Travel Day

And on the seventh day they rested. While I drove. We had nothing planned except to get from point A to point B about 300 km away. Which was perfect for a rainy gloomy day. We spent the first half of the day on dirt roads in cloud covered heaths, crossing over the “thumb” of the Westfjords. Even for the emptiness of Westfjords this section was desolate. There were no villages or even sheep farms here. Just patches of snow and glacial lakes and ancient lava flows.

At the other end of the road was the village of Hólmavík on the eastern coast of Westfjords. When we got to Hólmavík it had stopped raining and the sky looked a mite brighter. With a population of around 300, Hólmavík has a grocery store, two gas stations, several restaurants (most were closed), and a big modern church on a hill with rainbow painted steps leading to the top (July is Pride month in Iceland and they are proud). Hólmavík also has the Galdrasýning á Ströndum, the Stranda Museum of Sorcery and Witchcraft.

The museum was interesting. The Icelandic sagas, like so many other cultures with a rich heritage of storytelling, are full of tales of magic and witchcraft. For example a few chapters in the Eyrbyggja Saga recounts happenings during the 10th century at a heath in Snæfellsnes, the Fróðárheiði, that we drove over a few days ago. There are ghosts and ghouls and death promises not kept. But this museum isn’t about stories. It delves into the factual history of Iceland from 1640 to 1690 when many people were burned at the stake or tortured to death after being accused of magic and witchcraft. Most of this was concentrated in Stranda, this region of the country, whose symbol today is the three pronged magic wand. The museum explains that economic mobility was very limited. So people were ready to resort to magic to get rich or settle old debts or accuse someone of magic for similar ends. So much of the magic described has to do with making a few extra bucks. Like the trick we nicknamed “money pants”. Here’s the English version of the story of money pants from the most excellent book I bought at the museum. There is a life-sized replica of moneypants with penis and scrotum and all but I’ll spare you.

We finished the self-guided tour and Vivian and Jo had a bite to eat at the cafe. We just missed J. K. Rowling who visited the museum too, on her private yacht. By a couple of years, according to a framed newspaper clipping at the cafe (what’s a newspaper, dad?)

We continued along the coast of Stranda all the way to the southern tip of the Hrútafjörður fjord and joined the paved ring road (which skips the Westfjords). The road swung inland and upwards in the northeast direction till we caught up with the coast again at the nondescript town of Blönduós where we spent the rest of the evening and the night in a nondescript cabin while it continued to drizzle off and on. I got meat soup at the Nesti attached to the local N1 gas station while Jo made the kids some pasta we had been carrying around for just a day like this. We hope for better weather tomorrow.

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