It’s a bit late to be telling you all this, but Easter is a big holiday in Iceland. As during Christmas, it is a multi-day holiday—Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Sunday, and Easter Monday (which I had no idea was an observed holiday anywhere, actually, but it really is) are all public holidays, in which pretty much all your key services and shops—buses, grocery stores, pools…vinbúðin—operate on a either a vastly reduced schedule, or don’t operate at all. There’s also a week off from school. To maximize your spring (Easter) enjoyment, it’s best to plan ahead in regards to grocery shopping (and alcohol, should you be in need of it), buy one of the baby-sized hollow Nóa Easter Eggs which are filled with candy and enigmatic fortunes (although the smaller eggs are fun, too, as you will surely be able to tell from the picture above), and, if you don’t have family to visit, find yourself a nice place to relax for a few days.
I received two Easter fortunes from candy eggs myself:
Oft hafa fagrar hnetur fúinn kjarna
Beautiful nuts often have rotten cores
Ef þú ferð ekki upp á fjallið færðu ekki útsýni yfir dalinn
If you don’t climb the mountain, you won’t get the view of the valley
The university’s Easter vacation (Wednesday to Tuesday) presented Mark and I with the perfect opportunity to embark on a few more outings: one, a nice overnight for just the two of us, the other, a roadtrip to Ísafjörður (a small, but very notable town in the Westfjords) with two of the other Fulbrighters. We’d been wanting to get up to the Westfjords anyway, but what made the timing of this trip rather perfect was that there is an annual free music festival over Easter there, “Aldrei fór ég suður,” (I never went south) on top of which, another Fulbrighter is living and studying in Ísafjörður this year, which meant there were a couple couches/living room floor for us to crash on during our visit.
I’ll be recapping both trips over several posts (just wait for The Best Thing We’ve Done in Iceland So Far – no spoilers!), but you can also check the photo blog, which I will be updating shortly. All the photos from Mark and I’s first night in Laugarvatn have been posted now, however, and you can look at them here.
Day 1, Part 1: Walking in Þingvellir and Laugarvatn
Mark had a class on Tuesday morning, so we waited until after it finished and were on the road by early afternoon. We were graced with very nice weather—maybe a touch cloudy, but not too chilly and no rain—and we decided to start our journey with a walk around part of Þingvellir National Park which we hadn’t spent much time in thus far. Looking at a map at one of the guest centers, we figured that there are actually a number of trails around the park which follow the various rifts, highlight abandoned farms, run through a little forest, and travel around Þingvallavatn, the largest natural lake in Iceland at 84 km² (about 52 miles²).
We decided that we’d walk around the lake for awhile and started from the apparently popular Vatnskot (Lake Croft) camp site. Vatnskot is also the site of an abandoned farm. According to this interactive map of the park,
Vatnskot [Lake Croft] is believed to have been an outlying estate, leased from the estate of Þingvellir Church. It was probably inhabited over the centuries, but was abandoned as a farm in the 19th century. It remained in use as a “dry-house” (without facilities for any livestock), with rights to fish in the lake. Vatnskot is now a popular campsite.
We didn’t actually find the trail we had been looking for, but still had a nice time picking our way along the coastline of the lake, and then walking back to our car along the road, just for a change of scenery. Here are some photo highlights:
Following our walk, we drove to the nearby town of Laugarvatn, a small community on the edge of a large lake (for which it is named) which also boasts Fontana, a geothermal bath and spa (which itself sits on top of some natural hot springs), a satellite location of Háskoli Íslands which specializes in health and fitness studies, and a wonderful restaurant called Linden.
Mark and I ran across Linden completely on accident during our first trip to Iceland–we were driving to the sites along the Golden Circle and encountered a detour on the main road, which ended up taking us through Laugarvatn. We were hungry, so we walked into the restaurant, not knowing at the time that it is one of the best around. It was practically empty, so we got a seat right at the window, looking over the lake, had a delicious lunch of char sandwiches (with char fished from said lake) and truly enjoyed ourselves. It was because of this experience that we had initially wanted to stay in Laugarvatn on our overnight, but as fate would have it, the restaurant is not open on Tuesdays in the off-season. Nevertheless, we found a lovely B&B/arts studio called Galleri there, and since there were also a number of nice hikes/walks in the immediate vicinity, decided to stay the night anyway.
In lieu of Linden, we decided to drive to the restaurant at Geysir for dinner that evening, but had time (and light) beforehand for another short walk along a running trail at the base of the mountain (Laugarvatnsfjall) that we could actually see from our B&B window. This was a nice, easy wooded trail and all the more enjoyable for the exercise signs that had been placed at regular intervals along the path. The exercises, and the accompanying wisdom about keeping one’s body healthy, all came from the same text which was written (if I am remembering right) in the 20s. I didn’t understand all the text, but the images speak for themselves…
I’ll leave the rest of our travels for following posts–I should be studying!