Travel in the traces of the Icelandic Viking sagas
with Archaeology on the way 2006-07-05—19
(To see the photos, click at the index to the left)
A voyage in the traces of the Icelandic sagas.
Wednesday 5th of July
We had really trouble to pack this time, as we both should bring our Viking clothes and some dried food, powder soups, thermos, mugs and warm as well as waterproof clothes, so the weight was over 20 kg in both our suit cases, so we had to remove some stuff. It was also strange to pack for cold and maybe rainy weather, when it was nearly 30 degrees and sunny at home.
Luckily Christina’s son Wilfred would start to work at the airport at the same time as we should be there, so he could bring us there in his car. We met the other at 7:30 pm at the check in. The plane was delayed, so we didn't depart until 10:40 pm and arrived nearly 4 hours later at Keflavik airport outside Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland. It was strange to land around midnight as it still was very light outside.
We stayed at Motel Best in Vogar, which is about halfway to Reykjavik and situated near the American air base. We got a preview of the rough lava landscape along the road. The motel is nice, but as the time was 3 am Swedish time we were very tired and went directly to bed. Unfortunately we had to share one single and quite small blanket, so we slept badly, but we were too tired to go up and get another one.
Thursday 6th of July
After less than 6 hours, it was time to go up and pack down everything again. Today we dressed in Viking clothes, especially as it seemed to become very sunny weather. The breakfast was superb and rich, so we would survive for quite awhile.
We hit the road at 9 am and passed through Reykjavik and then Northwards. The island is very green and the views are great with many smaller and bigger peaks everywhere. A few of them still had some snow on the tops. I used my camera a lot through the bus windows.
Road 1 around Iceland is nowadays much better than it used to be and we passed through a tunnel, which saved a lot of time to the bay of Borgarnes. We made a short stop at a coffee shop in the town.
We continued trough Borgarnes to the small church of Borg, which was the place where Egil Skalla-Grimsson lived according to the Icelandic sagas. A big part of the day was in the trace of this saga. But don't forget that the word "saga" is equal to history in Iceland and not a fairy tale as the Swedish corresponding word.
The local priest guided us in the church next to the place of Egils farm. Outside is there a copy of a statue, which shows the mourning Egil, when his son had died. At the way back to town, we also stopped by the tomb of Egil.
At an exhibition centre, we stopped for lunch and then we followed two visual and audio exhibitions. One about the first settlements described in the "Landnam book" and the other was about the Norse Gods. Both were really interesting and different from other museums. Unfortunately some people in the group didn't have time to complete both tours.
We continued Northwards over the peninsula of Snaefellsnes and up to Stykkisholmur, where we stayed at hotel Breidafjordur for the night. After check-in, we went for a walk in the harbour, where they still were unloading fish. We stopped at an information centre to get some maps and brochures. On the way back we stopped at a souvenir shop, which was comparatively cheap, as most other prices seemed to be doubled compared to those in Sweden.
At 7 pm we had a good dinner at the hotel and then we sat down chatting in the hotel lounge upstairs for a while. I went to bed around 10 pm to catch up on sleep and Christina came a bit later on, as she had rested a while before dinner.
Friday 7th of July
We had breakfast at 8 am and the dining room was already full. I shared table with a woman from Paris, her son and daughter and they went around in a hired car.
We departed to 9 am for a tour partly around and partly over the peninsula of Snaefellsnes. Yet another day with sun, but the clouds made the landscape feel mysterious.
We passed through a changing landscape and when we made a photo stop it felt as we would blow over the cliff as it was quite windy. Christina found some wool, which was dropped by a sheep. We made a short detour up to the farms of Mavahlid and Holt and then continued to Olavsvik, where we made a short stop in the village to get some brochures and visit the toilets.
Then it was time for the bus to climb over the peninsula. Wherever the road easily got destroyed during especially wintertime, it was only gravel, as it is to expensive to restore asphalt. This was especially true when we passed over volcanic ground. At the other side we continued a bit westwards towards the snowy mountain of Snaefell, which is the starting point of the classic Jules Verne book, "A Journey to the Center of the Earth".
