A Day for Reflection

Posted on January 19th, 2020 by

Hello friends!

Today we find ourselves in a lovely little hostel in Vik, a town on the southern coast of mainland Iceland. Due to unforeseen changes in plans, we have a free day today to study and reflect on what we have experienced thus far. We have yet to see Vik (it’s 9:15 am and still dark out!), but we have spent some time in both the capital city, Reykjavík and the small fishing island, Heimaey. Personally, I had vastly different experiences in these cities. Reykjavík was very much geared towards tourism, an industry in Iceland that has been growing tremendously in recent years. In Heimaey, however, the majority of buildings were not dedicated to gift shops or restaurants. Rather, we saw neighborhoods and warehouses (for the fishing industry) dominating the island. This gave me the sense that we were truly getting a glimpse of everyday life for the Icelanders on Heimaey.

While in Rekjavík we saw plenty of other tourists (despite it being the middle of winter!), the majority of people we saw on Heimaey were locals. This is interesting because Heimaey has gotten more attention since the 1973 volcanic eruption discussed in earlier blogs. While tourism has blossomed, Heimaey has not lost its charm of being an isolated little island who’s big industry is fishing.

       

We were fortunate enough to be able to experience life on Heimaey for a couple of days, and one thing that stood out to me was the unique landscape of the island. There is a central town for businesses and neighborhoods, but standing out in the background are the two prominent volcanoes, Eldfell and Helgafell.

A group of us got the opportunity to hike to the top of Eldfell, and it was such an incredible experience. We could see the entire island from the top, as well as the mainland to the north and the newer island Surtsey to the Southwest. It was quite a journey to the top, but the view was well worth it!

On the way down, I considered what it would be like to live in the shadow of such immense forces of nature. The town is often reminded of the strength of these forces, because a lava field covers many of the houses that were lost due to the 1973 eruption. It was a sorrowful experience, coming across a sign that marked where a house was buried in the aftermath of the eruption. While the people do not forget the impact of that event, they also have a vibrancy to their lives now.

I took a solo excursion during our free time, and I found myself walking alongside a massive rock face on the northwest side of the island. The neighborhoods of simple, colorful houses gave way to a recreational area for sports. There was a soccer stadium and a beautiful golf course alongside the coast. I also discovered some grass-roof huts tucked into a concave section of the cliff.

As I walked beside the golf course, I pictured what it would be like to enjoy a game with your friends while listening to the waves crashing into the shore. That was when I discovered a beautiful little cove of rocks at the edge of the island that made me feel like I was in a movie. The sun was setting, which cast a golden glow down on the sea and the rocks. There were no people around, and I felt a great sense of peace as I listened to the waves meeting the rocks.

Then I realized, the people of this island not only have the forces of the volcanoes on their land to consider, but also that of the Atlantic Ocean. The powerful waters fuel their economy by providing their main industry of fishing, but it also presents a danger that the people must be aware of. I admire the courage it would take to move to a small island in the Atlantic which features two volcanoes. On the other hand, many of these people have grown up here and probably don’t view it in the same way that a Minnesotan would! To them, it is simply a normal part of life, and I think that is why our time on Heimaey impacted me so greatly.

As we take this day to rest and reflect on what we have experienced thus far, we also look ahead to what awaits us for the rest of our trip! As we travel to Höfn, the Wilderness Center, Siglufjörður, and back to Reykjavík, I can’t wait to see what makes each of these places unique. Stay tuned for more posts from my fellow classmates as we travel through Iceland!

 

Comments are closed.