Written by the Warrior
When we were in North Iceland, we met a group of ladies from Australia. Over breakfast, we talked about our collective driving experience in Iceland.
While Iceland does drive on the correct side of the road, I confess that I don’t personally think that I would have been able to do well on its roads.
For one, their roads are really really narrow! With no shoulder, and in many places…
Directly over a CLIFF!
And that is not all. There are lots of sharp curves and frequent blind headers.
Many one lane bridges with no lights on either side and grades as steep as 12%.
There are lots of sheep.
And even the national Ring road is not all paved.
To be fair to Iceland, I should mention that, That Guy who drove the entire trip, had no issues whatsoever. In fact, he took particular pleasure in freaking me out by taking too many curves over cliffs at speeds that I considered WAY too fast.
The Australian ladies had particular trouble, since they were used to left hand driving. They told me that they had just arrived from East Iceland, where the roads were crazy twisty and steep.
By now, we have encountered numerous roads like that, so I nodded in understanding and agreement…That is until two days later, driving towards the small town of Seyðisfjörður, tucked deeply into the mountains of the Eastfjords, I realized that this was what the Australian ladies were talking about, and that I have seen nothing yet.
Here is a time lapse video of the crazy road.
According to the Lonely Planet on Iceland, if you only visit one town in the East fjords, it should be Seyðisfjörður.
“Made up of multicoloured wooden houses and surrounded by snowcapped mountains and cascading waterfalls, obscenely picturesque Seyðisfjörður is the most historically and architecturally interesting town in East Iceland. It is also a friendly place with a community of artists, musicians and craftspeople.” (Lonely Planet, Iceland, 2015)
(Pretty accurate, I would say!)
We arrived in Seyðisfjörður around 7pm and after settling into the Post Hostel, which was not particularly memorable other than the free laundry and this most excellent machine that made the most excellent coffee.
I wanted to run quickly to the grocery store to get some milk.
By now, which was halfway through our trip, I have learned that the Icelandic culture does not encourage early risers. Literally, nothing is open, not even the grocery store until 10 or 11am, even in the big cities. And since we were there in June, we had 24 hour day light, which meant that we never had adjust to the Icelandic time zone.
When we got to the town’s only grocery store, we found that it was already closed. This happened to us a lot. We then walked all over the one really short street that housed most of the businesses in town, and found that we could get bikes, a tour, jewelries, beer, but not milk.
With no milk and no groceries, we ended up at the lively local bar, El Grillo. After filling our bellies with delicious food, I resumed my quest for milk. I happened to joke with a lady in the bar that Iceland does not encourage healthy eating, as I could easily find beer, but not milk. She became so concerned that she took it upon herself to go to Hotel Aldan’s basement fridge to get me a carton of milk. She refused to take any money from me, and instead asked that we join the town’s Independence Day celebration, which was the next day. Apparently there was going to be a cannon and a parade.
We had originally planned on going to Borgarfjörður Eystri the next day, but with such act of kindness, the least I could do is celebrate one of Iceland’s most important days of the year, with the folks who have made us feel so welcome in their community. Besides, I love parades!
The next day, while exploring the town, we happened upon 20 or so people…
Near an old house where an older gentleman sporting a World War II helmet was hovering over a cannon.
After the cannon fired one large paper ball, I waited excitedly for the parade to start.
A few minutes later, That Guy pointed to 2 dudes holding Icelandic flags, saying “I bet you, they are the parade.”
I’m like WHAT? That’s not a parade, a parade has floats and at least one high school band, people dressed in costumes, local businesses riding in vintage cars… At the same time, I’m realizing, once again, I am shocked over how literal Icelanders are.
They are the most straight forward people I have ever met. While I love that, I must confess, I was perpetually shocked that they meant only what they said, nothing more, nothing less, no sarcasm, no irony.
For example, at Dillons cafe in Árbær Open Air Museum, Reykjavík.
Flat bread with smoked lamb, is seriously just one slice of smoked lamb on one slice of flat bread. Not a sandwich that I thought my $7 (700 kronas) was going to fetch me, and it certainly didn’t come with a soup or a salad.
Another example is the Laundromat cafe in Reykjavík.
It seriously is a laundromat and a cafe. It also has a great children’s play area.
While I fully appreciate how brilliant this is, as people can do laundry and have a meal while they wait. I totally thought that it was just a name.
Realizing that the definition of a parade is probably just people walking down the street together in celebration of some sort, I fully appreciate once again, just how to the point Icelanders are and how much I respect their fierce honesty.
So, when in Seyðisfjörður on Iceland’s Independence Day, you might as well do as Seyðisfjörður-ians do…
Attend a church service entirely in Icelandic.
Eat, drink and be merry.
Participate in children’s activities.
Wait and ride on the town’s only fire truck and police car in the pouring rain.
Mingle with 300+ new “friends”.
And, take a hike.
My experience in the friendliest town in Iceland made me wonder, whether sometimes, we lose sight of what is truly important in our hectic pace and over scheduled ways. Could it be that a detour, while frustrating as it may be, is the best thing that could happen to us.
If I had succeeded in getting milk from the grocery store, I would have missed the very best that Seyðisfjörður had to offer.