We finally made it to Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland. It is so weird being in a city after spending a few weeks in such a sparsely populated area. I already love this city. Everything is really expensive, but there are so many cool shops and restaurants to check out downtown. We are staying in a hostel for the next two and a half weeks, which is interesting. There are six of us to a room that is big enough for about two people realistically. These places are not made for long term stays, so the next stretch of this trip will be interesting. Luckily however the University of Reykjavik is within walking distance, we begin classes there tomorrow and I expect to be spending many afternoons there working on my project.
My last weekend in Ísafjörður was really nice, I spent a lot of time exploring more parts of the Westfjords with my host family. They took me to the most incredible waterfall I have ever seen, Dynjandi. The picture does not do it justice in the least bit, you can only truly experience its massiveness by standing next to it and listening to the deafening roar of the falling water.
On Monday we took an hour bus ride to a small town called Þingeyri where we got to watch an Icelandic Saga being acted out. The one man show told an old story about a few of the first settlers here in Iceland. Afterwords, we ate lunch on an old bus that had been turned into a small cafe.
Later on, because it was the Fourth of July and also one of our last nights in Ísafjörður, all the host families and SIT students got together and had a celebratory/farewell dinner BBQ style. It was a very bittersweet event; we had such a fun time laughing and chatting, but in the back of my mind I knew I was soon to be leaving the awesome family I had grown so close to over the past two weeks. I made promises to visit again, however; and these are promises I fully intend to keep.
After dinner, my host mom & sister drove me up to the top of a mountain that overlooks the ocean. On a clear day, it is said to be one of the most spectacular views in the Westfjords, however when we got up there the clouds had crept in. It was still a phenomenal place though, it felt like we were on a different planet the way we were above the clouds. You could be standing on the edge of a cliff looking down and just not see anything, but know that hundreds of feet below you was nothing but the sea.
Tuesday we took another field trip as a class to a place called Flateyri. We were given a tour of the very small town by a man who volunteers on the search and rescue team. He told us the story of the most devastating avalanche to plague the town back in 1995. Twenty people were killed that night as houses got swept away in the crashing snow. It was super eerie walking around looking up at the mountain that had unknowingly caused so much grief and horror to a once tight-knight community. Since then, avalanche barriers have been built to avoid a repeat of such an event, however many people were driven away by fear.
That night was my last night staying with my host family. They cooked an incredible traditional dinner of lamb chops, boiled potatoes, red cabbage, and some other side courses. My host mom even baked two delicious pies, one rhubarb and one apple, my absolute favorite. A few other relatives came over and it was a really nice dinner. Even though everyone mostly speaks Icelandic to each other and I’m always a little lost, I love just listening to the way they speak the crazy language.
Afterwords, my host brother took me and his sister over to his friends barn to ride Icelandic horses.
Wednesday morning, after one last breakfast at Gamla Bakery, I said my goodbyes to my host family and loaded my things onto the bus. The drive took just about all day, and after trying every uncomfortable sleeping position possible, there wasn’t much to do but stare out the window at the passing scenery and listen to music. We did stop at a farm on the way where the owner has built his own wind turbine that he uses to generate energy for the farm. Since it was under repair, it was laying down horizontally and we had a chance to see it up close.
Finally we arrived at our destination, an eco-village called Solheimar. About an hour outside of Reykjavik, the village was founded in the early 1900’s by a woman who wanted to create a place where special needs children and orphans could live in harmony. Today, around 100 residents live there full time, working in the greenhouses, or creating art work that is sold locally. Everyone has a specific job that allows them to be a functioning cog in the community. They also rent out guest houses to various groups, such as the one we stayed at during our time there.
Solheimar has its own geothermal hotspot that they tapped into to provide warm water to the whole community. I’m not sure if I have mentioned this before, but one downside of using geothermally heated water is the stink. The sulfur creates an eggy smell that makes showering and brushing your teeth slightly gag-inducing tasks.
We were able to attend their daily morning meetings that consist of everyone standing in a circle holding hands as the church bell rings at 9 o’clock. They then go over any announcements for the day and sing a short hymn before heading off to work. Thursday we were given a tour of the village, learning about its history and how they got to where they are now. Friday we actually got a chance to work in the greenhouses for a little while, filling pots with dirt and packaging tomatoes to be sold in local markets.
Being at Solheimar was a humbling and relaxing experience. I am very impressed with everything they have done, it truly is a remarkable place.
Saturday we finally arrived in Reykjavik, where we spent the day exploring among crowds of other tourists. Icelandic is no longer the first language you hear when you are out, as almost everyone here is from another country and usually resorts to English in conversational settings.
I miss the comfort of a small town, where it was so easy to pick up the every day routine of the locals. It will take a few days to adjust back to city life.