We turned down to the small village of Anarstapi, where we took off for a short walk in the sunny but windy weather. We only walked halfway to Hellnar in the rocky landscape and then we sat down in a sheltered hole for lunch and soon Lars-Göran, Inga-Lill and Anette joined us. Afterwards we walked back to the village harbour, which has some spectacular rock formations. During the walk we were stopped by some Frenchmen, who wanted to take pictures of us in the Viking dresses and I told them who we were and why we wore those clothes.
We made a stop at the church of Stadarstadur, the place where Are Frode lived.
Then we headed on and made a short stop in something Mari said had been a souvenir shop a year before and afterwards we continued to Helgafell, which is nearby Stykkisholmur. We walked to the top in silence and without looking back, to get three wishes granted by the goddesses. It was extremely windy on the top and I was glad to have both my "rabbit cap" and my thick wool cloak.
Back at the hotel we had dinner and afterwards we played the game “OltreMare” with Anette and Anna-Lena. Towards midnight some of us looked at the sunset from a glazed-in room upstairs in the hotel. The sun set over the harbour.
Saturday 8th of July
We packed everything before we went to breakfast. Today we asked for some hot water for the lunch soup. The weather was cloudy and cold when we went to Haukasdalur and Eirikstadir, to see the remnants and reconstruction of the house of Erik the Red. At Eirikstadir a guy gave us a good guiding in Danish. Outside there was something they called a Viking market, but it mostly looked like a joke with only two market stands, which were open. One sold wooden swords and shields for children and the other sold destiny stone to tell your future.
We continued to Budardalur, where we had a picnic lunch inside the bus, as it was too cold outside, but the rain had ceased. Some in the group went to a handicraft shop.
We continued to Reykholt, the birth site of the famous Snorri Sturlusson. Mari, Anders and Anneli dipped their feet in the pool of Snorri, but Ove went in all the way, but with his trousers on. There were many tourists, who wanted to take a photo of us in the Viking clothes. It was funny to see those who tried to take a sneaky photo. The priest Geir, who was the 49th in this parish, gave us an unforgettable guided tour of the place. He really knew how to catch the attention of people and sometimes visually demonstrate events. The time just flew away when he described the last days of Snorri before the murder. You could also see how proud he was of the recently installed church windows. You rarely meet such a good and engaging guide.
The weather had gotten better again and we went to hotel Hamas outside Borgarnaes. After unpacking we had dinner at the hotel. The meal was good but expensive as usual. After dinner Christina sat in the room chatting, with Lars and Anna-Lena, while the rest of us went to the "hot pots" outside for a bath. I was in there for one and a half hour, but some stayed there for an additional hour before they were forced to get out 11:30 pm.
Sunday 9th of July
We packed, had breakfast and departed at 9 am. It was sunny but quite chilly outside. We continued over the lava landscape with the mountains in the background. Nearer Reykjavik the landscape seems to be more fertile with a lot of fields or meadows with sheep, a few cows and many Icelandic horses.
We made a sort stop for a view over Tingvellirvatna lake, before we stopped at the visitor centre of Tingvellir. There we were in good time to see the multimedia presentation of the history of this old judgement place. Then we went outside with our guide Nanna. The view over the place is fabulously great in the warm and sunny weather. Tingvellir is at the edges of the intercontinental platforms, which made the cliffs to be very sharp and there are many water creeks. It was a sensation to stand where the court used to be more than 1000 years ago and people gathered from all over Iceland once a year. We also looked into the small parish church and an excavation place nearby the president's summer cottage.
We left to continue to Geysur on a small, bad but very scenic road through the lava landscape. When we arrived we took a hamburger in a tourist restaurant, before we went up to see the geysers. It was really warm now when we stood there watching Stokkur, which nowadays is the only regularly active geyser in the area. Every 3-4 minutes it erupts up to around 20 metres with really hot water. We heard that the old big one called Geysir, had started to be active again the last years and now erupted 1-2 times a day, although very irregularly. After taking some photos, it was nice sitting nearby to enjoy the view of the eruptions.
