Isafjordur, Iceland

I am so incredibly bummed that I can’t figure out the electronics of the ship’s crazy internet in order to share my pictures with you….one of these days.

Isafjordur is unlike anyplace we have been. A town of nearly 3000, it has almost no trees or bushes. The rough and jagged peaks (looks like Switzerland, with less height) are covered in moss and lichen and brilliant green. When snow falls, there really is nothing to stop it and half a village was totally destroyed by avalanche 20 years ago. Obviously too steep for downhill skiing! The mountains surround several picturesque fjords (as in those Greenland photos) filled with fish.

We are just barely south of the Arctic circle, so after our tour this morning in rainy 42 degrees, I’m still cold. We are still in white night; the sun officially sets around 10pm and rises at 4am, but it never really gets dark. Apparently, December and January are completely sunless, as the mountains block what little bit of winter sun might struggle to get in.

The Arctic Fox, poor thing, is besieged as eider down is a big industry. The fox, the only indigenous mammal in all of Iceland, likes to eat eider duck and duck eggs–I am reminded of Idaho in which the ranchers hatted the sheepherders for ruining the pasture but both really, really hated the wolf. Bye-bye, wolf. There appears to be very little interest in saving the fox. Eider down is collected from the eider duck nests after the ticks in it have been frozen to death, combed and sold at big prices.

Stories of trolls, the “hidden folk” were legion. The winter wind tends to drive cars off the road, so mountain tunnels were built to connect several villages about ten years ago. The tunnels ran into constant problems until the wise villagers decided to humor the trolls with a festival in their honor; the problems subsequently stopped. There is no wood here; Iceland has established a goal of 2% tree coverage. Currently, the only wood comes from Siberian logs washed to shore or via boat from Norway. Houses are made of corrugated steel, and nestled tightly amidst the stores and businesses. No zoning. And no solar energy; energy is all hydroelectric as water melts and flows off the mountains.

The long, dark, cold winters encourage a ton of winter sports. 5-year olds celebrate Kindergarten graduation with a climb up a mountain. This little town has hockey, football, soccer, biking, hiking, cross-country skiing and — music. We were audience for a young musician who explained that music training starts typically at 5 years old, and extends through high school. There are two music schools in town; everyone (we’re told) plays an instrument.

Our next stop will be equally cold and unpronounceable: Akureyri, Iceland where the tectonic plates meet and volcanoes, lava fields, geysers and waterfalls are the attraction. A part of me mourns the inevitable impact of tourism on these little communities. My folks lived in the Virgin Islands, and we witnessed firsthand what ravaging tourists looking for something new can do. That will happen here, too, and yet Iceland is actively pursuing the tourist economy; it’s a big business.

Bob is now recovered from COVID, but will remain isolated until two negative antigen tests ensure that he is no longer contagious. It’s been a long stretch, not the start of the trip we planned. Oddly we are grateful that the trip is 46 days; we are assured that we still have positive experiences ahead of us.

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Betty Warner

Married female, mother of two, grandmother of five. Living in a senior living community, where dinner, house maintenance, and continuing care are part of the contract. Residents in this community are actively engaged in our lifestyle here; I currently help produce Zoom programs, and help edit our webpage. Physically "healthy for your age" despite shortness of breath, two knee replacements, a cardiac murmur, various skin issues and an incipient back problem.

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