Sunday, 17 January 2016

Iceland 2.15: Hólar and Akureyri

Suitably fortified by our lunch at the "adorable bakery" we headed for Hólar: the site of the second bishopric in Iceland (the first is in Reykjavík) and famous for being the location where Guðbrandur Þorláksson translated, and then printed, an Icelandic version of the bible in 1584.  It is also highly unusual in that the front of the church is made from red sandstone which was quarried close by.  Sedimentary rocks are almost unheard of in Iceland, and it was necessary to import a Polish stonemason to teach the locals how to work with it.

The inhabitants of Hólar clearly make very good fertilizer, if this tree is anything to go by!

The interior of the church was rather different to those we'd visited elsewhere in that it didn't have the classic barrel-vaulted ceiling.  It also possessed a rood screen and an elaborate triptych altar piece, of box construction with gilded carvings on the inside and paintings on the outside.  The custodian explained that the altar piece would normally have been kept closed except for special occasions, but is now on display permanently.

We were shown the rear of one of the panels, depicting two rather gruesome martyrdoms.  The larger painting is of Saint Sebastian (he of the arrow piercings), but I had to do some research about the lady with a sword through her neck.  It appears that she might be Saint Lucy, although this has yet to be confirmed.

These are the font and the organ from the church.

As we still had quite a distance to travel we set off for Akureyri, retracing a journey we'd made almost exactly two years previously.  The conditions were complete different, however: instead of driving rain and zero visibility, this time we had sunshine and a clear blue sky.  As a result we made good time, so decided to visit the nature reserve at Krossanesborgir on the outskirts of the town.  We saw the usual suspects (golden plover, whimbrel, redwing and loads of gulls) but we also had a rock ptarmigan cross the path just in front of us.  One of the images shows just how close the nature reserve is to the working port, with what looks like an oil terminal in the background.

The weather started to cloud over, so we headed to our hotel in Akureyri.  While having a well-earned shower (remember there was only cold water at our hut in Kerlingarfjöll) it started to rain, but not very heavily.  Hungry after a long day's driving we walked into the town centre to see if our favourite kaffi was open for business.  It was!

I snuck a picture of a fire hydrant into the previous set, but I think I may have got away with it...

After an absolutely excellent dinner we wandered around the shops for a while.  Rather than concentrating on the beautiful (and expensive) items available, my eye was taken by the large amount of "ice tat" on sale to tourists.  A micro-sheep, Viking helmet or naff model of a troll, anyone?

The rain cleared eventually, and we walked back up the hill to the hotel.

Akureyri had lost none of its charm since our previous visit, and I still think it's a much nicer place than Reykjavík.  I'm sure we'll find an excuse to go back there at some point in the future.