We continued to the last of the three big tourist goals today, which is the waterfall Gullfoss, which is just 10 km away. The sky was unusually clear, so we could see the top of Hekla along the road. We also were lucky to find a good wind direction by the falls, so we could descend without getting as wet as you normally would be. It was another marvellous nature sight to enjoy. Everyone wanted group photos by the falls and our chauffeur Ingiber was busy taking them.
On the way back we came into a real traffic jam, probably due to local people returning from their summer cottages on Sunday evening and it probably took an hour extra to drive to Vogar. When we arrived at Motel Best, we just left the luggage in the room and then went out to buy some food for the evening and a lunch packet for the next day. It was nice to catch up with the diary and write a few postcards, although we realised that there wouldn’t be time to write so many during this trip.
Monday 10th of July
I woke up just before 7 am and after breakfast I went to the mailbox with the post cards as we had a lot of time before the departure at 9 am. Today we got a smaller bus. The weather was cloudier, but there wasn't any cold wind so we didn’t complain. It was a two hour drive to our first destination, which was Thjorsadalur and the reconstruction of a house from Stöng from the 16th century. We had some guiding in the house, but my concentration was severely disturbed by a cute kitten, which I caressed. It was irritating to be outside, as there were many small annoying flies in the air, which sometimes even flew into your ears or the mouth.
We continued to Stöng, where there had been farms since the 11th century, which had been destroyed by a volcanic eruption from Hekla a couple of times, before the area finally was abandoned in the 16th century. The turf houses are quite well preserved below the lava layer. The flies were even more annoying when we walked up to the site, so we had our picnic lunch under the excavation roof. Mari discovered that she had lost her ring needle of silver, so we went back to the first site and after searching for some time Nina was the one who found it for her.
We continued to the old bishop site of Skalholt and the sun started to break through the clouds. The guide didn’t appear in time, so they had to call another one, but he was good when he was telling the story of the first bishops and their church. Outside at the medieval excavation site, we were guided by a female archaeologist, who had studied in Uppsala and Lund. The place had been a cleric school until the 16th century, where all academics had studied.
At 4 pm, we headed back to Vogar, a trip which took about two hours. I realised that I hadn't taken as many photos through the window of the landscape today, as the earlier days. Had I gotten used to the landscape?
After an uneventful journey back with an extra detour through some house construction sites in the outskirts of Reykjavik, to show how many new houses are built, we arrived at the hotel just after 6 pm.
We took a walk to the shop to buy some fruit after have changed into civilian clothes again. We joined Mari and Anette in their room with some other before dinner at 7 pm. We got soup and fish at the motel and afterwards Lars and Anna-Lena joined us in our room until bedtime.
Tuesday 11th of July
We went up 6:30 am, as we should leave early, but we still couldn't get breakfast until 7:30, so we felt a bit stressed before we left. It was grey and drizzled when we left. It turned out to be quite a lot of rain during the day, although the rain ceased and there were even some sun now and then.
It took a couple of hour before we arrived at the village Hvolsvöllur and the Saga Centre, which mainly visually told the saga of Njal. A guide had an introduction in Swedish for us and another visiting group.
We continued to Hlidarendi, the home of Gunnar, one of the heroes in the saga of Njal. We just stopped outside on the road, as today there is only a modern farm.
We continued to Dyrholaey, which is the Southernmost point of Iceland mainland. There was very windy and rainy, but we could enjoy the view over the beaches with volcanic sand. Some went down to the beach to collect it in plastic bags. There were puffins on the cliffs. They suffered from the wind, as they had problems to land on the cliff. The Viking cloak became quite wet during the time we spent outside.
Next stop was at Skogafoss museum, where some of us had our picnic indoors and some ate in the cafe. We took a quick look of the exhibition with many old cars and machines. Outside there is a collection of old houses, among them turf houses. We met the old man, who had created this museum as his life task.
Then we just took the bus around the corner to see the waterfall of Skogafoss, which has a fall of 62 meters. Half of the group walked up a stair to the top. Myself I thought it was nicer to enjoy it from the bottom, as we could get pretty close to it, although we became quite wet. This didn't matter very much, as the rain already had made us wet.
