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Sunday, June 30, 2013

Day 2: Viking Sushi in Stykkisholmur

Our bus to Stykkisholmur in Western Iceland left at 8:00 a.m. from the Harpa Concert Hall in Reykjavík, which is about 10 minutes walk from the Guesthouse 101. There are two bus companies covering the Western Iceland route - sterna (all their busses depart from Harpa) and stræto (with departures from the much less centrally located Mjödd station in Reykjavík. We decided for the more centrally located sterna bus, where you can also book the tickets online. There aren't too many bus options in Iceland going to most places, so you have to plan ahead if you're travelling around on your own. When we had booked the bus ticket, we only got a voucher that we first had to exchange for a bus ticket at the sterna ticket desk, which is located inside the Harpa building. We expected a lot more people, given that it was high season, but there was barely any other tourists or locals who rode with us. Alda Sigmundsdóttir in her "The Little Book Of The Icelanders" explained why. Just a few minutes later, there were just 6 people who took the same bus. But it was great since there was enough room for us.


We arrived in Stykkisholmur after a two and a half hours drive trough the seemingly endless road between lava fields and table mountains. Stykkisholmur, named after Stykkið (a small island in front of the harbour, meaning the piece in Icelandic) is a little town with a bit more than 1,100 inhabitants. We went straight to our hotel, Hotel Sykkisholmur where we stayed for two nights.We got an early check-in and a room with ocean view which was great. The Breiðafjörður Bay is actually about 500 meters away. The room was quite stylish and equipped with private bathroom, telephone, a flatscreen TV, WiFi, and hair dryer (which I basically don't need).


We chose Stykkisholmur as our base for exploring the Snæfellsnes Peninsula because it has good bus connections and offers some activities. We saw beautiful pictures online especially of the modern and futuristic looking church set on a hill. So we eagerly started our sightseeing stroll through Stykkisholmur from the church, which is just next to our hotel. It is a little architectural gem.


Our next stop was at the small Volcano Museum in the center of Stykkisholmur. There were lots of paintings from volcanoes all over the world, a movie and also an interactive map of the geology of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. The owner also wrote a book and offers Geology Excursions. We didn't have much time though because we had booked for a puffin watching tour.


The puffin watching tour, starting from the harbour of Stykkisholmur where also the ticket office is, was actually the short version of the "Vikingsushi Tour" from seatours.  With seatours, you can also book the ferry "Baldur" to the little island of Flatey and - if you want to continue your travel to north-western Iceland, the Westfjords to Brjánslækur. Unfortunately, we didn't have time for Flatey and for the Westfjords. For the Westfjords you really need time if you don't have a car because there are even fewer bus connections than in the rest of Iceland, mostly serviced by sterna. The  boat went to some cliffs and islands in the area where puffins and other birds are breeding. We've seen cormorants as well. Towards the end of the tour, they pulled up a net from the sea for the "Vikingsushi". Almost everybody tried the mussels (except for my friend who doesn't eat fish or seafood) but seems no one ate the slimy innards of the sea urchins. It was very common to the island where I was originally from to eat the "meat" of the sea urchins. I used to collect them during my childhood.


After an hour boat tour, we explored the harbour area and went up the hill which was once an island in front of the harbour but has been connected to the mainland to make an artificial cove for the dockings. It was pretty windy up there but thank goodness for the thermo-clothes. We were quite prepared for the Icelandic weather.


We dropped by at the seatours ticket office, which is also a souvenir shop and a café, we couldn't resist buying some stuff (my friend bought an Icelandic movie about whale watching tourists attacked by some lunatic Icelander, and chocolate puffin eggs). We then continued to another curiosity in Stykkisholmur, the "Library of Water", which is located on a hill. They have water collected from glacier ice from all over Iceland and presented in glass columns. It looked like a conceptual art exhibition, and you need to take your shoes off when you enter.


We didn't see it at first when we were looking for it before going up to the Library of Water, we finally got to the Norwegian House (Norska húsið). As the name implies, it is an old Norwegian house turned into a museum. We didn't have high expectations but then we even got a guided tour on the first floor by a very dedicated woman, who explained to us the lifestyle of the old rich Norwegian family who built the house and lived there. One really gets the impression of the "Icelandic" (in this case, the Norwegian settlers) at that time


Outside of the house, they have a little and curious exhibit, a small wallpapered garden house or shed and a video installation. The wallpaper as I've learned was from a famous wallpaper designer who visited the family.


A few meters away is the "Galleri Lundi" where they sell handicrafts and works of arts produced by the inhabitants of Stykkisholmur.

Finally, we stopped by at the supermarket which was fortunately still open, to avoid going to the hotel's restaurant. We would have loved going to a restaurant, but Iceland is extremely expensive, and the restaurants do not make an exception. After a break at the hotel, we just went around the area to the other side going to the water and taking another look at the city with its mostly flat houses and the church.





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