how the land was settled up to the establishment of the first parliament in the world, the Althing, at Thingvellir in 930AD.”

The Egil’s Saga Exhibition “profiles one of the most colourful of all the saga heroes, Egil, the son of Skalla-Grím Kveldúlfsson. One of the very first settlers, Egil’s father arrived from Norway just 10 years after the first land had been claimed. The Saga of this family’s pioneering and settlement of the Borgarfjörd region provides a brilliant insight in the tumultuous years of settlement.”

I was just delighted with both exhibitions. They were relatively brief (just half an hour each), but pretty detailed, and rather humorous. They both employed a variety of clever multi-media exhibits and wonderfully-made wood carvings. I was also impressed with the skill in summarizing both the dense historical period of the settlement, and Egil’s saga, which is a multi-generational tale and surprisingly complex. I had read the saga, but Mark hadn’t, and he said he followed the plot and the themes just fine through the exhibition.

The woman who was overseeing the exhibitions said that it was okay if I took pictures, so I did, particularly in Egil’s exhibition because I loved the woodwork so much:


Our last stop on the way back to Reykjavík was Hamrahlíð, a small mountain that has been the site of an ongoing afforestation project since 1957. If I’m understanding the information on the Mosfellsbær Forestry Organization website that I just linked to there, the land on the mountain is leased to the organization by private owners and over the years, they’ve worked really hard to increase the tree population and turn the mountain into a nice recreational area. They also run an annual Christmas tree sale, selling trees grown right on the mountain, and then put those funds toward path maintenance, benches, etc.

Taking a forest climb in Iceland is pretty novel—I was pretty psyched for all the pine trees.

After a short climb, we made our way back to town again. Not too shabby for a 24 hour trip!

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