We made a short photo stop at Drangshlid, where they have built houses towards the rocks, to use caves inside them and to protect the houses better.
The time was well ahead of the schedule, so we took a detour to the site where Njal lived and was killed in the saga. Nearby we had a good view of the Vestman islands despite the fog. We continued and made a stop at Oddi church before we went straight back to Reykjavik.
As we arrived in good time, it was decided that we should do the round tour in Reykjavik by bus already today, so we could stress less next morning, especially as Ingela, Gun-Britt, Nina and Ing-Mari were going to leave us the next day.
The round tour was mainly through the central parts along the seaside. We stopped by a monument, which resembled a Viking boat, but in a petroglyphs style. We passed beside many fancy and expensive houses. The tour ended by passing the president's residence South-West of the city on the way to Hafnarfjördur where we arrived around 7:30 pm to the Viking inspired restaurant Fjörukrain where we should have dinner.
The waiters were fun and skilful. One of them was a young Swedish guy and the other had sung in the opera house, so he sang several good songs for us. Local spirits were served, as well as something they called mead, but the taste of honey was missing. We started the dinner with a plate of smoked puffin meat and then had lobster soup as the main course and blueberry "skyr" (Icelandic kind of yoghurt) as dessert. We sang some songs and Nina got a Viking name "Nina skatturfinnaur" (treasure finder). The restaurant nominated Anders and Anneli as honourable Vikings in a fun little ceremony. The entire restaurant had a nice and interesting interior. We returned to the hotel after 11 pm.
Wednesday 12th of July
This morning we departed at 9 am with the church of Hallagrim in Reykjavik as the first destination. It's modern and an enormous cathedral, but I found it quite sterile and dull inside. I wished that they at least had had coloured glass in the windows. Except for a single one, all were plain. Outside there is a memorial statue of Leifur Eriksson, the discoverer of Vinland (America).
We continued to the National Museum of Iceland, which has "Building a Nation" as a theme. The entrance is free, but you had to pay a guide, but the young woman we got was the worst guide we ever have had. She spoke silently, read everything from a paper and couldn't answer any questions, not even those which were written later on in her papers. Also she repeated several things unnecessary and most she said was written beside every place we stopped. Mari complained at the desk afterwards, but our guide didn't understand what she meant. Both Christina, I and a few others separated quite soon from the group.
In any other case the museum was superb, with a lot of nice findings and Christina wanted me to take photos of most of the finds from the settlement time. Everything is well marked in English as well as in Icelandic. There are also several good multimedia displays.
We said goodbye to the four women who were going to leave us and go to the airport and back home today. Then we went to eat something in the cafe at the museum. Christina and many other made a raid into the museum shop.
After lunch went some in the group to see the Arni Magnusson Institute with some extracts of the old books, but it had been closed since a few years back and everything worth seeing was at the Cultural Centre, which we would go to a later day. We preferred to continue to see the rest of the museum. There was an exhibition about "invisible women from Iceland", which were about women who studied art abroad 100 years ago, but they never got known to the public. On the next floor the museum continued with 15th century until modern time. It included a modern version of a folklore dress, which was made of transparent plastic.
After the museum we went to "Perlan" (the pearl), which contains a saga museum with dolls like the ones at "Madame Tussauds", but better. We had an audio guide in Swedish and the exhibition was much better than the one at the Saga centre, which is comparable. But this one is more of an overview of many of the sagas. The dolls were made by a kind of rubber with a patented method Ernst Backman had invented himself. Ernst is also the artist and creator of all the things in the museum. Ove and Anders tested full armour with chain mail, which apparently was quite heavy. In the museum shop Christina found a bronze brooch, which she had been searching for a while and she wanted to a silk jacket, she already had planned to sew.
We returned to Vogar about 5:30 pm and several in the group started to wash clothes before the next half of the trip. We had a dinner at 7 pm with lamb. After it we had an extensive discussion about what route we should take the next day before we could come to a conclusion. When we had paid the dinner we went to our room and were joined by Lars, Anna-Lena, Ove, Anders, Margareta and Anneli and we were chatting until after 11 pm.
