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A taste of Reykjanes

A walk in Reykjanes is a treat for all your senses, especially your taste buds.

Hvalsnes is a magnificent area with religious history - the church at Hvalsnes was consecrated in 1887 and built of carved stones collected from the area. The wood in the interior is from the shores nearby.



One of the most remarkable items of the church is the gravestone of Steinunn Hallgrímsdóttir who died when she was 4 years old in 1649. She was the daughter of Hallgrímur Pétursson Iceland's most important psalmist which at that time served as a priest at the parish in Hvalsnes.

 

The gravestone was lost for a long time but was discovered again in 1964 but it had been used as a part of a walkway leading to the church. You can now see the stone inside the church which was carved by the grieving father. This is how he remembered her:

Næm, skynsöm, ljúf í lyndi,

lífs meðan varstu hér,

eftirlæti og yndi

ætíð hafði ég af þér,

í minni muntu mér;

því mun ég þig með tárum

þreyja af huga sárum,

heim til þess héðan fer.


But the area is also known in recent years for Baltasar´s movie Mýrin or Jar City that is based on Iceland´s foremost criminal author´s book, Arnaldur Indriðason. A murder opens up a bleak trail of long buried secrets and small town corruption for a worn out police detective and his squad.

It´s a peaceful area and nothing macabre about it despite the thriller.

The birds will keep you company, you can hear the songs of Tjaldur/oystercatcher, Hrossagaukur/Common snipe and Spói/Whimbrel and they will try to mislead you in a different direction from their nests, very creatively.

If you look closely you can sample the Sheep sorrel which is a delicacy although pretty sour. We used to eat them in an abundance when we were children and although we were told it was sour because the dog´s peed on it -  it didn´t lessen our appetite (and of course later we found out that it wasn´t true).

I was so lucky to find some Rhubarb popular in Iceland through the centuries since it doesn´t require much attendance and survives almost anything. I find it best to eat it straight up with a bit of sugar but Icelanders use it mostly to make jam.

Some say that the best rhubarb is stolen, and it was true.




 

 

It also rains in Garður

The white beach and Garður´s lighthouses are a constant attraction, famous for its glorious sunsets with a view towards the glacier at Snæfellsnes.

It was less crowded one rainy Sunday afternoon - to be exact: there was not a soul to be found. The reason - it was pouring rain. So I had the beach all to myself and what a glorious walk.

You could hear the courting of the common eider, a large sea duck but around 8000 of them reside in the area all year. There was a lot of ohh-ing and arching to gain the attention of the opposite sex and they were so busy with it that they didn´t give me much of attention. 

The sea around Reykjanes is the warmest in Iceland and the shore in Garður is filled with birds during winter, but it is most fun in the spring when we have our travellers arriving from around the world.

The sand was a work of art, the sea having carved beautiful lines with its waves as well as filled it with the forest of the sea, red, brown and green seaweed.



A great Icelandic poet once wrote about the seaweed in a mournful way, it was left at the shore drifting and watching all the birds fly away to meet adventures.

Reikult er rótlaust þangið,
rekst það um víðan sjá.
Straumar og votir vindar
velkja því til og frá.

Fuglar flugu yfir hafið
með fögnuði og vængjagný,
- hurfu út í himinblámann
hratt eins og vindlétt ský.

Þangið, sem horfði á hópinn,
var hnipið allan þann dag.
Bylgjan, sem bar það uppi,
var blóðug um sólarlag.

 

Meet wet me

The golden plover is here!

The messanger of spring is here!

The Golden plover spends summers in Iceland, and in Icelandic folklore, the appearance of the first plover means that spring has arrived. The Icelandic media always covers the first plover sighting, which in 2017, took place on March 27, 2017.

The Icelandic frase is "Lóan er komin" or "The golden plover has arrived" - and that basicly means that all is well ind the world and soon winter is over. Hurray!

We even have poems and songs about it. Here is one, but of course it is in Icelandic. It basicly says: The golden plover is here and it will sing away all your worries and promises seasons in the sun. Or something like that. Funny thing, the song is actually an american folk song.

The name of the golden plover is Lóa in Icelandic and many women bear her name. 
This is Lóa, she lives in Keflavík and plays basketball with the local team.


And if you are interested in more birds we have plenty of them on the Reykjanes Peninsula since we are a kind of a stopover for migrating birds.

A good place for bird whatcing is Hafnaberg cliff a low, vertical cliff that is rich with a wide variety of flora and fauna inhabiting its slopes and its skies. Birds that can be seen at the cliff include guillemots, kittiwakes, fulmars, razorbills, and many others. Sometimes seals and small whales can also be spotted a short distance off the coast. The cliff is located in a convenient spot and can be easily accessed from the main road.

 

 

We love music

Somehow Reykjanes seems to be a cradle for new music in Iceland, we don´t know why but the US navy base was an influential factor when we didn´t have radio and television.

We had our own Beatles, they were called "Hljómar" and our John was Gunnar and Rúnar was Paul. Rúnar was a great soccer player as well and later married miss Iceland 1969.

The most popular musicians were from Reykjanes, one of them was Vilhjálmur Vilhjálmsson from Merkines in Hafnir and his sister was also quite famous. Her name was Elly short for Eldey which is the Island you can see from Valahnúkur on the Reykjanes Peninsula. Eldey is the third largest gannet colony in Europe, but that´s another story. 

A trivial fact, Elly had a monkey named Bongo and was quite handy with a riffle. 

This is them singing together.

Our most famous band offshore is Of monsters and men but we also love this guy:


A trivial fact, Valdimar also plays the trombone.

In Hljómahöll (yes it takes it´s name from the famous band Hljómar) we have the Icelandic museum of rock "n" roll and there you can get a taste of the history of music in Iceland and listen to concerts.

