Sunday, December 28, 2014

iceland continued: the first big day

Happy Holidays, everyone! Merry Christmas! Joyeux Noël! As a special holiday gift to you, please enjoy some more Iceland posts! 

And lo, on the sixth (or fifth, or something-th) day, Ross the Dewey (his Viking name) arrived in Reykjavík. And there was much rejoicing. 

(There's a picture of our nephew, Max, that looks exactly like this. Good stuff)

Early the next morning Ross the Dewey and I took a cab to Kúkú Campers to pick up our home for the next three days (Kúkú also has Chuck Norris and Marilyn Monroe campers, among others). I assume this is the only home we will ever have emblazoned with the image of Steven Seagal, but you never know.

Here's the thing. Sleeping in a tiny, dirty camper for three nights, at the mercy of rest stop and gas station bathrooms, isn't the most fun. But bless his heart, Steven gave us freedom to go and do whatever we wanted. Our itinerary (hear the glorious echoes of "itinerant" in that?) changed every day, and we had someplace warm and dry to sleep every night. Steven Seagal gave us that.

Plus, isn't he a friendly face in a parking lot?

After leaving Reykjavík we drove south for a few hours before taking a ferry to Heimaey, an island in the Vestmannaeyjar chain (in English, the Westman Islands).

Vestmannaeyjar and the LDS Church go way back. According to a sign at the Folk Museum (more on that in a minute), "In 1855, the first Icelanders to immigrate to America settled in the Mormon community of Spanish Fork, Utah. For the next sixty years, nearly four hundred other Mormon converts from Iceland followed, about half coming from Vestmannaeyjar."

My great-great-grandparents were among those immigrants.

This is where my family comes from.

And in some very real ways, I can't shake the feeling that this is where I come from, too.

This is a little embarrassing and woefully unscientific, but I've always hung on to the romantic notion of genetic memory, the idea that our bodies remember the places of our genetic ancestors. Maybe because of this, or maybe because of some other reason, or maybe for no reason at all, the landscape of Iceland--and especially the cliffs of Heimaey--slotted into a very particular space in my soul.

Anyway, enough of that. During our brief visit to Heimaey, Ross and I climbed Eldfell, a volcano that last exploded in 1973 (burying my family's still extant home, btw). For a while we had beautiful views of the island, but then we were shrouded in fog. We hiked down to the beach, too, and unexpectedly ran into some of my favorite Chaucerians (including Chaucer himself, although that's another story). During a driving rainstorm we ran into the Folk Museum to see the exhibit on Mormon emigration, where we (rather laboriously!) found a picture of my great-great-grandmother, Jónína Helga Valgerður Guðmunsdóttir. After she moved to Utah she went by Nena Hanson. She was born in Heimaey in 1867 and died in Spanish Fork in 1932. I am fascinated by her. 

(I think this also might be my great-great-grandfather, and maybe even my great-grandmother in Jónína's arms? I'm not sure)

More of the pioneers.

Digging that 1970s volcano action.

After Heimaey we drove a bit farther along the coast. This pool is nearly a secret in Iceland. You pull off the road and hike for a good fifteen, twenty minutes to get there. It was built to teach local farmers how to swim and is absolutely covered in moss. You get used to it*

*Ross' note: You do not get used to it

After the pool we drove on to Skógafoss, one of my favorite waterfalls in the country. 

There's a long steep trail that climbs from the right of the falls for 86km (53 miles) to Landmannalaugar, where we hiked on one of our last days in Iceland (stay tuned!). I would love to do the whole hike someday.

This time, though, we just stayed long enough to make some friends.

After all, it was already after 10pm at this point, and we had miles yet to go. See you tomorrow (I said it and I mean it!) for Chapter Six, in Which There is a Lot of Ice.

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