Thursday 13th of July
We slept until about 8 am. We couldn't leave too early, as the four rental cars wouldn’t arrive until 9 am. We chatted with Sven and Sonja who arrived just before midnight the day before. Today it was cloudy and windy again. Esther still hadn't arrived at 9:30, so we had to depart for the small tour around Reykjanes. We went as a caravan to the “Bridge between the Continents” of Europe and America, which are the so-called tectonic plates.
The road had asphalt, but the landscape around it is very rough. We continued southwards to the lighthouse Valahnukur. The last bit of the road was a lousy gravel road and we passed a big geothermic power plant, which either was under construction or under expansion. There is a turquoise lake, similar to the Blue Lagoon beside it. Most of us walked up to the lighthouse and got a good view. There were several Icelandic horses in a meadow nearby.
We went back and stopped shortly in Hafnir to see some old settlement places and then continued. The car, which should continue to the Blue Lagoon, separated from us. Unfortunately nobody had told us about this, so we followed them when they turned to the Northern part of the peninsula. It took a while before we realised that we should had turned East to follow Mari, who went back to the motel to pick up Esther, who had arrived,
Ove, who drove the car, continued to Reykjavik with Lars and Anna-Lena, and dropped them off in the central part, while the others continued directly southwards. We met up with the at a restaurant nearby Eyrabakki, which is called Hafid Blaa (Blue Sea). We had a nice meal. I took a grilled chicken breast, but many, including Christina, took something they called lobster, but it looked more like crawfish.
Our car drove in advance and we made a short stop in Eyrabakki, which has many nice wooden houses, among them one of the oldest at Iceland from 1745. Then we went back to Reykjavik and North towards Mosfellsbaer, to visit a fabrics store. This turned out to be a yarn factory, which had closed at 4 pm, but there was a sign pointing towards a factory outlet nearby, which mostly was a cheap souvenir shop called Alafoss. We also made a short visit to a knife shop, which had a knife for sale, only 17000 Swedish crowns (over 2000 USD).
We went back to Reykjanes and a short trip up to Reykanesbaer, to have a look at the Viking ship Islendigur in the rain. As Ove has been involved in both building as well as sailing Viking ships, he went around and examined and commented on everything.
We made a short final stop in the harbour of Vogar, before we came back just in time to fill up petrol in all of the rental cars. We just had time to enter the room for a few minutes before we had dinner at 7 pm, with salmon or minced meat as choices.
It was time to pack before leaving Iceland tomorrow and afterwards I went out to the common room to write my diary. Since several in the group were there it was also quite a lot of chatting. I went to bed around 11 pm.
Friday 14th of July
The breakfast hall was unusually full today. We heard especially many speak French. We loaded the luggage and departed at 9:30 am. In Reykjavik we separated for a while, so we could walk around in the centre and maybe do some shopping. The rain continued today, so it was really no fun to walk around.
At 11 am opened the Cultural Centre, where most of the group joined again to see the old manuscripts from the sagas. It was interesting to read information and then finally in darkish rooms see the original books. Some of us also made a short trip to the top floor to look at an exhibition of modern Icelandic fashion, but it wasn't really interesting and I ran through it quickly.
The bus picked us up at 12:45 and we went to Reykjavik airport in the central city. We had some sandwiches for lunch. We couldn't check in until about an hour before the departure and we couldn't pass the security control and the gates until a few minutes before departure. The departure hall is also used for arriving passengers and the duty shop area is extremely small plus that they also may use it. We departed just after 3:30 pm for a 2-hour flight.
We arrived at 3:30 local time and it was a fantastic feeling when I descended the plane. High green, grey and white mountains surrounded us and we saw the fjord with icebergs below us. In one end of the landing strip we could see a glacier. The few houses in Narsarsuaq are colourful. First we went into an information office, where our local coordinator Susanne met us. She is a Swedish woman, who had lived here for 3 years.