This is Elmar Þór Hauksson performing in Hljómahöll a song by a local composer, Jóhann Helgason. The concert was a part of a project that aims to tell us about the musical history of Reykjanes.

 

Would you like some pickled ram testicles?

Þorrablót is a midwinter festival and thank god for that - or Óðinn.

Þorri is the name of the fifth month of winter and blót means sacrifice. Basically it is an oportunity to have some fun during these long winther months and of course eat some rotten food.



Þorri means the winter is half over and we celabrate the occation by having public Þorrablót feasts. At these occasions traditional Icelandic food is served; the sort of food people used to eat every day, once upon a time. The only preserving methods available in the past were pickling, drying, salting or smoking food. Among the delicacies eaten at Þorrablót are: pickled ram testicles, soured whale, sheep face, sheep face jelly, dried fish, smoked lamb, leaf bread and putrefied shark.

Brennivín schnapps is often drunk with the shark - you can understand why!

Almost everyone goes to the Þorrablót - the more the marryer so it seams and it is safe to say it is one of the largest events in Reykjanes - and I can tell you: it is merry. 

But I must admit, I dont eat the picled ram testicles -  it is just too much.

Verði ykkur að góðu!

 

A beautiful christmas tradition

Visiting the cemetery forms part of many Icelanders Christmas rituals. Hey, it’s not as morbid as it might sound.

In the beginning of advent we light up our cemeteries with colourful christmas lights much to the astonishement of american soldiers and their families when they stayed here on the US Nato base situated just outside of Keflavík. It was a sight they were not accustomed to.

On December 24th, and often on New Year's Eve day as well, many families will come together at the graves of their loved ones and place on them a candle or some sort of light, to show that they are remembered and missed. This is a beautiful sight in the midwinter darkness.

This is a challenge in Icelandic weather when it can be both windy and freezing cold. Many times have I stood in the cemetery with blue fingers trying to light a candle, and sometimes I have lost the battle. But usally the cemetaries are packet with people doing the exact same thing and they will often lend a hand.

 

 

A leaf bread and a family

The making of Laufabrauð ‘leaf bread’ or ‘snow flake bread‘ is an essantial part of my family christmas celebration and starts the Advent and all the christmas preperation.

It´s a tradition from north Iceland where families get together to make this thin, crisp, unsweetened cake that is decorated with a carved pattern before it is deep-fried in lard.

Originally it was a poor mans bread since wheat was scarce and therefore the cakes where made as thin as possible.

My mother was from north Iceland, namely Þórshöfn, and maintained this tradition although she and her twin brother moved to the southest part of Iceland at a young age. The siblings joined forces and have met with their children and grandchildren to make this delicious christmas treat, but mainly it´s about togetherness and making happy memories.

After my mother passed away we carried on the tradition and this year we met at her brother´s house. Everyone has a part, wheather it is to man the frying pot, dip in the cakes, press them, salt them (very important) and decorate. The children take an active part and as they grow older they can contribute more - and hopefully carry on the tradition someday.

 How to make Laufabrauð

 

Baby it´s dark outside

Now the days are short and yes, we love this time of the year. Today´s sunrise was at 11.16 and sunset will be at 15:30 giving us a total of 4 hours of daylight. In just one week´s time the shortest day of the year will come.

The winter solstice happens every year when the North Pole is tilted furthest away from the Sun, delivering the fewest hours of sunlight of the entire year. The term “solstice” comes from the Latin word “solstitium”, which means “Sun standing still”.

There is a reason we call Christmas the festival of light and it is logical to celebrate it during the darkest hours in Iceland. After winter solstice each day becomes a little bit longer, but just a little bit. Around new years eve the day will be 13 minutes longer.

But it is a turning point that Icelanders have always celebrated, the darkness gives away and we let in the light again.

The sun in desember

Winter solstice festival of the Pagan Association

Tips on how to survive the darkest hours

 

Unearthing the Spirit of the Icelanic Horse

We are not known for our horses but we do have enthusiastic people winning awards at competitions who love breeding and riding the Icelandic horse.

Fiona Trowbridge a travel writer from Glasgow was amazed at the unique gaits of the Icelandic horse as she was whatching Signý, youngest daughter of Hrönn and Snorri who live in Keflavík.

“And this is the tölt,” said Hrönn as Chloe elegantly glided past us in the arena, with Hrönn and Snorri’s youngest daughter, Signý sitting comfortably in the saddle as Chloe and Signý demonstrated the smoothness of the tölt gait, one of two gaits unique to Icelandic horses.

Fionas tales have been featured in Wanderlust Magazine and Australia & New Zealand Magazine she has won The Telegraph travel writing competition twice.

fionatrowbridge@gmail.com

 

The sun lives in Gardur

Some people say that the sun lives in the little fishing town of Garður, the headland at the tip of the peninsula and it is also a great place to observe sea birds. 

It is true that the sunsets there are spectacular - with the Backdrop of two lighthouses and the glacier Snæfellsjökull (The mountain is one of the most famous sites of Iceland, primarily due to the novel Journey to the Center of the Earth (1864) by Jules Verne, in which the protagonists find the entrance to a passage leading to the center of the earth on Snæfellsjökull.

Snæfellsjökull isn´t exactly located on the Reykjanes Peninsula, but we claim it anyway, since it is always visiting and seems to have a keen interest in the area.

Garður or Garðskagi as we call the tip of land that reaches out to sea has its history of ships perishing on the skarry shore that has claimed a lot of lives over the centuries.

But it is peaceful at sunset and a popular visit during summertime, for people enjoying the outdoors as well as professional photographers.

The photographers dream