Westfjords, Iceland - Icelandic language course

Wendy

Trying not to face plant
Skier
Joined
Mar 13, 2016
Posts
1,655
Location
í mínum huga er ég í vestri
This trip occurred LAST SUMMER, but in the absence of travel for us this summer, I thought I’d share this unique experience.

I’ve traveled to Iceland before, and did the tourist stuff, but this time we returned to spend 3 weeks in a small Icelandic town, while I took an Icelandic language course.

We flew via Air Iceland, the country’s domestic airline, from Reykjavik Airport (not the international airport, but the small regional one in the city) up to Ísafjörður , a town of about 2000 in the sparsely inhabited Westfjords. It is located just a hair beneath the Arctic Circle. The next fjord over is Hornstrandir, which is now uninhabited and contains a glacier. The only way to get there is by boat.

The Ísafjörður AirPort ís súper tiny. Check out the Hertz “Rental Counter”: (“1000 or 2000 bonus points with every flight!”) Renting is small-town fun: You call Hertz to arrange a car, then pick it up at a small trailer on the harbor, then when you’re finished, you leave it at the harbor with the keys in it. Very low key with a lot of trust involved.
DC9B895B-DD9B-4A8E-8457-A5BB5BCA18AC.jpeg


The town itself sits on a spit of sand in the fjord, which is basically what the town’s name means. It’s origins are fishing, as are all coastal Icelandic towns, and that is its main industry today, alongside tourism. The large cliffs which surround the town are prone to avalanches. One large one killed dozens of people in the 1990’s, and several others struck this past winter. The town, as well as others in the Westfjords, are now protected by many avalanche walls. One person killed via avalanche is one too many for Icelanders.
B3C870C9-273D-4B8C-8650-FF13DD799DC5.jpeg


The houses in town are quite picturesque. One street, named Solgata (Sun St.) is named that because it is the first place the sun hits in town after its long hibernation in the winter. When the sun hits Solgata, everyone in town gathers together and eats pancakes. Gotta love Icelanders.
667BCBFE-D925-4292-8302-D4803DF96C0B.jpeg

There is a ski resort just outside of town that offers downhill and cross country skiing. There is no snowmaking. There’s also some awesome views on hikes just outside of town that I enjoyed with my classmates.The cirque in the cliff across the fjord is known as the Troll Seat.
F8427888-97C6-4F74-85A5-C7E57756F7EF.jpeg

My class included students of all ages from Japan, Russia, Germany, Canada, Denmark, the UK, Italy, and Switzerland. There were three of us from the US, and we were all from PA. Go figure. One of the most memorable lessons was learning to swear in Icelandic.
48F82859-A26B-410D-A239-B90B72FC8BC5.jpeg

The fresh fish, brought in off the boats every morning was amazing, as were the freshly baked goods at several bakeries. Icelanders also love their coffee, and they have the best coffee shops, IMO. We also drove the gravel roads that are common in the Westfjords to several other towns. In order to get anywhere else, we had to drive through a 7km tunnel, most of which is one lane. There are pull offs every 100m for oncoming cars (going west) to pull into. The tunnel actually has a T intersection, with another 4 km. section heading north. Without the tunnel, it’s a VERY long drive up over the pass.
Next town over....Flateyri. Very old fishing community that had 2 terrible avalanches, one about 25 years ago, and the other, just this past winter. The sod house in this picture was built by the director of the school I attended, University Centre of the Westfjords.
13EF3DCF-C053-4694-B5D9-FE2AF989EEB9.jpeg


Driving around the Westfjords was time consuming, as all roads were gravel. You need to allow a full day to often get form one place to another. Way too many pictures to show here.

On the flight home, I got some awesome views of Greenland.Here’s part of the ice sheet, and you can see icebergs that have broken off floating in the lake.
144E1BE9-C01F-4BDB-9FDF-866888732B19.jpeg

I’m still in touch with some of my friends I made there. It was an awesome trip, but a tiring one, as we were often in class from 9-4, and sometimes in the evening, too. Luckily the late sunsets (around 11PM) allowed for hikes and goings on about town after class. Still, it was hard to journey back to the US, where life is so much faster paced (even in the Covid-19 era).
 