The luggage and some of the group went to the harbour in a small van. I just enjoyed walking in the clear sunny day with just a few clouds around the tops. Another van picked up most of the rest after a while and I was in the last turn with Anna and Gunnar. It was quite a small taxi boat, which transferred us over the fjord to Qassiarsuk. This is said to be Bratthalid, where Erik the Red settled down. It was easy to imagine, why he and his men had chosen this place. Someone said that this was the very first PR coup to call this place Greenland, but when you are here it is easy to imagine why it got its name.
A jeep took the luggage and we walked to the other end of the small village to the school home, where children 10-14 years old live during the weeks. We got very small rooms with upper and lower beds and shared each bathroom with another room. The standard was as expected for a youth hostel, although sheet and towels were included on request from Mari.
After changing to our Viking clothes, we went out to the other side of the little gravel road, where the small Café Bratthalid served supper. We got fish soup for starters and potatoes and fish as the main course. The cafe was driven by the two Icelandic women Edda and Ingebjörk, who were inspired by our clothes and also had changed to Viking clothes themselves.
After supper we went on a guided tour with Preben. It wasn't the intended guide and he had read the material the day before, but he did his best. First we visited the house of Otto Frederiksen, who resettled the place in the 1920th. Then we looked at the excavated ground of the church of Tjodhilde, the wife of Erik the Red. We also entered the small modern wooden church. It was nice with a wooden sailing boat hanging from the ceiling.
We continued with the old settlement grounds of Bratthalid and then the reconstructed church of Tjodhilde and a long house. Here Edda and Ingebjörk took over the performance, with both facts and fantastic stories, which they told in a marvellous way. We didn't return to bed until just after 11 pm. The day after Ove and Anette told us that they had stayed and talked with them and some people in another group until 2 am.
Saturday 15th of July
We woke up at 6:30 am, which was good as we were sharing the bathroom with Ove and Anders. It also took a while to pack the Viking clothes in the narrow little room. We prepared the breakfast ourselves with corn flakes, tea, coffee and sandwiches.
We departed with the luggage in the jeep just after 8:30 a.m. and the boat left at 9 a.m. This was big enough for 36 passengers, so we had no problem with space. Christina and Anna-Lena sat most of the time below deck with Susanne and got to know quite a lot about modern Greenland, while myself and several other preferred to sit on upper deck in the wind to see and take photos of the fantastic view in the fjord. We saw many icebergs, which came off a glacier nearby and it was pretty good weather, although mostly cloudy and windy.
We arrived in Narsaq at 12 a.m. as estimated and walked up to the youth hostel Niviarsiaq and the luggage arrived before us with a van. We got quite spacious two bed rooms, but only 2 bath rooms for the entire group.
I'm not sure that I could call Narsaq a town, but as Greenland has about 56000 inhabitants, it's among the bigger towns. The houses are really colourful everywhere and apparently there is no town planning in this country, as in Sweden. We all went down to a cafe nearby to get some sandwiches for lunch. It was nice eating smoked musk ox. In Greenland there are about 18000 musk oxen and they are increasing, compared to the fact that there only are nine in Sweden and only one male, which the female don't want to be with!
After lunch we met up with our guide Rie Oldenburg, who is manager for the Narsaq museum. First she showed us the old farm of “Landnam”, which is one of the oldest settlements on Greenland. There seemed to be quite a lot of irritating flies around, so we were glad to use our mosquito jackets now. We continued to the exhibition at the cafe, which also has a very small museum exhibition. It includes reconstructed clothes from Herjolfsnes, and Christina wanted me to dress up in a woolly and itchy jacket, so she could take good photos of it.
We continued to the main museum, which mainly shows the Inuit history of Narsaq and the surrounding area. Sometimes it was quite difficult for me to understand Rie, but Christina had no problem with the Danish. We went back for a while to prepare for the next day including fetch the ordered lunch packet for the trip.
At 7 p.m. we went to Hotel Narsaq, to eat a Greenlandic buffet dinner. It was 27 different local courses, made of seal, whale, lamb, prawns, reindeer, musk ox, fish and many other things. The lady, who took care of the used dish, finally came dressed in an Inuit traditional folklore dress and showed all the details, material and how it was done. Those dresses last for a long time and she had reused some pieces from the first one to this second one.
