Monday, October 04, 2010

Ring Road Day 2: Stykkishólmur, and on to Akureyri

The morning of our second day on the trip, Nicole set up an appointment for us to visit Roni Horn's sculpture/building/installation Vatnasafn, or Library of Water. Housed in the old Library at Stykkishólmur, Roni turned the building into a community meeting space which primarily houses 24 tubes of water taken from glaciers around Iceland, a floor covered in words about weather and volcanic ash/rubber tile; and a collection of Horn's work in a small gallery-style space.

There are also chess tables and an open space for small concerts, lectures, or film screenings. The space was beautiful- it overlooks the harbor, and the columns of glacier water are fun to photograph. The tiles were sort of gassing off this smell of rubber and volcano, so we didn't want to overstay our visit, but we did have a long chat about the history of the space and the town with Sigurður.

He showed us the space and filled us in on local politics, and let us know that he also works at the volcano museum, he helped build the modern church in the town (photo below), and that he also runs the town's newspaper!

After looking out at the contemporary church, I couldn't help but be magnetically pulled to it. Thankfully this church was open, and it was amazing inside and out! The ceiling is lit by hundreds of single bare lightbulbs, and there is this incredibly strange and delightful painting on the altar of a Madonna and Child. But look closely, and you realize that Mary and Babe are floating over a landscape of lava and volcanic terrain. How appropriate!

I did play piano in here, there was a beautiful Steinway and it would be really fun to come back and give a concert.

Then we drove...and drove some more...there are mostly fields and farms in this area (and rainbows), but on the way we stopped at a réttir, or sheep roundup! It's that time of the year.

The sheep here pretty much roam free, but their ears are tagged. Then farmers and townspeople are recruited to go get the sheep, they bring them to a pen like this (or some are circular, as you may see in pictures later in the week) and put all the sheep in the middle. Then the sheep are sorted and put in side pens depending on whose they are! I hope the locals didn't mind that we took pictures of all the animals. And by animals I mean these kids playing in the dirt.

Thanks to a suggestion by an architect colleague, we stopped at Viðimiri Church, which was built in 1834. It was also closed, but it had a fabulous exterior of wood, sod, and colorfully-painted ornaments with a green fence surrounding.

We arrived in Akureyri, the 'Capital of the North' of Iceland with a whopping 17,000 people. It took has a modern church (pictured) and a great new circular city hall (at least I think that's what it was).

It's still a 'town' by U.S. standards, but after all those farms and fields on the drive today, Akureyri feels like a metropolis. There are bars! Fancy clothes. Angsty teens. Thai food! We ate some for dinner, and went for a post-prandial cocktail at this funky place with hammered metal tables, woven basket lamps, and cow hides on the walls.

Devon said that if we were to write a review for Akureyri, it would be for the Hostelling International (HI) and it would be a very glowing one. That place is nicer than some hotels I've stayed in! Sinks in every room. A veranda overlooking trees to eat your morning cereal while you use free wireless. And friendly staff too. Bravo. Day 3 coming up ahead.

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