Last edited:
Thread Starter
TS
Wendy

Wendy

Trying not to face plant
Skier
Joined
Mar 13, 2016
Posts
1,655
Location
í mínum huga er ég í vestri
OK, I’m going to post more pics.
This is a shot of the town beach, looking across the fjord, towards Hornstrandir:
2080772E-2D06-42AF-A2F7-B54205C942B8.jpeg

The waterfall (Skogafoss) just west of town, right below the ski area:
63B35C74-E3A6-492D-874B-6EC0AAC57F4E.jpeg

Ísafjörður is home to the most famous fish restaurant in Iceland. Seating is limited, and you get seated with whomever, at picnic tables, which makes it fun. The menu is always “the catch of the day,” which is several fish dishes. It was so good that my husband, who doesn’t like fish, loved it.
34286D18-C441-48AF-8AD2-CC99020FCDD7.jpeg

The catch of the day:
0BD516C5-24B3-4FE2-8CE4-4959BAC79271.jpeg

A candle ceremony commemorating the anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima. Many towns in Iceland lights candles and set them afloat in their harbors:
7A45FD3B-3F78-433B-B056-E8ADEE2C693C.jpeg

Fish drying shed:
61B39F7D-0D64-4229-BE67-0AAA68387068.jpeg

The town library. Gorgeous inside with lots of local art. Icelanders have the highest literacy levels in the world. Consider the size of this library compared to the town’s population of 2000. The colored thing on the ground to the library’s left is a huge public trampoline.
6E273F6F-9CE8-4EFA-9C11-E1826155FF5F.jpeg

Thor and Odin ....Þór og Óðin:
44E6D469-BBD6-493E-8FE8-82C09263D32B.jpeg

Heimabyggð .....the best cafe in the world, IMO.The locals gathering place. Enjoying with friends:
D354F41E-1C3C-4A1C-8041-39A4560FA51C.jpeg

Old fisherman guide at a fishing museum in the nearest town, Bolungarvík . His clothes are made of sealskin. He gave our tour in a mixture of Icelandic and English, and he seemed to relish repeating that women joined the fishermen, and slept with them....one woman in a bed with five men. He’d repeat this and wag his eyebrows at me. Creepy. LOL.
CAA877F1-4553-4969-A1F9-7AD9754F4AC5.jpeg

Glacial valley looking down into Bolungarvík .
B45ED209-324E-49A9-A880-F0D039C1E0E6.jpeg

The town square. Also, a bookstore. Bookstores are in every Icelandic town. Again, literacy!
700218C4-2ECC-4997-9220-02C715B859DE.jpeg

Here’s how you make sure cars stop at crosswalks. Paint them so they look 3D from the car driver’s point of view:
6163EB4A-CC51-4676-BCFF-121855B76497.jpeg

My walk to class every morning:
565873B6-C227-42A3-96B6-8A8581476D1C.jpeg

One last shot of Iceland. This is Sandgerði, on the southwestern peninsula of the country. If you look closely, you can see signs of old turf houses on this farm:
64BFA686-4B7D-46FD-9BF6-B47D63933092.jpeg
 

Ski&ride

Out on the slopes
Skier
Joined
Mar 15, 2018
Posts
1,355
Iceland is an interesting island.

Can‘t believe it was only last year that I went. Feels like ages ago.

Yes, the one thing stood out was how fresh food are the norm. Not just fish, but fruits and vegetables too. Not a small feat in a land that looks pretty harsh.

Lamb was the best I’ve had, EVER! (Disclaimer, haven’t been to NZ yet. So my standard is probably not quite “spoiled” yet)
 
Thread Starter
TS
Wendy

Wendy

Trying not to face plant
Skier
Joined
Mar 13, 2016
Posts
1,655
Location
í mínum huga er ég í vestri
Iceland is an interesting island.

Can‘t believe it was only last year that I went. Feels like ages ago.

Yes, the one thing stood out was how fresh food are the norm. Not just fish, but fruits and vegetables too. Not a small feat in a land that looks pretty harsh.

Lamb was the best I’ve had, EVER! (Disclaimer, haven’t been to NZ yet. So my standard is probably not quite “spoiled” yet)
Lots of vegetables are grown in geothermal-heated greenhouses. I saw one that had HUGE tomato plants like 15 feet high.

Residents also have small greenhouses in their backyards for gardens. No way would vegetables grow without them, except maybe lettuce, spinach, root veggies. Rhubarb is one...very popular in Iceland.

But veggies are super expensive in the grocery store. So is chicken. Rotisserie chicken in the grocery was normally about $18 for a small chicken.

Traditional Icelandic food is kind of gross. Sheep’s brain, pickled shark, pickled herring, dried cod. But the food there now is indeed fantastic.
 
Thread Starter
TS
Wendy

Wendy

Trying not to face plant
Skier
Joined
Mar 13, 2016
Posts
1,655
Location
í mínum huga er ég í vestri
Yeah, and you don’t notice it unless you’re looking straight on it, as in this picture. I walked by that intersection on the sidewalk to the left every day and didn’t notice it until somebody told me about it.
 

Living Proof

We All Have The Truth
Skier
Joined
Nov 9, 2015
Posts
654
Location
Philly Guy
Great trip report! Just want say the quality of your pictures really adds so much, the color balance and shapness in wonderful.
I just hope all can soon begin to travel again.
 

Staff online

Top