The time was over 9 p.m. before we walked back to the hostel. The sunlight outside was amazing to see and the colours of the houses was very bright. We sat chatting with Anders in the kitchen until it was time to go to bed.
Sunday 16th of July
We had to go up at 6 a.m. today, as 5 rooms were sharing the same bath room and we had breakfast at 7 a.m. at hotel Narsaq, which is just 200 metres towards the harbour. At 7:30 we departed from the harbour with a small charter boat with place for 12 passengers. The Icelander Stefan was captain, with is Inuit wife as co-captain. Their 4-year old daughter was also aboard on the trip to Herjolfsnes at the southern tip of Greenland near Cape Farvel.
Although it was a bit chilly weather in the morning, it soon became a lovely and sunny day. It was really nice going through the fjords and between the islands and with icebergs in the water around us and the view of high mountains. We saw a small farm here and there where it was slightly flat. It still felt amazing that people choose to live here, but on the other hand the beauty easily could outweigh the discomfort of always being dependent on boats and the weather to transfer between different places, especially wintertime. Most major villages now have at least one internet cafe, which the Danish state has invested into, to make communications better.
Our first stop after about one and a half hour was a quick one at Julianehaab, to pick up our guide Hans, who is an archaeologist and has excavated at Herjolfsnes a few years ago. This is also the home town of Susanne, who is married to an Inuit here. The sea became rougher for a while, as we had to go outside the islands.
We arrived around noon to the small community of Nanortalik, to visit the museum, where they had made reconstructions of several of the clothes findings at Herjolfsnes. They also had kayaks, Inuit clothes and other interesting local things. We spent around an hour before we went back to the boat. Unfortunately it seemed to have been a misunderstanding as Stefan and his family didn’t arrive until half an hour later. It didn't really matter that much, as the weather still was really great.
The last hour down to Cape Farvel and Herjolfsnes was really rough, as it was in open unprotected sea. Some in the group was surprised when it started and got really wet. Anette felt sick and had to hang over the railing for a while, although she never had had problems before. Christina who normally can get sea sick, felt quite ok, but she had taken both ginger and sea sickness pills, so she felt more drowsy than ill. But actually quite many seemed to pass out and fall asleep for a while in the jumpy sea.
When we turned into the protected bay of Herjolfsnes, it cleared up and was calm for just a short moment, which felt surprising. As Hans was the only one who had been here before, he had to direct Stefan to a landing place. Stefan put the boat towards a cliff with the propeller moving slowly, while we crawl over the cabin and upon the rock, which was a bit tricky, especially as we were told to avoid touching the antenna as well as the life boat.
There were quite a lot of irritating flies around, while Hans guided us. The reason that they found the place and it was quickly excavated was that a fisherman found a skeleton on the beach with clothes on and they thought it was someone who recently had drowned. They soon found out that the erosion had started to destroy the churchyard. Something in the earth together with the permafrost had preserved the clothes unusually well since the 14th century. We were also surprised to find a sign describing the site here far from any tourists. At the beach there were some minor icebergs just by the shore line.
When we went out again about an hour later, Stefan had anchored the boat and transferred us out in a rubber boat instead, which was much easier. When he turned around the corner the rough sea started again, but this time we were not taken by surprise. It was rough until we reached Nanortalik and the way back felt less exciting, probability as most of us seemed to be very tired of the rocking sea and drowsed off now and again. We chose to wait with eating until after we left Hans in Julianehaab again. It was getting darker when we arrived in Narsaq towards 11 pm and everybody just wanted to go to bed as soon as possible.
Monday 17th of July
I went up at 6 am, to get early in the queue to the bathroom. We packed and put the luggage outside the hostel. Christina, who had got at beginning cold, felt a bit worse today. At 7 am we walked down to the hotel to eat breakfast. Someone had transferred the luggage to the boat and loaded it aboard, when we came down to the harbour. We left at 8 am for a 2-hour trip to Italleq. I had problem with an irritating lens, so I had to remove them on the boat.
We walked over the peninsula to Gardar, the old bishop site of Gardar, which was established in the 11th century, which today is called Igaliko. Mari, Christina and Inga-Lill went with a van, as the road seemed to be rougher and longer than expected. It was really nice to enjoy the view, as the weather became better and better and the heaven was really clear when we finally arrived to the village.
As we had no local guide, Mari did the guiding after we had a picnic in the grass. Some visited the local shop, as they had hoped to eat at the cafe, but this seemed to have slightly irregular opening times. We went back with the van, which had to make two turns. I sat in the front and was pretty afraid, as Mari talked to the chauffeur and he turned his head every time he answered and it felt as he would drive off the road any second. Several times my hand went up to taken care of the steering wheel.
At the small harbour of Italleq there was another group waiting for the boat and another one went off when it arrived. There is no regular boat traffic, as all boats must be booked in advance on Greenland. The only regular traffic are planes once a day or so between the different small communities. It was now very warm sitting outside on the boat.
We arrived at Narsarsuaq at 4:30 pm and we were transferred the Narsarsuaq hotel beside the airport. Most of us changed into our Viking clothes for the Greenlandic buffet dinner, which was as god as the one we got in Narsaq. After dinner we sat chatting in the common room until after midnight.
Tuesday 18th of July
We went up at 8 am and packed again. After breakfast we checked out and went to the local museum. Five in the group had decided to take a boat over the fjord to Bratthalid for a few hours. There were some drizzling and today the flies were really irritating outside.
The museum was quite interesting and had some elder historical findings, some geological and nature information, but mostly it described this place during the time it was an American flight base until 1958. It took over an hour to go through it.
We went back to the hotel to take it easy and read for a while and then have a lunch in the cafe, although we couldn't get any warm food. When it was time of leave at 2:30 pm the Brattahlid group still hadn't returned, but they came rushing at the last moment. Just before said Sven to us, that we shouldn't be sad as we only had lost a guide, but he had lost a wife...
We went by bus to the airport, although it was only about 500 meters away. It was quick to check in, but the plane was more than half an hour late, so we had to wait, as we weren't allowed to go through the security check until the gate had opened. As there are very few planes arriving and departing a day, they are using the same hall to pass through. While we were waiting, a Greenlandic choir sang a song now and then. They seemed to be waiting for the same plane.
The view from the window was good over the glaciers and fjords, so I regretted that I had put away the camera. We arrived about an hour late at 9:20 pm and Ingiber was waiting to transfer us to Motel Best in Vogar. We invited the others to our room and all except five joined us. It was fun chatting with them until after 1 am, although we were tired since the last night. Sonja gave us a good laugh when she wanted to return to her room and forgot which one it was. Sven had told her that he would leave the door opened, but both rooms she tried to knock on were closed and nobody opened. Finally she found the correct room, which actually was open!
Wednesday 19th of July
Again we went up early to pack the things we had kept here while visiting Greenland and then had breakfast at 7 am. We left at 8 am in a warm and sunny weather and went towards the outskirts of Reykjavik, where we stopped at a long house, which has a good multimedia presentation outdoors. The place is called Hofstadir.
Then we went back and continued to Reykjanesbaer, where we stopped at Stokkarkjot, to see the reconstructed Viking ship "Islendigur" and some reconstructed turf houses from the 19th and beginning of the 20th century. The idea is that all school classes on island should have the possibility to go out with the ship at least once. We also made a stop at a roundabout nearby, where they had a large stone statue in shape of a large sword, which looks like one of the finds at the national museum.
The last stop was in the centre, where we walked around a while by ourselves and ate lunch at a restaurant near the harbour. We were entertained by a boat named "Akureyri" in the harbour. It seemed as somebody was learning to park it. The boat crashed into both a smaller boat, as well as the harbour ramps several times, so the man must have been a real beginner and we never understood why he was allowed to drive there.
At the airport we said goodbye to Ingiber and checked in. We fixed the tax-free refund and strolled in the duty-free shops, before we sat down in a cafeteria and spent our last coins on coffee and cakes.
The flight departed on time 3:30 pm and we had a pretty good view over Iceland, although it was cloudier Eastwards.
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